Samson’s Riddle Unriddled

Judges 14:5,6,8,9

Samson…came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand…

After a time he returned…and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. And took thereof in his hands and went on eating, and he came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It was a singular circumstance that a man unarmed should have slain a lion in the prime of its vigour, and yet more strange that a swarm of bees should have taken possession of the dried carcass and have filled it with honey. In that country, what with beasts, birds, insects and the dry heat, a dead body is soon cleansed from all corruption and the bones are clean and white. Still, the killing of the lion and the finding of the honey make up a remarkable story. These singular circumstances became afterwards the subject of a riddle: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness, (verse 14).

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This riddle may be an emblem of those sweet blessings of grace which come to the people of Christ through His having destroyed Satan the roaring lion, and all his works.

C. H. SPURGEON: What a type we have here of our Divine Lord and Master, Jesus, the conqueror of death and hell. He has destroyed the lion that roared upon us and upon Him…To each one of us who believe in Him, He gives the luscious food which He has prepared for us by the overthrow of our foes. He bids us come and eat that we may have our lives sweetened and our hearts filled with joy. To me, the comparison seems wonderfully apt and suggestive. I see our triumphant Lord laden with sweetness, holding it forth to all His brethren.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): The sweet promises of grace are sweeter than honey.

RICHARD ROGERS (1550-1618): If the cause be sought why Samson propounded this riddle, I answer: It was a pleasant whetting of their wits―God prepared the honey in the body of lion―Samson made use of the works of God, which he considered and observed.  For to his great benefit he gathered a riddle, and raised thereby a question out of the work of God…So it behooves us to mark things that come to pass daily―which all fall out by God’s providence, and His dealing in and by them, that we may learn wisdom thereby, and take good by them.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): This riddle is applicable to many of the methods of divine providence and grace. When God, by an over-ruling providence, brings good out of evil to His church and people―when that which threatened their ruin turns to their advantage―when their enemies are made serviceable to them, and the wrath of men turns to God’s praise―then comes “meat out of the eater,” and “sweetness out of the strong.

C. H. SPURGEON: Conflicts come to us when we are least prepared for them. Samson was walking in the vineyards of Timnath, thinking of anything but lions, and “Behold, says the Scripture, “a young lion roared against him.”―By a young lion is not meant a whelp, but a lion in the fullness of its early strength and not yet slackened in its pace, or curbed in its fury by growing years. Fresh and furious, a young lion is the worst kind of beast that a man can meet with. Let us expect, as followers of Christ, to meet with strong temptations, fierce persecutions, and severe trials, which will lead to stern conflicts.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): This riddle may be viewed as referring to the blessed results of affliction to the Lord’s children.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion that roared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them, we shall find a nest of honey within them.

RICHARD ROGERS: By this example we may learn that though the cross be as fearful when we see it coming toward us, as a bear or a lion is to meet with, yet the Lord who loveth us, as He did Samson, doth by His quickening grace hearten us against it, so as that we may find it to turn to our great good and benefit.

C. H. SPURGEON: All this is clear to the eyes of faith, which unriddles the riddle…Alas, when under deep depression the mind forgets all this, and is only conscious of its unutterable misery; the man sees the lion but not the honey in its carcase―but faith finds honey in the lion.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): The slothful man saith, there is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets, Proverbs 22:13. This sentence belongs to those who flinch from the cross. Real difficulties in the way to heaven exercise faith…There is a lion without. True. But hast thou forgotten the promise in the ways of God?―“Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet,” Psalm 91:11-13.

JOHN GILL: Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil? Psalm 49:5. A saint has nothing to fear in the worst of times; which is a riddle to a natural man.

MATTHEW HENRY: Behold Samson’s riddle again unriddled―for we have [in Psalm 73] an account of the good improvement which [Asaph] made of that sore temptation with which he had been assaulted and by which he was almost overcome…many good lessons he learned from his temptation, his struggles with it, and his victories over it. Nor would God suffer His people to be tempted if His grace were not sufficient for them.

C. H. SPURGEON: I remember the days of old, Psalm 143:5.

When we see nothing new which can cheer us, let us think upon old things…Jehovah rescued His people in the ages which lie back, centuries ago; why should He not do the like again? We ourselves have a rich past to look back upon; we have sunny memories, sacred memories, satisfactory memories, and these are as flowers for the bees of faith to visit, from whence they may make honey for present use…God, who is the same today, as yesterday, will be the same tomorrow―It is His way! I want you, my dear Brother, to feel that if God has blessed you in the past, He will bless you still! You were helped—you can never forget it—you were helped right through. It was a severe crisis in your life and you were wonderfully carried over it. Does not this fact fill you with hope? There came another somewhat different trial, as different from the former trouble as a bear may be from a lion, but you were again helped—very remarkably helped. You have not forgotten it—you cannot forget it though your hair is gray. Are not such encouragements very many and very sweet?


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