The Riddle

While Samson was still a young man, he went down one morning, as he was wont to do, into a fortress town of the Philistines called Timnath, which lay a few miles beyond the valley south of Zorah, and west of Bethshemesh. At the entry of the town, as he went on his way, he met a young woman who was the daughter of one of the chief men of Timnath. Samson turned his eyes, and glancing into her dark narrow face was entranced by her beauty. His fair face paled, his lovesick heart stood still.

From that hour onward he could think of nothing else. She haunted him, as may a dream; and when he returned home he spoke to his father and mother of this young woman, vowing that he would have no peace or quiet until they consented to let him win her for his wife.

But Manoah and his mother were distressed to hear it. They pleaded with him. ‘Is there no young woman gracious and beautiful enough among thy kinsfolk or among our own people that thou shouldst without a moment’s thought choose for thyself a wife from among these heathen Philistines?’

But Samson refused to listen to them, so wildly burned his love for this young Philistine woman. ‘Nothing you can say or do,’ he repeated, ‘will move me by a hair’s breadth from my purpose. Why are you then continually reproaching me, reasoning against what is not in my mind but is eating out my very soul? If you have any love left for me, go down to Timnath and do whatever is needful to persuade her father to let me take her to wife. I can neither sleep nor eat for thinking of her. I love her, and there is none to compare with her.’

But in spite of his entreaties Manoah and his mother could not persuade themselves to consent to do as he wished. It was utterly against their hope and faith and desire. They were grieved by his wilfulness and obstinacy, but said no more. They did not know that the Lord had willed it so; nor did they foresee what would be the outcome of it—the blazing up of a lifelong feud between Samson and the hated oppressors of Israel, and the beginning of Israel’s deliverance.

Now one morning Samson was again on his way down from Zorah into the valley beneath, and bound for Timnath. As he hastened on, leaping and scrambling down through the wild and rocky gorge of the mountain, now in shafting sunshine, now in shade, he approached a place where the vineyards of the Philistines were spread out over the lower terraces of the hillside, their branches green with their young clusters of grapes. He heard a confused, low droning of bees, and turned aside by a narrow defile through a thicket where flowers grew starry and sweet and burdened the air with their fragrance.

As he stood there, spying about him in search of the hive where these wild bees had stored their honey, his heart suddenly stilled within him at some faint call of danger. And of a sudden before he could move hand or foot a fierce and roaring young whelp of a lion sprang out on his path from its covert in the thicket. Its roar ran echoing from crag to crag. With twitching tail and bristling hair, and eyes fixed ravenously on its prey, it crouched low to the dust in the rocky hollow, then leapt upon him. And Samson unarmed as he was, its breath smiting hot upon his cheek, its rankness in his nostrils, met unmoved its furious onset.

And the spirit of the Lord that was his strength came mightily upon him. With one hand he seized the lion by the shag of beard upon its chin, with the other its upper jaw, and with a single wrench of arm and shoulder he rent it asunder limb from limb as easily as if it had been a kid. He stayed to recover his breath, then flung its carcase out beyond the narrow track, pushed back through the thicket into the gorge and continued his journey to Timnath. There he made his way to the house of the father of the young Philistine woman, and talked with her; and as he talked with her his love increased, so that it seemed an anguish almost beyond bearing to part from her and to return to Zorah.

When some days afterwards he was climbing up through the gorge beyond the vineyards of the Philistines on his way home, he turned aside out of the track to look for the carcase of the lion he had killed. He found it there; but the flies of the air and the insects of the dust had picked its bones clean and white, and its hairy hide was dried up in the violent heat of the sun. Stooping, he discovered that a swarm of bees had made their hive within the arching ribs of its dry body, and already there was a rich store

  By PanEris using Melati.

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