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Judges 14:14: Samson's Riddle, Part 2

Verse 14:[1] And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

[Out of the eater came forth food, מֵהָֽאֹכֵל֙ יָצָ֣א מַאֲכָ֔ל] There is an elegant Paronomasia[2] here, From the eater came forth something edible (Lapide).

[And from the strong, sweetness, וּמֵעַ֖ז יָצָ֣א מָת֑וֹק] From the strong, something sweet [thus nearly all interpreters]. A sweet, that is, a sweet thing (Vatablus). Not sweet, but weak/soft, is opposed to strong; but sharp or bitter is opposed to sweet. But sometimes these things are confounded, and bitter is taken for strong, and sharp for both. And thus in Arabic, mirra, that is, strength, and marir, that is, strong, powerful, is from the verb marra, which means to be bitter: and in Latin, acer/sharp is used of one that is strong; and among us acer is properly one that is δεινὸς/terrible/powerful among the Greeks: for it is able to signify strong, and vigorous, and sharp, and bitter. Therefore, Junius rightly translates it, ab acra, from a strong, came forth a sweet thing, and in verse 18, What is acrius/stronger than a lion? Thus Ovid, Festivals 4, the acre/strong stock of lions (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:12:522). [In the place of strong some have bitter: Thus the Syriac and Arabic.] Thus the Septuagint in some codices, as Gyraldus testifies. Which reading Ambrose added,[3] because the antithesis better stands between sweet and bitter. The עַז signifies strong:[4] although nothing prohibits one from understanding fortitude here, conjoined with a certain harshness and ferocity (for עַז is able to be translated, hard, fierce, intractable), and so bitter, to which among flavors sweet is opposed (Bonfrerius). עַז signifies both strong, and fierce and sharp, as in Genesis 49:7, …for it was fierce,[5] etc. (Piscator). The sense of the riddle is evident from what follows: From the eater, that is, a lion devouring all things, came forth food; and from the strong, that is, the same lion, honey. In verse 18, he only explains the latter part, from which the prior part is sufficiently understood (Bonfrerius). By this riddle is signified what was going to happen at length, that the Philistines, who were ruling over the Jews, would be conquered, and consumed by the Jews; and, although they were most fiercesome, they were going to be at last, not to the detriment of the Jews, but to their great advantage (Martyr). They explain it allegorically of Christ (see Bonfrerius).

Out of the eater, etc.: that is, Out of that strong and devouring creature, the lion, came forth sweet meat, to wit, honey; withal it is covertly implied, that the Philistines, though now they had strength on their side, and dominion over Israel, whom they did devour upon all occasions, yet at last they should become meat to the Israelites.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֗ם מֵהָֽאֹכֵל֙ יָצָ֣א מַאֲכָ֔ל וּמֵעַ֖ז יָצָ֣א מָת֑וֹק וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֛וּ לְהַגִּ֥יד הַחִידָ֖ה שְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת יָמִֽים׃

[2] That is, a play on words.

[3] On the Holy Spirit 2:7, 8.

[4] Judges 14:14b: “…Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong (וּמֵעַז) came forth sweetness.…”

[5] Hebrew: כִּ֣י עָ֔ז.

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