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The Young Samson

The people of Israel had been in bondage to the Philistines for forty years, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord. They were compelled to work for the Philistines as though they were slaves, and their lives were very hard and miserable.

There was a man of Israel named Manoah, who feared God and served Him. He and his wife had no children and for that they were greatly distressed. One day an angel in the appearance of a man came to the woman and told her she would have a son, and that she must never cut his hair, and never let him drink strong drink nor eat any unclean meat. He was to be a Nazarite, which meant that he was set apart for the service of God.

The woman ran to her husband and said to him: "A man of God has appeared to me, and his face was like the face of an angel. He would not tell me his name, nor tell me whence he came. But he promised me a son, who was to be a Nazarite, and who would deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines."

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord to let the man appear again to them and teach them what to do with the child that was to be born. One day the woman was in the field by herself and the angel in the appearance of a man came again and stood by her. Then she ran quickly and called her husband and together they came to the place where the man was.

Manoah then said to the man: "Are you the man that spoke to my wife and promised her a son?" And the man said he was. Then he told Manoah not to let his wife drink wine or any strong drink or eat any unclean thing, for her son was to be a mighty man and would deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

Manoah begged the man to wait while he went to kill a kid and dress it and prepare food for him. But the man said: "I will not eat of your bread, nor of your meat. If you make an offering it must be to the Lord." Manoah did not know that the man was an angel of the Lord.

Manoah then said to the angel: "Tell us your name so that when our child is born we may do you honor." But the angel would not tell his name, declaring it was a secret. So Manoah ran quickly and killed a kid and offered it as an offering upon the rock near where the angel stood.

When the flame of the offering ascended toward heaven the angel went into the flame and disappeared from Manoah and his wife. When they beheld this strange sight they fell on their faces, for they knew the man was no other than an angel of the Lord. Then they arose and went to their house for they knew the Lord had blessed them and their prayers would be answered.

After a while a child was born, and they named him Samson. The boy grew to be a man and the Lord blessed him as he grew.

When Samson became a man he went down to Timnath and saw a woman of the Philistines who pleased him greatly. When he came back he told his father: "I have seen a woman in Timnath, one of the Philistines; I pray you get her for my wife."

But his father answered: "Is there not a woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among my people, that you should go to the Philistines for a wife?"

Samson replied fiercely: "Get her for me, for she pleases me well!" And with that his father had to be content, for the matter was of the Lord and his father knew it not.

Then Samson with his father and mother went down to Timnath and came near the vineyards, and as they went a lion roared in the path before them. Samson sprang upon the lion and with his bare hands tore him to pieces as he would a kid, for Samson was by now a man of mighty strength. But his father and mother did not see him kill the lion and he said nothing to them about it.

They went on to Timnath and talked with the woman. She still pleased Samson, and he wanted her for his wife. After a short time he came back to Timnath to see her again, and turned aside to see the carcass of the lion he had slain. It still lay by the side of the road, but the bees had made a hive in the body of the lion and it was full of honey. Samson took some of the honey in his hands and ate it, and brought some to his father and mother and they ate it, but Samson did not tell them where he had gotten his honey.

His father went down with Samson again to see the woman that his son was going to marry and they made a great feast for her and for thirty of the men of the Philistines. Samson said to them: "I will now put forth a riddle for you. If you can answer it in seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty sheets and thirty changes of garments. If you can not answer it you shall give me thirty sheets and thirty changes of garments."

The men answered him: "Put forth your riddle, that we may hear it."

Then Samson stood up before them and said: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." And for three days the thirty men could not guess what was the meaning of the riddle that Samson had put to them.

Seeing they could not guess the riddle the men went to Samson's wife and said to her: "Persuade Samson to tell you the answer to the riddle. If you do not we shall burn you and your father's house with fire."

Then the wife of Samson cried, and begged him to tell her the answer to the riddle, for she was afraid of the men who had threatened her life. She said to Samson: "You do not love me, for you have put forth a riddle to my people and would not even tell me the answer of it." And she kept on crying and weeping before him.

"I have not told it to my father, nor to my mother. Why should I tell it to you?" Samson replied. But she cried all the more until Samson was so tired of her that he told her the riddle and she went and told it to the men of the Philistines.

Then on the seventh day, before the sun went down, the men said to Samson: "What is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion?" And by that Samson knew his wife had betrayed him and told the secret of the riddle to the men of her people. And Samson was very angry with her and with the Philistines.

In order to pay the wager he had lost, he went down to Ashkelon and slew thirty men of the Philistines and took their spoil and changes of garments and gave them to the men who had guessed the riddle. Then in his anger he went back to his father's house and left his Philistine wife with her people.