What is the meaning of Judges 14, wherein Samson kills a lion, and then eats honey from the lion carcass?
In my view, this chapter is about how God used the weaknesses of humans as part of His plan (of which the people were unaware) to ultimately serve His purpose in bringing the people of Israel to the promised 'Land of Milk and Honey'.
The lion is a symbol of the strength of the mighty enemy, defeated by God through Samson, and honey is the sweet reward.
Here we’ll break down the chapter of Judges 14 in The Bible, into sections and examine the potential meaning – I have used bold highlights and underscore for emphasis.
In this part, we are told of Samson’s disobedience and disregard for the laws and customs, the anguish of his parents and Samson’s stubbornness.
However, we are also told that this was all part of the Lord’s plan in the fulfilment of His promise to the people of Israel.
It also serves as a reminder, that despite appearances, God
ultimately works out all to achieving His final plan.
God preserves Samson, because Samson will play a part in God’s plan for Israel. This is in contrast to later, when Samson has served his purpose, and he is not saved, but killed along with the Philistines.
The Bible is a book that presents us with the meaningful details, and omits the unimportant trivialities. Because of this, on first reading, ‘time’ as the events happened, may be distorted in the interpretation of the reader.
For example, where it says “When he returned later to take her..” I suspect that ‘later’ would refer to a period that probably spanned some weeks, and not later within that same day.
Thus when I think of a swarm of honey bees in the body of the lion, I believe the body would have been the skeletal remains, not a bloody carcass of lion flesh.
Furthermore, for honey to be present, the swarm of bees had to have settled, created wax combs, and needed time to forage on flowers to create the honey.
It is not difficult to imagine the rib cage of the lion serving as ‘top bars’ or ‘frames’ from which the bees would build their hanging honeycombs.
But why the lion’s carcass, instead of, say, honey from combs hanging within a cave or from a tree branch?
In this context, the lion symbolized a mighty enemy (just as the Philistines were for the people of Israel) that was defeated by Samson with God’s help – demonstrating that God’s plan could not be thwarted.
As to why Samson ate the honey and gave it to his parents without telling them where it had come from, I believe again we can look to symbolism, in which I believe the Bible is rich.
In my view, the
honey is symbolic of God’s promise to deliver the Jews to the ‘Land Of Milk
In other words, the honey in the carcass is symbolic of a sign post along the intended plan, that Samson – who is on his way to take the Philistine woman (contrary to laws and customs in Judaism) nevertheless, serves God’s purpose.
With God’s assistance, Samson defeats the mighty lion, then later moves in to take the sweet honey reward. That Samson does not tell his parents where the honey comes from is symbolic of their ignorance of the Divine plan.
As Samson journeys to the Philistine woman, in a sense, he journeys toward God’s plan to bring His people to the land of milk and honey.
Ultimately Samson’s wife betrays Samson, her father gives her to Samson’s companion, and later, when Samson goes to retrieve his wife, is offered her sister instead.
This sets off a further chain of events wherein Samson seeks revenge on the Philistines (then ruling over the Jews). Samson is then handed over by the Jews to the Philistines, but he defeats them.
Later, he is betrayed by Delilah, but as the Philistines praise Dagon, their god for delivering Samson into their hands, God infuses Samson once more, and for a final time, with the strength to defeat the Philistines.
brings down the pillars that support the building in which thousands of
Philistines have come to watch Samson, thus killing not only himself, but his
enemies, thereby moving the Jews closer to the promised "Land Of Milk And Honey".
Honey is kosher and is eaten by Jewish people during important Jewish traditions and customs. Despite the fact that the bee is seen as an ‘unclean’ animal, the honey itself is only made by bees, not derived from them (i.e. honey is made by bees from nectar).
Given this fact, if honey can be considered clean, despite coming from an unclean animal, then arguably, it could be clean even if the combs were found inside the skeletal remains of a lion. This is my personal view only, and scholars and teachers of Judaism may disagree.
Why Samson decided not to tell his parents may, as described above, illustrate the fact that, even despite their faith, they were ignorant of God’s Divine plan.