While walking down the aisle on one’s wedding day, most are envisioning a happy and joyful future. What happens when the wedding processional of the soothing cadence of “Canon in D” instead becomes a prelude to a funeral pyre? The Timnite woman did not experience wedded bliss, instead she was thrust into a situation where men’s egos lead to her extinction.
The Timnite woman is portrayed as one of two women who betray Samson, but is traitor an appropriate way to define her? I do not believe so. The Timnite woman remains faithful to her family and her people while Samson makes unwise decisions that are not for the benefit of the Israelites, but for himself. The story of Samson and the Timnite woman takes place in Judges 14:1-15:8. The only thing most remember about the Timnite woman is that she nagged Samson until he told her the answer to his riddle, and then she told the Philistines so they would win the wager with Samson. She is depicted as an untrusting traitor, but is she?
Samson sees a beautiful Philistine woman and decides he wants to marry her because “she looks good” to him (Judg. 14:3, 7). He decides this without even formally meeting her; he does not speak to her until he returns to Timnah with his parents to finalize arrangements for his marriage to the woman. Samson does not listen to his parents’ objections to marrying a Philistine, he is only concerned about what he wants. As a judge of Israel, he is supposed to be uniting the Israelites and working to free them from the rule of the Philistines, not marrying a Philistine woman.
We are not given any insight into whether the Timnite woman wants to marry Samson; she has no say in the matter. During their wedding feast, Samson issues a wager with several of the Philistine men by means of a riddle. The Philistines approach the Timnite woman and threaten to burn her along with her family and entire household unless she finds out from Samson the answer to the riddle and passes the information to them so that they do not lose the wager. Once again, the Timnite woman is vulnerable to the whims of those around her. She had to marry Samson because he desired her based on her looks, and now her own life is threatened because of the egos of men—the Philistines and Samson.
The Timnite woman is finally able to convince Samson to tell her the answer to the riddle and she does tell the Philistines. Though she does betray Samson’s trust, she does so to save the lives of her entire family and herself. Additionally, we should not be surprised at her actions, she barely knew Samson; they had not courted for months and developed a relationship. Should she have willingly sacrificed her life for a man she did not know? What is the loss of a wager over clothes compared to the lives of one’s family and household? The Timnite woman would not have been placed in this position if Samson had not made the foolish wager to begin with.
Samson is angered and after killing thirty Philistine men to pay the lost wager, he returns to his father’s house, leaving his wife with her father. The Timnite woman is then given as wife to another because her father believes that Samson hates her and will no longer want to be married to her. At some point later, Samson returns to claim his wife, only to find out what her father has done. He retaliates by burning the crops and fields of the Philistines. The Philistines respond by burning the Timnite woman along with her father. Samson makes some unwise choices and the Timnite woman winds up paying the cost. She had no say in the events that took place, yet she suffered the consequences. Samson’s desire to marry her resulted in the sacrifice of her life.
Have we considered how the decisions we make, and the actions we take affect others? While our decisions may not lead to human beings literally losing their lives by being burned with fire, our decisions and actions that are motivated by selfish desires most likely do leave scorched marks on the hearts of others. Are we aware that others may suffer painful consequences when we are only focused on doing things that benefit ourselves? Are we cognizant of how our actions will impede on the lives of those around us?