I am reading in the book of Judges at chapter 14.The passage concerns a riddle given by Samson to thirty of his companions at a feast.Please read here.

The thirty companions put pressure on Samson's wife to find out the meaning of the riddle as recorded in Judges 14:15,

Judges 14:15

On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”

After the riddle has been solved by the thirty companions,i notice that in verse 18 Samson said to the men,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.”

My understanding is that Samson is referring to his wife as a "heifer".

When Samson refers to his wife as a "heifer",is he doing so in a derogatory sense of meaning?

Related Please read here

  • 1
    Ask a woman for her opinion, not a male "scholar"!
    – Ruminator
    Apr 17, 2018 at 19:31
  • 1
    @Ruminator Modern woman =/= ancient Israelite woman Mar 3, 2019 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


According to Lindsey, as quoted by Constable in the NET Bible Notes, yes, Samson was poking fun of his bride-to-be:

“In calling her a ‘heifer’ he was ridiculing her for her untamed and stubborn spirit (cf. Jer. 50:11; Hosea 4:16).”[290]

In Jeremiah 50:11 the prophet describes a heifer (or calf) as follows:

. . . because you frisk like a calf in the grass . . . (CJB)

And in Hosea 4:16, the prophet describes a cow as follows:

For Isra’el is stubborn as a stubborn cow . . . (CJB).

Assuming the above observations about the behavior of at least some cows are true, Samson was indeed describing his bride-to-be as a recklessly carefree cow who couldn't foresee how her behavior toward her husband-to-be would spoil the marriage even before it was consummated, which traditionally happened at the end of the seven-day feast.

As for a cow's stubbornness, here is what a modern-day dairy farmer has to say about cows in general,

Cows are large animals, and while they are not generally aggressive, their size can be intimidating to someone who is not used to working with them. Furthermore, while cows are very intelligent, they can be very stubborn sometimes. They also have a much higher pain tolerance than people do, meaning that using mild pain to get a cow to do something is usually not effective, and an inexperienced person will naturally attempt to escalate pain to get the desired response. This is not the right response, but a natural and understandable one.

Obviously, then, Samson's Timnite bride-to-be was very stubborn indeed, and for good reason, I might add. Her well being and the well being of her family were at stake, since the groomsmen's extortion does not appear to be a mere bluff. Her constant nagging, pleading, and crying finally exasperated Samson to the point where he told her the answer to the riddle he had proposed to his groomsmen.

Should Samson's metaphorical remark, then, be interpreted as derogatory? I think so, given his state of mind after having lost the bet with his groomsmen. However, his insult was evidently uttered in ignorance of what was at stake, humanly speaking, for if his bride-to-be had not pried the secret out of him, her family could have died!

In conclusion, had Samson been a little more sensitive and diplomatic with his Timnite bride-to-be and had pried out of her the reason for her importunity, he would not have had to travel the 23 miles from Timnah to Ashkelon to exact retribution on the wrong Philistines!


"Heifer" was probably just a term of endearment or euphemism for his wife. Animals are often used to refer to a person's wife: names such as "horse," "dove," and "gazelle" are used throughout Song of Songs (1:9, 2:9, 14, 17, 8:14), and the "little ewe" of Nathan's parable (II Samuel 12:3) seems to be a reference to Uriah's wife. In none of these cases is the comparison to an animal derogatory.

Jeremiah 46:20 calls Egypt "a very beautiful heifer." I believe that this is the sense more likely to have been referred to than the image of a stubborn heifer from Hosea 4:16 brought in rhetorician's answer


I see no derogatory sense applied to the term 'heifer', or similar, in this particular instance. The sense seems to be that the Philistines used for their own interest one (the Samson's wife) who should have been standing for Samson, instead.


Samson was over powered by his emotions; ticked at the world. “Heifer” was some sort of insult or disrespect. I think the better question is what did we learn from Samson?

  • Thanks for your answer and welcome to BHSX. Do not forget to take the tour below. I think this answer could be improved with some extra information to support your conclusion and add some references.
    – user25930
    Mar 5, 2019 at 10:44

Ever heard the term unequally yolked? A husband and wife were yoked together--married. A plowing animal turns up the soil, uncovering things buried beneath--hidden. They used his wife to find out the truth. The meaning is simply lost in our modern language. Sayings that aren't literal: crusin for a brusin, born with a silver spoon in your mouth, from the horse's mouth [not the donkey lol], let the cat out of the bag, or even bang up to the elephant [victorian]. Check out Benson's commentary on it.

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