Samson – Biblical Fun & Games

There are those who think that the Bible, especially what’s called the Old Testament (but which I prefer to call the Hebrew Bible), is stuffy, starchy, boring, censorious and so on. Well, yes, there are bits of it that are – but there are plenty of other bits that aren’t. One of these is the story of SAMSON.

Samson was a rip-roaring, swashbuckling, devil-may-care hero, or some might say anti-hero. When “the power of the Lord came upon him”, it was a bit like Popeye gulping down a bellyful of spinach. With his newfound superhuman strength, he could “tear a lion apart with his bare hands”, kill 1000 Philistine men with nothing more deadly than “the jawbone of a donkey”, pull it off its huge hinges and carry away a city gate, “doors, posts, lock and all” and, as his concluding pièce de résistance, pull down the pillars of a Philistine temple, killing himself and hundreds of others in the resulting collapse. Wowee!

As well as a lack of boring starchiness and stuffiness, there’s a complete absence of censoriousness as his story unfolds. He’s a philanderer who sleeps with at least one prostitute. He’s a mass murderer and a thief, who slaughters 30 Philistine men and uses their stolen clothing to pay off a debt. He’s a sadist and arsonist who, having caught 300 foxes, ties flaming torches to their tails and lets them loose in Philistine corn fields to set fire to them – and all without a single word of condemnation from on high! On the contrary, we’re told that “it was the Lord who was leading Samson to do this, for the Lord was looking for a chance to fight the Philistines”. So, if ‘the Lord’ wants to provoke a battle, all he has to do is fire up a Samson!

Samson was certainly brawny, but not very brainy. He allowed two of his girlfriends to winkle information out of him to his decided disadvantage. The first one extracted the answer to a riddle and passed it on, so that Samson would lose his bet that no one would be able to solve it. Despite being once bitten, Samson was no wiser. After wheedling out of him the secret that the source of his strength lay in the length of his hair, his second lady love, Delilah, took scissors to his locks while he was sleeping. Having thus weakened him, she betrayed Samson to his Philistine enemies. He soon found himself being chained up in their Temple until, once his hair was growing in again, he was able to pull the Temple down on top of them, killing himself and dying a suitably ‘heroic’ death. Samson’s motto might well have been, ‘go out with a bang, not with a whimper’.

If we imagine that the Bible was written or dictated by a heavenly being, then we need to acknowledge that he/she certainly had some very down-to-earth moments, and a sense of humour to match. Every coin, of course, has two sides, and the Bible is no exception. It also has its moving, challenging and inspiring moments, which should be enjoyed and valued as much as the others. The bottom line is, if you’re trying to definitively ‘prove’ something, don’t quote the Bible as if it’s some kind of absolute authority. It’s an ancient, fascinating, widely diverse library of books, that has many an insight, but which isn’t the ‘last word’ on anything whatsoever. Let it be valued for what it is, but not for what it isn’t.

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