Dec 5, 2010

Judges 14-15, November 15

Though the story of Samson’s birth has commonality with the biblical births of heroes, it is somewhat comical and might predict that as a hero, Samson will not be up to snuff.   In this light, what does it mean that Samson was an involuntary Nazirite?  He did not take on the role of deliverer which seemed to be thrust upon him.  Remember, too, that a Nazirite was not a hero in the Bible.  Rather, a person who chose to set him/herself apart from the community.   Sacrifice was required in order to return.  Being apart from community was not an end in itself.  As a heroic ideal, a reluctant Nazirite falls short.
The Philistines, in this story, are the rulers over the Israelites.   While Samson kills some of them, he never leads the Israelites in battle to win over them.   He is the last of the Judges and despite 20 years in this role (15:20), he does not conquer the enemy.

14:4         A bit ambiguous – is it God or Samson who is seeking an occasion to stir up trouble with Philistines?
14:5-6      Samson tears apart a lion – echoes of Hercules and Gilgamesh
14:19       The spirit of YHVH comes upon Samson and he kills 30 Philistines whom he has tricked into betting with him on a riddle.   Then Samson goes back to his father’s house, leaving behind the women whom he had married.  What a triumph!
15:6         Who suffers when Samson sends foxes with torches on their tails to burn the Philistines’ corn and olives?  The Timnite woman and her father are burnt.   Why is the woman a victim here?  Note that the Timnite woman was enjoined by her compatriots to plead with Samson for the answer to the riddle of the lion.   She did not have any choice against 30 men.  (14:15)  The pattern of coercion of woman will repeat with Delilah.
15:10       The men of Judah deliver Samson up to the Philistines.  This is a really sad example of a hero-Judge.  Judah give up Samson because the Philistines are about to attack them.
15:14       The spirit of YHVH comes upon Samson and he bursts his ropes and manages to smite 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass.  How big is such a jawbone we wondered?
15:16       In the first instance, Samson does not credit God with his victory
15:18       When Samson is about to die of thirst he calls upon YHVH, who revives him with water.  God rescues Samson more than once, but his final prayer, as we shall see in Chapter 16, is for strength to carry out a suicide mission.

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