corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.02.19
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Samson

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

(Heb. Shimshon', שַׁמְשׁוֹן , sunlike, shining; Sept. and N.T. Σαμψών, and so Josephus, Ant. 5, 8, 4, according to whom, however, the word means "strong:" if the root shemesh has the signification of "awe," which Gesenius ascribes to it, the name Samson would seem naturally to allude to the "awe" and "astonishment" with which the father and mother looked upon the angel who announced Samson's birth [see Judges 13:6; Judges 13:18-20]), the name of the celebrated champion, deliverer, and judge of Israel, equally remarkable for his supernatural bodily prowess, his moral infirmities, and his tragical end (B.C. 1185-65). His career is one of romantic interest, and affords valuable lessons in the relations and condition of the Hebrew people.

1. History. Samson was the son of Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and was born, B.C. cir. 1200, of a mother whose name is nowhere given in the Scriptures. The circumstances under which his birth was announced by a heavenly messenger gave distinct presage of an extraordinary character, whose endowments were to be of a nature suited to the providential exigencies in which he was raised up. The burden of the oracle to his mother, who had long been barren, was that the child with which she was pregnant was to be a son, who should be a Nazarite from his birth, upon whose head no razor was to come, and who was to prove a signal deliverer to his people. She was directed, accordingly, to conform her own regimen to the tenor of the Nazaritish law, and strictly abstain from wine and all intoxicating liquor, and from every species of impure food. According to the "prophecy going before upon him," Samson was born in the following year; and his destination to great achievements began to evince itself at a very early age by the illapses of superhuman strength which came, from time to time, upon him.

As the position of the tribe of Dan bordering upon the territory of the Philistines exposed them especially to the predatory incursions of this people, it was plainly the design of Heaven to raise up a deliverer in that region where he was most needed. The Philistines, therefore, became very naturally the objects of that retributive course of proceedings in which Samson was to be the principal actor, and upon which he could only enter by seeking some occasion of exciting hostilities that would bring the two peoples into direct collision. Such an occasion was afforded by his meeting with one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnath, whom he besought his parents to procure for him in marriage, assigning as a reason that she "pleased him well" Heb. ישרה בעיני הוא, She is right in mine eyes; not beautiful, engaging, attractive, but right relative to an end, purpose, or object (see Gousset, Lexicon, s.v. ישר, and comp. 2 Samuel 17:4; 1 Kings 9:12; 2 Chronicles 12:30; Numbers 28:27). That he entertained a genuine affection for the woman, notwithstanding the policy by which he was prompted, we may, doubtless, admit; but that he intended, at the same time, to make this alliance subservient to the great purpose of delivering his country from oppression, and that in this he was acting under the secret control of Providence, would seem to be clear from the words immediately following, when, in reference to the objection of his parents to such a union. it is said that they "knew not that it was of the Lord that he sought an occasion against the Philistines." It is here worthy of note that the Hebrew, instead of "against the Philistines," has "of or from the Philistines," apparently implying that the occasion sought should be one that originated on the side of the Philistines. This occasion he sought under the immediate prompting of the Most High, who saw fit, in this indirect manner, to bring about the accomplishment of his designs of retribution on his enemies. His leading purpose in this seems to have been to baffle the power of the whole Philistine nation by the prowess of a single individual. The champion of Israel, therefore, was not appointed so much to be the leader of an army, like the other judges, as to be an army in himself. In order, then, that the contest might be carried on in this way, it was necessary that the entire opposition of the Philistines should be concentrated, as far as possible, against the person of Samson. This would array the contending parties in precisely such an attitude as to illustrate most signally the power of God in the overthrow of his enemies. But how could this result be brought about except by means of some private quarrel between Samson and the enemy with whom he was to contend? And who shall say that the scheme now projected was not the very best that could have been devised for accomplishing the end which God had in view? To what extent Samson himself foresaw the issue of this transaction, or how far he had a plan distinctly laid, corresponding with the results that ensued, it is difficult to say. The probability, we think, is that he had rather a general strong impression, wrought by the Spirit of God, than a definite conception of the train of events that were to transpire. It was, however, a conviction as to the issue sufficiently powerful to warrant both him and his parents in going forward with the measure. They were in some way assured that they were engaged in a proceeding which God would overrule to the furtherance of his designs of mercy to his people and of judgment to their oppressors. From this point commences that career of achievements and prodigies on the part of this Israelitish Hercules which, passing gradually from the wonderful to the miraculous, rendered him the terror of his enemies and the wonder of all ages.

(1.) On his first visit to his future bride, he slew a lion without weapons; and on his second visit, to espouse her, he found the skeleton, denuded of the flesh by the birds and jackals, occupied by a swarm of bees (Judges 14:1-8). The strange incident of a Nazarite eating honey out of the carcass of a dead lion has been examined by Theodoret (Quest. in Judges 1:22). We must not attribute too scrupulous views to the times of the Judges. It is worthy of remark, however, that Josephus (Ant. 5, 8, 6) says nothing of the eating of this honey by Samson and his parents.

(2.) At his wedding feast, the attendance of a large company of paranymphs, or friends of the bridegroom, convened ostensibly for the purpose of honoring his nuptials, but in reality to keep an insidious watch upon his movements, furnished the occasion of a common Oriental device for enlivening entertainments of this nature. He propounded a riddle, the solution of which referred to his obtaining a quantity of honey from the carcass of a slain lion; and the clandestine manner in which his guests got possession of the clue to the enigma cost thirty Philistines their lives (Judges 14:10-20).

(3.) The next instance of his vindictive cunning was prompted by the ill treatment which he had received at the hands of his father-in-law, who, upon a frivolous pretext, had given away his daughter in marriage to another man, and was executed by securing a multitude of foxes, or rather jackals (שועלים, shualim), and, by tying firebrands to their tails, setting fire to the cornfields of his enemies. (See the Latin monographs on this subject by Hilliger [Viteb. 1674], Gasser [Halle, 1751], and Vriemoet [Franc. 1738.) The indignation of the Philistines, on discovering the author of the outrage, vented itself upon the family of his father-in-law, who had been the remote occasion of it, in the burning of their house, in which both father and daughter perished. This was a fresh provocation, for which Samson threatened to be revenged; and, thereupon falling upon them without ceremony, he smote them, as it is said, "hip and thigh, with a great slaughter" (Judges 15:18). The original, strictly rendered, runs, "he smote them leg upon thigh" apparently a proverbial expression, and implying, according to Gesenius, that he cut them to pieces so that their limbs their legs and thighs were scattered and heaped promiscuously together; equivalent to saying that he smote and destroyed them wholly, entirely. Mr. Taylor, in his edition of Calmet, recognizes in these words an allusion to some kind of wrestling combat, in which, perhaps, the slaughter on this occasion may have commenced.

(4.) Having subsequently taken up his residence in the rock Etam, he was thence dislodged by consenting to a pusillanimous arrangement on the part of his own countrymen, by which he agreed to surrender himself in bonds, provided they would not themselves fall upon him and kill him. He probably gave in to this measure from a strong inward assurance that the issue of it would be to afford him a new occasion of taking vengeance upon his foes. Being brought, in this apparently helpless condition, to a place called, from the event, Lehi, a jaw, his preternatural potency suddenly put itself forth; and, snapping the cords asunder, and snatching up the jawbone of an ass, he dealt so effectually about him that a thousand men were slain on the spot. That this was altogether the work, not of man, but of God, was soon demonstrated. Wearied with his exertions, the illustrious Danite became faint from thirst; and, as there was no water in the place, he prayed that a fountain might be opened. His prayer was heard: God caused a stream to gush from a hollow rock hard by; and Samson, in gratitude, gave it the name of Enhakker, a word that signifies "the well of him that prayed," and which continued to be the designation of the fountain ever after. The place received its name from the circumstance of his having then so effectually wielded the jawbone (לחי, Lehi) (Judges 15:15 sq.; see Bauer, Heb. Myth. 2, 65; Ausfü hrl. Erklä r. des W. 2, 57; comp. Judges 3:31; 2 Samuel 23:8; 2 Samuel 23:18). The springing up of a fountain in the jawbone (2 Samuel 23:19) has given great trouble to the interpreters; and some would remove the passage from the text, or give it a very different meaning. The most common is to render lechi, לְחַי, not jawbone, but Lehi, the name of a place in which the fountain sprang up; and maktesh, מִכְתֵּשׁ, not the socket of the tooth, but the rift of the rock from which the water came. So the Targum, and Josephus (Ant. 5, 8, 9; comp. Clericus in loc.; Ortlob, De Fonte Simsonis prope Maxillam [Leips. 1703]; Deyling, Observat. Sacr. 1, 113 sq.; Busing, in the Biblioth. Hagana, 2, 505 sq.; Herder, Geist der ebr. Poesie, 2, 235, 255; Rosenmü ller, Schol. in loc.). It would seem that Lehi refers back to 2 Samuel 23:15, and the rendering of maktesh is assumed. It would be easier, with Studer, to take Lehi for the name of a wall of rock, an opening in which was called maktesh, tooth cavity. Yet it seems to be doubtful whether maktesh alone could have this meaning. (See in general Gesenius, Thesaur. 2, 752.) Heine (Dissertat. Sacr. p. 241 sq.) opposes another exegetical attempt on this passage, and clings to the entire miracle. Comp. Bochart, Hieroz. 1, 171 sq.). (See LEHI).

(5.) The Philistines were from this time held in such contempt by their victor that he went openly into the city of Gaza, where he seems to have suffered himself weakly to be drawn into the company of a woman of loose character, the yielding to whose enticements exposed him to the most imminent peril (Judges 16:1-3). His presence being soon noised abroad, an attempt was made during the night forcibly to detain him by closing the gates of the city, and making them fast; but Samson, apprised of it, rose at midnight, and, breaking away bolts, bars, and hinges, departed, carrying the gates upon his shoulders to the top of a neighboring hill that looks towards Hebron (על פני חַברון ; Sept. ἐπὶ προσώπου τοῦ Χεβρών , facing Hebron). The common rendering, "before Hebron," is less appropriate, as the distance between the two cities is at least twenty miles. The hill lay, doubtless, somewhere between the cities, and in full view of both. (See GAZA).

(6.) After this his enemies strove to entrap him by guile rather than by violence, and they were too successful in the end. Falling in love with a woman of Sorek, named Delilah, he became so infatuated by his passion that nothing but his bodily strength could equal his mental weakness. (But see Oeder, De Simsone Casto [Onold. 1718].) The princes of the Philistines, aware of Samson's infirmity, determined by means of it to get possession, if possible, of his person. For this purpose they propose a tempting bribe to Delilah, and she enters at once into the treacherous compact. She employs all her art and blandishments to worm from him the secret of his prodigious strength. Having for some time amused her with fictions, he at last, in a moment of weakness, disclosed to her the fact that it lay in his hair, which, if it were shaved, would leave him a mere common man. Not that his strength really lay in his hair; for this, in fact, had no natural influence upon it one way or the other. His strength arose from his relation to God as a Nazarite; and the preservation of his hair unshorn was the mark, or sign, of his Nazariteship, and a pledge, on the part of God, of the continuance of his miraculous physical powers. If he lost this sign, the badge of his consecration, he broke his vow, and consequently forfeited the thing signified. God abandoned him; and he was thenceforward no more, in this respect, than an ordinary man. His treacherous paramour seized the first opportunity of putting his declaration to the test. She shaved his head while he lay sleeping in her lap; and, at a concerted signal, he was instantly arrested by his enemies lying in wait. Bereft of his grand endowment, and forsaken of God, the champion of Israel could now well adopt the words of Solomon: "I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands are bands; whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her." Having so long presumptuously played with his ruin, Heaven leaves him to himself, as a punishment for his former guilty indulgence. He is made to reap as he had sown, and is consigned to the hands of his relentless foes. His punishment was indeed severe, though he amply revenged it, as well as redeemed, in a measure, his own honor, by the manner in which he met his death. The Philistines, having deprived him of sight, at first immured him in a prison, and made him grind at the mill like a slave (Judges 16:4-21). As this was an employment which, in the East, usually devolves on women, to assign it to such a man as Samson was virtually to reduce him to the lowest state of degradation and shame. To grind corn for others was, even for a woman, a proverbial term expressive of the most menial and oppressed condition. How much more for the hero of Israel, who seems to have been made grinder general for the prison house! (See Lehmann, De Simsone Molitore (Viteb. 1711].)

(7.) In process of time, while remaining in this confinement, his hair recovered its growth, and with it such a profound repentance seems to have wrought in his heart as virtually reinvested him with the character and the powers he had so culpably lost. Of this fact his enemies were not aware. Still exulting in their possession of the great scourge of their nation, they kept him, like a wild beast, for mockery and insult. On one of these occasions, when an immense multitude, including the princes and nobility of the Philistines, were convened in a large amphitheater to celebrate a feast in honor of their god Dagon, who had delivered their adversary into their hands, Samson was ordered to be brought out to be made a laughing stock to his enemies, a butt for their scoffs, insults, mockeries, and merriment. Secretly determined to use his recovered strength to tremendous effect, he persuaded the boy who guided his steps to conduct him to a spot where he could reach the two pillars upon which the roof of the building rested (see Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 343). Here, after pausing for a short time while he prefers a brief prayer to Heaven, he grasps the massy pillars, and, bowing with resistless force, the whole building rocks and totters, and the roof, encumbered with the weight of the spectators, rushes down, and the whole assembly, including Samson himself, are crushed to pieces in the ruin (Judges 16:22 sq.).

Thus terminated the career of one of the most remarkable personages of all history, whether sacred or profane. The enrolment of his name by an apostolic pen (Hebrews 11:32) in the list of the ancient worthies, "who had by faith obtained an excellent repute," warrants us, undoubtedly, in a favorable estimate of his character on the whole, while at the same time the fidelity of the inspired narrative has perpetuated the record of infirmities which must forever mar the luster of his noble deeds. It is not improbable that the lapses with which he was chargeable arose, in a measure, from the very peculiarities of that physical temperament to which his prodigies of strength were owing; but while this consideration may palliate, it cannot excuse the moral delinquencies into which he was betrayed, and of which a just Providence exacted so tremendous a penalty in the circumstances of his degradation and death. (See Weissenborn, De Morte Simsonis [Jena, 1705]; Maichel, Simson ab Crimine Vindicat. [Tü bing. 1739].)

His relatives, we are told (Judges 16:31), went and recovered his body, and interred it in the burying place of his father Manoah. The consternation produced at Gaza by the catastrophe connected with his death, we can easily conceive, would render this easier of accomplishment. (See PHILISTINE).

2. Representative Relations. Some of these have been in part touched upon in the foregoing narrative, but Samson was so striking a character that they need to be more specifically dwelt upon.

(1.) As a judge his authority seems to have been limited to the district bordering upon the country of the Philistines, and his action as a deliverer does not seem to have extended beyond desultory attacks upon the dominant Philistines, by which their hold upon Israel was weakened, and the way prepared for the future emancipation of the Israelites from their yoke. It is evident from Judges 13:1; Judges 13:5; Judges 15:9-11; Judges 15:20, and the whole history, that the Israelites, or at least Judah and Dan, which are the only tribes mentioned, were subject to the Philistines through the whole of Samson's judgeship; so that, of course, Samson's twenty years of office would be included in the entire period of the Philistine dominion, which Usher and some others have hastily concluded was limited to the forty years of Eli's administration. From the angel's speech to Samson's mother (Judges 13:5) it appears further that the Israelites were already subject to the Philistines at his birth; and, as Samson cannot have begun to be judge before he was twenty years of age, it has erroneously been supposed that his judgeship must about have coincided with the last twenty years of Philistine dominion. But when we turn to the first book of Samuel, and especially to 7:1-14, we find that the Philistine dominion continued till the judgeship of Samuel. Hence it appears that Samson and Samuel were separated by the whole interval of Eli's judgeship and of Samuel's minority. (See CHRONOLOGY). There are, however, several points in the respective narratives of the times of Samson and Samuel which indicate great similarity of circumstances. First, there is the general prominence of the Philistines in their relation to Israel. Secondly, there is the remarkable coincidence of both Samson and Samuel being Nazarites (Judges 13:5; Judges 16:17; comp. 1 Samuel 1:1). It looks as if the great exploits of the young Danite Nazarite had suggested to Hannah the consecration of her son in like manner, or, at all events, as if for some reason the Nazaritish vow was at that time prevalent. No other mention of Nazarites occurs in the Scripture history till Amos 2:11-12; and even there the allusion seems to be to Samuel and Samson. Thirdly, there is a similar notice of the house of Dagon in Judges 16:23 and 1 Samuel 5:2. Fourthly, the lords of the Philistines are mentioned in a similar way in Judges 16:8; Judges 16:18; Judges 16:27, and in 1 Samuel 7:7. The effect of Samson's prowess must have been more of a preparatory kind, by arousing the cowed spirit of his people, and shaking the insolent security of the Philistines, than in the way of decisive victory or deliverance. There is no allusion whatever to other parts of Israel during Samson's judgeship, except the single fact of the men of the border tribe of Judah, three thousand in number, fetching him from the rock Etam to deliver him up to the Philistines (Judges 15:9-13). The whole narrative is entirely local, and, like the following story concerning Micah (Judges 17:18) seems to be taken from the annals of the tribe of Dan. Still it does not follow that there were contemporary judges in other parts of the land. (See JUDGE).

(2.) As a Nazarite, Samson exhibits the law in Numbers 6 in full practice. The eminence of such Nazarites as Samson and Samuel would tend to give that dignity to the profession which is alluded to in Lamentations 4:7-8. (See NAZARITE).

(3.) As an inspired person, Samson is one of those who are distinctly spoken of in Scripture as endowed with supernatural power by the Spirit of the Lord. Those specimens of extraordinary prowess, of which even the slaying of the lion at Timnath without weapons was one, were doubtless the result of that special influence of the Most High which is referred to in Judges 13:25"; And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol." The import of the original word (לפעם ) for moved is peculiar. As פָּעִם, the radical form, signifies an anvil, the metaphor is probably drawn from the repeated and somewhat violent strokes of a workman with his hammer. It implies, therefore, a peculiar urgency, an impelling influence, which he could not well resist in himself, nor others in him. But we do not know that this attribute, in its utmost degree, constantly dwelt in him. So, in later exploits, it is said, "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax burned with fire;" "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them." But, on the other hand, after his locks were cut, and his strength was gone from him, it is said "He wist not that the Lord was departed from him" (Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; Judges 16:20). The phrase "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him" is common to him with Othniel and Gideon (Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34); but the connection of supernatural power with the integrity of the Nazaritish vow, and the particular gift of great strength of body, as seen in tearing in pieces a lion, breaking his bonds asunder, carrying the gates of the city upon his back, and throwing down the pillars which supported the house of Dagon, are quite peculiar to Samson. Indeed, his whole character and history have no exact parallel in Scripture. It is easy, however, to see how forcibly the Israelites would be taught by such an example that their national strength lay in their complete separation from idolatry and consecration to the true God; and that he could give them power to subdue their mightiest enemies, if only they were true to his service (comp. 1 Samuel 2:10). (See the Eclectic Review, Nov. 1861.)

(4.) As to Mythological Coincidences. The narrative of Samson's deeds has often been compared with the mythical story of the Greek Hercules. (See especially Vogel, in the Hall. Encyclop. 2, § 6, 8 sq.; Riskoff, Die Simsonsage u. d. Herakles-Mythus [ Leips. 1861].) Thus his combat with the lion is compared with the conquest of the Nemean lion (Diod. Sic. 4, 11; Apollod. 2, 5, 1), and another fearful lion on Mt. Cithaeron (Apollod. 2, 4, 9); his capture of the jackals with the capture of the stag of Diana (Diod. Sic. 4, 13; Apollod. 2, 5, 3), and of the Cretan bull (Apollod. 2, 5, 7; Diod. Sic. 4, 13); his slaughter of his paranymphs' friends with the overthrow of the king of the Minyae, Erginus, and his host, by Hercules, in a narrow pass (Apollod. 2, 4, 11; mentioned, too, by Herod. 2, 45); his carrying off the gates of Gaza with the carrying away of the Cretan bull (Diod. Sic. 4, 13); but, above all, the destruction of Samson by his beloved Delilah has been compared with the overcoming of Hercules through Omphale (Diod. Sic. 4:31; Apollod. 2, 6, 3; comp. Senec. Hippol. p. 318 sq.); in fine, Samson's wonderful birth (Judges 13) with that of Hercules (see Bauer, Hebr. Myth. 2, 86 sq.). Those, however, have far less ground who identify Samson with the Phoenician Hercules, the sun god. Basing the view on the etymology of the name (see Vatke, Bibl. Theol. 1, 368 sq.), they labor, viewing the whole story of Samson as a myth, to explain the details by the course and operation of the sun (Borkhausen, in the Coburg. Annal. d. Theol. 1833, 3, 2, 3; 4, 1; comp. Jerome, Ep. ad Philem. 7, 752). There are many other striking parallels in the Greek mythology e.g. in the Croton Milo and other strong men (Pliny, 7, 19); in the deeds of Theseus, especially the destruction of the wild boar at Crommyon (Diod. Sic. 4, 59), and the carrying away of a living bull to Athens (Bauer, 1. c. p. 91 sq.); of king Nisus in Megara, who lost his kingdom at the same time with his hair (Ovid, Met. 8, 8 sq., 84 sq.; Virgil, Cir. 120 sq.; Hygar. Fab. 198); of the fountain Aganippe, which sprang from the footstep of Pegasus, etc. But there is no reason for rejecting the historical existence of Samson; and his character and deeds accord well with the state of the Israelites in the time of the Judges. Yet the opinion is widely held that the traditions out of which the book of Judges is compiled have exaggerated his exploits (Bauer, Hebr. Myth. 2, 69 sq.; Hebr. Gesch. 2, 88 sq.). Hence some have undertaken to explain the account from natural causes and commonplace events most fruitlessly (Harenberg, in the Brem. u. Verd. Biblioth. 2, 302 sq.; Bern, in Semler's Hall. Samml. 1, 4, 1 sq.; Hezel, Schriftforsch. 1, 653 sq.; Justi, in Eichhorn's Repert. 7, 78 sq.; also in his Vermn. Abhandl. 1, 146 sq.; Diederich, Zur Gesch. Sims. [Gö tt. 1778]; Herder, Geist. d. ebr. Poes. 2, 235 sq., 252 sq.). Yet more trifling is the hypothesis of Kaiser (Commentar. in Priora Genes. Cap. p. 188 sq.) that Samson was striving to mimic and mock the Philistine Hercules. Once more: "Hercules once went to Egypt, and there the inhabitants took him, and, putting a chaplet on his head, led him out in solemn procession, intending to offer him in sacrifice to Jupiter. For a while he submitted quietly; but when they led him up to the altar and began the ceremonies, he put forth his strength and slew them all" (Rawlinson, Herod. 2, 45).

The passage from Lycophron, with the scholion, quoted by Bochart (Hieroz. pars 2, lib. 5, cap. 12), where Hercules is said to have been three nights in the belly of the sea monster, and to have come out with the loss of all his hair, is also curious, and seems to be a compound of the stories of Samson and Jonah. To this may be added the connection between Samson, considered as, derived from Shemesh, "the sun," and the designation of Moui, the Egyptian Hercules, as "Son of the Sun," worshipped also under the name Sem, which Sir G. Wilkinson compares with Samson. The Tyrian Hercules (whose temple at Tyre is described by Herod. 2, 44), he also tells us, "was originally the sun, and the same as Baal" (Rawlinson, Herod. 2, 44, note 7). The connection between the Phoenician Baal (called Baal Shemen, Baal Shemesh, and Baal Hamman) and Hercules is well known. Gesenius (Thesaur. s.v. בעל ) tells us that in certain Phoenician inscriptions, which are accompanied by a Greek translation, Baal is rendered Herakles, and that "the Tyrian Hercules" is the constant Greek designation of the Baal of Tyre. He also gives many Carthaginian inscriptions to Baal Hamman, which he renders Baal Solaris; and also a sculpture in which Baal Hamman's head is surrounded with rays, and which has an image of the sun on the upper part of the monument (Mon. Phoen. 1, 171; 2, tab. 21). Another evidence of the identity of the Phoenician Baal and Hercules may be found in Bauli, near Baiae, a place sacred to Hercules ("locus Herculis," Serv.), but evidently so called from Baal. Thirlwall (Hist. of Greece) ascribes to the numerous temples built by the Phoenicians in honor of Baal in their different settlements the Greek fables of the labors and journeys of Hercules. Bochart thinks the custom described by Ovid (Fast. 54) of tying a lighted torch between two foxes in the circus, in memory of the damage once done to the harvest by a fox with burning hay and straw tied to it, was derived from the Phoenicians, and is clearly to be traced to the history of Samson (Hieroz. pars 1, lib. 3, cap. 8). From all this, however, arises little probability that the Greek and Latin conception of Hercules in regard to his strength was derived from Phoenician stories and reminiscences of the great Hebrew hero Samson. Some learned men connect the name Hercules with Samson etymologically (see Wilkinson's note in Rawlinson's Herod. 2, 43; Patrick, On Judges 16, 30; Cornel. a Lapide, etc.); but none of these etymologies are very convincing. Nevertheless, the following description of Hercules, given by C.O. Mü ller (Dorians, bk. 2, ch. 12), might almost have been written for Samson: "The highest degree of human suffering and courage is attributed to Hercules: his character is as noble as could be conceived in those rude and early times; but he is by no means represented as free from the blemishes of human nature; on the contrary, he is frequently subject to wild, ungovernable passions, when the noble indignation and anger of the suffering hero degenerate into frenzy. Every crime, however, is atoned for by some new suffering; but nothing breaks his invincible courage until, purified from earthly corruption, he ascends Mount Olympus." Again: "Hercules was a jovial guest, and not backward in enjoying himself.... It was Hercules, above all other heroes, whom mythology placed in ludicrous situations, and sometimes made the butt of the buffoonery of others. The Cercopes are represented as alternately amusing and annoying the hero. In works of art they are often represented as satyrs who rob the hero of his quiver, bow, and club. Hercules, annoyed at their insults, binds two of them to a pole, and marches off with his prize.... It also seems that mirth and buffoonery were often combined with the festivals of Hercules: thus at Athens there was a society of sixty men, who, on the festival of the Diomean Hercules, attacked and amused themselves and others with sallies of wit." The commentary of Adam Clarke presents us with the results of De Lavour, an ingenious French writer, on this subject, from which it will be seen that the coincidences are extremely striking, and such as would, perhaps, afford to most minds, an additional proof of how much the ancient mythologies were a distorted reflection of the Scripture narrative. Phoenician traders, it is imagined, might easily have carried stories concerning the Hebrew hero to the different countries where they traded, especially Greece and Italy; and such stories would have been molded according to the taste or imagination of those who heard them. Whatever is thought, however, of such coincidences, it is certain that the history of Samson is a historical, and not an allegorical, narrative. It has also a distinctly supernatural element which cannot be explained away. The history, as we now have it, must have been written several centuries after Samson's death (Judges 15:19-20; Judges 18:1; Judges 18:30; Judges 19:1), though probably taken from the annals of the tribe of Dan. Josephus has given it pretty fully, but with alterations and embellishments of his own, after his manner. The older writers on Samson contribute nothing to the interpretation of the history (e.g. Marck, in his Dissert. Philol. Exeget. p. 173 sq.). The effort to rid the story of its miraculous air appears already in Stackhouse (Bibl. Hist. 3, 776 sq.). The Wolfenbü ttel Fragments (according to the specimens in Bayle and others) would simply degrade Samson; and Niemeyer (Charak. 3, 524 sq.) accomplishes nothing beyond showing that this willful and rough hero of the olden time, judged by the moral law, is unworthy of comparison with Christ (see Hauke, De Simsone Typo Christi [Alt. 1740]). Samson was earnest and patriotic; to him his Nazaritish consecration was not a mere religious veil, but a living impulse, and no one can properly deny him the dignity of a shophet, or judge (Bertheau, Buch der Richter, p. 14, Einleit.), unless he understands the word in a narrow and too modern sense. The moral significance of Samson's life has been first set forth by Ewald (Gesch. Isr. 2, 401 sq.), but he seems to have idealized his hero too much (comp. the excellent remarks of Bertheau, op. cit. p. 168 sq.). The only mention of Samson in the New Test. confirms his historical character, being that in Hebrews 11:32, where he is coupled with Gideon, Barak, and Jephthah, and spoken of as one of those who "through faith waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens." For other monographs on Samson, see Darling, Cyclopoedia Bibliographica, col. 285.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Samson'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/samson.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, February 19th, 2020
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
There are 53 days til Easter!
ADVERTISEMENT
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology