Samson as Terrorist

Reading the story of Samson for myself was a shock. I wanted to tell the story to my daughter orally, as it was originally told, instead of reading it out of a "Bible story" book. To get the story right, I opened the Bible and read about Samson.

To the Hebrews, Samson was a folk hero, someone who killed thousands of Philistines. But that's really all there is to it. He killed a lot of people, most of them civilians, whose crime was that they were Philistines. His most famous story is how he killed all these soldiers with nothing but an ass's jawbone. Christians (and maybe Jews, I don't know) like telling that story because it portrays Samson killing soldiers, but he starts his career by killing a bunch of Philistines just to make a point.

Here's how his first heroic act goes. Samson marries a Philistine. Then he challenges thirty Philistines with a riddle, betting them "thirty sheets and thirty change of garments" that they can't solve it. When they solve the riddle, Samson knows his wife has betrayed him, giving them the answer. To get the sheets and garments, he kills a bunch of Philistines:

"And the Spirit of YHWH came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments to those who had solved the riddle."

That's just the start. His story is a series of massacres. He torches fields, slaughters Philistines, kills a thousand with the jawbone of an ass. He dallies with a harlot in Gaza, and then falls in love with Delilah. He's captured, but eventually he pulls the Philistines' temple down around him, killing three thousand people:

"So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."

This guy isn't a hero by modern standards. He's a terrorist.

October 2001

Christian Tribe: more on in-groups and out-groups.

Conversation on Israel Forum: where this rant got some play

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