Bible Samson Story
// Superman Theme
|"Verily, those who show patience will see the Kingdom of Allah."--The Koran|
As if to rescue the perplexed minister from the enigma of Samson, the Jews have given us one valuable tool. Look in the Bible at his defining mission chapter by chapter: (Judges 13:5b) "For, ... he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." His is to be an ongoing mission throughout his life never being completed. (Judges 14:4) "But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel."He starts out moving in the mysterious ways of God that are not man's ways. (Judges 15:7) "And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease." Then he is out for justice. (Judges 16:13a) "And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound." And he ends up in a struggle against the truth, the truth winning out to his chagrin, but to the Philistines' greater loss.
Now, where can a preacher find a popular story to illustrate the theme of a man with superhuman strength fighting a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the [American] way? Did you know it was Jewish writers who developed the story of Superman?
In the Superman myth, he was born on the planet Krypton that had gravity way heavier than Earth's whence his superior strength. His father knowing about the imminent demise of their planet sent the baby out in a spaceship, so it was his parents' faith in God, their commitment, that got him where he was--sort of like Moses.
Krypton, the place of his parents ' commitment, was also the source of his weakness: Kryptonite meteorites. Samson's weakness was women, particularly women who tried to take the place of his mother. His mother under the direction of an angel had a child with uncut hair. Deliah with a barber cut that hair, in a nurturing scene, (Judges 16:19) "And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him."
From the Bible's standpoint, remember in Joshua's farewell speech, (Joshua 23:10-13) "One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you." Samson did in fact chase a thousand, and it was the Philistine woman Deliah who was a snare to him.
Now, as for Samson's ego, I think some preachers miss something. Sure, Superman played a little cat and mouse with the bad guys, but he spent most of his time disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. I think we can gain an appreciation of Samson's normal demeanor as he was a mama's boy, tied to his mother's apron strings, and quite literally tied up by the Jews (Judges 15:11-13). Seems like a bit of a wimp here.
Remember in the Star Trek series where Captain Kirk somehow got divided into two men at the same time. One was all ego and machismo, and the other half of him had none of those properties. Without a bit of ego, this other man just could not lead. Samson was a judge for twenty years. I'd say that if he had no ego, he couldn't have made decisions. Looking at certain of his behavior, we could say, sure he had a big ego, but at other times he was a wimp. I just think the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy is helpful in sorting out Samson.
I remember the story in one comic book episode, Superman was being given an award. A sniper took a shot at him with a Kryptonite bullet, but when Superman bowed to receive the award, the bullet went over his head. In one episode of the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, the archeologist finds himself in the Temple of Doom having tripped some kind of ancient alarm which sets off the killing devices in the temple. He is reading the ancient manuscript directions which say only the humble will succeed. What in the world does that mean? Oh yes, he then bows as a boulder sails over his head. There's plenty of material in these stories for a preacher to teach how humility will help one escape the influences from his past that could do him in.
In one TV story some bad guys rob a bank. They get into the getaway car and the driver floors it, but the car isn't going anywhere. They turn around and to their chagrin see Superman holding up the back of the car until the cops arrive. Can we forgive Superman for the smile on his face? As Clark Kent he is always the doormat. Let Superman have a little fun.
Let me try to make a personal application. I once was working at the cannery, ten hour shifts pushing around bins of product weighing 1800# all day. At the end of the season my upper body musculature was well built up.
Directly after that I did my mas job ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. It was just a dinky little bell. I was like Superman doing work way below what my muscles were adapted to.
One day a fellow pulled up on his bicycle and instead of putting money into the kettle, he unclipped the kettle and made to take off with it on his bike. Only problem was his bike wasn't going anywhere. A "superman" was holding on to the seat. I always chuckle when I tell this story. He had a problem. Unless a bicycle is actually moving it is very unstable, and the biggest cause of instability was that heavy kettle he was holding up front. He instinctively handed it off to me, and I let him go. How can we not laugh at that?
Okay, perhaps I bent my employer's rules a little to tussle with a thief, but I didn't get into trouble because nobody got hurt. Okay, there was a rule about intermarriage that Samson was not following either (Deut. 7:1ff).
Now, if I were to be asked about it, or criticized for getting into a fight with a robber, I would say, What fight? We were simply negotiating a barter. He had picked up a good kettle, and I had picked up a neat bicycle. We just decided to trade. There was no fight.
Similarly, if one wanted to criticize Samson for taking a Philistine wife, we might take it out of the economic sphere and into the martial realm. (Deut. 21:10-14) "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." He liked her, he took her, he gave her some space, then her father gave her away because he thought Samson hated her. It might not have followed precisely the lines laid down, but in wartime rules get bent.
The only real problem is the way the NIV Bible messes up the translation. The rule was for when (vs. 11) "thou hast a desire unto her," which was exactly Samson's point, (Judges 14:3b) "And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.", but the NIV paraphrases it to say, (Judges 14:3b--NIV) "But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me. She's the right one for me.’" No, the "right one" for him is an Israelite woman according to Deut. 7:1ff, and per his parents' advice (Judges 14:3a). I believe a literal translation might be according to my Septuagint, (Judges XIV.3b) "And Samson said to his father, Take her for me, for she is right in my eyes." The NIV translators zigged when they should have zagged, not understanding mixed marriage even from an OT perspective, so taking what should have been the exception to the rule and making it the rule again, compounding the preacher's problem who tries to teach on Samson.
What's worse is that for all of Samson's selfishness, he has a refreshing kind of honesty. I mean like after Isaac made up some story for the Philistines about his "sister" Rebekah (Gen. 26:6ff) we see Samson eventually own up to honesty in telling Deliah--a Philistine--the source of his strength at great cost to himself while Isaac told a lie that could have jeopardized Rebekah's sanctity rather than risk trouble. Samson is honest all along, so we can see his honesty getting the better of him, and even admire him for it. Yes he was angry and lustful, but he never hid it. He tells his parents he desires the woman. But the NIV Bible makes it seem like he is lying about her being the "right one" when it was just a matter of lust.
It reminds me of a nude nightclub in a certain city. There was a law passed against nude establishments but the gentlemen's nightclub kept right on doing nude business. Seems that there was an exception in the law allowing nudity for art. So the proprietor passed out sketch pads and pencils to the clients and went right on doing business with an art theme. I mean, it's a sorry state for a man to go to a strip club to indulge his lusts, but it's worse to call it art.
Say, a brother was going out of town on business and he said he wanted to be accountable and discuss his trip with you after his return. He gets back and tells you his story, that in a moment of weakness he went to a strip club, but he feels real bad about it and asks to be forgiven so he can continue to serve the church.
Another brother does the same thing going to the same city. His srory is that his trip was profitable except that he spent some time trying to develop his artistic talents but he really wasn't very good. The name of the art studio is the same as the name of the gentlemen's club the other brother went to. Whom would you be more likely to forgive?
I had a date to go visit one girlfriend and on my way over I ran into another girlfriend on the bus. We communed for a while and at her stop she asked me to come with her. I told her no. She asked me if I were "cheating" on her. I opted for honesty and said yes. She was a little bit hurt having had boyfriends "cheat" on her in the past, but, she said at least I was honest.
She seems to have forgiven me. Next time I had to take off to do some shopping she didn't doubt my story because she knows I'm honest (if not entirely "faithful"). Actually I'm not married to either of these girls, so neither of them "own" me, but I will be faithful to keep a date. Beyond that they shouldn't expect too much.
The NIV changes things around regarding male-female relations, so I can't be sure they don't make critical errors regarding matters of faith. They eliminate the exception to mixed marriage in the OT and they follow through by eliminating its allowance in the New. If the KJV poses problems, they are straightforward problems like figuring out the meaning of an obsolete word. The problems in the NIV are more along the lines of figuring out what was really meant when it wasn't what the NIV says, and who knows what liberties the translators have taken that we haven't discovered?
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Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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