[b-hebrew] Samson at Gaza - Judges 16:1

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Aug 13 15:47:47 EDT 2007

Dear Bruce,

We must be very careful not to superimpose "our" morals (Christian, Jewish 
or otherwise) on biblical narative. The Hebrew text says that Samson "came 
to" the prostitute, which in every other case that I can think of means that 
he had sex with her. And while this may not be the sort of behavior that one 
would expect of a pious individual, it certainly does not make him "a bad 
man". Prostitution was (and unfortunately still is) a fact of life, and most 
of the characters in the Bible are pictured as "regular folk". Samson was a 
wild cannon, but he was God's instrument in saving Israel at that time.

Your comment about "Christendom paints Samson as a bad man" is interesting. 
How representative is that statement of different Christian denominations. 
Jewish tradition pictures him very differently. In this particular case, the 
Targum (the ancient Jewish Aramaic translation) renders "zonah" as 
"innkeeper" (just like with Rahab) and this is followed by the commentators, 
keeping Samson "clean".

On the site of biblical Zorah, in the hills northwest of Beth-Shemesh, there 
is an old grave which somebody "identified" several decades ago as the "tomb 
of Samson and his father Manoah" (cf. Judges 16:31). Whether it "really" is 
or is not is not important - there have been other candidates over the 
years. If you ever visit the site, you may well meet people praying at the 
"tomb", asking the "pious man" to intervene in heaven on their behalf. And 
on the grave there is an inscription that says: "Here lie Samson and his 
father Manoah, a messiah in his generation".

BTW, despite what they may have told you in Sunday school (and what they 
tell my kids in shcool!), Joshua 2:1 at least hints at the fact that the 
spies entered Rahab's house "and lay there". "Lay" usually means what it 
sounds like, but most translations tend to use more "polite" language there 
as well.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruce Prince" <bruceprince at bigpond.com>
To: "b-Hebrew List" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 10:18 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Samson at Gaza - Judges 16:1

> Folks
> Not being very good at understanding the intricate details of Biblical
> Hebrew, I'm wondering if you can help me understand what is going on in 
> this
> verse?
> Generally, Christendom paints Samson as a bad man, but I'm not convinced.
> Even whilst staying in Gaza, the power of the Lord was upon him as he 
> heaved
> those massive gates out of their foundation and up the hill. God's purpose
> for Samson was to rile the Philistines - a task he seemed particularly
> adapted to.
> Samson's reputation had gone before him to this city, and I'm wondering if
> he was simply using the home of the harlot as a place of abode in much the
> same way that the spies used Rahab's home in Jericho.
> Does the Hebrew of this verse undeniably state that Samson had intercourse
> with the harlot? Verse 3 states that he lay until midnight; it doesn't say
> that he lay with her.
> I'd appreciate any views.
> Thanks
> Bruce Prince
> Australia
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