Friday, August 13, 2010

Samson: The First Suicide "Bomber"

Samson is depicted as a hero in the Bible, particularly in children's stories, but he appears to be less than heroic in his deeds.  If Samson represents Biblical morality, I will look elsewhere for my morals and my heroes.

Judges 14:
Samson sets up a bet with his bride's people in the form of a riddle.  The family, angry that they could not solve the riddle and feeling that they were being robbed,  threatened Samson's wife until she extracted the answer from Samson.  Samson understandably gets angry with the people, but instead of harming them, he goes to another town, kills 30 people, and uses their clothes to pay his debt.     

"19And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle."

Does this sound like the actions of a hero or a brute?

Judges 15:
Next, Samson returns to the house of his bride and finds that her father has given her away to another.  Again, Samson vents his anger at the wrong people.  Instead of harming the father in some manner, he destroys the crops of the Philistines.

4And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.

 5And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.

This results in retaliation from the Philistines who also attack the wrong party as they blame the father and daughter and burn them.  Samson seeks revenge and slaughters many of the Philistines.  The Philistines seek revenge and Samson kills another thousand with just the jawbone of an ass.  All of this death and destruction could have been avoided if Samson had just been a man and walked away.  Instead, he plays the violent hothead and continues the cycle of violence.

Judges 16:
After all that killing, eventually Samson goes out of town for sex with a prostitute; another mark of a hero.  He falls in love with Delilah who wants to know the secret of his strength.  He is foolish enough to tell her, loses his locks, his strength, and is captured by his old buddies the Philistines.  They gouge out his eyes, but for some strange reason keep him in prison long enough for his hair and his strength to return.  Silly Philistines.  Here is where Samson gets to become the first suicide "bomber".  While tied to pillars, he requests as is granted the strength from God to destroy the temple, which contains thousands of people, not just his captors and he commits suicide in the process.

 27Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

 28And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

 29And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

 30And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

This is pretty much all that is said of Samson in the Bible.  Based on the information, he started a chain of events with his uncontrollable anger that resulted in the deaths of his wife, father- in-law, thirty innocent citizens, thousands of Philistines soldiers, and thousands more Philistines of unknown status or relationship to the damage done to him.  What a pity he didn't take an anger management class instead.  But, of course, none of this would have been possible without God giving him his extraordinary strength.

Samson is a Biblical hero often used in Bible Studies for children.  Here is an example: .  If you notice, none of Samson's uncontrollable anger is ever mentioned.  His role in the death and destruction is glossed over and the comments at the end of the story give kids the impression that committing suicide while taking out your enemies is a good thing, possibly even Christ-like.

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