Victor Immature

(OK, let’s try this a second time. As you can tell, being the conservative I am, I’m incapable of dealing with change. So this new utility throws me into a tizzy, impelling me to throw my apron over my head at the first setback, jump up on a stool and cry, “Kill it! Kill it now!”)

Anyway, I was closing up the bookstore yesterday and my gaze fell on a book of Bible stories for children. One of the prominent figures on the cover was a bare-chested muscleman whom I assumed was supposed to be Samson. And that got me thinking about that character.

You’ve almost got to put Samson on the cover of a kids’ Bible book, because he’s one of the few Bible characters who really gets their attention. No matter how good a Sunday School teacher you may be, you know you’re never going to raise the same interest in the story of Nehemiah and his walls as you’ll get with the story of Samson. Samson’s story is simple. Samson himself was simple. He liked to party and he liked to fight, and when somebody crossed him, he killed them. Spiritualize the story all you like, but basically that’s what it is.

His story is a dysfunctional saga in the Bible’s most dysfunctional book—Judges, where “there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

Ever see the Cecil B. DeMille movie, “Samson and Delilah,” with Victor Mature and Hedy Lamar? It’s one of those sand-and-sandal extravaganzas that hasn’t held up well with the years, imho. It opens with a common movie device for those days—an open book, and a narrator reading what’s written on the page, in case anyone in the audience is illiterate, or Lithuanian, or something. This opening explains that Samson was a heroic freedom fighter, struggling to free his people from the yoke of the oppressive Philistines.

Which is hooey.

Pick up your Bible and go to the Book of Judges, chapters 13-16. Read the story and find me any passage where it speaks of Samson fighting for freedom, or even speaking up for freedom. He doesn’t do it. He doesn’t even speak up for God (though he speaks to Him at the end). He seems perfectly happy to hang out with the Philistines and party with them, until they cross him.

The Philistines (do you say “Fill-i-steen” or “Fill-i-stine?” I used to say “steen,” but I’ve gotten all hoity-toity in recent years and have been trying to learn to say “stine”), if I remember my history properly, were related to the Cretans, who were related to the Minoans, who were related to the Greeks. In other words they were Europeans who’d invaded the Middle East and snatched some prime real estate. Kind of like Vikings (I have a suspicion that Samson went after Philistine women because, like many guys before and since, he had a thing for blondes). The Philistines controlled iron technology in the region, which gave them a huge economic and strategic advantage. They had all the money and all the neat toys, and Samson appears to have enjoyed their culture quite a lot.

It wasn’t until the Philistines broke up his engagement and murdered his fiancée and her father that he started killing them. It had nothing to do with freedom, or with the Hebrew religion. It was pure personal vengeance. God made use of Samson, certainly, but Samson’s devotion isn’t evident in the story.

So the spiritual meaning, such as it is, seems to me to be that guys who waste their gifts and talents, break God’s law (Samson violates his Nazirite vows numerous times) and live by their lusts come to bad ends. There’s some grace at the point of death, which is a comfort, but all in all it’s a tragic story.

(Needless to say, the above commentary was written by a life-long wimp.)

7 thoughts on “Victor Immature”

  1. “And the spirit of the Lord came upon him…”

    p.s. your software has no sense of humor. It rejected my answer; ‘it appears blue to me.’

  2. This was in response to the question ‘what color is the sky?’

    p.s. do we really need this question bit?

  3. If the question works as well as the distorted numbers you see on some blogs, then yes, we need it to deter spam. I hope it does, and I’m giving it a try. Sorry it can’t take you relativist answer, but I have tried to give it a wee bit of humor while keeping the answers simple, e.g. the question I have with this comment is “How do you spell ‘anonymous’.” That’s a chuckler, isn’t it?

  4. I far prefer the questions to those illegible numbers.

    I don’t dispute that the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson. The Lord also prepared a great fish for Jonah. I doubt that the fish was particularly godly either.

  5. I will always remember the day I realized that I would not have let a child of mine spend the night with ANY of the families mentioned in the Bible (not that it was ever an option).

    They all, in some way, went against some dearly held ideal of mine.

    Teaching Bible stories as they actually are in the Bible is REALLY challenging!

  6. One of the Bible’s little monkey wrenches is that Samson is mentioned, however briefly, in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11:32 (so is Jephthah, not my favorite Bible character either).

    It’s long been my impression that “-steen” refers to the ancient people (proto-Vikings?) and “-stine” refers to the culturally challenged.

  7. Excellent point, Michael. I’ve come to believe (and many will disagree with me) that the Hebrews 11 list is a rhetorical device, with the emphasis being on the mighty deeds, and the “faith bar” set pretty low.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.