Thursday, October 11, 2012

Judges 13-14: Samson and the world's most unsolvable riddle

Well, now we're up to Samson, the guy who got a haircut and lost his strength. And that's all I know about that guy! Let's see what else happens.

Anyway, it should really go without saying at this point, the Israelites "did evil in the eyes of the Lord," whatever that means, and God manufactures trouble for them, then he feels sorry for them and sends a new leader. Samson!

Samson's mother was barren and childless, and an angel showed up and told her she was going to have a baby, so she shouldn't drink alcohol. Hey Bible, that's actually good advice! Good job. But it's not because alcohol is terrible for the health of the baby, but because Samson is going to be a Nazirite. As we learned in Numbers, what makes a Nazirite is the teetotalling and the long hair. So also, don't cut the kid's hair. Other than that, I have no idea what a Nazirite is.

So the mother (Zorah) tells this to her husband (Manoah). He prays for the angel to come tell him all about it. I guess he doesn't trust his wife, or something. Oh, Biblical marriage. The angel comes to visit Zorah again while she's out on her own. Guess that angel just really doesn't want to talk to her husband, lol. She runs to get Manoah and brings him back to the angel (I guess the angel just waited there). The angel is like "as I already told your wife, the exact same thing I said before."

Manoah tells the angel to stay while they prepare a goat. The angel says he won't eat, but he will hang out, and while they're at it they should make a burnt offering to God. When they do that, "as the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame." I guess they didn't realize it was an angel before, because Manoah says, “We are doomed to die!” I guess this is one of the parts where you die if you see God, the Bible really can't make up it's mind about that.

Anyway, they live, and Samson is born.

Some time later, Samson the eligible bachelor sees a Philistine woman he wants to marry, so he tells his parents, "go get her for me." Like some kid who wants a candy bar, for christ's sake. His parents are all sad that he doesn't want to inbreed with some relative, but they agree. On the way to Timnah, where this girl lives, Samson is attacked by a lion. He "tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat." I don't know what it's like to tear a young goat apart by hand. Is this some sort of universal experience in the bronze age? Were people reading this at the time going, “My goodness! I tear young goats apart by hand all the time, so I know exactly how easy or difficult that would be!” I assume I am to infer that Samson is unusually strong.

Then I guess they went there, met the girl, made some arrangements and left, because the next thing that happens is that Samson returns to the lion carcass some time later, and finds a bee nest in it. Does this actually happen, bee nests in animal carcasses? Oh well. Samson eats the honey. Gross.

When they (Samson and his parents) get to Timnah to claim Samson's bride, Samson bets some guys they can't answer his riddle within 7 days, the wager is 30 linen garments. This is the riddle:

Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet.

I've heard this riddle before, and I always thought it was so stupid. The answer, apparently, is "honey in a lion carcass." I'm no expert, but I thought riddles were supposed to have an actual answer that was possible to arrive at by just thinking about it. The only way this riddle can possibly make any goddamn sense is if you happen to know this story. You could just as well say "kit-kats in a bear carcass" or "maple syrup in a wolf carcass." Any sweet food that somehow made its way inside any large carnivorous animal.

Anyway, they obviously can't answer the riddle, because it's a bad riddle. They ask Samson's new wife to find out the answer, and she spends the rest of the week crying and badgering and guilt-tripping, until Samson finally tells her. So she tells her friends, who pretend they solved it.

So, Samson got super pissed. He killed 30 guys and gave their clothes to the riddlers as their reward. Because that's reasonable. Then he went off home in a huff, and his wife was “given” to some other guy, without her consent, although that should really go without saying at this point.

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