Monday, October 15, 2012

Judges 15-16: Apparently, it is possible to kill 1000 people with a donkey jawbone

Previously, Samson threw a fit because some people cheated to solve his unsolvable, “skittles out of a grizzly bear” cheat of a riddle, so he killed a bunch of people, “gave away” his wife to someone else, and stomped off home to pout.

Now, Samson decides he wants to visit “his wife”, who is not actually his wife anymore. He tries to get in to see her, but her father turns him away. Before you start getting visions of a father in Bible actually acting like a decent human being toward his daughter, this is what he says, “Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.” In other words, “Hey you murderous psychopath, can I interest you in marrying or possibly just fucking my youngest daughter?”

Samson decides he needs to “get even” with the Philistines (his former wife's people). For what, I'm not quite sure. So (just like anyone would do when they want vengeance over some imaginary offense) he gets 300 foxes, pairs them off, ties their tails together, somehow attaches a lit torch to each pair, and sets them loose in the Philistines' grain, olives, and vineyards, burning them all down. Why was tying 300 foxes' tails together a necessary component of burning all of their crops? I have just so much to learn about mass crop destruction.

The Philistines are pissed. Samson's ex-wife's father tells them “Samson did it.” So the Philistines burn Samson's ex-wife and her father to death. Even though Samson is the one they are pissed at. Why? Who knows. I guess “shoot the messenger” is part of Biblical morality now?

So clearly Samson requires even more revenge now. “He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.” This seems less like “vengeance” and more like “escalation”.

Samson hides out in a cave, and the Philistines go menace Judah. The people of Judah go find Samson and tie him up to deliver him to the Philistines. But while they're on the way, “The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.” Oh look, a miracle.

Then this happened: “Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.” I need to know: how does one kill 1000 people with the jawbone of a donkey?? How do you even kill one person with the jawbone of a donkey? And why on earth did there just happen to be a “fresh jawbone of a donkey” just laying there? That seems...improbable.

“Then Samson said,
'With a donkey’s jawbone
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I have killed a thousand men.'”

What a goddamn poet.

Apparently, killing 1000 people with a donkey jawbone is thirsty work. Samson “cried out to the LORD”, and God made water come out of a hill. Oooo.

Some unspecified time later, Samson “spends the night” with a prostitute in Gaza (I guess God is cool with his people visiting prostitutes, FYI). The people of Gaza find out that he's there, and decide to kill him at dawn. What has Samson done to piss off the people of Gaza? Who knows.

Anyway, Samson doesn't wait around til dawn, in the middle of the night, he “got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.” Samson just cannot help but to do everything in the most dramatic and over-the-top fashion possible, can he?

So that's the entirely of this little story. Mmm-kay then. I guess it's just to further illustrate how unusually strong he is? Or maybe to further illustrate that Samson is the type of guy who will just up and steal your city gates for no apparent reason?

“Some time later”, Samson falls in love with Delilah. The Philistines (who are apparently still angry), tell her to find out the secret of Samson's strength.

“So Delilah said to Samson, 'Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.'“ What a clever and sneaky plan, Delilah.

Samson is not fooled by this great display of subterfuge (although it wouldn't really surprise me if he was that dumb), and he lies to her. He says that if he is tied up with 7 bowstrings, he will become weak. So she tries it, and he breaks free.

This goes on and on – she keeps asking him directly, without any attempt whatsoever at cleverness, and he just keeps lying to her. She tries whatever it is, and it doesn't work. “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.”

I have to wonder: why did Samson stick with a woman who's obvious sole purpose was to find out his weakness and destroy him? What kind of toxic, unhealthy relationship is that?

Anyway, eventually, Samson is worn down, and he tells he that if he got a haircut he would lose his strength. So he falls asleep, and she cuts his hair. Surprise! I just don't get why he would tell her that, or why he would have stayed after he did.

After his haircut, the Philistines captured him, “gouged out his eyes” (gross), and put him in prison. The Philistines were so excited that they finally caught Samson that they had a party. They brought Samson out of prison to “entertain” them. Samson prayed, “Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Always with the vengeance. I had this crazy idea that God didn't support vengeance in his followers, but I guess all that “forgiveness” stuff wasn't until the New Testament.

Anyway, God gave him the strength to push down some pillars, collapsing a temple on himself and 3000 Philistines.

So that's the end of Samson. It seems to me like it could be a story about how stupid and self-destructive vengeance is. He lost one riddle, and he kept escalating it from there, until he ended up imprisoned, eyes gouged out, and crushed under a collapsed temple.

Of course, the lessons I was apparently supposed to learn are: don't trust women, sex = bad, obedience to God = super human strength, disobedience = weakness. Sigh.

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