About a week ago I flipped on NPR and heard a guy talking about his new book. He, a non-practicing Jew, decided to read the Bible cover to cover from the perspective of someone who had never read it before. He wanted to give the general public a fresh look at what was really inside the Bible. From what I heard him say, it was evident that his reading comprehension wasn’t that great, but it did make for an interesting idea. I have been learning about the Bible since before I could read, so such a task is considerably harder for me, but this year I am also reading through the Bible, cover to cover, and a few stories have shone in a different light for me.
One of those stories is the one about Samson in the book of Judges. Every little kid who has been to Sunday School knows that Samson is one of the strongest men in the Bible and a “Bible hero” that people love recounting stories about because it makes good narrative. But have you actually thought about the stories told about Samson? I could recite them all to you, but I had never actually thought about them and considered the implications.
Samson is a dude whom God appoints as one of Israel’s judges but in reality does a lot more of beating Israeli enemies down than he does judging Israel. He’s a violent guy who goes on destructive temper tantrums brought on by grievous Philistine actions. One famous story involves him killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
A thousand people! Dead!
I always had the mental picture of Samson using a half a jawbone instead of a whole jaw assembly, but he could have used that too. Either way, that’s a lot of people bludgeoned to death with a piece of bone.
Several questions immediately pop into mind. The first one being, “What were the last hundred Philistines thinking?” I mean, they just saw Samson destroy 900 of their comrades. Did they think they had a chance? They probably had to climb over their own dead just to get to him!
Secondly, how long did this take? Maximus (from the film Gladiator) can win at hand-to-hand combat in about seven seconds, but he has a sword, so let’s say that Samson dispatches these guys at a rate of 1 every 25 seconds. That’s 25,000 seconds, or about 417 minutes for the whole lot. About seven hours of slaughter, though probably much longer. Did this become a spectacle event? Were there shepherd boys sitting on the hills cheering and keeping a running death tally?
And what does Samson do after he kills all these guys? Does he loot them for stuff? Does he take a drink of water? Does he spit on the corpses and walk away? No! He sits down and thinks, “I’m pretty frickin’ awesome. Man, am I awesome! I need to write a poem about how awesome I am.”
And he does!
After seven hours of bludgeoning grown fighting men to death, he sits down and writes, “With the jawbone of a donkey, I have made donkeys out of them / With the jawbone of a donkey, I have killed a thousand men.”
Truly there has never been a finer example of brazenly self-centered, raw, masculinity.
I wish I had thought about these stories in this type of way much earlier! I wonder what else the Bible has in store?