Story of Samson – Book of Judges: Chapter 13-14

as re-told & illustrated by Nick Dupree
Page 3

Notes: See a close up of my Samson-tribal territory map (created with info and map from this post).

You can’t understand the Story of Samson unless you know the historical context.  While the Book of Joshua depicts the conquest of the Promised Land as a miraculous and decisive success, “and the walls came a-tumblin’ down,” etc., the Book of Judges recounts a more nuanced history, AKA $H!T gets real!  The Book of Judges opens with the tribes of Israel fighting the Canaanites, each tribe trying to conquer its portion (see tribal allotments).  There is zero military unity across the 12 tribes depicted in Judges, though there were sometimes alliances between tribes. Judah allied with the tribe of Simeon and had success, much more than most, and helped the tribe of Benjamin take Jerusalem (though “the Jebusites dwelt with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem until this day”). And even for Judah, things quickly become complicated, “…the Lord was with Judah, and they drove out the inhabitants of the mountains; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, for they had iron chariots.” —Judges 1.19
I was especially interested in the “iron chariots” mentioned. This is the early Iron Age but the Israelites don’t yet have chariots nor much iron. The Israelites are always more of a spiritual power not great warriors, and are outgunned by many of the other regional ethnic groups. And when they backslide and go astray per usual, serving golden calfim and Baalim and other Canaanite gods, they’re easily absorbed into the local culture, assimilate, and vanish. The Central and Northern tribes seem to never even begin conquering and forcing locals out, the superior technology of the those peoples (i.e. iron chariots) being such a deterrent.
The excellent, highly useful commentary from 1872 (public domain) A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Joshua, Judges, Ruth By Johann Peter Lange, notes on page 39, “…but when it came to a contest with iron chariots their faith failed them.”  Iron chariots are “a nice tall glass of NOPE,” similar to Godzilla’s reaction to giant hornets in The Oatmeal‘s comic about running.

By the time Chapter 13 (Samson) comes ’round, the tribe of Dan is reduced to a mountain corner of their allotment, thoroughly dominated, tributaried, “ruled over” by the powerful Philistines.

Crucial context:

    • Samson is a Danite trying to dislodge the Philistines from Dan’s claim. See this map and my map.
    • In this and other Biblical accounts of the early Israelites, primitive monotheism or henotheism, the belief in one national God superior to all others but not the only deity in existence, is implied.  Military victory over competing cultures gives the god of Israel cred at the expense of other gods. “No god but God” developed later.
    • The Danites having no military capability to resist the Philistines, Samson decides to instigate antagonistic domestic relationships with them.  Chabad says: “He decided that he would avenge himself upon the Philistines by engaging them in personal conflicts, and intimidating them, so that they would no longer molest his brethren.” This is odd. 

According to commentaries, Samson is motivated both by lust and scheming to help his underdog tribe (Dan) and people (Israelites).  He’s an intensely flawed hero.

Captioning:

Panel 1: But his wife said to him, “If the Lord wanted to kill us…He would not have shown us all these things; and at this time He would not let us hear (such things) as these.” 13.23

Panel 2: And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson…  13.24

I pictured Samson CHARGING out of the womb already ripped. One built infant. 

Panel 3:  and the lad grew, and the Lord blessed him. 13.24

Panel 4:  Samson before his parents, towering more than a head taller than them.  “I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines; so now take her to me for a wife.” 14.2

Panel 5Fresh artwork showing Samson’s parents reacting. Samson’s mother sits facepalmiing in devastation.  Samson’s father (Manoah) gestures “out there” to Jewish women.  “Is there no woman out there among the daughters of your brothers and among all my people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” 14.3

Panel 6: But Samson said to his father, “Take her for me, because she is pleasing in my eyes.” 14.3

I picture Samson dreaming of the woman from Timnath, here more demonic phantasm than human. 

Panel 7: 14.4: Now his father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, that he sought a pretense against the Philistines; now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

Samson schemes with plotting-pose fingertips touching. Behind him, the pertinent tribal land allotments, but the Philistines controlling the bulk of the Danites’ allotment along the Mediterranean coast.