Samson - Rabbinic Literature

Rabbinic Literature

Rabbinical literature identifies Samson with Bedan; Bedan was a Judge mentioned by Samuel in his farewell address (1 Samuel 12:11) among the Judges that delivered Israel from their enemies. However, the name "Bedan" is not found in the Book of Judges. The name "Samson" is derived from the Hebrew word "shemesh", which means the sun, so that Samson bore the name of God, who is called "a sun and shield" in Psalms 84:11; and as God protected Israel, so did Samson watch over it in his generation, judging the people even as did God. Samson's strength was divinely derived (Talmud, Tractate Sotah 10a).

Jewish legend records that Samson's shoulders were sixty cubits broad. (Although many talmudic commentaries explain that this is not to be taken literally, for a person that size could not live normally in society. Rather it means he had the ability to carry a burden 60 cubits wide (approximately 30 meters) on his shoulders). He was lame in both feet, but when the spirit of God came upon him he could step with one stride from Zorah to Eshtaol, while the hairs of his head arose and clashed against one another so that they could be heard for a like distance. Samson was said to be so strong that he could uplift two mountains and rub them together like two clods of earth, yet his superhuman strength, like Goliath's, brought woe upon its possessor.

In licentiousness he is compared with Amnon and Zimri, both of whom were punished for their sins. Samson's eyes were put out because he had "followed them" too often. It is said that in the twenty years during which Samson judged Israel he never required the least service from an Israelite, and he piously refrained from taking the name of God in vain. Therefore, as soon as he told Delilah that he was a Nazarite of God she immediately knew that he had spoken the truth. When he pulled down the temple of Dagon and killed himself and the Philistines the structure fell backward, so that he was not crushed, his family being thus enabled to find his body and to bury it in the tomb of his father.

In the Talmudic period, some seemed to have denied that Samson was a historic figure and was regarded by such individuals as a purely mythological personage. This was viewed as heretical by the rabbis of the Talmud, and they attempted to refute this. They named Hazelelponi as his mother in Numbers Rabbah Naso 10 and in Bava Batra 91a and stated that he had a sister named "Nishyan" or "Nashyan".

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