09 November 2009

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson and he killed 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass

In my last post, I described how Samson's brief (week-long) marriage to a Philistine woman was prearranged by God so that Samson would murder 30 Philistines for their clothes. That was the first chapter of Samson's life (Judges 14). Here's the next.
After Samson murdered the 30 Philistines, he went his wife's house to have sex with her. He even brought a young goat along to pay her for her services.
Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. Judges 15:1
But then her father had to tell him the bad news: he had given Samson's wife to one of his friends because he thought that he "hated" her.
And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion. Judges 15:2a
His father-in-law suggested that Samson just take his younger daughter. Heck, she's prettier anyway.
Is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. Judges 15:2b
But Samson had a better idea. An idea that only one of God's special heroes could come up with. He'd catch 300 foxes, tie their tails together, light them on fire, and set them loose in the Philistine's grain fields.
And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. Judges 15:4
When the Philistines found out about it, they burned to death Samson's wife and father-in-law.
Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. Judges 15:2b
In response, Samson smote the Philistines "hip and thigh" with a great slaughter. (I'm not including this killing on God's list, since the story doesn't tell us that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him" or otherwise directly say that God was involved.)
And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter. Judges 15:7-8
Then Samson went to hang out "in the top of the rock Etam" for a while. While he was there, 3000 men of Judah came, tied him up and took him to the Philistines. When they delivered Samson "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him" and he broke the ropes and killed 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass.
The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him ... And he found a new jawbone of an ass and slew a thousand men therewith. Judges 15:14-15
Samson was thirsty after the killing, so God made water come out of the same jawbone so that Samson could get a drink.
And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and ... God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again. Judges 15:18-19
Does anyone really believe this stuff? Well, yes they do, unfortunately. Over two billion people believe (or pretend to believe) that this story actually happened exactly as it is recorded in Judges 15. Samson tied the tails of 300 foxes together and set them on fire and then he killed 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass.
Of course most believers have never read the story and don't even know it exists, but they believe it anyway, completely and implicitly, because they believe that everything in the Bible is true.
It's easier to believe in stories like this if you don't know they exist.

God's next killing: Samson kills 3000 in a suicide terrorist attack


Matthew Blanchette said...

You forgot to mention the worst bit: After killing said 1,000 Philistines, he sings a song about it.

With the jawbone of an ass,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jaw of an ass
Have I slain a thousand men.

Yeah, and you jaw like an ass, too, Samson; not even Abimelech sang songs about his killings, and he was a rampant misogynist!

Brucker said...

matt311: Samson, like God, likes a bit of cutesy Hebrew wordplay to go with his carnage. The Hebrew words for "donkey" and "heap" are almost identical.

Steve Wells said...

Yeah, that is a nice little ditty.

It kind of reminds me of Samson's riddle: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.

Matthew Blanchette said...

Yes, that they're both entirely nonsensical and show no artistic skill from Samson whatsoever; blessed of the Lord, my ass.

Still, there's something hilarious about the fact that the Christian response you linked to, [b]Brucker[/b], has a black background; isn't black a colour of the Devil to most Christians?

busterggi said...

So it never occurred to Samson to just go get his wife back?

Sounds more like an excuse to act like a psycho adolescent & torture small animals, start fires & kill for fun.

By the way, what makes Samson a hero anyway? He keeps acting like a jerk.

Brucker said...

I just like the way it looks, and I find it very readable. Oddly enough, many years ago, I chided another Christian for having a black background on his website as a joke. I'm surprised that you're the first one to point it out. Still, if you're serious, one could argue the reverse is true, but I think colors are simply a matter of personal taste.

Brucker said...

busterggi: You've totally got him pegged. Samson's a hero, but he's one of the original "anti-heroes". He's a total jerk, when he wants something he whines to his mommy, he takes any and every excuse to exact shocking cruelty on his enemies and he breaks every single rule given by God for a Nazarite (which he was supposed to be "from birth").

The big question of Samson's story is why God chose to use someone like that.

Steve Wells said...

Oh, I get it, Brucker. Samson is a hero and an antihero at the same time! He was just being kind when he's killing people for God. Like you said before, "You've got to be cruel to be kind."

You're right, though, Samson was a jerk. But he behaved especially badly whenever God's Spirit came upon him.

"The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he ... slew thirty men ... and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle." Judges 14:19

"The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him ... And he found a new jawbone of an ass and slew a thousand men therewith." Judges 15:14-15

"Now the house was full of ... about three thousand men and women ... And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God ... strengthen me ... that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes ... and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein." Judges 16:27-30

God loved Samson just the way he was. He especially loved his cruelty and strengthened him so that he could be even more cruel.

It seems to me that you should love Samson too, what with your "theological perspective" and all.

Brucker said...

Wikipedia: "antihero

Samson served a useful purpose in the context of the war against the Philistines, although he's far from admirable, he ended up doing a lot to free his people from opression by a foreign invader.

Samson's also a wonderful example of someone imperfect being used by God for a higher purpose. There's something oddly inspiring about the fact that God chooses to use people who are less than perfect. If Samson was good enough for God, then just about anybody can be.

Nathan said...

I'm not entirely sure why Samson would have been considered heroic even by people who approve of senseless violence. Sure, he killed a bunch of Philistines, but there's no indication that he drove them out of Israel or anything. Politically speaking, the fruits of his labors really amounted to nothing at all, as far as I can tell.

As for Samson's crappy riddles and songs, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe they lose something in translation.

Brucker said...

"So what didn't you like about Samson, Brucker?"

Let's see: he was a drunk; he had little to no respect for women; he was deceptive to enemies, friends and family; he was violent even considering the fact that he was essentially in the midst of a war; everything he did in his life was at heart self-serving.

I never said I liked the killings, only that they served a higher purpose.

Steve Wells said...

Samson was a drunk? I guess I missed that part.

I never said I liked the killings, only that they served a higher purpose.

No, you never said that you liked the killings, but you never said that you disliked them either. When it comes to God's killings, you seldom say anything at all.

So let me try asking another question. Do you approve of Samson's killings? Was Samson right or wrong when he murdered 30 men for their clothes, killed 1000 with the jawbone of an ass, and killed 3000 men and women in a suicide terrorist attack?

Brucker said...

So let me try asking another question. Do you approve of Samson's killings?

Let's take each in turn:

Was Samson right or wrong when he murdered 30 men for their clothes,...

I'm more than willing to say that was outright mass murder, and wrong.

...killed 1000 with the jawbone of an ass,...

While excessive, this is arguably self-defense, justice for what was done to his wife*, and an act of war.

...and killed 3000 men and women in a suicide terrorist attack?

Once again, self-defense, and an act of war. Your characterizing this as "a suicide terrorist attack" is interesting, too, as it allows me to say something that probably sets me apart from most Christians. I have a certain amount of odd respect for someone who decides to engage in a suicide attack. There are a lot of people willing to kill for what they believe in; how many people are willing to die for it? I've been saying to people for years that when Christian missionary organizations say "You can't go to that place; they'll put you to death for proclaiming the Gospel!" then that is exactly where missionaries should be sent. Provided they're willing to give their life for the Gospel, of course. I get tired of hearing whiny Christians say they're being persecuted because of atheists like you, when you're just providing dialogue. Come back and complain when an angry mob is threatening to stone you to death.

(*You have masde it very clear that you believe burning someone to death is wrong; don't you think the killers of Samson's wife and father-in-law should have been punished?)

Steve Wells said...


You say that when Samson killed 30 men for their clothes it was mass murder and wrong. Yet immediately before this killing in the same verse, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson. So Samson committed the mass murder while he was under the influence of God's spirit. Doesn't that make God and his spirit accomplices to Samson's murder?

You say that Samson's killing of 1000 with the jawbone of an ass was justified by self defense and/or retribution for the burning of his wife and father-in-law. And you wonder why I wouldn't go along with that since I think it's wrong to burn people to death. But there is no indication in the story that the 1000 Philistines that he killed had anything to do with the death of his wife and father-in-law. Some Philistines supposedly burned them. You don't really think that all 1000 victims of Samson's jawbone massacre participated in the burning, do you? And even if some of them did, how would he know? It was just an arbitrary mass killing that was done to show off while under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord.

And, yes, your admiration for suicide attackers is odd. Samson killed 3000 men and women, much like the 9/11 attack, and with about as much justification. None. Do you think both attacks were equally admirable? Did God help the suicide bombers in the same way that he helped Samson?

busterggi said...

I guess Brucker considers Kid Marvelman a hero too.

What's a little (actually a lot) of mindless slaughter? Apparently not a disquailifier for hero status.

Mark said...

You begin at the wrong premise. You do not like what the Bible says and the implications derived from it and so you ridicule it.
The place to start is the question: Is the Bible the Word of God?
Starting there you may read the volumes written by apologists regarding the uniqueness of the Bible, manuscript evidence, archeological support, fulfilled prophecy, historicity, and so on.
Once that is established, I may wrestle with what it says and its application and come to more reasoned conclusions.

joshua walker said...

@ Mark: "You begin at the wrong premise."

That's exactly every skeptic's point. The only way to rationalize all of the crazy things in the OT and NT is to start from belief, and then proceed to filter out anything that hurts your cause and filter in anything that contributes to it.

But from a nonbeliever's standpoint, there should be some sort of evidence to believe in something first. It's a great feat of circular logic for you to argue that we must have unconditional faith before we can accurately understand these ancient ravings.

Brucker said...

Steve Wells: "Samson killed 3000 men and women, much like the 9/11 attack, and with about as much justification. None. Do you think both attacks were equally admirable? Did God help the suicide bombers in the same way that he helped Samson?"

Sorry for being so late coming back to this. I don't know what the motive of the 9/11 attackers was, so I can't judge it. I'm sure in their minds, they had good reason to do what they did, whether or not I would agree.

As for Samson, are you really so blind as to have missed the rest of the story? They gouged out his eyes and tied him up, no doubt intending to kill him. Furthermore, as was said over and over, this was in the midst of a Philistine occupation of Israel. While I don't know what the WTC attackers wanted, I can pretty easily guess what suicide bombers who attack American troops in Iraq want: they want us out of there. Isn't it possible to disagree with their tactics while appreciating that they have a legitimate cause?

Joshua: "But from a nonbeliever's standpoint, there should be some sort of evidence to believe in something first. It's a great feat of circular logic for you to argue that we must have unconditional faith before we can accurately understand these ancient ravings."

You and Mark are oddly both right. You can only understand the Bible if you start with the assumption that it's the word of God. On the other hand, that's a tough assumption for many people to make, especially if they don't believe there is a God. If you think someone is going to point you to the Bible as proof that God exists, either you've misunderstood them, or they've misunderstood the Bible (in my opinion).

GFRF said...

Those who don't know Christ can not rightly comment on Samson.

Unknown said...

Ergonomically, because the jawbone of an ass's curvature hugs the hand; thus, adds to the effortlessness with which it can be wielded, gives credence to the fact that this event actually happened.

Roman said...

An idea that only one of God's special heroes could come up with. ... ijawboneup.blogspot.de

wanderer said...

"two billion people believe (or pretend to believe) that this story actually happened exactly as it is recorded in Judges 15"

Where on Earth do you get the idea that two billion people are Bible literalists? You are making things up.

Steve Wells said...


Two billion people believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and base their religious beliefs upon it. But, as your question suggests, not all believers are Bible literalists.

But even non-literalist Bible believers believe that God inspired the story in Judges 15, don't they? They think the story didn't happen, but is metaphorical and has some totally non-fucked up spiritual meaning, or something.

Please enlighten us, wanderer. How do non literalist Bible believers interpret the nasty Samson stories in Judges?

Randiticus said...

Well now, let's see. I have a friend who is a non-believer. He has had some crappy things happen in his life, and he blames a GOD he doesn't believe in with these things. I have heard him quote a lot from the BIBLE to try and disprove a lot, much as I see here. He wasn't raised as I was, as a believer. Yes, raised, but that doesn't mean I have to blindly follow. Even the BIBLE points to going astray for those who don't maintain their faith. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of GOD." The arguments against Samson that I have read here point to not listening. You all obviously are trying to point out that Samson was this or that. It isn't about Samson, it is about GOD. Samson was a vehicle. A life lesson. He did wondrous things through GOD. Like most of humanity will at some point, he strayed. But in the end he came around and was granted release with a little vengeance. Don't forget, GOD had already condemned the Phillistines, so Samson was pretty much carrying out their destruction. Samson was not a heavyweight boxer, he had the SPIRIT with him, so anything is possible. I mean, JESUS died and rose again, is anything really beyond HIM? A death, by the way, which guaranteed salvation for all of us, detractors included. I would suggest if you are going to continue reading the BIBLE, and I do suggest it, that you open your hardened heart as well as your closed mind. It is never too late, until that last breath is taken and you don't have another to utter "LORD, LORD...."

Talk Hard said...

I think the most implausible aspect of the Jawbone Massacre story isn’t Samson’s incredible strength and speed, but rather the awe-inspiring bravery and stupidity of the 1,000th Philistine. While Samson’s abilities are incredible, it’s a far greater miracle that this final Philistine man stood his ground after watching 999 of his countrymen get liquefied by Samson’s one-man army. Imagine the scene for a moment – this Hebrew demigod is moving with clearly supernatural grace, speed, and power. Every swing of his improvised weapon is followed by arterial sprays of blood. Head are crushed or sent flying off their bodies. Every attempt to throw projectiles or attack Samson en masse is deftly avoided (or Samson is simply invincible, and weapons ping off his flesh impotently). Indeed, Samson’s jawbone would likely strike with the impact of a mortar shell, if he were really moving with the speed required to kill 1,000 hostile soldiers in active combat. So men are exploding all around Samson…the body count is climbing higher…400, 500, 600…mutilated bodies are falling into rising stacks in the fighting space around Samson…the Jewish Superman is literally drenched, soaking, dripping in blood…and our intrepid 1,000th Philistine is waiting at the back of the line. What is he possibly thinking? “We’re wearing him down, yes we are! No doubt he’ll tire out soon! He can kill 850 of us, but we can still get ‘im! Okay, 900 dead, no problem! I’ll be so popular when I finish him off! Here comes my chance, 950 down!” By the time Mr. 1000 took his chance with Samson, he would have been witness to a shocking vision of human devastation that would rival the Beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He must have been inappropriately brave, and miraculously stupid.

Maybe it’s unfair to try and flesh out the story this way. After all, I’ve just given nearly 300 words to imagine the story in fuller detail, and the original anecdote only consists of 16 words, from Judges 15:15. God could have accomplished this feat in infinite ways – perhaps the Philistines were granted miraculous courage and gullibility, similar to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart when the Egyptian ruler was ready to let the Jews escape. Maybe Samson’s physical abilities are even more amazing that I imagine, and he could move with the speed of DC Comic’s The Flash, breaking the sound barrier and cutting down the men even as they attempted to break ranks and flee. Maybe the Philistines were made to be mindless and obedient, shuffling in a line like zombies while Samson gave a carefully aimed thwack to each head as they cooperatively presented themselves for slaughter. Perhaps the original group of Philistines was much larger – an army of 10,000, coming to arrest one man – and the rest did flee after Samson worked through *only* 1,000 of them.

Whatever the case, one has to really start multiplying the miracles when trying to imagine this Jawbone Massacre story in detail. The contrivances to make the story literal also make the story absurd. This is the folly of Biblical literalism. It makes the apologist bend over backward to try and explain the absurd – and to somehow integrate these stories into the real universe in which we live. By every avenue of evidence, God no longer sees fit to preform incredible, unambiguous miracles like this in the age of reason and evidence. Is God shy? Surely Samson wasn’t more worthy of vast superhuman power than the most faithful modern believer? Why did God change his policy on miraculous empowerment of his faithful followers? It seems that superhumans like Samson exist only in fiction, and that credulous belief in miraculous figures like him can only be held when he is depicted vaguely, in non-falsifiable ancient stories.

Non-literalist Christians can shrug off the silly features of the story and try to understand some poetic meaning or lesson from the story. But these fables must also challenge the non-literalist Christian, because as Mr. Wells points out, even a metaphorical reading of a story like this doesn’t seem to produce much fruit.

Cane Curry said...

Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweet... what is sweeter than honey, and stronger than a lion? The Spirit of the LORD. By the words of your mouth your intelligence is made known, and the condition of your heart is revealed.

Cane Curry said...

Judges 14:2-4King James Version (KJV)

2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.

3 ... And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.

4 But his father and his mother knew not that IT WAS OF THE LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Unknown said...

If you do not believe you have a creator, don't be worried about Samson or Jesus but if you can read the new testament and not understand it is a good way to live, you are blind or willfully ignorant. Living by God's word is safe for you and me. If there is no Jesus then I would have lived a good life and rot in the ground, but if the Bible is true,you and others are in serious trouble.

Unknown said...

Do you people understand what went on in idol worship, and why God allowed people to be killed who practiced such things. Why do you not do a little research and see the difference between the followers of Jesus and say the Philistines or Moabites? Read some history before you judge Christians, and I mean true Christians. Many people claim to be one, but hey in this new world a man who thinks he is a women just is!!!!

Nathan said...

So you're saying good Christians kill people with jawbones?

RJ said...

Nathan , do good people sacrifice there children to God ? Is that what you think good peole do. Are you a abortion supporter? Jesus is the king of kings and the Lord of Lords, every knee shall bow, even now or later. He makes the rules, He sets up who He will and brings low who He will.
The fact that your heart beats without a external power sorce is more difficult than Samsons 1000 men.

RJ said...

Spring, summer, fall, winter,every year, sun up every day, food grows, water from the ground, new babies born, are people really so hard of hearing, where do they think these things come from?

Elroy said...

RJ, have you ever even passed a high school biology course? Let me ask you a question: What happens to this beating heart without the external power source if a person or animal that has said heart STOPS EATING FOOD? Answer: that beating heart without the external power source would STOP BEATING and the person or animal would die. A beating heart is not a mythical perpetual motion machine! When it beats, it uses up energy. It's doing work. Work requires energy. As humans, we receive our energy from food that we eat and break down in our bodies. That's the external power source. Food is our fuel.

Physics. Biology. These are all available subjects that you, or anybody else, can study to get answers to your questions that you seem to suggest are unanswerable. And even if you come across a question not answered by science yet, that's STILL not a reason to believe that God is the answer to that question. Since we're talking about studying subjects, I would also encourage to study about the God of the Gaps fallacy in the field of logic.

theorogelio said...

It's amazing to see atheists reading and quoting the Bible! Something I noticed a lot of you do is judge an individual and his actions by your own modern standards. Mind you, Samson lived thousands of years ago. Would you think it would be fair if people 4,000 years from now judged you the same way, judged your actions, your intelligence and morality without digging deeper to try to understand you?

But you just can't help yourselves, can you? SMH.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Notice this analysis concentrates only in the hard to believe details of the story and never in the very easy to believe flaws of the human nature of this Bible character, which are very easy to believe and the Bible has exposed