Here are some notes I made from Tim Callahan’s The Secret origin of the Bible some 8 years ago, presented again for conversation a few years after originally posting. Excuse the note form and any spelling / syntax errors. It’s still interesting reading and shows how clearly the account is mythological. Samson makes no sense as a stand-alone tale, and has no allegorical or symbolic meaning at all, begging the question as to why it’s in the bible at all, if not a story lifted from a nearby culture and adopted to Yahweh.
Why is Samson myth?
Samson is clearly myth for these reasons:
· He is the only judge to be born a miraculous birth
· The miraculous birth is mythological typography
· It is most probably sun god myth
· Samson’s Hebrew name is Shimshon meaning sunlight
· His birth place is Zorah, next to Bethshemesh, meaning ‘house of the sun’
· The angel proclaims he is to begin to deliver his people from the philistines – all preceding judges have already been doing this, thus a ‘contradiction’.
· Miraculous birth puts him alongside Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and Samuel, who are either defined as Semitic deities (eg Jacob-el and Esau) or have semi-divine status.
· Samson was neither pious or a patriarch. In fact, he is a bad Nazirite since he visited harlots, drank and hung around dead bodies (causing them!) – all against Nazirite rules. In this way, he is not like the other judges and fits more into a Herakles role, who fathered Zeus.
· He has a lusty nature
· Another sun god is our friend Baal Melkarth, who in one statue is shown to be a muscular man, about to rip apart what looks to be… wait for it… a lion. He is also seen in other poses with lions, and wrestling with one. Herakles also killed a lion with is bear hands. These are sun-heroes.
· Bees would not take up residence in a putrefying corpse.
· Honey collection could symbolise the collection of honey during the time that the sun is in the constellation of Leo.
· Bee parallel is direct to that of Greek myth of Aristaeus, who captured swarms of bees in animal carcasses. The Arcadians worshipped Aristaeus. Bees arising from carcass are a symbol of rebirth.
· Death and rebirth are critical points of sun worship.
· Incredible storytelling art and poetic punnery when looking at the 2 riddle couplets in their original language.
· Adultery of his wife linked to goddesses of fertility, Hat-hor or Ashtarte – ploughing his heifer (cows are symbolism of gods of fertility and sexuality).
· ‘in hot anger’ is a solar pun, from the word chamah, related to word for sun shamash
· Tying foxes together and lighting their tails and sending them fanning out over the wheat fields to burn them is a clear solar symbol. The fox is associated with the sun, fanning out over the field with burning tales like the sun. Roman festival of Cerelia, in name of goddess Ceres (Demeter) – foxes were either set on fire or had torches attached to their tails and hunted. This grain festival was probably imported from the ANE, coming from the notion that grain blight was a associated with foxes and was caused by the sun shining on crops after rain, and the blight ‘burned’ the grain. More foxy solar symbolism.
· Samson probably castrates his enemies (smote them hip and thigh – Hebrew word for thigh was euphemism, as seen in genesis, for genitals. As David does later, foreskins could be collected to pay for stuff!).
· Samson is hiding in Etam (Etyam, the lair of wild beasts) – solar heroes are all great hunters and always associated with wild beasts.
· Ropes melt off him like flax burnt with fire.
· Kills 1000 philistines with a jawbone and would splinter into pieces at the first knock.
· chamor meaning heap and ass is another pun of chamor -‘to be hot’.
· The ass is an animal associated with the destructive nature of the sun (eg the Siroco, the hot Saharan wind, is known as the ass’s breath, referring to the Egyptian deity Set, the ass headed god of the dead).
· The jawbone is in the shape of a sickle – this is the weapon many sun gods and solar heroes are seen as carrying. Shamash is shown as having a throwing stick in the shape of an ass’s jawbone.
· Judges 3:31: Shamgar
· 31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. – this is totally nonsensically appended to the end of the story of Ehud, and is seemingly a fragment of a lost story. Looks like the Samson story to me. Shamgar is a Hurrian name meaning ‘Shimeg gives (this child)’. Shimeg is the Hurrian sun god. Shamgar is the son of Anath, the warrior god of the Canaanites and sister / lover to Baal. Anath is associated with Ashtart, who, like the Hurrian sun goddess Hepatu, is often shown standing on a lion. It seems that Samson supplanted the Hurrian myth, but strangely some of that Hurrian myth remains in the bible.
· Samson lays waste to city gates and posts and lifts them to the top a hill in a feat of mythical strength, some 40 miles away due east, climbing from sea level to over 3,000 feet. In eastern Mediterranean cultures, the sun was conceived as entering and leaving the through gates that stood between pillars in the east and in the west. Samson, as the sun, was merely claiming his divine right.· Isn’t it strange that Samson, having killed 30 philistines at Ahskelon, then having set their fields on fire, then having smote them hip and thigh with great slaughter, and then having killed 1000 of them with a jawbone of an ass, would then wander into the philistine city of Gaza with no other aim than to satisfy his lust?
· When he was there, why didn’t the Philistines attack him under the cover of darkness, while he was sleeping, rather than wait till morning, and his full strength?
· How did he rip the gate posts out of the ground without rousing his enemies? Why not attack while he is leaving the city with massive gate posts on his shoulders? All thius is done without being impeded by his enemies. Perhaps this is because, as a solar hero, at night, in mythic terms he simply ‘wasn’t there’. Attacking him in the morning also makes sense of the legend, referring to him in his solar guise, since the sun is weakest at dawn and dusk. He foiled his attackers, being a mortal folk hero by rising at night,
· It appears that the feats of this Danite folk hero were passed down separately as a series of unrelated oral episodes.
· 7 locks of hair cut off – very symbolic number.
· He jokes that by being tied with 7 as yet sundried animal sinew bowstrings he can be subdued. He sleeps through this happening and then wakes up, breaks the sinews, and then tells her that if his hair is woven into a loom he will lose his strength. He then falls asleep again, and wakes up to find his hair in a loom, which he breaks. Amazingly, after being tried to have his strength taken away by his other half twice in his sleep – he then ACTUALLY TELLS HER! What an eejit! This very tired man then foolishly falls asleep AGAIN, and my, what a deep sleeper he must be.
· He also then sleeps through having his hair completely cut off with a razor. To have this Achilles heel – one weakness that can only be exploited in a particular way is clearly and utterly mythical. He then gets his eyes gouged, and his hair grows back magically fast, after praying for vengeance.
· He then kills 3,000 Philistines in his death destroying Dagon’s temple.
· The theory would have it that the end with the hair and Delilah is a later redaction to disguise the solar qualities of this hero, and see him in Yahwist terms. But why the hair, why tell a woman how to destroy him, after seeing her try to do it 3 times before? Why did the philistines not kill him, but only gouge out his eyes, when they know how dangerous he is?
· Well, hair in Greek legend is famed for strength – see Scylla cutting off nisus’ hair and giving it to Minos. King Pterelaus is made immortal through a lock of hair, but his city is besieged – and like in Minos’ legend – he is betrayed by having his hair cut off by someone close to him. Other sun gods are famous for their hair (as Josephus noted about Moses and Ethiopian princess Tharbis) from the ANE to the far east (eg Rig Veda). The hair in all these many cultures represents the sun’s rays. Interestingly, Minos was Phoenican – who later became Canaanite. The cutting of his hair represents summer moving to winter, losing its strength, and ability to grow crops etc.
· Moreover, throughout time and culture (see collaborators in post WW2 France) cutting off someone’s hair is a sign of humiliation, such as for witches hair is a sign of virility – see David’s son, and Elisha being derided for his baldness (rob, you’d be in trouble). This is a symbolic emasculating of Samson by Delilah.
· Why give in easily to Delilah, and be responsible for his own destruction. Parallels to lleu llaw gyffes in the Mabinogion, a Welsh myth of Llew, the variant of the Celtic sun god Lugh, in Russian fairytale of Koschei the deathless, Serbian folklore etc. on all these mythical tales, the Samson and Delilah characters are acting out their roles. The fact that Samson deceives Delilah many times means that the means to his destruction is secret and thus sacred. That he finally does divulge his secret is essential, since the sun must die at winter solstice in order for the world to continue working. This is also the case with Llew, and the Koschei death opens the way for the rebirth of the sun god. Delilah, as a woman, fits in with mythical representations of night deities, the antagonist of sun deities.
· The name Delilah is seen to derive from the word ‘flirt’, as in the Arabic dalilahmeaning ‘courtesan’, or from dalal meaning ‘weak, languishing, enervating’. Her name may also derive from laylah which means…’night’ which relates to ‘lilith’, the night demon from Sumerian/Akkadian mythology (see also Blodeuwedd in Mabinogion). Lilith is seen as the sun’s destroyer. Multiple sources for her name makes it easier for later redactors to demote her from night or death goddess to flirt. The editor cannot hide, though, the way which the characters act out their roles – there is no other way of making sense of the narrative. The death goddess in ancient cosmologies is sometimes seem as a weaver that enshrouds light, as Delilah wove Samson’s hair.
· Instead for killing Samson, the philistines blind him, as the sun is often seen as the day’s eye. Samson is chained to a wheel making a circuit grinding at a mill, is also possibly another allusion to the solar cycle.
· Interestingly, the welsh mythology of the Mabinogion, and its solar stories and other mythologies, was rewritten in the medieval period with a Christian gloss, changing bits here and there, and giving everything a Christian feel. This, ironically, seems to have happened to the Samson solar cycle mythology in an Israelite context, with its Nazirite overlays.
I could go on right the way through the story showing what different words mean, and their connection to solar hero story symbolism etc. This about a quarter of the critique of the story.