Over two thousand years have passed and yet, Samson still remains a well-known and idealized character. Long, luxurious hair, strength and stature unmatched, blessed by God from birth and handpicked to be the leader of a blessed nation – it’s no wonder that today, Samson is remembered more for these qualities than the actual acts he is infamous for. In Judges 14, Samson shows blatant disregard for tradition, customs, sacrament, his parents, women, and people, as he kills over 30 people without a second thought, and yet we are to believe that he is the man who will lead Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. Was it God who really appointed him, or was the author of the text trying to make a point? It is my hypothesis that in the story of Samson and the lion and the woman of Timnah, the author is trying to convince the audience that simply having a leader, or a Judge, is not adequate to lead Israel; Israel needs a king, and that the women portrayed in the text are an example of how women should behave.
World Behind the Text: History and Social Location
In Judges, the author goes unnamed, but most scholars agree that the book was written around the 6th century B.C.E. (Knoppers 1). The book is set during the pre-monarchical period, but the author or authors are speculated to have probably lived well after that time (Brettler 398). The book was probably written in the community of Babylonian exile, a time where the Jewish people were being exiled from conquered Judah into Babylon (Knoppers 1).
There are no indications that the authors may have used written sources to create the text. There is, however, evidence that the book was edited, as the last 9 chapters of Judges have format changes significant enough to cause suspicion of their redaction (Frolov 232).
Judges 14 has been described as a narrative series (Frolov 232) and a story: the story is more of an allegory than the truth, and sets the tone for the whole book (Frolov 367) The passage isn’t actually reflective of the time, or necessarily historically accurate, but it does reflect the view of the authors, giving us insight as to how they viewed the issues and times and cultures around them (Brettler 398). The book of Judges has a repetitious cycle of sinning, oppression, repentance, and deliverance, but that cycle is missing from Judges 14 (Frolov 232).
The story of Samson being allegorical is paralleled in a few other books in the Bible, such as Samuel and Eli (Brettler 397) and the story of Adam and Eve also thought to be more of an allegory than outright truth (Brettler 405).
There is much evidence in regard to the book of Judges being edited. Judges 1-21 is treated largely separate from the text before and after the section, and there are too similar of phrases at the beginning and ending of the section for it to be coincidence as well (Brettler 399).
A statement was repeatedly written throughout the book. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which...