The Layman's Bible

Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation

Samson’s Riddle

I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but during the story of Samson in the book of Judges, he tells a strange riddle during his wedding feast.  Samson is so confident in this riddle that he actually makes a bet that nobody can solve it.  We pick this story up in Judges 14:12-14,

“Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them.  “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.  If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”

“Tell us your riddle,” they said.  “Let’s hear it.”

He replied,

“Out of the eater, something to eat;
Out of the strong, something sweet.”

For three days they could not give the answer.

There’s nothing wrong with the riddle in and of itself, in fact, the way it is organized is very cool and makes the reader wonder what the answer could be.  The problem, however, comes in the form of the answer.  The men were unable to figure out what Samson was getting at in his couplet, and so they prodded his new wife until she explained it to them.  And so we read,

Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him,

“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?

Samson said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
You would not have solved my riddle” (Judges 14:18).

Leaving the odd wording of his comeback aside; notice that right away Samson figured out that they had asked his wife about the riddle.  He knew this because the riddle applied only to him and therefore would have been impossible to answer unless they were Samson or his wife.  You see, the lion in the riddle is one that Samson killed.  We read a little earlier,

The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat.  But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done (Judges 14:6).

Did you catch that?  He didn’t tell anyone what he had done!  There’s more though,

Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass.  In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along.  When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it.  But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass (Judges 14:8-9).

 

"Hey guys, do you like riddles?  I've got a GREAT one."

“Hey guys, do you like riddles? I’ve got a GREAT one.”

After returning to the rotten carcass of the lion, Samson ate some honey out of it (which is gross in its own right), and he again didn’t tell anyone about it (although he did feed some of it to his parents).  Samson’s riddle was exclusive to his experience, and therefore it was a stupid riddle since it was theoretically impossible for anyone else to answer.  I’ve never known what to do with this.  Every time I read through Judges I’d stop on the riddle and say to myself, “Man, that’s a really stupid riddle.”  However, Paul tells me in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Therefore, I prayed (nay, begged) the Holy Spirit to explain to me what redeeming value this stupid riddle has since it is featured in the Word of God.  Upon receiving no immediate answer, I decided to search the internet (which led me to an article I mentioned in “That’s Not What My Jesus is Like”), which turned out to be even less enlightening than the riddle itself.  However, after a few days to a week, the Spirit one day chimed in that Samson’s riddle does have a lesson in it.  The riddle illustrates what sin does by corrupting the person who is sinning.

Before getting too much into the effects of sin, let’s establish some things about Samson, the man behind the riddle in question.  Samson was a special guy.  In fact, even his birth was special.  His story begins,

A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless.  The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son” (Judges 13:2-3).

The Bible has a few of these miracle births, such as Isaac, Samuel, and John the Baptist.  However, Samson’s had special rules attached to it,

Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son.  No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines (Judges 13:4-5).

Samson was a Nazirite from birth.  A Nazirite is a person with a special vow to the Lord.  Theoretically, by fulfilling their vow and by abstaining from various things that would make a person unclean, a Nazirite achieves a closer relationship with God (or in Samson’s case, amazing strength).  I’ve read before many Rabbis and theology experts try to defend Samson and argue that his rules were different than those of the standard Nazirite; however, the Bible only has one definition of what a Nazirite is.  We pick it up in Numbers 6:1-4,

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the Lord as a Nazirite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink.  He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.  As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

Ok, so rule number one, nothing from the vine.  Interestingly enough, most scholars suggest that Samson’s wedding party was almost certainly a drinking party.  So there goes that rule.  Let’s look then at another rule,

Throughout the period of his separation to the Lord he must not go near a dead body.  Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head (Numbers 6:6-7).

One of the major rules of a Nazirite is that he must not be around dead things.  The laws of Leviticus are pretty strong on dead animals and dead people causing uncleanness.  Considering that God uses Samson to kill a ton of Philistines and allows him to defend himself against a lion in the first place, we can assume that killing is ok for Sammy.  However, since the angel told even Samson’s mom not to eat unclean things, it seems very likely that Samson was supposed say…not eat from a rotting corpse.  Heck, even the average Israelite would be considered unclean by doing something like that (Way to make your parents unclean before God, Sam).  So already Samson is down two points and he hasn’t even met Delilah yet.  Samson’s got one more major rule he has to follow for his Nazirite vow,

During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head.  He must be holy until the period of his separation to the Lord is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long (Numbers 6:5).

Most of us (even non-Christians) know that later when Samson allows his hair to be cut, he loses his Spirit-induced strength.  After failing to keep the remaining rule in his vow, God finally revokes the vow himself and Samson ends up captured.  Samson knew the rules for a Nazirite, and yet he broke them.  Judges 13 is all about his parents freaking out about how to raise him, so clearly he was instructed as to the rules very clearly while he was growing up.  Therefore, Samson was actively sinning against his Nazirite vow on several occasions (especially when he ate out of a dead lion’s body).

So let’s get back to the riddle, it’s weird.  This helps us to understand that when we’re sinning (that is to say, when we’re repeatedly doing the same sins) we start acting weird.  Samson started drinking and hanging around dead things more than he was supposed to, and sure enough (probably while drunk), he made a stupid bet with a stupid riddle that only he could answer.  Samson likely didn’t even know what he was doing when he asked the riddle in the first place.  Solomon tells us,

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
Shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:18-19).

“How could something so tastey be sinful?”

When a person is caught in sin, they can’t even remember that what they are doing is wrong.  It is like walking through darkness, everything seems dark so nothing seems like light.  Scripture also suggest that the more sin you partake in, the more you walk into the darkness.  Samson first ate from the dead lion, but later he threw what most believe to be a drinking party, and who knows what kind of other sins Samson may have had part in.  Paul talks about sin and purity in his letter to Titus.  Samson was supposed to be completely pure as a Nazirite, but his actions suggested that he was not.  Therefore we read, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15).  Clearly if Samson is making quizzes about dead animals, something is off.  Once sin starts taking root, it will come out automatically and betray a person.  We’re told that, “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble” (Proverbs 12:13).  With his stupid riddle, Samson actually accidentally boasted about a sin he had committed.  Likewise, with us, sin will cause us to slip up on our speech and actions.

While teaching the Israelites about what to do and what not to do, Moses gives them a stern warning that we all need to remember.  He says in Numbers 32:23, “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”  The devil tries to convince us that we can keep our sins a secret, but in the end, if we do not stop, our sin will find us out.  Jesus spoke very clearly on this topic during his time on earth.  Our savior tells us, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).  And, oddly enough, often the person committing the sin will be the one who outs themselves.  We’ve seen Samson do it through his riddle, thank goodness the people in attendance were likely mostly Philistine, otherwise Samson might have been in some real trouble when it was realized that he was eating out of dead bodies.  Why does this happen?  Jesus tells us,

The good man brings the good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Just like we already discussed, when a person is in sin, they don’t know what they’re doing (like walking in darkness), and so it’s very easy for a person who is caught in sin to betray themselves.  I suppose one could say it is like a spiritual version of a Freudian Slip, what’s on your mind is what comes out.  So Samson, by making a big production of a supposedly great riddle that actually highlighted the sin he had committed against his vow to the Lord, showed just how much sin had permeated his life through his words.

“Oh no!  I’m in sin!  I don’t want people to think I’m stupid after I say something that doesn’t really make much sense and also makes me look bad!  What can I do!?”  The best advice comes from Paul, he writes, “Flee from the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul says to run away from sin and hang out with more spiritual people.  Samson definitely needed this advice, considering that not only was he in sin, but his new wife and crew were all Philistines, the enemies of God and Israel at the time.  Samson also would have done well if he was able to have heard God’s advice through Asaph,

Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
Fulfill your vows to the Most High,
And call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me (Psalms 50:14-15).

If you make a promise to God, do your best to fulfill it.  Samson was a man born of promise and his life was a living vow to God.  When that vow was fully broken, God took his protecting hand off of Samson and he got his eyes gouged out.  Hmm….perhaps that’s why Jesus later took it a step further and taught,

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.”  But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King (Matthew 5:33-35).

Jesus advises not making vows, promises, or oaths to God at all, because the Bible records that generally people have trouble keeping them anyway.  Instead do your best to live an honest, transparent life.  This means trying to keep your life as clean as possible.

But even if you have messed up and have gotten in pretty deep into sin, fear not!  Repentance always brings restoration.  As a Nazirite, Samson had three major rules to follow in order to retain his relationship with God.  Samson broke all of these and eventually God left him on his own.  Scripture tells us, “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza.  Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison” (Judges 16:21).  After failing his vow, Samson was very severely punished.  Now blind and powerless he had nothing left.  But knowing he had sinned, Samson, while on display in front of the Philistines prayed to God for one last chance to prove himself.  God is faithful.  We read, after Samson prayed,

Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood.   Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!”  Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it.  Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived (Judges 16:29-30).

Samson's Riddle (Jesus Interceding)Samson’s story seems tragic, but considering the rather wild lifestyle he lived it’s amazing to see that the Lord still used him for good when he cried out to God.  How much more for us who have been saved by the blood of Jesus!  The Bible tells us about Jesus, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).  Not only are we purified forever through Jesus’ death on a cross, bringing us to heaven upon the expiration of our mortal bodies, but even after salvation, Jesus continues to defend us through his intercessions.  So even when you get caught deep in sin, pray to the Lord; and he will lift you out of the muck and the mire and light your way.  You were already declared clean in his sight when you came to a belief in his Son Jesus Christ.  Even now, if you reach out for help, the Lord will always extend his hand, because you’ve got the Son of God on your side.  So flee from sin, my friend, and take shelter in the Lord before you end up saying something really stupid and (God forbid) someone writes it down and makes you look bad.

Rock on God!

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15 comments on “Samson’s Riddle

  1. Naomi
    May 26, 2016

    I came across your site when looking for a picture to illustrate my pastor’s sermon on the life of Samson. I ended up using the beautiful one of Samson eating honey from the dead lion. Then I got to reading your article and was kinda blown away. The heart of your message is what my pastor preached too, such a blessing for me to read both perspectives.

    I’ve followed your site on WordPress and hope to read more from you.

    If you’re interested, here is my pastor’s sermon on Samson’s riddle:
    https://aeon01.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/sermon-on-judges-1410-20/

    God bless. 🙂
    Naomi

  2. The Layman
    May 26, 2016

    Thank you for the kind words 🙂

    I really like that picture too, whoever originally made it did an excellent job.

    I checked out the sermon and it was very cool. It’s fun seeing the same story in a different light; so thanks for linking that!

    Continue rocking on with God!
    -The Layman

  3. Mr Tannehauser
    January 9, 2018

    “Out of the eater, something to eat; Out of the strong, something sweet.”

    The eater, which references the lion, is a euphemism for the Philistine priesthood of Ishara. She was the cosmological consort of Dagon, whose temple is destroyed by Samson. Ishara was the Philistine incarnation of the deity Al-Lat (literally “Allah’s consort”) worshiped in pre-Islamic Mecca. She was routinely depicted as standing or sitting with a lion to indicate her role as Potnia Theron: the mistress of wild animals.

    The authors of Judges were referencing Delilah as a sacred prostitute of Ishara. Sampson’s violation of his Nazarite vows is his infidelity to the Jewish nation, which includes eating components of the sacred drink and fornication with a temple prostitute.The “something sweet” is a reference to Philistine rituals of mead and sacred prostitution, and the false allure of an exotic woman.

    The Greek historian Heterdotus equates Ishara to the muse, Melissa, of the Mycenaean civilization. Philistine grave wares found in Israel suggest a Mycenaean culture that had appropriated the Semitic temples. The equivalent Semitic deity Mylitta fed “milk and honey” to the infant Zeus. She was considered a psychopomp, and in the mythologies the bees that sprung from Mylitta’s carcass symbolized her ushering of the recently dead. Her name means honey, and she belongs to a broader Indo-European mythology of sacred mead.

    Bees don’t actually build hives in carcasses.The Biblical “land of milk and honey” was a reference to the extinction of Canaanite and Philistine polytheism.

    “What is sweeter than honey?What is stronger than a lion?”

    Judges answers Yahweh. The authors posit that fidelity to Yahweh is sweeter than Ishara’s temple prostitutes and stronger than her fury, the lion. For an interesting parallel look up the Muslim destruction of Al-Uzza’s temples.

    “If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle”

    in this passage the heifer is the moon, which was envisioned as plowing the seeds of heaven every night. The priesthood would ferment a fertility beverage, a mean, which was “ritualistically stolen” from El or Allah every month, and given to the priesthood.

    The symbols are agricutural. The name Ishtar/Ishara refers to the irrigating ditch, and she was called the “bringer of waters” Meanwhile another deity, Molech/Chemosh (i.e. the Mycenaean Minotaur), represented the plow and the burning of fallow. There is a Near Eastern narrative in which Demeter is also involved in a child sacrifice to fire.

    Together these deities represented the agricultural and the lunar cycles. The “plowed with my heifer” is a debasement of the foreign appropriation of Semitic temples to Al Lat and Ishara. It probably references the infidelity of Delilah too, because fidelity to God is the theme.

    • The Layman
      January 10, 2018

      You make some interesting points.

      While it is true that “Bees don’t actually build hives in carcasses” at least usually, the Bible is clear that Samson found a hive in a lion. (Judges 14:8-9)

      The Bible also gives the answer to the riddle in Judges 14:18. Taken from a plain reading and assuming that Scripture is true, we are to assume this lion beehive actually happened.

      I am glad that you are delving deep into Scripture. Just be careful that as you do that you never forget that if we can’t take the Word as written then there is no reason to take it at all. After all, if one part actually happened, and another did not- what is the criteria for picking and choosing? If there was no creation then there was no fall. If there was no fall then there is no reason for Jesus. At that point one may as well stop studying this book and go out and enjoy their lives while it lasts.

      Anyway, thank you for your interest in this article, may the Lord guide your Biblical studies.

  4. Tannehauserlives
    February 13, 2018

    You’ve stated:

    “Never forget that if we can’t take the Word as written then there is no reason to take it at all. After all, if one part actually happened, and another did not- what is the criteria for picking and choosing?”

    Believers don’t have to adopt mainstream views to be accepted among the faithful. People of faith don’t have to choose between a rubber-stamped, consensual interpretation of scripture and complete abandonment of faith. All God requires of us is just action and trust: salvation requires no mediator.

    In adopting literalism, we gain uniformity, which has empowered the Church politically. However, to secure uniformity many pastors have shamed the people. Am I correct in assuming that you comment, “What is the criteria for picking and choosing?” alludes to the derogatory “cafeteria Christianity.”

    Some pastors put Jesus’s teachings of tolerance aside in pursuit of uniformity and empowerment, but this is folly. These practices split the congregation and can destroy the spiritual authority of the faith. Consider the Islamic literalist movement: salafism. Adoption of these views has led to Muslim genocide. The empowered clergy has done a great evil to the former members of its faith. I believe this has occurred because, in their pursuit of power, the Salafi have failed to follow Christ’s message of universal acceptance. The origins of the Reformation lay in this same process.

    Beyond the rejection of non-conforming Christians, literalism limits our capacity for Biblical interpretation. I’d like to illustrate the process.

    All words are given “as written” and require interpretation—even sacred words. Let’s compare the analysis of scripture to the analysis of historical texts. Since our faith was developed in conjunction with rituals, let’s review texts which still retain a ritual use in society:

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

    Because we’ve a common tradition, most Americans would agree that those are the correct words to the nursery rhyme. Though the narrative is odd, we accept that Mary’s garden is filled with sea shells, bells and some ladies have come to observe it.

    However, if an Englishman were to provide alternative verses, and ask that we refrain from our verses because they are innovations of the original

    Humpty Dumpty lay in a beck.
    With all his sinews around his neck;
    Forty Doctors and forty wrights
    Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty to rights!

    Unfortunately, we don’t arrive at the same as understanding. So not we’ve split ourselves into two groups. In researching the narrative we might find the English version predates the Humpty of American memory. Ultimately we’d discover that the story is not a moral lesson at all; Humpty Dumpty was a canon that fell from a defensive wall and left the Royalists defenseless.

    We could take a literalist approach, denouncing the earlier narrative, insisting that there was a walking egg, establishing the narrative as a cautionary miracle. Conversely, we could accept that a historical event became a cautionary tale. The miracle is that morality begins to be actualized from a growing narrative. I see the hand of divine providence.

    To me literalism is a manifestation of doubt. Supposing there were no miracles, does the literalist have the capacity for faith without proof? I’m not telling you that you have to see it my way. I’m telling you that I see literalism as a crutch for those who need proof. It occurs as providence because it is needed.

    In contrast, you warn “Never forget that if we can’t take the word as written, then there is no reason to take it at all.” Is there no room for those who seek a deeper understanding? Are my observations not providence for my faith?

    I’m curious. How exactly should we we apply that criteria? Am I supposed to stop believing in God and become an atheist? I wonder how many of us have abandoned the faith through this mechanism. Why is it that so many atheists come from religious families?

    We need to provide room at the table. It is a shame that we do not.

  5. Tannehauserlives
    April 11, 2018

    “And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of a donkey, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men with it. And Samson said, With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey have I slain a thousand men. And it came to pass, when he had finished speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi. And he was very thirsty, and called on the LORD, and said, you have given this great deliverance into the hand of your servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? But God split a hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water out of it; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: therefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.”

    — King James 21st, Judges 15

    We could assume that the Bible is unique among religious traditions—avoiding all use of rich metaphor— and interpret the text as Samson slaughtering thousands of Philistines with an oddly weaponized donkey jaw. This interpretation makes a miracle in which the jawbone pours forth water to satisfy Samson’s thirst.

    How did the Jews employ donkey jaws? Let’s look at a reference to donkey jaws within the near contemporary Talamud:

    “For a demon of the privy one should say thus: ‘On the head of a lion and on the snout of a lioness did we find the demon Bar Shirika Panda; with a bed of leeks I hurled him down, with the jawbone of an ass I smote him.’”

    — Talmud, Shabbat 67a

    Above the donkey jaw is described as a weapon—but as a ritual weapon used against an invisible spirit: the privy demon named u’Se’irim. This demon was thought to latch onto isolated individuals, in the bathroom, causing epilepsy within the children of immodest Jews. It prescribes the exact ritual incantation to ward against the invisible spirit.

    “Anyone who is modest [Tzanu’a] in the bathroom is saved from three things— from snakes, scorpions and Mazikim. . . . Some say even his dreams are not disturbed by Mazikin. There was a bathroom in Tiverya in which even two people would be damaged during the day . . . We have a tradition—one should be modest in the bathroom, one should accept afflictions in silence and pray for mercy. Abaye’s foster mother raised a sheep to follow him to the bathroom [so he would not be alone]. Question: Why did she use a sheep, and not a goat? Answer: A goat’s name [Sa’ir] is like that of the Shedim of bathrooms [u’Se’irim Yerakdu Sham] they can be confused [and he might be harmed by improper ritual].”

    — Talmud, Berachot 62a

    Above we confirm that the Mazikim demon strikes people in private when Jewish ritualism is not followed in the bathroom.

    And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he departed out of him, and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart and said, ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place,’ and it shall remove. And nothing shall be impossible unto you. However this kind [“Mazikin”] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

    — King James Bible 21st, Matthew 17

    Above we find the tradition of casting out invisible Mazikim was practiced by Jesus.

    “To the seven figures of purādu-apkallus [the seven sages], painted with gypsum and black paste that are drawn at the side of the bedroom at the wall. To the seven figures of the consecrates cornel; they stand in the gate of the bedroom nearest the sick man at the head of the bed. To the seven figures of apkallus or tamarisk, kneeling, that stand at the foot of the bed. . . . expel the Demon, overcome Evil, and Šulak [i.e. the Babylonian privy demon] , the nightly wanderer, whose touch is death.”

    — Bīt Mēseri II (“House of Confinement”)

    The above is a purifying ritual denoted on cuneiform tablets found at the Library of Ashurbanipa (700 BCE). It describes a ritualistic casting out of the Babylonian privy demon Šulak. The ritual is intricate and resembles the shamanistic rituals found in various indigenous traditions.

    Now about that jawbone . . .

    “The festive nature of the African migrant has also helped to enrich Peru’s musical panorama: Peru’s black population invented the cajón and discovered the uses of the quijada, the donkey’s jawbone,
    as a percussion instrument.”

    — The Traveler´s Guide to Festivities and Folk Art in Peru

    North African migrants were using donkey jaws as shamanistic implements when the slavers brought them to South America. The musical use of donkey jaws was once common in Louisiana too, having been part of Voodoo rituals. It came from Northern Africa.

    The burning of flax, the freeing of binding, the ability to reach thousands of Philisitnes—this seems like it could be describing a similar ritual, a ritual that is already recorded in Near Eastern sources. In this context the narrative presented within Judges not so strange. Samson was a Jewish shaman. He performed a cleansing ritual for the Philistine people and slew thousands of evil, non-Jewish, spirits with the music from his jawbone. He burned flax, rattled his sacred jaw, and unbound the Philistine people from the snare of the Mazikim. The “water” that god sent Sampson to satisfy his thirst came from the hollows within the jawbone—i.e. the water is the music.

    From the descriptions of the casting out of “Mazikim” we already know that these shaman-type rituals were practiced by the Jewish people and we know that they involved a jaw bone.

    You can choose to believe in a superhero Samson who slaughters God’s opposition with a musical instrument that spontaneously produces actual water. That’s your choice. I choose to believe that Christianity—like contemporary Judaism, and early aspects of almost every other world religion—practiced shamanism, and Jesus and Samson—like all shaman—conveyed their rituals and spiritual understandings with metaphors.

  6. Tannehauserlives
    April 11, 2018

    One more comment:

    The Bible reads:

    “Samson answered her, ‘If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.’ Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. . . . He replied, ‘If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.’ So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin. Again she called to him, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon you!’ He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric. Then she said to him, ‘How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.’ With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.”

    Notice how each of Sampson’s false bindings are counted as seven. In the Canaanite tradition the number seven represent the Sebitti, which occur as the seven binding/possessing Sheddu in Jewish traditions. Both traditions include the privy demon.

    The Babylonian aforementioned “House of Confinement” ritual calls on the seven sages [purādu-apkallus] as opponents to each of the seven binding demons. In this usage binding refers to the loss of animation, i.e. death and loss of vigor. This theme is found throughout pagan Europe due to the breadth of Phoenician influence. The Greek playwright Aeschylus renders the warding ritual in Seven Against Thebes.

    In this proven context Sampson would be dismissing the spiritual authority of the Phonetician tradition. Unfortunately, in his boasting he exposes the secrets of the Nazarite ascetic craft and Delilah renders him powerless through violation of his own tabboo.

    The very moral of the text is nondisclosure. The narrative is telling us, right up front, that the passages are highly metaphorical, and that those who understand the meaning (the Nazarite ascetics) are expected to conceal the meaning of their texts and rituals. Exposure of the Jewish ascetic practices results in spiritual blindness and a loss of one’s shamanistic potency. That’s the clear moral. Compare this to the rules of conveyance of other Shamanistic traditions and you will find many parallels.

    Again, I’m not telling you how to believe. I’m trying illustrate the spiritual and historical aspects of the Bible that are lost when, through fear of losing faith, we adopt a more literal approach.

  7. Tannehauserlives
    April 14, 2018

    “It is certainly no coincidence that the Irish Gaelic word Dun or Dunn means ‘Judge’ just as Dan does in Hebrew.”
    — Evangelist Raymond McNair

    I agree with Raymond McNair. Grave wears taken from Philistine archeological sites prove they were Mycenaean Sea Peoples. In Judges Chapter 5 the Song of Deborah states: “Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he abide with the ships?” Apparently, the Biblical Tribe of Dan was part of this same tribal confederacy.

    The founding myth of Argos records these same Sea Peoples as Phoenicians from Egypt, describing them as the Daughters of Danaus. In the Greek myth these daughters are intermarried into the native regency and they murder their husbands. The father of Danaus was a mythical King named Belus. In myth the great-granddaughter of King Danaus bore a similar name, Danaë, mother of the hero Perseus. His descendants the Danaans are said to have built Mycenae.

    The founding myth of the Irish pagans originates with the Tuatha dé Danann—i.e. the” tribe of Danu”—who are also said to be Egyptian in origin. They battle a King named Balor, who occurs as Beli Mwar in the Welsh tradtion. Ultimaltley the names Belus, Balor and Beli stem from the Babylonian term “Bel”— an epithet meaning “lord”—probably in reference to Bel Marduk. This tradition also occurs in the narrative of Bel and the Dragon, Chapter 14 of the extended Book of Daniel.

    The mythical and religious tribes of Dan, Danaus, and Danann likely refer to the Denyen a historical tribal group within the historical confederacy of Sea Peoples. They are mentioned in the Hittite Amarna letters from the 14th century BC as possibly being related to the “Land of the Danuna” near Ugarit. The Egyptians explicitly describe them as “sea peoples” and raiders associated with the Eastern Mediterranean Dark Ages. They attacked Egypt in 1207 BC in alliance with the Libyans and other Sea Peoples, like the Philistines. They made additional attacks during the reign of Rameses III. The 20th Egyptian Dynasty allowed them to settle in Canaan, which was largely controlled by the Sea Peoples into the 11th century BC. It was an occurrence similar to the Viking establishment of Normandy.

    The mythological parallels are very strong—especially the role of the unworthy woman, Delilah, who resembles the daughters of Danaus. The cult imagery of Dagan as bearing the dragnet is echoed in the Parable of the Net and throughout the Gaelic narratives of the silver-handed Nuada, whose iconography laid the foundation for the Fisher King, Amfortas, within the Arthurian Grail narratives. Finally, Dun means Judge, as does Dan, a tribe that occurs within the book of Judges.

    Do any of these documented facts—the grave wares, a breadth of contemporary accounts, and the linguistic associations—allow you to venture outside of the strictly literal interpretation?

    • The Layman
      April 14, 2018

      Haha, oddly enough no they don’t. Because by trying to prove your point and doubling-down on alternative sources you’ve revealed that your own faith is based on what you’d consider to be a myth. If the Bible is on the same level as stated myths, and you tread those myths as fact; yet insist that the Bible is unable to stand on its own you are arguing against your own faith.

      Do I believe that the history recorded in the Bible has influenced other cultures? Absolutely. We’re all one human race, painted by one hand, descended from one couple (and later one family)- we have an aggressively shared history.

      And do I acknowledge that other cultures were present during Biblical times, and that references were made to them in the Bible? Absolutely- it’d be silly not to.

      What I’m saying is that if the Bible isn’t your primary source, the one book you can truly trust, then what is your faith?

      You’ve managed, through your arguments, to lump the Lord’s Word into myth. Thus you’ve only proven my point since your faith appears to be rooted in a fairy tale. I’m advocating taking the Bible at its word- it is God’s Word after all. But you seem set on making him an unreliable narrator. Which would not be a Lord I’d want to follow.

      You insistence on a view that would make the Bible just another dead history book; which goes against Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word is alive, which would imply that it should be able to stand on its own no matter what the era is- without some sort of doctorate to prove how it connects to long dead cultures. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that the Bible is a teaching tool for “the man of God”; that is, anyone who seeks out the Lord. It also implies that we should pour over the Word from multiple angles- historical included. But, as the only legitimate documentation of our faith it must come first in all of this.

      Some things in the Bible are symbolic; after all, God uses weird puns in the prophecies when naming cities. But things that are written as history should be trusted as the true history- who do you trust more? Some historian or God? I’d argue that God has outlived any of those historians. Furthermore, the Bible records that Jesus himself believed the Old Testament stories as history- at least the Genesis account. And if Jesus- who is God- trusted those, then why would the histories that were written far more contemporary to their occurrences be less trustworthy?

      So yeah, no, you haven’t really convinced me, lol- you’ve only confirmed my stance. I’ve put in a lot of thought about this over the years and God (with the Bible) has won every time- and the day he doesn’t is the day I stop following him.

      I hope you get more in touch with your faith. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with understanding the history around Biblical texts. Just make sure you’re not going all in on non-Biblical sources. The Bible is the center, not some tertiary source. Otherwise your faith is rooted in a myth and a fairy tale and that’s not a real strong foundation at all.

  8. Tannehauserlives
    April 20, 2018

    It’s strange to me that you classify the religious texts of Sumer as “fairy tales” when they clearly and reinforce the Old Testament narratives.

    The earliest proven flood narrative is the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, which reads, “Six days and seven nights the wind and storm. . . . I [Gilgamesh] opened the window. . . . and offered a sacrifice. . . . the gods smelled the sweet savor” The earliest Biblical source, the Dead Sea Scrolls, was written in 400 BCE. It reads, “Rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. . . . Noah opened the window of the ark. . . . Noah offered burnt offerings on the altar and the Lord smelled the sweet savor.” The underlying narrative is identical except for three differences: the number of days the rain fell, the name of the protagonist, and the adoption of monothesism.

    The narrative of the deluge played a central role in the religion of the Babylonians. The Babylonians treated this narrative as sacred for 1400 years prior to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. The first Jewish record of a flood narrative occurs two hundred years after the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE.

    Like many narratives in the Bible, which we’ve already seen in the book of Judges, the narratives were compiled from surrounding traditions. The Biblical Daniel as a reflex of an older Ugaritic narrative of Dan’el (literally “the Judgment of God”) which seems to personify of the “Tribe of Dan” as playing a role in God’s rejection of Bel Marduk. The Council of Nicene selectively removed the Ugarit-Semitic narrative of Bel and the Dragon from Western Tradition. However, the Essenes had included the narrative in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Through literal interpretation these narratives challenge the authority of the Bible. As a result, fundamentalist Christians have separated God from the sciences, which were once an ecclesiastical endeavor. Some have challenged the archaeological record, casting doubt on the process of carbon dating and the supportive linguistics. Some have proposed a Jewish tradition that predates the Sumerian culture, for which there is no archaeological evidence. Other sects treat the Sumerian records as a test of faith: a trip wire placed on earth by Satan or an incredibly judgmental God. I don’t experience that conflict. I believe the later narrative was renovated by God to reconcile the divisiveness of polytheism, and that the Bible conveys an esoteric practice of renovation through inspired asceticism and divine revelation. I believe we are living in the era of Christ’s instruction, and that—through his perfection and the spreading of his logos—mankind has been granted unprecedented boons. I believe that the development of the atheistic state and the commodification Christianity will necessitate the second coming of Christ, and I believe that the second coming is metaphorical, referring to the next renovation of God’s divine will through a new spiritual messiah.

    Ironically, it is the continual renovation of the church—from polytheism to monotheism, from exclusive to Jews to inclusive of gentiles—that is addressed in passage of Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active.” That is to say the meaning of the divine Logos is carried within the living and subject to the interpretation of each individual. It is not fixed by creed or transcription because language is a living thing.

    I consider the “imposters” spoken of in 2 Timothy to be those who mimic faith: leaders who wear the words of Christ in pursuit of a material kingdom. As seekers we are instructed to “continue in what [we] have learned and have become convinced of . . . All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I don’t believe that the breadth of “all scripture” was established at Nicene, because Constantine took the leadership of the Church by force to establish his material kingdom. Through his militancy Constantine violated the teachings of Christ.These are the things that I reflect on when I seek to understand God’s message. This is why I consider the spiritual message of Christ, personal revelations, and the emulation of Christ in life as being superior to the traditions of the organized Christian religion. This same sentiment led to the Catholic Reformation, transcendentalism, and the American revivalist movement, and I see merit in it.

    You’ve compared my acceptance of earlier narratives to belief in “fairy tales”, casually dismissing their religious purpose and reaffirming your literal interpretation of Genesis. Perhaps that is how God speaks to you. But how do you explain the inclusion of the Gilgamesh narrative at Sumerian religious sites? Why does it predate the first Biblical records? You’ve suggested I equate anything non-canonical to a bedtime story, but you haven’t explained why the Biblical narratives were used in foreign religious texts prior to the Babylonian captivity. I’d like to better understand your perspective.

    • The Layman
      April 21, 2018

      “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all” (Acts 23:8).

      I think we have a Sadducee/Pharisee situation here, lol (though obviously not drawn along the same lines).

      So, for clarity I’ll state again that I’m arguing for Scriptural authority; and my responses are coming from that.

      Now, you bring up a very interesting and oft discussed issue which I think will not be resolved between us; and that’s fine. You note that the earliest manuscripts for the Bible all date from after the captivity in Babylon. It’s a very common argument that I’ve heard that this was in fact the real Genesis of Judaism; and that the “history” recorded in the Scriptures before that was some sort of effort to bring every one in line.

      I don’t think this is true though; and Scripture suggests otherwise as well. For one, there’s a very rich amount of differences between the various books of the Old Testament, which would suggest different writers at different times; especially when we find overlap or varying focuses (such as Samuel/Kings vs Chronicles or Ezekiel and Jeremiah writing from both sides of the exile). Furthermore, we can see that the early Jews were very good at losing their Scriptures because they left it entirely in the hands of the often wayward religious leaders. This is even recorded in 2 Kings 22:8-11. While clearing all the idols out of the temple (for the worship of other gods seemed to be a common problem among the Israelites) they happened to stumble upon the Law; which had been lost. So it’s not too out there to think that up until much later there weren’t a whole lot of copies of the Scriptures getting around. Thank goodness for our modern age and the fact that we no longer hide the Bible from the laity, right?

      Saying that the earliest copy we have means that’s when it was original written is an inaccurate thesis. Take for example the Nintendo World Championships NES game. Only a few copies of this game exist from when it was minted. But say all of them fell out of our hands and we could only find the reproduction carts that were minted in say…2016. Does that mean that the Nintendo World Championships game for the NES came out in 2016? No, it came out in 1990, we just don’t have the original on hand. Keep in mind the Bible chronicles history all the way from the beginning and the Pentateuch was theoretically written by Moses- that’s a long time ago. It’s not surprising at all to think that we might not have any original copies.

      As for Gilgimesh in particular, there’s absolutely a connection between that and the floor narrative found in the Bible. But you claim that it came first and the Bible “borrowed” the story. And yet the Genesis account carries what would probably be accurate details. For example, after Gilgimesh’s flood, a dove, a swallow, and a raven are sent out- in that order. However, a raven eats dead animals; so sending that out last doesn’t really prove anything. In the account of Noah though, first to be sent out is the raven- and sure enough since there’s plenty of dead, the raven does it’s own thing and flies around from dead body to dead body (floating or otherwise). It is only after the dove is sent out and returns with an olive branch that Noah knows it’s time to open the ark; since there is vegetation growing and whatnot. Many cultures have flood stories and they all connect in various ways to the flood of Noah; but none of the pieces fit together quite like the account in the Bible does. Furthermore both Jesus and Peter rep for Noah (Matthew 24:37 and 1 Peter 3:20). Now if I’m believing that Jesus is God and my Lord and my savior, then it’s probably safe to assume that he knows what he’s talking about.

      As a quick note, Danel might actually be referenced elsewhere in the Bible as opposed to the book of Daniel. Ezekiel 14:14 talks about the faith of Noah, Job, and Danel. Most Bibles interpret this as Daniel. However, since Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, it’s possible that Ezekiel had no idea what Daniel was going through in the king’s service. To that end he easily could be talking about someone else. I personally believe he’s talking about Daniel. But if you wanna keep pushing the Ugaritic/ tribe of Dan stuff on people- use that reference, not the Book of Daniel.

      Now, I’m a bit concerned as your theology is entering some dangerous territory. You claim the passage in Hebrews refers to the evolution of religion and how we accept God. But that’s almost a Zoroastrianism interpretation. King Cyrus was likely an adherent of Zoroastrianism; and it helped sway him to let the Jews rebuilt Jerusalem so they could worship God their way.

      BUT

      Various religions don’t play well together; the Abraham regions especially with those outside of Abraham. Deuteronomy 13 is a whole chapter devoted to saying “If ANYONE, EVEN PEOPLE YOU LOVE OR WHO PERFORM MIRACLES tries to get you to worship other gods you should kill them.” That pretty much stops the whole polytheism train right there.

      Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that the Lord is not a God of disorder but of peace. And yet what you propose is a god who’s spread out over all the religions of the world, each with conflicting scriptures all arguing against each other and setting off countless wars. That’s not a God of peace, that’s just wishful thinking. What’s more logical is that the Lord would bring all of the information that we needed under one text that we may learn about him and come to understand and obey him- and ultimately gain eternal life. And sure enough there’s the Bible.

      Are there other religious texts out there? Absolutely. Are there other records of Biblical-similar things out there? Totally. Does that make them on par with the Bible? If you ask me, no.

      Now you brought up an interesting point about Biblical adherence driving people out of the sciences. That shouldn’t be the case. I’ve written a couple articles talking about how the Bible has been proven correct after previously being argued against by science. But more to the point, the Lord made this huge universe for us to explore. I don’t think any theologian worth his salt would advocate not exploring and finding out the most we can. But that doesn’t make all current science correct. For one, the scientific field has often come under scrutiny for pushing out ideas that don’t agree with the accepted ideas and also for straight-up falsifying information. You mention people questioning the usefulness of carbon dating. For one, to calibrate that we needed examples of things that we know were a certain age (and some of those original calibrators have been found to be probably older/younger than before) But more importantly, carbon dating doesn’t go beyond a few thousand years if that. You’re probably thinking of the far less reliable radiometric dating methods used to ascribe MILLIONS of years to things; something carbon dating can’t do even if it wanted to, lol.

      Christianity is absolutely pro-science. I want to know how to help people through medicine. I want to learn about dinosaurs because they’re cool. Holy crap have you seen the ocean? Have you seen space? Let’s find out more about that! We don’t need to go in with the goal of proving or disproving God. There are plenty of scientists who are believers and there’s plenty of scientific evidence being found every day that supports a Biblical worldview. Check out creation.com- they’ve got tons of articles, most of it about scientific issues. And the evidences used are the exact same ones nonbelievers are using. Is a site called “creation.com” biased? Absolutely. But so are those claiming there is no God and evolution proves it, and yet people accept that readily enough.

      Look, we’ve been doing this for weeks now. My stance hasn’t changed. For me the ultimate authority is Scripture. That’s clearly not the case for you. I hope it changes for you; because Romans 10:9-10 spells out how to get to heaven. It’s Jesus, not some sort of philosophical, educational, or literary supremacy. And if I’m wrong then I guess that’s how it is, lol. Paul wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Going with Jesus is a risk I suppose- but it’s not really one since the presence of the Holy Spirit in a beleiver’s life is the seal of the coming redemption.

      But yeah; no matter what I’m still siding with Scriptural authority. It has been the foundation of my faith since coming to Christ and hasn’t let me down yet.

  9. Tannehauserlives
    April 23, 2018

    Look. I’m sorry I commented on your post. It wasn’t my intent to challenge the framework of your belief.

    During Christmas break I took some time to understand the role of Jesus in realtion to the Nazarite vows. I became fascinated by the depth of the Samson narrative. You were one of the only people posting about Sampson and I thought you’d be interested in my perspectives. It seems that isn’t the case.

    I remain convinced that Judges is a record of non-Semitic people. Having done more research I see the book as a record of the Luwian (Trojan) culture’s alliance with the Semitic Haibru following their mercenary employment against Sargon of Assyria. I believe the Biblical Dan were a steppe culture, the culture that bore the Mycenaeans, and that it expanded outward from the Caucuses on ocean going vessels. At its apex it reaches Ireland, Qwi China, and even Indonesia. I believe the records of these other cultures provide legitimate insight to the nature of the Biblical Dan.

    I don’t see this as a challenge to my faith because I believe that faith, above all, is a process of ongoing revelation and periodic renovation. I do not see Christianity as a test of conviction jeopardized by competing texts. I do not believe in punitive consequences beyond the failed potential and loss of purpose suffered by those who fail to seek Christ as their example—which is a significant consequence. I view Christianity, not as a test of commitment, but as a self-help doctrine inspired and periodically renovated by God in his effort to bring us into his enduring bliss.

    I’m sorry that my desire to share the meaning I’ve found within Gods words became a source of conflict.

    • The Layman
      April 28, 2018

      No worries man, lol. I was simply establishing that neither of us would be changing our stances. By all means feel free to comment here or anywhere else on the blog. Rock on, man

  10. Tannehauserlives
    May 1, 2018

    Thanks.

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2013 by in Bible Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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