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The Riddle of Samson

Source: Prooftexts, Vol. 1, No. 3 (SEPTEMBER 1981), pp. 237-260
Published by: Indiana University Press
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The Riddle of Samson

Book of Judges, not to mention the entire Hebrew Bible, has often
elicited dismay. Martin Buber, for example, classified the story as "dif
ferent in species."1 Crenshaw speaks for a large consensus when he
declares that "The Samson narrative fits rather badly in a canonical
context, causing considerable embarrassment for some commenta
tors."2 Indeed, many a reader has shaken his head in bewilderment,
frustrated in trying to find religious or moral virtue in the tale.
The reader of the Samson story is struck by two kinds of peculiari
ties. One kind involves what seem to be anomalous features of the
subject matter and action of the story. The other entails certain
unusual aspects of the rhetoric or style of the narrative. At times these
two categories inevitably overlap and it becomes difficult to segregate
one from the other. Nevertheless, I hope to demonstrate that the
literary peculiarities of the Samson story call for a special sort of inter
pretive procedure. The anomalies in topic and action challenge the
reader to seek an interpretation of the story apart from its obvious one,
and the unusual style that shapes much of the narrative suggests a
strategy for going about the process of interpreting. I shall suggest that
the Samson story should be read as a riddle and that the solution to the
riddle surfaces at various points within the text. Before proceeding to
delineate the particulars, however, I now pause briefly to set forth
three assumptions of my literary method.
First, the process of interpretation operates to large extent like the
experience of reading or listening. It attempts to integrate as many
signals as possible into meaningful patterns. An interpretation, like a
reading, cannot be completed or perfected until an entire unit is indi
cated to be closed. During the experience, the reader or listener may
PROOFTEXTS vol. 1 pp. 237-260
0272-9601/81/0013-0237 $01.00 ? 1981 by The JohnsHopkins University Press

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230 on Tue. In this way itmay transmit different messages on various levels simultaneously. like the dream The interpreter. Of course. GREENSTEIN entertain and test a variety of interpretations. The interpreta tion of the Samson story cannot but be affected by the interaction between the reader's perceptions of what precedes and follows and the narrative of Samson itself. But the attentive reader or listener. That which cannot be incorporated into any interpretive pattern is disre garded as "noise.238 EDWARD L. Third. sophisticated analysis of the literary art of the ancients in general and of the Hebrew Bible in particular can reveal multiple frequencies of textual communication. literary critic of the Bible. when all the perplexing stimuli are assembled and sorted out. like a dream. For it is natural. or at the very least conventional. when he or she forms a (tentative) conclusion concerning the work. Itwill be seen that this attitude toward the story jibes squarely with my first premise concerning the act of reading. everything must be considered as potentially meaningful.4 com presses a maximum of meaning into a select set of symbols. I understand that a work of literature. a clo sure.145.3 I shall suggest that the meaning of the Samson story can only be grasped in the end. Second. or experience will hear more "music" and less "noise" than others.182. I read the story in its larger literary context. whatever its hypothetical history of compo sition and redaction. possibly further. "like the Little Tailor in the fairy story who hit seven flies at a blow. one must exercise special caution in reading biblical narratives and proposing interpretations. A more favored exegesis of the Samson story will embrace both the narrative in focus and the surrounding textual field. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . within the Former Prophets. one can claim a greater degree of authority in advancing a This content downloaded from 79. Nothing may be regarded as secondary or interpo lated. to read passages in sequence and not in isolation (though one may choose to do so for a specific purpose). Never theless. should look behind the manifest content and surface con figurations of its stories in order to expose their more latent meanings. That is. will assemble and reassemble stimuli until the end. imagination. The temptation to apply a specific hermeneutic toward the exposition of a desired teaching can only be encouraged by the narrative's own penchant for the didactic and the long history of homiletical interpretation of Scripture. I also read the text of the narrative as it is embedded in turn within the Book of Judges and. Yet. As a corollary to considering the story in its final form in the text."5 While the contemporary reader may take the multidimensional signifi cations of literary art for granted. I am considering the story of Samson to be its canonical form in the Hebrew Bible." Itmay be that readers or hearers with greater sensi bility. the student of ancient literature often behaves as though that literature lacks such sophistication.

The first anomaly is the character Samson. (b) the basis for interpreting the story as a riddle. who has been aptly described as "a sort of irresponsible and uncontrollable Till Eulenspiegel or Peer Gynt. As one literary critic of the biblical narrative has put it. literary criticism has learned much from the techniques of psychoanalysis and can best apply them to texts which give rise to a suspicion that the story operates on more than one level. we turn to the Book of Judges. so all genuinely creative writings are the product ofmore than a single motive and more than a single impulse in the poet's mind. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10 I hope to show that when one reads the Samson story on a different level. components of a dream. That is. the story of Samson. In doing so we shall examine: (a) the anomalous aspects of the narrative. nor does he on any occasion fight for This content downloaded from 79.145.8 In fact.182. Freud noted many similarities between dream interpretation and literary analysis. the test of an interpretation comes in "trying it on for size" in the (re)reading of the story in question. dreams.7 Incidental details may actually provide clues to a latent meaning."11 Even were one to dismiss this characterization as narrow and oversimplified. such as a story. having laid out these preliminaries. as a riddle-like text. as a judge of Israel Samson is artomalous. a proper exegesis of a literary unit. and he often adduced examples from literature in order to corroborate a point in his theory.9 Be that as itmay. In analyzing dreams. Unlike the other judges?and most other Israelite heroes?Samson does not lead his people in combat. and are open to more than a single interpretation. it is possible that Freud's methods of psychoanalysis are themselves patterned inmany respects after the procedures of literary criticism and midrashic exegesis. must take into account and try to find meaning in as many elements of the text as possible. 13-16. Now. and (c) an interpretation that integrates hitherto unex plained stimuli. for thatmatter. One can hardly gainsay Freud's comment that just as all neurotic symptoms. many details that have been previously regarded as dissonant are in tune with my interpretation. The Riddle of Samson 239 certain way of reading if one can show that the proposed method of exegesis is itself suggested by the specimen text and that the various facets of the exegesis respond to a host of stimuli within the text.230 on Tue. if they are to be fully understood. chaps. I suspect the issue is not so much the relation of a cart and a horse as the problem of the priority of the chicken or the egg.6 It is important to bear inmind that the interpreta tion one fashions must be large enough to suit the text which it clothes. even negligible. Freud frequently underscores the importance of what might appear to be marginal. and. are capable of being "over-interpreted" and indeed need to be.

14 His ribald. Barak (4:6). Samson breaks three.145. the narrator fails to elaborate on the woman's particular situation: We are not told that she was old. Yet. Nor does she complain to her husband about childlessness. Samson is a consecrated Nazirite from what appears to be a good family. Samson is singular in a second respect. Normally. too. Manoah is identified by town and tribe.12 In fact. Most striking is the fact that although the central char acter of the birth episode (chap.18 Moreover. as Sarah was (Gen. as Sarah and Rachel do. neither his father nor mother made any effort to secure a child.15 Samson deviates in diametric fashion from the typical Israelite judge. Jephthah is the outcast son of a prostitute. By contrast. A third constellation of anomalies involves who Samson is.13 In addition. But he is the only important male leader or begetter of a male leader in the books of Judges and First Samuel (excluding those to whom the text devotes no more than a verse or two) who is not represented together with his paternal affilia tion. Samson differs from Jephthah in a crucial way: Jephthah famously keeps a vow. when they give theirmaids to their husbands (Gen.16 Deborah is a woman. and he is blessed with enormous strength. Samson suffers from an acute weakness for women.230 on Tue. 25:21). The story of his birth bears a general resemblance to other episodes relating the birth of a hero. but itmust be conceded that the introduction of Manoah withholds as well as delivers information. 30:14-24. as does Hannah (1 Sam. 6:15). nor that her husband prays forher. "it is the weak and the humble who are chosen" for leadership. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .182. Gideon (6:11). Nor does she turn to aphrodisiacs. as does Rachel (Gen. as Isaac prays for Rebekah (Gen. Even if one would wish to compare Samson to Jephthah with regard to brutishness. as Exum has perceptively noted. the text does not give her a name. impetuous nature has led several critics to conclude that Samson is intended to present the audience with a "negative example" of human behavior. But he is also crude. 3:15). 30:1). The text does not report that the woman prays for children. GREENSTEIN the sake of their welfare. the historico-political background of the Israelite struggle against the Philistines is only faintly sketched here. 240 EDWARD L.17 This is thoroughly atypical. He is born to a barren couple through the direct intervention of God. Gideon is the youngest son of the weakest clan in the tribe ofMenasseh (Judg. Abimelech This content downloaded from 79. Samson has clearly not been typecast as a judge. 1:11). 30:3). Each of his battles takes the form of a per sonal vendetta. as are Ehud (Judg. unlike the other judges. 18:12). We are not informed that she tries other means of procuring a child. 16:3. 13) is Samson's mother. The text barely identifies Samson and his parents within the network of Israelite clans.19 The text does name Samson's father. as Rachel apparently does in Gen. as Buber and others have observed.

Jacob. The text relates the naming of Samson as follows (Judg. prays to YHWH (15:18). 6. and the fact that in the intervening chapters the text appears oblivious of the Nazirite obligations. and Saul's father Kish (9:1).230 on Tue. Even more curious in this vein is that Samson's own name verges on anonymity. they are accepted for and imposed upon him by his parents. marries a Philistine woman. in peril of dying of thirst. and otherwise shows little interestin religious affairs. The Riddle of Samson 241 (9:1).Moses.145. 16:31). and the name Samson receives no apparent etymology in the text. Ifwe lop off the sufformative -on (compare Gid'on "Gideon"). Crenshaw for one finds it astonishing that Samson. The nameless messenger of God does not suggest a name." or even the biblical character "Adam" ("Man"). Rather."23 His name would then signify the generic designation "Name. as well as the strong and well-nigh universal pro pensity for etymologizing proper names.21 In view of the complete anonymity of Samson's mother and the reticence concerning Manoah's parentage.26 It is likewise seen to be strange that Samson does not undertake the vows of the Naziriteship himself. A fifth anomaly concerns Samson's religious posture.22 itmay not be too farfetched to consider the text to be deriving the name "Samson" from the word for "name. He is named by his unnamed mother. Thus. He has no pro geny to continue his line. Jotham (9:5). 13:24): vattikra et shemoShimshon And she called his name (shem)Samson (Shimshon).20 as do the names of Isaac. Gaal (9:26). we are left with a name two-thirds of which comprise the word shem ("name").24 Samson is virtually cut loose from any specific lineage. one which has been widely discussed. the narrative as a whole seems to avoid polemicizing against Philistine paganism and the This content downloaded from 79. Samuel's father Elkanah (1 Sam. Jephthah (11:1). The fact that the Nazirite status receives notice only near the beginning and end of the narrative.182. have led scholars to question the originality of the Nazirite component from a diachronic standpoint and minimize its significance in a synchronie view. Samuel. 1:1). is the role of the Nazirite vow.25 A fourth peculiarity of the Samson story. Since Samson seems to ignore his vows. as prescribed in Num. Samson's mother is strangely anonymous and his father only partly identified. and he is buried by unnamed kinsmen (Judg.2* Just as Samson displays little concern for religion. an analysis which is reinforced by the text's juxtaposition of the assonant words shemo ("his name") and Shimshon ("Samson"). 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." somewhat analogous to the equally undistinguished name of Tarzan's son "Boy.27 A proper interpretation of the story as it now stands must make sense out of such anomalies. and many others.

14:14): Out of the feeder came food. Job. the riddle is here expressed as a statement. Second. wholly outside the action of the narrative. But only in the case of Samson does God grant this wish. Even more. "The Princess Who Cannot Solve the Riddle. 8:33. There is a complete morphological exchange. This content downloaded from 79. 16:30). Readers of the Bible heroes who entreat God with a death are familiar with wish:30 Elijah. in the Samson story flying creatures (bees) provide healthy?though impure?food in the head of a dead lion."35 What is curious. Stith Thompson34 discusses a typical folktale.230 on Tue. by means of its decaying flesh.16.31 Samson formulates his riddle not as a question but as a statement (Judg. 15:20 and 16:31. therefore. about Samson's riddle is not merely the fact that he presents it in the form of an answer but that the solution is correspondingly formulated by the Philistines as a ques tion. to flying creatures (birds). 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in the Samson story as preceding part of the entertainment at the wedding celebration. Jeremiah. Significant for our study is that as in the story of Samson. as an editor's note." which bears certain striking resemblances to the story surrounding Samson's riddle. Jonah. 10:6.32 The Philistines produce the ill-gotten solution to the riddle not as an answer but in question-form (14:18): What is sweeter than honey? What is fiercer than a lion?33 The fact that the riddle is formulated declaratively is unusual but far from unique. out of the fierce one came sweets. 6:25-32. 3:6-8.182. Samson dies according to his own express wish (Judg. the text mentions Samson's status as judge only cursorily. in both cases the peculiar situation lying behind the riddle stems from the carcass of a dead animal. Here a horse provides poison.242 EDWARD L. In fact. in both cases the riddle emerges in direct connection with a marriage. even the Apocryphal Tobit and Sarah. 2:11-15. The next anomaly begins to carry us across the fuzzy border from the topic and action of the story to its form and style. First.145. A sixth and final curiosity in substance attends the story's ending. 11:24. towit: "One killed none. Commentators have long noted that the riddle Samson tells and its solution are expressed inwhat appears to be reverse form. the state of Israelite commitment to the covenant is strangely absent from the four chapters that tell the "history" of Israel during Samson's tenure as judge. GREENSTEIN worship of Dagon. in Judg. and yet killed twelve. here and as a condition to the marriage.29 Such complacency strikes one as curious when one considers the explicit condemnation of Baalism and other paganism? including the Philistine cult?in such passages as Judg.

unexpected answer." They found out only later (13:21) when the angel rose up to heaven in a flame. We may then speak more generally of a riddle formula or pattern in which what one is led to suppose to he turns out?unexpectedly?to be y. and us. One comes to realize that the riddle for mula prevades the entire narrative of Samson. Samson?the narrator really?makes use of a (somewhat conventional)38 analogy by which his wife is represented by a "heifer" and the ambiguously denoted activity of Philistines by "ploughing. 10) and father (13:11) perceive him as a "man.182. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The Riddle of Samson 243 Samson's riddle. it should now be clear. but Samson's mother (13:6. 8.230 on Tue.40 But of course he does not die. This content downloaded from 79. For although the term riddle can be defined narrowly as a linguistic formulation inwhich a puzzling ques tion is complemented by a surprising. rever sal of expectations. turns out to be Samson's wife in the second. Taken in this way. The most obvious example follows immediately upon the Philis tines' presentation of the solution to Samson's riddle. In the opening episode Manoah and his wife welcome what appears to them to be a man." The text certifies their na?vet? by stressing (13:16) that "Manoah did not know that the messenger of YHWH was he. whenever something or someone is represented to be but can later be recognized as y. metaphor (14:18): If you had not ploughed with my heifer. In addition to the angel's?or God's? dissembling." The metaphor clearly conforms to the formula of the riddle:39 what one is led to suppose to be a heifer in the first clause. as his wife had astutely inferred he would not (13:23). Upon seeing an angel face to face Manoah expects to die (13:22). The narrator constantly plays upon the characters' and the audience's anticipation. In broad terms. Thoroughly aghast. though more minor. Thesame pattern governs the construction of the story's action.36 The riddle proper is then but a clearly defined exemplar of an entire cate gory of phenomena. you would not have gotten my riddle!37 Rather than articulate his meaning directly. the episode contains another. the reader of the Samson story meets riddles at every turn and in every domain of the literary work. Samson musters the full measure of his wit and reacts via. as tradition would have him. With remarkable tenacity the elements of dissimulation and the unex pected appear and reappear throughout. the riddle paradigm may be mani fested in any number of ways. The audience is informed that the man is actually an angel (Judg. 13:3). reversing the out comes of their carefully controlled expectations.145. it is possible to broaden the scope of the term riddle by defining itmore abstractly. is a riddle not only in its function but also in its form. believe. We shall now see how these twists shape the narrative.

another striking exchange of functions. Hence it seems that God is disguising events before the parents' eyes.43 In each of these familiar stories. in seeming illogic. When the Philistines retaliate against Samson's burning their crops. Stories inwhich a wily woman outsmarts a man reflect a popular folklore motif. The upshot of the Philistine intrigue in discovering the solution to the riddle entails several twists.41 In the following chapter Samson's parents are twice mistaken or deceived. when her Philistine father takes her back and gives her to another husband. the This content downloaded from 79. however. 244 EDWARD L. and Judith. should form certain expectations from the epi sode involving Samson's birth. Samson's metaphorical reference to her as a "heifer" (14:18). 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the Bible speaks of the man seducing the woman. Normally. Ironically. 16:5). the victorious woman is Israel ite or Jewish. Instead.44 Even more deeply than the audience is Samson frustrated in his expectations. however. The text?possibly a glossator?42 quickly cautions the audience against reaching the same frightening conclusion by adding that YHWH had a secret behind-the-scenes plan (14:4). Moreover. which is hardly complimentary. and her male adversary is not.182. 4-5). In Samson's story the expected roles are exchanged: the foreign woman gets the better of the Israelite man. the honey from the dead lion's head (14:9). too. This. It serves the Hebrew storyteller. Samson pursues her at all cost. we would expect them to plot against Samson.145. Moreover. they burn his Timnite wife and her father. combined with the intense religiosity of Samson's parents and his consecration as a Nazirite. He turns out. the role-reversal is further strengthened by the text when it refers to the means by which a Philistine woman overcomes Samson as "seduction" (see Judg. 14:15. as in the narratives concerning Yael (Judg.46 In this. When Samson insists on marrying a Philistine woman. the Philistines take revenge not on Samson but on the target of Samson's own rage. They confound him utterly. One would have surmised that her disloyalty would have caused an irreparable breach between them. The story of a miraculous birth nor mally betokens future greatness. to be a boastful rogue. GREENSTEIN The audience. 9). too. they think it signals ruination. Chapter 15 opens with Samson desper ately craving the company of the wife who had betrayed him. Samson expresses complete confidence that the Philis tines will not be able to solve his riddle. Later Samson deceives his pious parents by giving them impure food.45 fosters the same impression. induces our anticipation that Samson will become a spiritual leader on the order of Samuel. The deception of Samson by his wife capitalizes on two unexpected turns of convention. Yet. This should assuredly surprise the reader. Esther. The text reinforces the deception by reminding us twice that Samson did not tell his parents about the lion (14:6.230 on Tue.

expecting to kill him. Chapter 16 begins with an episode that at once provides comic relief49 and foreshadows the story's ending. and we. Samson rises from the prostitute's couch in full vigor and in the middle of the night. bedded down with a prostitute. A happier deception lies at the center of the next episode. Considering the fact that in the previous chapter Samson had killed 1.50 The narrative contravenes each of these expectations. The audience may experience dismay in finding Israelites abetting the enemy against a hero of their own people.52 Tragically. he knows of the plan. Samson has.51 Yet. He does not kill anyone. First. the reversals in the story intensify after this point. his expectation is foiled. Samson frustrates both the Judahites and the Philistines when he feigns powerlessness?permitting himself to be tied up?and then astounds his would-be captors by breaking his bonds and massacring a thousand. We are led to believe it is all over for the blind degraded Samson. Men of Judah agree to collaborate with the Philistines against Samson. Again. None theless. we have reason to be sur prised that he does not retaliate against the ambushers. The following episode involving Delilah exploits a classic paradigm of deception: a wily woman overpowers a mighty warrior. Second.53 But rather than let up.230 on Tue. who had in mind to kill him (16:2). what was presumed to be turned out to be y. Samson hoists the city-gate and runs off. In it Samson's behavior surprises both characters and audience. however.000 Philistines merely for attempting to capture him (15:15-16). We are not told how. They. expect him to be unaware of the plan and physically exhausted from his trystwith the woman.47 She had thought that by cooperating with the Philistines she would be spared.48 For some readers. It is as though the text would do anything in order to generate another deception. he does. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The Riddle of Samson 245 entire debacle results from the Timnite woman's attempt to escape being burned (14:15). according to a behavioral pattern towhich we are becoming accustomed. His na?vet? is confirmed by the text's statement that Samson awakens with the expectation of breaking out of his bonds. And third.182. the effect may have been mitigated by the earlier story in Judg. The Philistines are convinced that they have reduced Samson to a powerless pulp of a man and that their god Dagon has bested his Israel This content downloaded from 79. We the audience would not anticipate Samson allowing himself to be duped by a Philistine woman a second time.145. 12 in which men of Ephraim confront and oppose the judge Jephthah. following a reasonable show of resistance. In addition to the basic narrative structure of the episode?all about deception?secondary elements of the unex pected emerge here. I have dis cussed it briefly above. The Philistines lie in ambush.

Like his god. cf. The second. for example. GREENSTEIN ite rival." The first.145. The pattern crystallizes in the wonderfully efficient?Freud would say "overdetermined"?use of the key verb higgid. of course. With all its anomalies and surprises. This applies both to the actors in the narrative and to the audience. If one is not told. forging a motif of discovering-by-telling that informs each part of the narrated action. Similarly in the story of Samson the verb higgid refers both to the "divulging" or "telling" of a secret and to the "solving" of the riddle (Judg. in reading the Samson story one does not always know what one thinks one knows." is its common meaning. But his hair had begun to grow again (16:22). The story couples tellingand discoveringand then fuses them.55 The measure of Samson's achievement was in the number of Philistines he killed. though perhaps subliminally. It reiterates. the one told discovers it. The Philistines have been misled by appearances." is attested. vv. in the Joseph story. Samson too dissembles. 15. For each of the principal sequences of the narrative revolves around two interre lated pairs of theme words: tell/not tell and know/not know.57 and it also happens to the reader experiencing the text. Accordingly.182. 14:12. 15).17). where maggid functions pre cisely as poterdoes. In fact. waiting for the opportunity to strike. "to solve.5? Through these two nuances the verb conveys at one stroke two per spectives: the teller discloses a secret.16. We think we know something to be until we learn that it is y.56 Through these recurrent theme words the text makes explicit that in this story one knows only if one is told. he hopes to use them in summoning up his strength and proving it one last time. Normally.230 on Tue. one accomplishes more in living than in dying. With Samson. 41:24 with 41:8. Thus. Lest it elude the audience the narrator explains (16:30): The dead whose death he caused in his death were more than those whose death he had caused in his life. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . that we cannot know the interpretation unless This content downloaded from 79.54 Samson himself thinks that his hair and its concomitant strength have been forever lost. It happens to the characters within the narrative. one does not know. the narrative of Samson teases the reader to figure out the sense of the tale. the phenomenology of reading the Samson story echoes a major literary device of the text itself. This verb combines within itself the two senses of "to tell" and "to solve. "to tell. Samson pretends that he desires to lean on the pillars because he is weak (16:26). He has a Philistine attendant lead him to the central pillars supporting the Temple of Dagon. denoting the "solver" or "interpreter" of enigmatic dreams (compare Gen. 246 EDWARD L. The conclusion of the narrative is likewise predicated on the riddle formula. the expected is the unexpected. YHWH is dissembling.

62 The parallels between the stories of Samson and Israel hold even more remarkably when one considers them in detail. The Riddle of Samson 247 we are told. as Manoah asked the "man" that appeared to him and his wife for his name. Through questions. Like the angel in chap.230 on Tue. the text does not expose its own solution. and gross anomalies prompts us to ask: who strays after foreign women. The accumulation of questions. "The asking of questions arises naturally in a narrative concerned with knowing and not knowing. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . when carried through the text. Freud has held that the form of a dream often conceals its subject-matter. Israel is afflicted by God. Israel is granted peace. The text encourages us to ask and to seek by filling the narrative with questions. and the pervasiveness of questions in the story disposes the audience to respond in kind and inquire after their explanation. and neglects his cultic obligations? The text has reminded us over and over that what we are led to suppose to be will upon further inquiry turn out to be y.145. This content downloaded from 79. In fact. what appears as the Naziriteship of Samson is the Israel ite covenant. The story of Samson makes contact and assimi lates with the story of Israel at several critical junctures. the saga affords the listener more rid telling. What itdoes do is guide the search for interpretation by providing a modus operandi. in accordance with its form. apply the riddle formula to the story of Samson itself. Wellhausen reduced the pattern to the following scheme: Israel rebels. 13. riddles. . It seems only natural that just as the narrative unfolds according to a recurrent "riddle" pattern. It has been long noted that the episodes of the Book of Judges conform to a clearly delineated cyclic structure. a code to be cracked."59 One should go further: the text itself is rife with curiosities. . one comes to a startling realization: Samson is Israel. who did not reveal his identity. so should the interpreter. his identity (13:17). Israel turns to God. Reading the narrative as a riddle. We are thus bidden to inquire behind the appearances of the story for its deeper reference. The riddle can be solved: What appears to be Samson is the people Israel. the Samson story not only runs parallel to the story of Israel. acts on impulse. For by shaping itself in the form of riddles. accounts for and renders meaningful most ifnot all of the anomalies in the narrative. working in a sense backwards from the manifest to the latent meaning.60 The meaning of the Samson story may likewise be unravelled like a riddle. the text presents itself to us as a virtual riddle to be solved. This interpretation. surprises. telling and not .61 It has been further observed that the narrative of Samson runs along the same thematic lines as the entire Book of Judges. 14.182. whereby Samson would "typify"63 or "function as a symbol for"64 Israel. dles than the famous one in ch. As Exum has observed.

73 Itwas given an imagined geographical background in which the Danite Samson grew up in the plain adjacent to Philistine country. Yet. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . a territory This content downloaded from 79.whose very name resembles the first part of an ass. Indeed. 4:17-21. 14:15). there may even be literary-historical support for the thesis that the character Samson and the saga with the Philistines have been invented of his altercations secondarily and patterned after. as Maiamat observes. The con Shamgar. 12:1).70 the story of Samson's birth (Judg. the Philistines coerce Samson's wife to get at the solution to her husband's riddle. Shamgar. earlier stories in the Book of Judges. This recalls the threat of the Ephraimites to Jephthah. In a curious detail. Taking all this together." iswell suited to a character who emblematically represents the people Israel. Maiamat has observed that the only Israelite enemy that appears twice in the Book of Judges is the Philistines. For one thing. the Samson story appears a misfit in the Book of Judges.68 In another instance inwhich the Samson story seems derivative.182.71 Moreover. 16:14.248 EDWARD L. 6).145.66 In their first appearance they meet defeat at the hands of the Israelite judge an oxgoad (Judg. as Zakovitch has recently demonstrated. threatening her as follows: "Lest we burn you and your father's house with fire" (Judg.65 Further. whose name seems to be explained in the text as "Name.67 The plying of Samson by Delilah may owe something to the story of Yael and Sisera (Judg. too.000 Philistines with the jawbone of clusion of a literary-historical dependency between Shamgar and Samson seems inevitable. The narratives about Samson are set in the southerly territory of the Tribe of Dan. if not derived from. who smote 600 of their number with The second time Shimshon. In fact.230 on Tue. itwill be recognized that the relative anonymity of Samson. prior to that tribe's migration north.72 the Samson story's locale spoils an otherwise consistent pattern in the Book of Judges whereby the episodes of the major judges are presented in turn from south to north. 14:8) recalls the major judge Deborah (devora). 3:31). GREENSTEIN First. 5:24-27). 4:21). Yael's act: vattitka et hayyated berakkato "she drove the tentpin into his temple" (Judg. 13) depends upon and adapts the episode relating the call of Gideon (Judg. From a historical or chronological perspective. the specification of the bees (devorim) in the lion's head (Judg. only two chapters earlier. the unusual turn of phrase vattitka bayyated"she drove with a seems to harken back to the description of tentpin" in Judg. one can make a strong prima facie case that the Samson story was formulated as a partly allegorical digest of the preceding Book of Judges. smites 1. He comes close to "Everyman" in this respect. who say: "We will burn your house on top of you with fire" (Judg. the story of Deborah in Judges 4-5 assumes that Dan had already moved north. Samson's composite personality is reflectedin the fact thathe is the only judgewho engages inmultiple exploits.69 And.

because they represent a faithful generation. despite the silence of most commentaries on it. Similarly Samson's parents do not employ extraordi nary means of procuring a son. abandoned "the god of their fathers" (v. Once one entertains our solution. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .75 The use of this phrase is quite odd." which describes the deviations of the Israelites This content downloaded from 79.76 For although else where the idiom "right in the eyes of X" may refer to a clay vessel (Jer. It hardly bears repeating that Samson's mother is not even named in the story. 15:33). literally 'bearing grace'. 2 YHWH had commanded the "fathers" of the Israelites to keep the covenant commands (v. it is nowhere else used to describe an attractive woman. not physical attributes. 17:6 and 21:25 ish hayyashar beenav yaase "Each man does what is right in his (own) eyes. a deserving person (Jer. "between Zora and Eshtaol" (13:25. and pos sibly noset hen. The Samson narrative exemplifies Samson's attraction for the alien culture by portraying his unabating interest in Philistine women. v. In relating the attractiveness of the woman of Timna to Samson the text says that "she was right in the eyes of Samson" (14:7. The Book of Judges explicitly describes the straying of the Israelites as 'whoring' in 2:17 and 8:33. cf. or an agreeable idea (1 Chr. 20). 12) and fol lowed alien gods. the Samson story employs another unusual turn of phrase that points directly to this latent meaning. Israelite apostasy. one of them significantly a whore (16:1). 27:5). by which the Nazirite vows represent the Israelite covenant just as Samson stands for a gen eration of Israelites in the period of the Judges. 18:4). yashera be eneX "she was right in the eyes of X. pretty'. the next generation of Israelites. not a particular Israelite couple. Moreover. as other individuals do. The Riddle of Samson 249 which the Book of Judges (1:34-35) earlier says the Danites were unable to possess. its usage exposes the concealed identity of the Timnite woman by alluding to Judg. used only of Samson among the Israelite judges. But just as Samson strayed from the pious ways of his parents. may well be an artificially derived cliche (see Josh.78 the root ypy 'fair. For according to Judg. This choice of motif. Hence. The fairness of women is denoted in the Bible by the root ytb/twb 'good. fair'.145. 3). 22). 13:4).79 the expressions yefai mare80 and yefat to'ar81 'nice-looking.230 on Tue. which they did (v. We have noted above the anomaly of Samson's parents accepting the Nazirite regulations for their yet unborn son and imposing them upon him. whose ancestors had undertaken the covenant on their behalf. nice'. cannot fail but allude to its latent reference." relates to proper conduct.74 The precise site of Samson's childhood and burial.182.82 The expression used of the Timnite woman's attractiveness. 16:31).77 the expression tovat mare 'good-looking'. the intersections of the stories of Samson and of Israel stand out in clear view. the anomaly vanishes. But whatever the historical origins of the present form of the Samson narrative.

86 Israel's observance and violation of the covenant are most directly represented in the Samson story by Samson's behavior toward the three Nazirite obligations that had been imposed upon him. As I remarked above. like Israel (3:6). for heed. Samson. from whom Samson wants pelishtim haarelim). 13:7): do not drink wine or intoxicant. you shall bear a son: a razor must not go upon his head. has likewise puzzled some commentators. we have seen. Hence. 2:2). The text of the Samson story again evokes the Israelite covenant that lies behind itwhen. to take a wife (14:3). the Timnite woman together with the two other Philistine women with whom Samson associates symbolize the alien culture and religion to which many Israelites strayed. from which he would like Samson to take a wife. . This content downloaded from 79. It is implied but never explicitly stated that the soon-to-be-born Samson must observe the same regulations. 14). his father explicitly contrasts his people.230 on Tue. for the boy shall be One Consecrated to God from the womb on. Manoah (v. in response to Samson's request for a Philistine bride. The text introduces the Nazirite restrictions by applying them to his parents. showing how Samson's (= Israel's) liaison with Philistine women (= foreign cults) leads to disastrous consequences. especially since the only express mention of them occurs at the beginning and end of the narrative. Our interpretation not only reveals sense in the placement of the Nazirite references but also inte grates the Naziriteship with Samson's prayer in chap.83 allusion is strengthened by the fact that the The idiom yashar be ene X 'right in the eyes of X' is less common than the functionally interchangeable tov be eneX 'good in the eyes of X'.145.87 Then he bids the same?omitting only the matter of shaving88?of the boy's father. Samson had violated the express command of the Lord not to form alliances with non-Israelites (Judg.85 Circumcision. First the angel tells his mother (Judg. GREENSTEIN from the covenant. It actually does so covertly.250 EDWARD L. of course. and the "uncir cumcisedPhilistines" (. which. . 15.84 The employment of yashar be eneX with reference to the woman of Timna is thus all the more striking. do not eat anything tainted. It is now clear why the Samson story never polemicizes overtly against the Philistine cult.182. inter married and violated the covenant. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . This interpretation removes one more anomaly from the story. distinguishes members of the Israelite covenant and serves as an initiation rite for foreigners who wish to join it. several commentators fail to see the appropriateness of the Nazirite vows to the story and regard them as a secondary accretion. you are about to conceive.

It is. Delilah. both are adopted by an older generation and transmitted by them to their children. distinctive sign of Nazirite status. The Lord provides water in a wondrous fashion (15:19). the boy must abstain from improper beverage and improper food.182. the first stich episode in Exod.89 This last deviation from the normally circumscribed term of Naziriteship seems tailor-made for representing the covenant. Thus. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .). so Samson cries out to the Lord for deliverance (15:18).230 on Tue. the rules of Naziriteship serve as a fitting cipher for the covenant: both entail a specific code of conduct. ."). become too great to withstand. .93 Just as Israel cries out to the Lord when it realizes the extent of its peril and that YHWH alone can save it (cf.95 Compare. too (14:19.God remains with Samson even after the first two transgressions. Shaving is clearly the most crucial restriction. 14. God had also continued to stand by and invigorate Samson when he had begun to stray after alien women (14:6). largely phrased in the negative ("do not . as growing one's hair long served as an outward. supplicates God. Samson remains mindful of this last regulation and surrenders it only after the pressures of the Philistine woman. and. for example. will bring up their son to follow the duties of a Nazirite. itmust be supposed)90 at his wedding banquet (mishte 'place of drinking'). after nearly two chapters have passed without reference to the vows. 3:9. The ensuing nar rative groups the prohibitions in precisely the same way: first. and recieves the water in a marvellous way recalls several similar episodes of deliverance in the Torah. The text communicates this not only implicitly by showing Samson succeed in his struggle with the Philistines but by telling us so outright. Judg. First. In fact. the prohibition against shaving. God exhibits great forbearance toward Samson's violations so long as he clings to the one last strand of the Naziriteship. therefore. For the episode inwhich Samson finds himself dying for lack of water. The stylistic grouping of the particular regulations is also signifi cant.).94 Here the identification of Samson and Israel again becomes transparent. etc. it is assumed. Samson vio lates the thirdby allowing his hair to be cut (16:17ff. not so surprising that Samson should call upon the Lord in an hour of distress. This content downloaded from 79.91 Then. 15:14). 15. in this case. Samson transgresses the first two by eating from a dead and impure animal and by drinking (wine or intoxicant. The space between breaking the first two restrictions and breaking the third functions to bring home a crucial point about the covenant and God's relation to it. These have been assembled and studied for their common structure by Culley. Then the text interrupts the list of three prohibitions before presenting the third. the prohibition against shaving. both are perpetual and not under any time limit. in ch.145. The Riddle of Samson 251 The parents.92 In this instance Samson is dying of thirst and can rely only on YHWH to provide water.

and frequently err (cf.98 This content downloaded from 79. to die together with a crowd of his tormenters (16:28. calling the place of his deliverance 'en hakkore asher ballehi "Spring of the Crier which is in Lehi" (Judg. 3:11. The parallel to Israel's story still holds: one sinful generation suffers. who responds by having a tree thrown into the water and rendering it thereby sweetand drinkable. He intends his readers to see Samson's plight as the consequence of his own fidelity. Judg. God does not abrogate his saving role in the face of the people's infractions because he knows that they are stubborn by nature. On this scenario Wharton comments: It cannot be unintentional that the present narrator calls such explicit attention to the worship of Dagon as the setting for Samson's ultimate humiliation and final victory.97 inwhose gravesite Samson was buried? Following the tragic resolution of the generation represented by Samson. the Philistine god. We noted above the anomaly that Samson alone of all those who asked God for death was granted his wish. 'Place of Resting'. wicked by inclina tion. Samson does the same. Samson's death-wish represents Israel's repentance. Moses cries out to YHWH. Manoah. e.). even when Samson falls into enemy hands. 2:14) and Samson over to the Philistines.They find an oasis. The people complain to Moses. GREENSTEIN 15:22-25: the Israelites have wandered for three days without any sign of water.96 By his obser vance of the remaining vow and his turning to YHWH in prayer. God is characteristically patient. etc. but his ultimate turning to God puts those that follow him on a better footing and a straighter path. 30).182.) The association of Samson's death-scene and the Israelite covenant is brought out beautifullyby its setting in theTemple ofDagon. Only when the violation of the covenant grows deep and com plete does God hand the Israelites over to their enemies (cf. and to this God must respond. The Lord continues to protect and endow strength to Samson and Israel as long as they do not neglect their obligations entirely. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Deut. a concern wholly lacking in chapters 14 and 15.145. Israel was once again at rest. but the water is bitter and undrinkable. but the next one enjoys peace (cf..252 EDWARD L. he can once again turn to God and be granted his wish.g. Samson stays in touch with God.. as Exum does. Judg. It is therefore mistaken to divorce Samson's vows from his prayers. Accordingly.230 on Tue. 15:21). (Could this be* the significance of the name of Samson's father. Samson may die. but at the same time to see Yah weh's cause at stake in the apparent triumph of Dagon's worshipers over Yahweh's dishonored servant. 9:27). In our interpretation the exception makes sense. This nuance places the question of Samson's faithfulness/unfaithfulness in the context of Yahweh versus the gods of Canaan. The Israelites experience a profound sense of gratitude and commemorate their deliverance by giving the site a name that would continue to evoke the wondrous event.

he acknowledges that his fate iswith YHWH. affliction. Appropriately enough. Finally. with the sole exception of Samson.). 7): "You are the man. Only then. and made sense of them. By postponing the revelation the narrative stores up its full power of surprise and unleashes it in a final sudden rush of recognition.230 on Tue. The text transmits here the history of Israel's backsliding." Israel. a thoughtful reader should be able to perceive this latent meaning of the Samson story. 12:1 ff.145. we consider the most oft-noted anomaly in the Samson story in order to see whether it can be fitted by our interpretation. All the Israelite judges. If Samson is taken to represent Israel. Here lies the real distinction between wit and riddle. and the omissions easily supplemented. Samson/Israel had sinned with his/its eyes. upon reflection. The full significance of the story would not reach the reader until he or she reflected upon the text afterward. When the Philistines finally humiliate Samson (Israel). could the inter pretation materialize. and little by little discloses the veiled message. The Riddle of Samson 253 This observation brims with insight but fails to perceive the link between the destruction of Dagon's Temple and Samson's (Israel's) adherence to the Naziriteship (covenant). fight on behalf of the people Israel. the anomaly is understandable. is capable. shapes his or her responses. "The allusions of the witticism must be striking. The narrative draws the reader in slowly. He therefore returns to the Lord's fold. throwing off the false gods of the enemy. dis guised as itwere as the story of Samson the Judge. The Samson story resembles in this respect the parable of Nathan the Prophet (2 Sam. finding greater attraction in Philistine/alien culture and religion than in the covenant of YHWH. the effect of the witticism is regularly made impossible. For. Samson fights solely for himself. sorted out its peculiarities. as Freud has observed. In presenting this analysis of the Samson story I am not claiming that even a sensitive reader would necessarily come up with this inter pretation in the course of reading. David does not grasp its true significance until Nathan provides the solution (v. The Samson story depicts the abandonment of the now abominable alien cult through the image of Samson collapsing the temple of the Philistine god. In the end."99 To solve a riddle requires deliberation. not being an individual obsessed with protecting his ego. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . a delayed solution is exactly what we would expect of interpreting a riddle-like text. once the story is subjected to solution as a riddle. of identi This content downloaded from 79. Samson does not fight for Israel because Samson is Israel. and ultimate hope by indirection.182. The parable alludes unmistakably to David's misappropriation of Bathsheba. In this case our analysis could not be better suited. But because it ismasked by what appears to be a story about anonymous characters. with the awakening of con scious interest in thinking.

Moses' flight toMidian prefigures Israel's escape from Egypt. elements of the early career ofMoses prefigure the story of the Hebrews in several respects. "is that of the parable. The rebuke of Moses by the two quarreling Hebrews prefigures the people's complaints and challenges toMoses later. But in order to facilitate the interpretation. Moses' smiting the Egyptian taskmaster prefigures God's smiting the Egyptian firstborn on behalf of Israel."106 To cite another illustration. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . it is allegory.230 on Tue. As such it has no exact analogue elsewhere This content downloaded from 79. Buber found many aspects of the life of Abraham to foreshadow the subse quent history of his Hebrew descendants. is not a pr?figuration but an epitomization of Israel.103 In the context of the Deuteronomic history. that Moses only begins to preside over the plagues after the fifth one and that the Israelites do not come to recognize the effi cacy of the Lord until the eighth plague."105 Even if one wishes to dispute Feldman's dating. one can appreciate his argument that the patriarchal stories hold an abiding. Gunkel identified many of the patriarchal narratives as legendary episodes recapitulating the history of various tribes and clans. sprinkles transparent allusions to its reference throughout the narrative. 254 EDWARD L. In the sense that Samson personalizes the mythic relation between God and the people Israel by exemplifying the frail and tender areas of that bond. mythic relevance to the Israelites by proffering a narrative that is at once traditio-historic and contemporary. riddle.145. inwhich the biblical books from Joshua through Kings evaluate the history of Israel and its God according to the program set forth in the Book of Deuteronomy. The revelation of God toMoses at the Burning Bush (sene) on the holy mountain prefig ures the Lord's appearance to all Israel at the holy mountain Sinai.108 The Samson story. as we have seen. for instance.107 For example.102 Samson in effect functions in both ways. when it ismet by the Midianite priest Jethro. "The double entendre" like that in Samson.101 Although Thompson has discriminated more precisely between patriarchal stories inwhich the hero eponym ously represents his people and those inwhich the hero merely figures as an ideal member of the people. Feldman has observed with regard to the Book of Genesis that "In general. GREENSTEIN fying itself with Samson without being told the solution.104 the story of Samson epitomizes and per sonifies the story of the diffuse tribes of Israel vis-?-vis their Lord. and oracle.182. a content analysis of the patriarchal narrative turns up mate rial pertinent to Israel at a time after Ahab when relations with Aram were paramount. the text.100 Shaping the storyof Israel in themold of an individualbiography is not entirely unique to the Samson story. (Notice.) Along similar lines. Moses' diffidence in accepting God's mission and his only lukewarm trust in God's redemptive power foreshadows the reservations of all Israel in acknowledging and trusting in the power of the Lord. as a kind of allegory.

for example. Richard Scheimann (New York. one that is not superimposed but answers to the stimuli of the text itself and reads the text in one of its own formative patterns. to have consciously or even unconsciously patterned the story of an individual so that itwould signify the latent story of a people.110 Nor is the interpretation Imake the only deep?or deepest?level of meaning in the Samson story. Clearly not everything in the surface narrative of Samson need symbolize a particular aspect of the Israelite myth. This content downloaded from 79. The surface story of Samson the Judge stands on its own and can be read on that level alone. Gladys Schwarz. Which brings me to a final clarification. composed as a quasi-allegory. in fact. They may combine various manifest significations as well as more underlying messages. but it is also a real snake that first has legs and later must crawl on its belly. 1967). too. I find much merit. 77. I am not suggesting that the story of Samson is only the story of Israel and its loyalty to the covenant.230 on Tue.114 I have tried to maintain that our understanding of the Samson story is one of its latent meanings.113 and the Garden of Eden story as analyzed in part by J. It would not be above and beyond the biblical narra tors. As we heard at the outset. Considering the small size of the biblical corpus. The Riddle of Samson 255 in biblical narrative. 1.109 Nonetheless. So too. in the proto-structural analysis of Hermann Gunkel.112 the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh as analyzed by G. Department of Bible The JewishTheological Seminary of America NOTES An abridged version of this study was presented at the annual meeting of the Associa tion for Jewish Studies.182. December 1980. that of the riddle.111 This reading places the Samson story in the same category with many South American myths analyzed by C. in the Garden of Eden story the snake may symbolize the tease of human passion and desire. p. Kirk. this is not surprising. may com municate on different frequencies simultaneously. S. L?vi Strauss.145. stories. we saw above that there is suffi cient evidence to argue that the Samson story was. Kingship ofGod3. Preparation of this study was assisted by a grant from the Abbeli Research Fund of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. therefore. trans. Martin Buber.Rosen berg. who views the narrative of Samson?especially in what he reconstructs as its most primitive form?as a mediation between the opposing attractions and repulsions of culture and nature. My attention was drawn to this topic in part by a term paper by one of my students. like dreams. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

Supplement 7. 6. p. See Freud's The Interpretation ofDreams. p. 13. by James Strachey (Discus = The Basic Books: New York. p. 47-48. p. see Peter Brooks. see Alan W.. See. Crenshaw.. 16. 4. 1980). GREENSTEIN 2. for example.. p. 17. 66. 562 (VII. p. 478-79. 2. "The Adaptation of Cinematic Dreams/' Dreamworks 1 (1980). Casanowicz. For the impor tance of seemingly marginal elements in literary analysis. cf. Stinespring." the named lover Delilah is not. Interpretation of Dreams. pp. Nahum Buber." see Frederick C. 17-20. Cross et al. Pfeiffer. balanced discussion of "Literature and Psychology. Discus ed. Sigmund Freud. Tompkins.. Shiv'im: Essays and Studies in Honor of Ira Eisenstein (Philadelphia & New York. Freud. : Magnalia Dei. 21-52.Cheryl Exum." Critical Inquiry 7:1 (Autumn 1980). p. Masterplot. and many other interpreters. 12. by A. A. The Story ofKing David. Exum. pp. 1980). trans. 57. "Simson. 36-40. 662a. 2. For a Study (New York. On the overlap of psychoanalysis and literary criticism. "Claude L?vi-Strauss and Genesis 37-Exodus 20. 10." Reden und Aufs?tze (G?ttingen. 1975). For Crenshaw (p. ed. See further: Barbara Herrnstein Smith. 1980)." in F. Relations of Literary on the parallelism between literature and dreamwork. Samson (Atlanta." Interpreter'sDictionary of the Bible (Nashville & New York. Maiamat. George Steiner. Northrop Frye. pp. 8. 11.. 40. vol. 9. The Interpretation of Dreams. already J. "Secrets and Narrative Sequence. Reader-Response Criticism (Balti more & London. Language Processing and theReading ofLiterature (Bloomington & London. 18. Dillon. Miller.. and elsewhere.. 17-18. eds. p. 1968). p. Y. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . ibid. pp. pp. quoted inW.M. K. For more recent studies. A. cf. Cf. 21. see the special issue of New LiteraryHistory 12:1 (Autumn. 22. Essays on theBible and Archaeology inMemory ofG. pp. "A Remark on Language and Psychoanalysis. 7:1.for example. Fish. 1938). 1965). and ed. For in proper names in the Bible. Wolfgang Iser. The Fate ofKing Saul. 1913). vol. Robert H. F. see ibid. . 88. 48. 294 ff. 48-60. and Jane P. ed." Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980). 1978). Stanley E. Cf. Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley. 83-101. "Humor." pp. pp. Cf. 280-300. "Promise and Fulfillment: Narrative Art in Judges 13.182. Kohn & L. p. 19. M. This observation is expressed by most commentators. "Freud's Yale French Studies 55156 (1977). Leon Wood. 1894). ed. 1978). p. Glatzer (New York. "Literature and Myth. On theBible. Paronomasia in theOld Testament (Boston. Cf. Gunn. 152 and passim. Brauner. 64-65." J?disches Lexikon (Berlin. Robert Polzin. James L. Cf. p. 73) the omission of Samson's mother's name establishes an irony: the unnamed mother is "trustworthy. For another biblical wordplay between shem 'name' and a stem of the shape sh-m-X (shemen 'oil'). "Charismatic Leadership in the Book of Judges. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Journal for the Series 14 (Sheffield. Discus ed. George L. 47-48. Cf. wordplay This content downloaded from 79. Cf. 141-42. 183. Discus The ed. Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids. 137 ff. Supplement Series 6 (Sheffield.. Brill (Modern Library: New York. Poetic Closure (Chicago & London. Crenshaw. 1972). 1978). ErnestWright (Garden City. 3. 73-87. 1928). p. Crews in ibid. Hermann Gunkel. idem. p.. 1968). 1967). pp. 20. 160. 256 EDWARD L.145. ibid. see Marsha Kinder." in R. "Humor und Witz. A) Writings ofSigmund Freud. 1959). The Biblical Narrative (Jerusalem.230 on Tue. 1976). The Act of Reading (Baltimore & London. 1977). 299. N. 63. and ed. On the function of pattern-perception in the interpretation of dreams. David M. 14. pp. trans. On the significance of this motif in biblical theology. see now Frank Kermode. pp. N. p. 1978).." 5. ." On Difficulty and Other Essays (New York & Oxford. ed. see Eccles." in James Thorpe. "Promise and Fulfillment. Zvi Adar.. The Interpretation ofDreams.. 1978). 303. 1687. 41. cf. 15. A. 54-68. I. M. J. Davidson. Moses and theDeuteronomist (New York. Study of the Old Testament. J?discher. 1962). See. 1980).

D. of course. Columbia University. 5. The Riddle of Samson 257 23.R. Fox. Cf. 57. 53. "Literary Patterns in the Samson Saga: An Investigation of Rhetorical Style in Biblical Prose" (Ph. Since Winton Thomas understands Abner's retort as a rhetorical expression of contempt for his interlocutor (see p. a statement. and (2) in each case the situation which the riddle disguises involves flying creatures in the head of a dead animal. Ishbosheth asked Abner why he had cohabited with Saul's concubine (verse 7). 29. "Samsons Riddle: JudgesXIV. 48.. For additional illustrations of this and related analo gies. p. 98. Cf. p. contends that the formulationof JournalofTheological Samson's riddle reflects a "common Hebrew practice to clothe statements in interrogative form and to give answers to questions in this way. "Literary Patterns. Second. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." p. 106 with n. in contrast to the Samson story. J. E. Abner was not replying to a riddle. Fox. of course. James A. Porter^refers further to an article by D. n." alcheringa 4/1 (1978). On the property of a riddle to reveal and simultaneously conceal a particular meaning. Yehezkel Kaufmann. 251. Michael Fishbane. 1974). Samson's question is in the form of an answer. Crenshaw. 35. Exum. Gunkel. this example fails to account for the fact that not only is the Philistines' answer to Samson in the form of a question. pp. esp. p. "Simson". Rather than submit to Ishbosheth's interrogation. 38. 3:8. Cheryl Exum..e. see David Marcus. the following riddle-type. Crenshaw. p. Text and Texture (New York. Porter. Crenshaw. 30-31. I find no way in which this article serves to support Porter's argument. The case is hardly analogous to Samson's riddle." Interpretation27 (1973).. p." Studies13 (1962). "Simson. Abner's response was rhetorical. This content downloaded from 79. The Book of Judges (Jerusalem. Wharton. 14. 36. Trans. Robert Scholes.145.. 95." pp. Stith Thompson. The parallels with the Samson Story are: (1) in each case the riddle originates in a recent experience of the hero. cannot guess. J. 410-27. Gunkel. which bears resemblances to Samson's riddle: An "accused person is to be set free if he can propound a riddle which the judge is unable to solve. Crenshaw. inwhich Abner answers a question with a question. pp."p. He always this from some peculiar circumstance does which he has recently observed. p. for example. 25 ff. I would not entertain a connection between it and the name "Samson" were it not for the several unusual and coinciding circumstances that I have enumerated. Most riddles. 46. 46-48. 113. Gunkel.182. p. Crenshaw. Trans. attempts to make sense of the form of Samson's riddle and the Philistines' solution by way of eisegesis. The Hebrew phrase for 'to call his/her name' is. 45. 6.230 on Tue. Most commonly the riddle is 'What has seven tongues in one head?' The judge. 27. Crenshaw. 1979). 53. 1976). pp. First. Winton Thomas. 1962. g. a formulaic clich?. 32. 57. 24. for example. p. Cf. Yet here.. Moreover. Los Angeles & 1977). 56. 18. i. pp. 59-60. of course. "Kelebh 'Dog': Its Origin and Some Usages of It in the Old Testament. 37. p. 29-30. Abner "Am I a dog of Judah?" retorted (verse 8). Cf. 53. Fox. are expressed in question-form. for example. 34. 28. Cf. p. London. 30.18. see. Compare. 281-82. 156. ibid. See. 25. diss. The condemned man then tells how he found the skull of a horse with a bird's and seven young birds in it" (Thompson. the riddle is formulated as a question." Journal of theAncient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 5 (1973). not informative. in Hebrew). Cf. 26. "The Samson Cycle in an Oral Setting." Vetus Testamentum 10 (1960). 31. Porter adduces 2 Sam. nest p. Everett Fox. p. The Folktale (Berkeley. "A Famous Analogy of Rib-Haddi. "Simson. 33. p. 162). 421). Trans. 118-19. "The Secret of Yahweh: and Affirmation Story in Judges 13-16. pp." To support this claim. p. Structuralism in Literature (New Haven & London.

GREENSTEIN 39.: Hildesheim. C. 334. p. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 329. see his The Book of Judges (repr. draws a parallel between Samson and Shamgar. 51. "Literary Patterns. Cf. 161. pp. 47. Crenshaw. The cumulative evidence that I am adducing here favors a reverse chronology. David G. "Simson. 56. Tur-Sinai (Torcszyner). For the biblical usage of "heifer" in particular. 49. pp. Wood." p. Cf. p. 66. 114-48. 16:14. So Fox. Y. p. 63. 137. 78. 43. p. reads bydh "with her hand" for bytd"v?i\\ a (tent)pin" in Judg. "Biblical Motives and Sources. "The Riddle in the Bible/' Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924). 65. 45. 55. p. 161-62. Wood. who compares Jer. p. 1957). 64. p. "The Book of Judges." in idem et al. 44. 55. "Literary Patterns. pp. 62. p. Wharton. 46:20. 61. 68. e. 44. Fox. too.. Wood. 1 there. 253. 181. 142. 41.. Robert G. 127 with some biblio graphy in n." p. 60. pp. Cf. Cf. 52. Prolegomena to theHistory ofAncient Israel (Meridian Books: New York. See. 23:11 ff. Arnold B. Cf. Compare Amos' caricature of the opulent ladies of Israel as "cows of Bashan" (Amos 4:1). 143. 75-76. Ehrlich. 1974). 318-19. Kaufmann. Cf. also Shammai Feldman. 132. 60-61. Exum. 160. 1971). Crenshaw. Maiamat. 1970).." pp. Crenshaw. "Literary Patterns. Polzin. Cf." p. p. Literary Patterns.. 1968). Exum. Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives (Nashville & New York. 64." inGeof "Coming frey H. 42. pp. for example.. For Freud's writing style as a representation of his message. Cf. pp. p. cit. Kaufmann. p. Exum.H. See ibid. Sefer volume (Jerusalem. Gunkel. 1975)." 58. 68. Perhaps we should then read higgadta in verse 16 as higgadtak (mappik he) 'you have solved it (= the riddle)' with Ehrlich. 250. 50. Fox. Julius Wellhausen." p. 66-67. 40. for example. Exod. The Interpretation ofDreams. p. Kenneth R. 67. 177. 1978).230 on Tue. see Jacques Derrida. eds. This content downloaded from 79.. Hartman. Compare. repr. .145. pp. 92b." see Patrick D. "Literary 66-67. 52. p.. pp. For the affinity of this metaphor to a riddle. Exum. 57. 177-86. F. Patterns. cit." p. ed. Pyschoanalysis and theQuestion of theText (Baltimore & London.." p. 33:20." Journal ofNear Eastern Studies 22 (1963). 154. Burney. "Literary Patterns. loc. 65. Exum. 48. p. cf. "Literary Patterns. for example." p.g. Cf. Exum. 258 EDWARD L. 128 = Halla shon vehassefer. Ugarit-Forschungen 2 (1970). In an all too typical scholarly maneuver to remove an unappreciated literary reference by textual emendation. p. 1910. Cf. p. Burney. Ehrlich. 61. "The Samson Cycle: A Form Study in the Biblical Epic" (unpublished ms. 231. R. "Literary Patterns. Exum. . p. For an analysis of "Animal Names as Designations in Ugaritic and Hebrew. p. 1959). 54.. 93. 367. Cf. Randglossen zur hebr?ischen Bibel 3 (Leipzig. Judges. 57." p. 16. Compare. loc. 53. p. . N. Gros Louis. 188-89. Trans. Crenshaw. into One's Own. however. "The Secret of Yahweh. Polzin. as well as Shamma son of Agee in 2 Sam. Fox. 184: "the narrator . So Crenshaw. Buber. Cf.Anchor Bible #6A (Garden City. ibid. p. Crenshaw. 63. intent upon underscoring his charac appears ters' limitations of knowledge and understanding. see. 61-62.. Roskies. Cf. Exum. Kingship of God\ p. 51. Miller Jr. Gros Louis. for example.: New York. p. for example. p. See. 133. 139. concludes that the brief notice concerning Shamgar is later.182. 66. 59. who reminds us that as a rule omne animal post coitum triste... p. Cf. 134. Boling. Cf. 46. Exum." pp. Freud. Cf. 58. cf. Discus ed. 43-44. "Literary Patterns.

not even in marrying a Philistine! This content downloaded from 79. p. Est. 1:11. 1:18. p. Ruth 2:2. 89. for example. 31:4. Hannah dedicates the son for whom she prays?Samuel? for lifelong service. 18-19. Ezek. J. 1 Sam. Gen. 21:11. 5:8. too. Compare Boling's (p. Fox. cf. A. Gen. 88. 11:22. Burney. 12:14. 4:1. 87." Similarly the idiom matsa hen "to find favor" seems not to denote physical attractiveness. 1:11 and 22 were influenced by the Samson narrative (Judg. 56. and enlarged ed. 70. Prov. pp.182. 10. 71. 1 Sam. 36. E. Deut. Judg. Polzin. 11:2. p. It should be noted that these restrictions depart in one respect from the Nazirite regulations in Num. Here he must abstain from impure food. Eugene Ulrich Jr. See. 14. 2:7. 7. 24:1. However. it is the opinion of Frank M. Cf. Judg. read "I shall dedicate him as a nazir" in 1 Sam. Kaufmann (pp. 7. 29:17. 154. 6:2. 13)/' Shnaton 1 (1975). 11:10. Gen. On this basic difference between Samson's Naziriteship and that prescribed in Num. In Est. 6:11-24) and the Sacrifice of Manoah (Jud." 84.230 on Tue. "A New Qumran Biblical Fragment Related to the Original Hebrew Under lying the Septuagint. 15. such as the Samuel text found in Cave 4 at Qumran (4QSama). 2:10. 241-42) misses the point entirely. Trans. 221. According to 1 Sam. Gen." 74. 1979). too.165-66. for example. 25:8 and cf. 13:7) and interpolated the addition secondarily. 90. pp. too.. 98) reminder that "the oddity of [an] expression is a way of directing attention to it. 232) assessment: "The Samson stories swarm with reminis cences and allusions to virtually all of the great protagonists from Deborah to Jephthah. 1:23. 10. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2 Sam. Philistines are labelled 'uncircumcised' elsewhere. see. 24:16. See. The Qumran Text of Samuel and Josephus. 13:1. a phrase used elsewhere of Godlike behavior (see Ps. 80. Ker mode's (p. "Structure and Style in Judges 13-16. xxv). 79. 75. Yohanan See.g. Cross that the ancient versions that read nazir in 1 Sam. 9. 39-40. 29:17. Cf. 14:27.Blenkinsopp. 230. Song 1:8. favored. Some ancient versions." Bulletin of theAmerican Schools ofOriental Research 132 (December 1953). 16:13. vowing that no razor shall touch his head. Yair Zakovitch. p. 5:9. p. 13. Fox. 6. 72. 25:3. 6:18). 19:24. for example. 34. seems to sense something unusual for it bothers to comment: "it is derived from the expression'upright and good'" (milshon yashar vaiov). however. 8:5. 76. p. Deut. 15:18. and Wood. 86. 342. 2:3. p. Est. rev. See. 64. 1:22 and by implication in verse 11.. Amos 8:13. 1 Sam. 11. 85. 2 Sam. Boling.145. 77. 17:26. 2 Sam. The omission of this prohibition may be due to its obviousness. Est. Est. Rainey (Philadelphia. There the Nazirite must avoid contact with a human corpse. 242. Boling. 2:15. cf. Boling. for example. 307 and 337. trans. 73. 8:5. cf. 66. 91. n. 7:3. He employs a somewhat charac teristic casuistry to argue that Samson committed no improprieties whatever. 7. 78. Gen. 6:4. 151-54 (in Hebrew with English summary on p. 10:15. 229. 184. The hand of the Bible. 2:17 the phrase most likely denotes "to be popular.Harvard Semitic Monograph 19 (Missoula. 1:11." Journal ofBiblical Literature 82 (1963). 4. 15:2. 'The Sacrifice of Gideon (Jud. 82. 1 Kings 1:3. the story of Shechem in Gen. as in Judg. 14:6. 6:3-6. n. n. 83. Deut. An ancient Greek version reads another occurrence of this phrase between 14:1 and 14:2. 81.14. p. Aharoni. Compare. 1 Sam. In the Masoretic Text Samuel is not. for example. p. F. Kaufmann. Maiamat. Est. p. 1978). Job 42:15. 53-54. called a Nazirite. 5. 26:7. 2:2. 3:18. pp. The Riddle of Samson 259 69. a commentary printed in rabbinic Bibles. cf. Roskies. 12:11. 13. Metsudat David..

Myth (Cambridge." in K. 111. 1957)." p. p. S. Hermann Gunkel. 315 f. Berkeley & Los Angeles. cf. Claude L?vi-Strauss. p. 12:12-20. Fishbane. 112. D. Jean-Michel Rey. Ackerman. pp. Kirk. 62. Robertson." Yale French Studies 55/56 (1977). 3-13. "Allegory and Satire: A Rhetorical Meditation. Compare Northrop Frye's characterization of the riddle as "a fusion of sensation and reflection". Culley. 1964). p. Cf. 95. David A. 102. Freud. also Umberto (M. R. 30." esp. Compare. 7-8. 1976). The Ugends of Genesis (New York. 1970). 200. the comments of Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra to Gen. on Gen.. 110. 1980). 105. 108. 98. This content downloaded from 79. R. Compare this recent description of allegory and its function: "We may figure allegory as the curtain that conceals (in order to be made radiant by) a sanctuary. 63-76. The Old Testament and the Literary Critic (Philadelphia. pp. 99. Boling. 15-16. 1964). Crenshaw. 107. n. GREENSTEIN 92. eds. Rosenberg. 93. Contrast Crenshaw'sview. 113. "Freud's Writing on Writing. Thomas L. Thompson." Semeia 3 (1975).230 on Tue.. Buber. 101. "Literary Patterns. 3:1 and 3:24. Wit and Its Relation to theUnconscious. Studies in the Structure ofHebrew Narrative (Philadelphia & Missoula." New Literary History 11:1 (Autumn 1979). Gunkel. 103. 1974). 97. Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton.) Cassuto. Feldman. 1979). (Philadelphia. 189) finds Samson's deliverance here to be ironic because it is unde served. Loc. Commentary on Genesis (Hebrew: Jerusalem. cit. 103-4.145. 125. p. cf. 22-43. 99. ed. 114. The Raw and the Cooked (New York. 1981). 19. 5-26. "Conflict Themes in the Jacob Narratives. 132-52." On the Bible. 280. pp. 76. 118. 260 EDWARD L. Corporate Personality inAncient Israel. 69-115. for example. Our interpretation resolves the irony since as a rule God responds compassion ately to His people Israel.182. 5 above). pp. pp. "Themes and Variations in Three Groups of OT Narratives. "The Garden Story Forward and Backward: The Non Narrative Dimensions of Gen. 109. 1970). Wharton. Robert C. For a discussion of some of the anthropological reservations concerning this theory. see Gene M. Polzin (p. The curtain mediates the light of what is hidden?mediates because the light would blind us if we were able to look at it directly". Literary Interpretations ofBiblical Narratives (Nashville 6 New York. 7-13)." Prooftexts 1:1 (Jan. Bruns. Gerald L. "Abraham the Seer. 736. 1969. Cf. 42-43. p. James S. Joel W." Semeia 15 (1979). 96. p. 104. "Literary Patterns. Exum. H. On the property of literature in dissimulating itsmeaning. 301-28. p. "Simson. 153. See now Polzin. esp. 219. Wheeler Robinson might explain the personification of Israel as an individual hero by his theory that the ancient Hebrews saw their group as a "corporate personality". G. in The Basic Writings ofSigmund Freud (see n. cited above. Tucker's "Introduc tion" to this edition (pp. English: Jerusalem. 106. rev. esp." p. Cf. 18. Exum. 30 Dec 2014 08:27:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 94. "The Literary Context of the Moses Birth Story (Exodus 1-2). pp. 2-3. 100. Gros Louis et al.