The story of Samson, first president of the Hair Club for Men, who was beguiled by that vile temptress, Delilah, into giving away the secret of his strength (hint: it has something to do with Pantene!). If you went to a conservative Sunday School, you probably learned this story as an example of a sexually voracious woman 'stumbling' an otherwise good and virtuous man. Even if you went to a more liberal place, this was at best presented as a depressing example of male-female relationships.
The Israelites have been enslaved again, this time by the Philistines. An Israelite woman, who doesn't even have the dignity of being named, is barren, but an angel of the lord appears before her and tells her she's going to have a son. He gives her some excellent pre-natal advice not to drink wine or eat unclean things, not because god has revealed the secrets of a healthy pregnancy diet, but because the boy is going to be a Nazarite, a member of the mystical sect. The angel also tells her not to cut the boy's hair. So what was all the fuss in the 1960s about boys having hair past the tops of their ears, then?
Anyway, the woman goes out to her husband and repeats the story. The husband is skeptical and asks god to tell it to him directly. God sends the angel to her again, but the husband isn't around. Oh, I see. So she had an affair, and got pregnant, but told her husband it was 'the angel of the lord.' Well, we'll see how easy it is to fool people with that old trick when we get to the New Testament, won't we?
So the woman runs off to find her husband and brings him to where the angel is waiting. The husband makes him repeat all his instructions, then offers to sacrifice a goat for him. The angel's all, no thanks, you should sacrifice to god, not me. The husband asks for his name, but the angel insists it's a secret, so it will be harder to figure out who cuckolded him later. They go ahead with the sacrifice, and the angel returns to heaven on the flames. Samson emerges 9 months later, and we hear he is especially favoured by god.
Samson falls for a Philistine woman and asks his parents to secure her hand in marriage. Where's Phineas with his spear when you need him? But it turns out this is just a part of god's master plan for mass slaughter of the Philistines.
One day, or possibly the same day, it's never clear as the bible is not good on transitioning from anecdote to anecdote, Samson is out for a walk and a lion roars at him. Samson is overcome by the spirit of the lord, and rips the poor beast to shreds with his bare hands. No word on PETA's reaction. He continues on his walk, which was to his date's house. She pleases him well (read: at least a blow job). On his way home, he passes by the carcass, in which a swarm of bees has taken up residence. It must be a miracle, because they've already produced honey. Samson gathers some of the honey and takes it home to his parents.
Samson's father manages to secure the bride, and at the wedding, Samson poses a riddle to his groomsman. If they can answer within a week, he'll give them all 30 sheets and 30 new outfits. If they can't, they have to give him the prize. This is the wording of his riddle: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness (v. 14).
The seventh day arrives and the groomsmen have bubkis. So they threaten Samson's wife: find out the answer or we'll burn your house down. She cries and wheedles and finally, to shut her up, he tells her the answer. It's a sitcom!
The groomsman, proving themselves 2000 years early for Jeopardy, answer in the form of questions: What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? (v. 18). Samson accuses them of sleeping with his wife. It's totally a sitcom. And then it totally isn't, because Samson goes into the village and kills 30 men and takes their clothes and bedding and gives them out to his wedding guests as a reward for guessing the riddle. Then it's totally a romantic tragedy, because his wife has been given to his best friend.
At harvest time, Samson goes to his wife with a kid. Apparently that's the price for sex. And apparently Samson has forgotten that she married his friend instead. Fortunately, his father-in-law has not, and reminds him of the incident. He instead offers his hotter younger daughter. Samson decides this is grounds for revenge against the entire Philistine people. His revenge is particularly gruesome to an animal lover: he catches 300 foxes, sets their tales on fire, then releases them into the Philistine fields. Yup, that'll show them whatever it is god is trying to teach them. Not to promise your daughter to one guy, then give her to another? As if Laban didn't do something similar?
The Philistines, naturally, are angry, but not at the right person. When they find out Samson is responsible, and why he did it, they burn his father-in-law and wife. Samson escalates the problem, killing an untold number of Philistines. Then he takes a time-out on a rock.
The Philistines, if it's possible, are even dumber, because they go and attack the people of Judah. They go to Samson and ask them what mess he's gotten them into with their overlords. He sulks back that he's just repaying the Philistines in kind. They inform him they're going to take him to the Philistines and he extracts a promise from them not to kill him, and submits to being bound up. As they approach the Philistine camp, Samson is filled with the spirit of the lord, which apparently comes with Incredible Hulk-style temper tantrums. He breaks free of his bindings, finds the jawbone of an ass, and kills a thousand Philistines. He's practically ready for Jersey Shore. He throws down the jawbone and complains to god that he's thirsty. God makes water spring out of the jawbone and declares Samson Judge.
Here's the part of the story you probably think you're the most familiar with. Samson comes to Gaza and sees a prostitute. Yup, he's a favourite of the lord, all right. He has sex with her, and the men of the town plot to kidnap him in the morning. Um, wouldn't he be most vulnerable in flagrante delicto? But apparently that would be breaking some kind of Bro Code, because they leave him until morning, when he wakes up, dismantles the city gates, and walks off with them to Hebron. Early steroids? He eats his Wheaties? No idea.
Next, Samson goes to Sorek, where he meets Delilah. The Philistine leaders come to Delilah and promise her money if she can find out his weakness. Kryptonite?
Delilah asks him outright, and he outright lies to her and says If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man (v. 7). As soon as he goes to sleep, she ties him up and calls the Philistines in. He wakes up, breaks the binds and they run off. Now, a smart fellow would figure out that his girlfriend isn't exactly trustworthy and leave. But not Samson. When Delilah accuses him of lying and asks him for the truth, our brain trust stays and answers, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man (v. 11) in fact, one biblical scholar has gone so far as to suggest this becomes a sort of S&M game between them, though whether you believe that or not is up to you. So he again breaks free when she says the Philistines are coming. She asks him a third time, and gets the reply If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web (v. 13) and again he breaks free, this time taking part of the wall with him.
Finally, Delilah turns to that charming feminine tactic of wheedling and whining until she gets the information. And despite his apparent facility with the ladies, Samson stays on and lets himself be worn down and finally says his strength is in his hair. She immediately runs off to tell the tribal elders, then inveigles him to fall asleep in her lap. While he's there, a man comes in and shaves Samson's head. When the deed is done, she again tells him the Philistines are there. He wakes with a start and goes outside for some air, but the spirit of the lord has left him, and the Philistines capture him and gouge out his eyes.
They bring him down to Gaza and throw him into prison, where his hair starts to grow again. Then they throw a party to sacrifice to their god Dagon, in praise for delivering Samson. The party gets raucous, and the merrymakers call for Samson to be brought out and displayed in his humiliation. They tie him between two pillars. Samson calls out to god to give him back his strength. He takes hold of the pillars, and brings the house down on himself, taking 3000 Philistines with him. Which would make him a suicide mass murderer, no?
What a happy, joyous book this is.