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The Mighty Samson

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales


Library » History » Joshua, The Judges | Subscribe | What is RSS?


For forty long and bitter years, with few intermissions, the Jews had been feeling the crushing weight of Philistine oppression, nor being able to win a decisive victory over their cruel foe. The Philistines were the "whip" with which the Almighty was punishing the Jews for their disloyalty to Him.

The Birth of Samson

One day, when Zealphonis, a Jewish woman, was walking in the field, a very wonderful thing happened to her. An angel of Heaven appeared before her and said, "You will bear a son, who will some day rescue the Jewish people from their enemies. He will be an extraordinary person - stronger than a lion, and fleeter than a deer; and his spirit will be free and fearless. You must remember that his life will be consecrated to the service of G-d. Therefore, never cut his hair, and give him no wines or liquors, but nourish him with the purest and mildest food, for he shall be a Nazirite!"

Zealphonis was overcome with joy. For years she had longed for a child, but she had been childless, and now, at last, her great desire was to be fulfilled. She hastened to tell the joyful news to her husband, Manoah, and the two rejoiced together. When she gave birth to a son, she called him Samson, Shimshon in Hebrew, from the word shemesh, "sun." She felt that "Shimshon" was destined to be bright and mighty as the sun, and would deliver the Jewish people from those awful Philistines.

Never cut his hair, and give him no wines or liquors, but nourish him with the purest and mildest food
Even in his early youth, Samson revealed remarkable physical strength. One day, he was wandering in the woods, when suddenly he came face to face with a ferocious lion. The lion charged, but Samson, undaunted, slew the lion with his bare hands, as though it were a kitten.

As Samson grew to manhood, he began to resent more and more the oppression of his people by the Philistines. But he was too modest, too humble, to undertake the leadership of a Jewish army. He decided that he would avenge himself upon the Philistines by engaging them in personal conflicts, and intimidating them, so that they would no longer molest his brethren.

Samson in Philistina

Samson began to seek ways of getting into a close grip with the enemy. It was necessary for him to win their confidence, and at the same time to find good excuses for a personal vendetta with them.

One day Samson met a woman in the Philistine town of Timnah who was ready to accept the Jewish faith and be his wife.

At the wedding feast were gathered the young men of the town who had come to take part in the wedding festivities. Samson now had an opportunity to put his plan into practice. He addressed the company saying, "I will ask you a riddle and if you can solve it, I will give each of you a suit of clothing. But, if you do not guess the riddle, then each of you will have to give me a suit of clothing." The Philistines were only too glad to accept his challenge, and Samson asked them:

"Out of the eater came forth food, and out the strong came forth sweetness. What is it?"

When Samson presented this riddle to them, not one of them could find a solution. They appealed to Samson's wife to coax the answer from her husband. "Are you not one of us? Will you let your countrymen be defeated and humiliated by a Hebrew? If you don't find the answer for us, we'll burn your father's house!" they threatened.

Samson's wife began to press him hard to tell her the answer to the riddle. Samson finally gave in, and told her the story that led him to form his riddle in that way:

"When I was going to Timnah for the first time, a young lion roared against me in the vineyard near the town. I grabbed the lion by his jaws and rent him in two with the greatest of ease. Now when I was coming here to marry you I remembered the lion, and decided to have a look at the carcass. I found a bee comb in it and I took a handful of honey from it. It was the sweetest honey I ever tasted. Now you know why I put forth such a riddle to the Philistines!"


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1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.