Friday, October 8, 2010

Samson and Biologos

I recently was reading through the story of Samson again, and one incident in particular stood out this time. I've always found this vignette a little puzzling:

Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, "Samson has come here." And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, "Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him." But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. (Judges 16:1-3)

What exactly is the point of this story? To illustrate Samson's great strength? Check that - supernatural strength. The gates of a walled city of that era would have weighed many tons. To rip them out of the wall and carry them miles away and up a hill - I don't know that any modern construction equipment could even do that! So if the author wanted to describe God's empowering of Samson, and tearing a lion apart by hand or single-handedly killing 1000 Philistines with a jawbone didn't get the point across, this would certainly hammer it home.

But there's much more than that going on here. More than just bragging about his God-given strength, this passage is a lament over how pointlessly he squandered it. Samson's God-ordained, angelically-announced mission in life was to kill Philistines, and as this an many other incidents from his life show, God had thoroughly equipped him for the task. He was given physical strength like nothing the world has seen before or since, and he should have been using it to fight for God's people and against God's enemies. Instead, we see over and over again throughout Samson's life that he wanted to be buddies with the Philistines, wanted to marry one even. Instead of fighting them, he was constantly trying to win their approval.

Consider the absurdity of this situation. Samson went to Gaza, one of the chief Philistine cities. To fight? No, to shack up with a Philistine prostitute. When the Philistines figure out he's there, they send a bunch of soldiers to set an ambush for him. When Samson wakes up, what does he do? Go out and kill them? No, he uses his supernatural strength to do tricks for them! As he rips the gates out of the city wall, it's hard not to picture him acting like a 5th grader trying to impress the cool high school kids. "Hey guys, look at what I can do! Please like me!" Instead of using his divine gift to fight God's enemies, he uses it to try to win their approval.

And for some reason, it seems awfully similar to what they're doing at Biologos.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Metaphorically however, it doesn't seem to me that Biologos could carry the gate 5 feet, let alone pull it off the hinges.

The Biologos crew are much more closely analogous to Delilah who loves Samson, just not as much as a cash payout.

But 'squander' is a good word to describe the story.