Thursday, August 2, 2012

Evidence of Samson

Archaeologists excavating the tell of Beit Shemesh in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem revealed they had discovered an ancient stone stick that appeared to portray the Old Testament story of Samson's struggle with a lion. The tiny seal, less than an inch in diameter, shows a large animal with a slinky tail attacking a human figure.
The seal was exposed at a level of excavation that dates it to roughly the 11th century BC, when Israelite tribes had moved into the area after Joshua's conquest of Canaan. It was a time when the Jews were led by ad hoc leaders known as judges, one of whom was Samson.
The location of the find, close to the River Sorek that marked the boundary between the Israelites and their Philistine foes, also indicates that the figure on the seal could represent Samson, according to Israeli archaeologists. Otherwise, it suggests that tales of a hero strong enough to fight a lion circulated at the time of the judges, one that then morphed into the story of Samson. One of the most compelling characters in the Old Testament, Samson discovered his strength when he was accosted by a lion on his way to propose to a Philistine woman, killing it with his bare hands.
Though he was fond of their women, Samson was less enamored of Philistine men, at one point slaying 1,000 of them with the jawbone of an ass. Emasculated after his lover Delilah snipped off his strength-giving locks as he slept, he was transported in triumph by the Philistines to Gaza.
There he was blinded and imprisoned, winning redemption only in death when he regained his strength one final time to bring the Temple of Dagon down on his tormentors.
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