Samson and Delilah – 1117 B.C. & Samson and the Temple of Dagon

ThinkingSince Samson is walking with You nobody can hurt him.

But who is this Delilah girl?  I’m assuming she’s a Philistine since he seems to like that type?  You didn’t pick her for Samson, so could it cause problems?

1. Ancient Gaza
Ancient Gaza
Population pressure in the tiny Gaza Strip is intense, and no doubt numerous potential archaeological sites have been built over and lost.

“But still, according to specialists, what is under ground and under the sea is more, much more, than what has been discovered to date,” says Mr Abdul Shafi.

Ancient ruins in Gaza

Gaza has been strategically important to regional powers

“There is an opportunity to discover things and put them in a place like a national museum, and this is what we’re aiming for.”

For more than 3,500 years Gaza’s history has been shaped by its location.

It sits on the route linking North Africa with the greener lands of the Levant to the north.

This made Gaza strategically important first to the Egyptian Pharaohs, and then to many others who sought to wield power in the region.

“It’s found itself the target of constant sieges – constant battles,” says Gerald Butt.

“Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there a harlot, and went in unto her. 

And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither.  And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 

And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.

And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 

2. Ancient Gaza
Ancient Gaza
Archaeologist unearth remains in Gaza which is said to be one of the world’s oldest living cities.

All through the heat of summer archaeologists dug and sifted through the dunes on the edge of Gaza City.

Gradually walls, homes, and the outlines of alleyways emerged from the sand.

These were the bones of the ancient Greek city of Antidon.

And they were testimony to the extraordinary richness of Gaza’s past.

Not only the Greeks passed this way.

The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the Persians, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Turks, the British and many others left their mark on Gaza.

It has been described as one of the world’s oldest living cities.

Layers of civilization lie beneath its busy streets and crowded ranks of badly made apartment blocks.

And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. 

And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.

And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 

Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 

Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber.  And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire.  So his strength was not known.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound. 

And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 

Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber.  And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.

 And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.

And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?  Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.  And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;

3. A rocket launched by Palestinian militants
A rocket launched by Palestinian militants towards Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel (Nov 2012).

Over-crowded living, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine

It is a district of Gaza City, families piled upon on another in cement buildings.

The house I live in isn’t much different: blistering in summer and numbing in winter, no-frills all around, lucky to have water (albeit water stored in the massive water tanks ubiquitous throughout occupied Palestine), surrounded by other like-constructed concrete ovens.

When drones hover over homes, TVs go fuzzy and even cell communication is affected, not to mention the more obvious disruption of one’s psyche.

They’re flying overhead quite a bit these days, along with the standard IOF warplane fly-overs.

That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart.  Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. 

4. St. Hilarion’s monastery in the Jabaliya
A man walks through remains of St. Hilarion’s monastery in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip.

St. Hilarion’s monastery, a reminder of the time in late antiquity when Christianity was the dominant faith in what is now the Gaza Strip, is one of many archaeological treasures scattered across this coastal territory.

And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.

And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself.  And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. 

But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. 

Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.

Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto 1 Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. 

And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.

6. Samson destroys the Temple of Dagon By Philip Galle
Samson destroys the Philistine temple. Samson destroys the Temple of Dagon
By Philip Galle

Ashdod and the area south of it, including the Gaza Strip, were home to the Philistines in Biblical times (which is why the Romans denigradingly called Judea “Philistia”), and with the Hamas presence in Gaza today, the area continues its tradition as a sanctuary for the enemies of the Jews.

The story of Samson and the Philistines is commemorated near the beach with the above statue.

And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport.  And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. 

And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. 

Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. 

5. Mediterranean Sea 15 miles northeast of Gaza
Archaeological site in Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea 15 miles northeast of Gaza.
An ancient city settled in the third millennium B.C. it was taken over by the Philistines in the 12th century B.C. and became one of their five city-states called the Philistine Pentapolis.

It flourished under many rulers as a major port and trade center between Syria and Egypt.

Excavation of the city’s important remains began in 1920.

The modern city is nearby.

Ashkelon was the capital of Canaanite Kings and the harbor of the Philistines and the stomping ground of the biblical hero Samson.

From the Canaanite era Ashkelon is the oldest and largest seaport yet known in Israel and a thriving Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.) metropolis of more than 150 acres with commanding ramparts including the oldest arched city gate in the world still standing two stories high.

From the Philistine era (1175-604 B.C.) excavations of the seaport are uncovering remains of the city from the days of Samson and Delilah and the city’s destruction by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines.  And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein.  So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. 

Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah his father.  And he judged Israel twenty years” (Jd 16:1-31).

This story makes women look really evil and men look really stupid.

7 Dagon the fish god
Dagon, the fish god.
Note the mouth-shaped hat. Compare to the two-horned mitre worn by the Pope and Church officials today.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Tim 4:1-6).

1 Chief god of the Philistines, originally worshiped by the Canaanites before the Philistine invasion of Canaan.  On a wall of a place in Babylon he’s shown as half fish and the head and hands of a man.

Samson and the Temple of Dagon

Only limited excavation has been taken at Gaza, so we have little idea of what the city of Samson’s day was like.

However, grinding houses (Jdg 16:21) and a temple (vv. 23-30) similar to those referred to in Jdgs 16 have been unearthed at other sites.

Grinding houses, known both from ancient texts and exca­vated examples, were places where prisoners would grind grain for their masters.

The tools were simple, hand grinding stones — a loaf-shaped upper stone and a larger, slightly concave, lower stone called saddle quern.

Samson spent his days kneeling in front of a quern, pushing an upper stone back and forth, grinding grain into meal.

Samson’s greatest feat was the destruc­tion of the temple of Dagon.

The only defi­nite Philistine temples found to date are those at Tell Qasile, on the outskirts of modern Tel Aviv.

Three temples, each larger than the pre­vious, were built on the same spot over a period of 150 years.

The latest, from the 11th century B.C., approximately the time of Samson, measured 26 feet (7.8 m) by 48 feet (14.6 m).

Two pillars supported the roof, just as in the temple of Dagon described in Judges 16.

They were made of cedar wood approximately 1 foot (30.5 cm) in diameter and rested on stone bases set in the floor.

8. Pillar Bases at the Tell Qasile Temple
Pillar Bases at the Tell Qasile Temple
The two pillars in question were set about 6 feet apart.

A strong man, such as Samson, would be able to push the pillars away from their bases and thereby send the roof crashing down.

It would have been possible to dislodge the cen­tral pillar in the Tell Qasile temple, since it was held in place on the stone base only by the weight of the roof.

A large man with his arms extended could have spanned the 7 foot (2.1 m) distance between the two pillars.

Al­so, it is conceivable that the pillars of Dagon’s temple were closer together than those of the Tell Qasile temple.

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