This is a tribute to stupidity. The Philistines want to know how to defeat Samson’s strength so they can capture him, and they beg Samson’s girlfriend Delilah to find out for them. Even when he realizes what she is up to, he doesn’t turf her out (score one for stupid), and eventually gives in and tells her (score two). He should have known better after the whole riddle episode in the last chapter. So the Philistines take him prisoner and gouge out his eyes. But in prison, his hair grows back (third point for stupid, but on the Philistines’ side this time). With god’s help, Samson is able to pull apart the pillars of the temple, killing himself and all 3000 other people in it.
This chapter for some reason is seen as inspiring – Handel wrote an oratorio based on it, and Cecil B. DeMille turned it into an epic movie. I don’t get it. I see nothing in Samson’s character that makes him worthy of respect, let alone hero status. His motives seem to be solely anger and vengeance, not a desire to save his people. What am I missing?
Chapters 17 and 18
17:6 seems to identify the cause of the anarchy, violence, and chaos of Israelite society in this book – “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Pretty good argument for a strong central government.
That aside, chapters 17 and 18 tell of Micah, a sordid tale of idolatry, treachery, and infighting between the tribes. Everyone in the story, with the exception of the innocent victims living in Laish, is dishonest, disloyal, greedy, and thieving. I’m just not sure what the point of it is. To establish that Israelite society is dysfunctional and lawless? I think that’s already been done.
Interesting factoid: Some Jews believe that Micah’s mother was Delilah, and that the original pieces of silver at the beginning of the story were the payment she received from the Philistines for betraying Samson.