Page images
PDF
EPUB

13. "If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web."-A little attention will show that a line has been here dropped from the text by some transcriber, since, as it stands, Delilah does something which Samson does not express, and omits something which he specifies. The omitted clause is found in the Septuagint, after which, Dr. Boothroyd thus renders the passage:-" If thou interweave the seven locks of my head with that web, and fasten them to the pin, I shall become weak and be as another man. So while he was asleep she interwove with the web the seven locks of his head, and she fastened them to the pin, and said unto him," &c. We do not intend in this place to enter into the peculiarities of Oriental weaving: and as so much of the subject as is necessary to the understanding of the present text, has been clearly and briefly stated by the learned translator whose version we have quoted, we avail ourselves of his note. "In order to have some idea of what is here told, the reader must know, first, that the looms of Palestine were extremely simple, probably not unlike those that are still used in many parts of Asia and Africa; secondly, that they were worked by women; thirdly, that the web was narrow, little more perhaps than a hand's breadth; fourthly, that the woof was driven into the warp, not by a reed but by a wooden spatula; fifthly, that the end of the web was fastened to a pin or stake, fixed probably in the wall, or driven into the ground; sixthly, that Samson was probably sleeping, with his head in Delilah's lap, when she wove his hair into the web. Comp. v. 19.”

19. "She made him sleep upon her knees.”—Probably in a relative position, such as is still often seen in the East, where one person sitting cross-legged on a mat or carpet which covers the floor (which is the usual sitting posture in the East), another, extended at length or reclining, rests his head on the lap of the former, as on a pillow.

"She called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head."-That a man should be able not only to cut, but to shave off the hair on which, during all Samson's life, razor had never before come, implies either that Samson slept very soundly, or that the man was very dexterous in his craft. In fact, the Oriental barbers do their work with so much ease, as to render the shaving of the head (the head is usually shaven in the East) rather gratifying than unpleasant. The most delicate sleeper would scarcely be awakened by it; and even those who are awake are scarcely sensible of the operation which they are undergoing.

21. "Bound him with fetters of brass," or rather, probably, of copper. This seems another proof that although iron was at this time pretty well known, it had not yet come into general use. If it had, we should expect to find Samson bound with fetters of that metal rather than of brass, which is not thought of for such a purpose in countries where iron is common. The emphasis is here on brass, not as distinguished from any other metal; but to show that his fetters were of metal, and that he was, not like the common race of offenders, bound with ropes or thongs of leather.

"He did grind in the prison-house."-Of course, with millstones worked by the hands, this being still the usual method of grinding corn in the East. This is an employment which usually devolves on women; and to assign it therefore to such a man as Samson, was doubtless with a view to reduce him to the lowest state of degradation and dishonour. To grind corn for others, was, even for a woman, a proverbial term expressing a degraded and oppressed condition; and how much more for Samson, who seems to have been made the general grinder for the “prison-house.”

[blocks in formation]

To him, the great pang of his condition must have been to feel that all this misery and degradation had been the obvious result of his own weak and dissolute conduct, which had rendered all but entirely abortive the high promise of his birth. It was probably more through this than any thing else that he did not deliver Israel; but, as the angel had foretold, only began to deliver. Much as we blame the backwardness of the Hebrews to enter into the great struggle to which Samson would have led them, it must not be forgotten that the hero's private character does not seem to have been calculated to inspire them with confidence. Had his obedience to the Divine law been greater, and his discretion more apparent, the history of Samson would probably have been very different.

22. "The hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.”—Reading this in connection with verse 17, the force of the allusion is clear. The letting the hair grow was a prominent circumstance in the condition of a Nazarite; and the extraordinary strength of Samson was not a matter of thews and sinews, but was vested in him as an extraordinary gift from God, on condition of his remaining in the state of Nazariteship. The loss of his hair did not in itself deprive him of strength; but the loss of his hair involved the loss of his strength, because it took him from the condition of a Nazarite, with which it had pleased God to connect the extraordinary physical powers with which he was invested. So now, if we find Samson again strong after the renewed growth of his hair, we are bound to believe that it was not because his hair grew; but that the hero, in his abased condition, was moved to repentance for his past misconduct; and that, renewing his vow of Nazariteship, including the consecration of his hair, God saw proper to accept his vow, and in token of that acceptance re-invested him, as his hair grew, with the powers with which he had before so wilfully trifled.

The history of every nation boasts of some hero, whose exploits, being far beyond the ordinary range of human power, bear more or less resemblance to those of Samson. Such was the Hercules of classical antiquity, the Rama of India, the Rustam of Persia, and the Antar of Arabia-not to mention others: and many writers have undertaken to show that the histories of these famous personages are based on traditions concerning the doings of the Hebrew champion. We indicate this opinion without feeling it necessary to register its results, or trace the analogies which it offers. We have been more interested in observing some traditions and customs connected with the hair, which, however they arose, furnish some curious points of coincidence with the history of Samson's locks. Thus there is the story of Nisus, king of Megara, upon whose locks the fortune of the kingdom depended; and whose capital could not be taken by Minos until the daughter of Nisus, to win his love, cut off her father's hair, while he slept, and sent it to him. The account which Tacitus gives of the Catti, a German nation, is still more interesting, from being a description of actual manners. He says, as soon as they were fit to bear arms they let their beards grow, and the hair of their heads, which hung over their faces. This was a sign of a martial vow, from which they could not absolve themselves till they had slain an enemy. When they did so, they cut off, over his bloody spoils, the hair which overgrew their foreheads, and then boasted gloriously that they had at length made themselves worthy of their parents and their country. But the bravest of the brave renewed their vow, with its obligation to let the hair grow; but at the same time wore an iron ring, to distinguish themselves from those whom lack of opportunity, or of courage, had prevented from

redeeming their first vow. Many, by repeated renewals of their vow, retained through life the rough and savage appearance which drew upon them the admiring attention of their countrymen, and rendered them terrible to their enemies. These hairy men charged the first in battle; their troop was in the van; and their appearance in war was terrible, and even in peace was fierce and alarming.-This, although not exactly a parallel instance, seems to us to touch on some interesting points of coincidence.

[graphic][merged small]

27. "There were upon the roof about three thousand men and women."-It seems that the house or temp e itself was full of the principal people; and that about three thousand, apparently of the lower orders, had established themselves on the roof. Against this statement there have been two cavils. One is, how three thousand persons could stand on the roof of a building; and how persons thus placed could "behold while Samson made sport below." Both may be answered in one statement. In the first place, it is evident that the temple or place of public entertainment (for it is not certain that it was the temple to which Samson was conducted) consisted of an inclosure, quadrangular or oblong, surrounded with walls and buildings, the principal building (the house or temple properly so called) occupying that side of the inclosure opposite to the entrance. The other sides may be composed of dead walls, or cloisters, or offices, and therefore may or may not have a roof; but the part we have indicated is always the main building, whether in a modern oriental palace, house, mosque, or other structure. This also was the arrangement of many ancient temples of Egypt, and even of Greece and Rome. If we suppose, as every probability warrants, that the present house was of this construction, we have only to suppose that Samson exhibited his feats of strength (which were probably the "sports" in question) in the open court or area, while the spectators were crowded in the interior of the building, which, being very open in front, affords a full view of the area to every person seated within, and upon the roof above. This is in fact the usual process at the present day, when fights, wrestlings, and other feats are performed before a great personage, and a large body of persons. As to the number on the roof, we are not sure whether the objection which, merely from want of knowledge, has been taken, applies to the presumed inadequacy of a roof to support the weight of so many

persons, or to the possibility of its being sufficiently extensive to accommodate so large a multitude. It is, however, only necessary to refer to the note on Deut. xxii. 8, and to observe, that oriental roofs, being intended for accommodation, and not merely, as with us, designed as a defence of the interior from the weather, are formed with much greater strength and durability in proportion to their size, than any which our buildings exhibit. They are either constructed with a number of small domes, the external hollows between which are filled up to give a flat surface; or else the roofing, altogether flat, is laid on strong horizontal beams supported on walls and pillars. In all our experience we never heard of a roof, in good condition, concerning which any apprehension was entertained that it could be broken down by any weight which might be placed upon it. As to the extent of roof required for three thousand persons, there was of course as much room on the roof as in the interior; and considering the large scale of many ancient temples and theatres, interior accommodation for three thousand persons, with room for as many more on the flat roof, is indeed a large, but by no means an enormous, estimate. Who that recollects the old temples of Egypt, with their vast flat roofs, of immense blocks and slabs of stone, on which the modern Fellahs establish their villages, will question that a temple-roof might afford room for even a greater number of persons, and be strong enough to bear their weight? Indeed, when we consider the origin of the Philistines, and their near vicinity to the Egyptians, it is no unlikely supposition that the roofs of their temples, and indeed the temples themselves, were on the same large scale and general principles of arrangement as those of their great neighbours. In these temples, as in the buildings to which we have referred, there was an interior open area, with the main building opposite the gate which leads to it; and if Samson had "made sport" in the area of such a structure as an Egyptian temple, thousands of spectators might, under ordinary circumstances, have stood in perfect security on the roof of the main building and of the cloisters which usually extend around the other three sides of the quadrangle.

[graphic][merged small]

29. "The two middle pillars upon which the house stood."-To this it has been objected, how could a roof capable of accommodating three thousand persons be supported on two pillars? In the first place, we do not see that it is said there were no more than two. Indeed the expression "two middle pillars" implies that there were others, not in the middle; and if need be, we may translate: "The two midmost of the pillars on which the house stood." We have explained, that the main building, very open in front, does in most oriental buildings, public or private, occupy one side of an inclosed quadrangle. To illustrate our further ideas we give a wood-cut of an oriental residence of a superior description. It is only intended to bear on the general principle of arrangement; as we, of course, do not suppose that the "house" of the text bore any detailed resemblance to it. It will be seen that the large central hall (divan) being quite open in front, the weight of the roof there rests on two pillars (there might be more), which would rest upon the front wall if there had been any. These pillars support in the centre a heavy beam, the ends of which lodge on the side walls; and on it, of course, falls a very considerable part of the weight of the roof, whether it be flat or low, or composed of small domes, one series of which would rest their edges on this beam. Now, if these central pillars were withdrawn, the cross beam would probably not, in ordinary circumstances, break; but its unrelieved weight and that of the part of the roof (always very heavy) supported by it, would either break down the side walls on which the whole weight would then rest; or else the beam would be forced out, when of course the immediately inferior parts of the roof would fall in; and this, connected as the different parts of the of are with each other and with the walls, would in all probability involve the fall of the whole

roof, which, from its great weight, would render the simultaneous tearing down of the walls also a very natural result. If this might happen under ordinary circumstances, how much more, when the roof bore the weight of three thousand people, who were doubtless crowded in front the better to witness the performances of Samson in the open area! We should then consider the fall of the roof, and with it of the walls, an inevitable consequence of the destruction of the pillars. The fall indeed of the front parts alone would have been sufficient for the purposes of destruction; for while the people on the roof would be thronged in front to see the spectacle, those greater personages below would also be towards the front of the building, not only for the same reason, but because, if the structure were really a temple, the interior apartment-the adytum, the sanctuary-could not have been a place of concourse, that being (as in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple, and in most heathen temples) sacred to the priests.

[blocks in formation]

6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

7 ¶ And there was a young man out of Beth-lehem-judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned

there.

8 And the man departed out of the city from Beth-lehem-judah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.

9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.

10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.

11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.

12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.

13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.

4 Chap. 18. 1, and 21. 25. 7 Heb. an order of garments.

Heb. filled the hand. 6 Or, a double suit.

6 Heb. in making his way.

Chap. xvii.-Here begins what may properly be considered as an appendix to the book of Judges, and which includes the five remaining chapters, the events recorded in which happened long before the time of Samson, and probably in the interval of anarchy which ensued or began not long after the death of Joshua and the elders who outlived him. In chronological order, the proper place for these chapters would probably be between chaps. ii. and iii. This appendix consists of two main histories; one explaining the origin of idolatry (or at least of improper worship) in the tribe of Dan, and detailing the foundation of the settlement which the Danites established near the sources of the Jordan. This history, comprehended in the present and following chapter, exhibiting the measures to which the Danites resorted in consequence of their confined territory, is obviously connected with chap. i. 34, where the cause of their insufficient inheritance is stated: "The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley." The sad history which occupies the remainder of the appendix (chaps. xix.-xxi.) is expressly said to have occurred while Phineas, the grandson of Aaron (xx. 28), was high-priest; and must therefore be assigned to about the same period.

3. "I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord."-This chapter strikingly illustrates the mistaken ideas which had arisen, and which, by insensible degrees, led to downright idolatry. Micah and his mother clearly intend to honour the true God by their proceedings, which were nevertheless such as the law declared to be punishable with death. What they did seems to have been to set up a little religious establishment in imitation of that at Shiloh, probably with an imitation of the ark, of the images of the cherubim, and of the priestly dress, and ultimately completing the establishment by obtaining a Levite to officiate as priest. And all the while they thought that they were doing God service. But perhaps there was an under speculation of gain: for the proprietor of the establishment would certainly have got into thriving circumstances, if the want of a correct understanding of the law, together with the desire

to save the trouble and (in disturbed times) the apparent danger of travelling to Shiloh, had induced the people to bring their stated offerings to Micah's chapel. That they might the more readily be induced to do so, is probably the reason why Micah, after having tried with his own son as priest, was anxious to obtain for his establishment the sort of credit which the presence of an officiating Levite would appear to give. We need not add, that the Levite had no more right to officiate as a priest than Micah's own son. It will be remembered how awfully the attempt of Korah had formerly been punished.

5. "An house of Gods."—" A house of God," or "a house for god," would be more probably correct. The word usually translated "God" (D, elohim) is always plural; and as Micah evidently intended his establishment in honour of Jehovah, however mistakenly or interestedly, it might be more proper to render the word here in the singu lar, as it always is rendered when our translators understood it to refer to the true God.

7. "Of the family of Judah."—A man of the tribe of Judah could not be a Levite; and these words have therefore probably crept into the text by some mistake, unless we suppose it is merely intended to denote that the Levitical city to which he belonged, and in which he had lived (Bethlehem), was in the lot of Judah.

CHAPTER XVIII.

unce.

1 The Danites send five men to seek out an inherit3 At the house of Micah they consult with Jonathan, and are encouraged in their way. 7 They search Laish, and bring back news of good hope. 11 Six hundred men are sent to surprise it. 14 In the way they rob Micah of his priest and his consecrate things. 27 They win Laish, and call it Dan. 30 They set up idolatry, wherein Jonathan inherited the priesthood.

IN 'those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

2 And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.

3 When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?

4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.

5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go

perous.

6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.

7 Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no 'magistrate in the land,

that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.

1 Chap. 17. 6, and 21. 25.

8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?

9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.

10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.

11 And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.

12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah; wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim.

13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.

14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and_teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten shall be pros-image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.

15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and 'saluted him.

16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate.

z Heb. sons. 3 Heb. possessor, or, heir of restraint.

4 Heb. girded. 5 Heb. asked him of peace.

« PreviousContinue »