By Rusty Wright
Beware of seductive women who want to know the secret of your superpowers. And who keep scissors in their boudoir.
The biblical Samson bears many similarities to today’s film superheroes: Superhuman abilities, courage, concern for justice. But he’s also flawed, sometimes selfish, impulsive, enraged.
Of course, there’s no Batmobile, Kryptonite, or Golden Lasso of Truth in this “Samson” film, no intergalactic Sci-Fi spaceship battles. But the ancient epic still has entertainment value galore, plus deep significance for anyone concerned that justice triumph over evil, or that imperfect leaders get a shot at redemption.
The “Samson” cast includes Billy Zane (“Titanic”), Golden Globe winner Rutger Hauer (“Blade Runner”), Jackson Rathbone (“Twilight”), Lindsay Wagner (“The Bionic Woman”) as Samson’s mother, Caitlin Leahy (“Black-ish”) as Delilah, and Taylor James (“Justice League”) as Samson.
A Samson primer
Moviegoers unfamiliar with Samson’s story might wish to read the brief biblical account before heading to the theater. Even if you’re familiar with it, a refresher could help. (I needed one.) It’s in Judges 13-16. Here’s a primer:
At times, Israel strayed far from the divine path. Israelites felt their God sometimes used oppression for discipline. The barbaric Philistines often mocked Israel’s God and treated the Hebrews like slaves.
A barren Hebrew wife told her husband an angel said she would bear a son who would “begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” She conceived and bore Samson.
When he became a young man, Samson’s hormones were not dormant. Enamored of a Philistine woman, he asked his parents to “get her for me.” Attacked by a lion en route to visiting his intended, Samson “ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands.”
He later used a riddle related to the lion in a kind of wager with male Philistine wedding participants, who pressured the bride to get the riddle’s answer from Samson. Furious over the outcome (remember, “impulsive” and “enraged”), he conceded the wager but returned home without his bride, whom the Philistines gave to his best man.
Writing a new chapter in the “How Not to Begin Your Marriage” manual, Samson later set the Philistines’ grain fields, vineyards and olive groves on fire. In return, they burned to death his former bride and her father. Samson killed many Philistines, then went into hiding.
A donkey’s jawbone
Ramped up Philistine attacks prompted Hebrews to persuade Samson to surrender to their rulers. Samson agreed, but in a dramatic display of strength, burst his bonds and – using the jawbone of a donkey – killed a thousand Philistines. He served Israel as a judge (leader/magistrate) for twenty years.
Back to the seductive women. One night, Samson visited a prostitute in Gaza. Men eager to kill him waited by the city gate. Around midnight, Samson lifted the heavy gate doors and posts from the ground and carried them to the top of a hill. Plot foiled.
My, my, my, Delilah …
Later, Philistine leaders bribed Samson’s lover, Delilah, to learn the secret of his unearthly powers. She got him to confess: It involved his hair, which had never been cut. Lulling him to sleep, she had his locks shorn. His super strength gone, he spent the rest of his days blind, in Philistine captivity.
But one night at a temple victory festival for over 3,000 people, Philistine leaders brought Samson out for amusement. Samson asked God for his strength back. With his hands on the temple’s center pillars…
You probably know what happened next. If not, I suggest you read the text or see the film … or both (it’s good). A flawed leader who did not always want to follow his God’s direction ended his life in divine service.
Good can triumph over evil, and failed leaders can turn second chances into positive outcomes.
- Rated PG-13 (USA) “for violence and battle sequences”
- Samson the Movie website
- Opens Feb. 16 (USA)
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.