Between The Pillars: Revisiting “Sampson and the House of Dagon” -- By: John Roskoski
BSpade 18:1 (Winter 2005) p. 14
Between The Pillars:
Revisiting “Sampson and the House of Dagon”
The Biblical tableau of Samson’s death in the house of the Philistine god Dagon in Gaza is familiar to the scholar and the casual reader of the Bible alike. The components of the scene are the Philistine crowd cheering at the capture of Samson, the proud Philistine lords who have come to witness the death of their enemy, and a blinded and battered Samson standing between the main pillars of the temple. In the midst of this chaotic scene Samson utters a prayer to YHWH to be remembered and strengthened so to avenge himself upon his enemies. Knowing full well that this last stand against the Philistines will cost him his life, Samson dislodges the pillars, thereby collapsing the temple upon all who were in it (Jgs 16:23–30).
The State of the Question
The historicity of this heroic account has been long debated among scholars. Indeed, many scholars seem hesitant to comment on the historicity of the Samson narratives at all. From the scholarly debate over the destruction of the Gaza temple two diametrically opposed viewpoints have emerged. John L. McKenzie typifies the first viewpoint. Always a detractor of Samson, McKenzie argues that,
BSpade 18:1 (Winter 2005) p. 15
the historical quality of heroic tales is always low. This is easy to see in Samson. A palace or temple which could support several thousand people on its roof supported by two central pillars separated by an arm’s length never existed…The world in which Samson lives is real, even if his feats of strength are not (1979: 229–30).
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