The Symbolism Of The Lion And The Bees: Another Ironic Twist In The Samson Cycle -- By: Martin Emmrich

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 44:1 (Mar 2001)
Article: The Symbolism Of The Lion And The Bees: Another Ironic Twist In The Samson Cycle
Author: Martin Emmrich


The Symbolism Of The Lion And The Bees:
Another Ironic Twist In The Samson Cycle

Martin Emmrich*

[* Martin Emmrich is instructor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PO Box 27009, Philadelphia, PA 19118.]

The use of symbolism has always been regarded as one of the hallmarks of classical Hebrew poetry. Symbolic features in narrative prose, however, are far more difficult to trace and are often more likely to be read into the text than to constitute an integral part of its makeup. This is different in the case of Samson’s killing of a lion (Judg 14:6) and the subsequent surprising discovery that the carcass had become the hospice of a beehive (14:8). The aim of the present study, then, is to throw into relief the symbolic undercurrents of this remarkable account, particularly in relation to Samson’s role as the one through whom Yahweh would “begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13:5). Consequently, the inclusion of the episode in the Samson cycle boasts greater significance than to authenticate the judge’s high calling or to provide an initial “demonstration of Samson’s strength, which the text says was from the deity.”1

I. Deliverance Anticipated

The Samson story holds a number of rather unique features in comparison with the other cycles in the book of Judges, notwithstanding those features that make it so much like other accounts of the careers of judge-figures.2 Thus, even a cursory reading of the book will show that the story of the “last” 3 of the judges is far more biographical in nature than any of the preceding episodes. Only the Samson cycle commences with a birth

narrative, 4 and that chapter 16 includes an account of Samson’s death also sets the cycle apart as the only one that evokes the notion of a well-rounded story about a judge’s life. It is in the birth narrative that we find the conspicuous angelic announcement, which itself is unprecedented in the book of Judges: “ … The child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb. And he will begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13:5). These words point out right from the start that Samson, as a deliverer, would leave behind an incomplete legacy, and that someone else would have to ...

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