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on which the bees settled. He took the honey, and shared it with A.M. 2863.
Cur igitur missæ vinctis ardentia tædis
Ovid. Fast. Lib. IV. L. 681.
Carries a way the gates of Gaza,
A.M. 2863. thousand men with the dust. His exhausted spirits were recruited after B.C. 1141, the action by a miraculous supply of water in answer to his prayer. A.M. 2881. After a repulse so dispiriting to the enemy, the Israelitish hero B.c. 1120. did not scruple to venture into Gaza, one of their cities, and lodge
in a house of public entertainment. A guard was immediately placed round the house and at the city gates to prevent his escape; but he rose at midnight and carried off the gates, posts, bars, and chains, to the top of a hill, near or in sight of Hebron: the distance between the two places was no less than twenty miles. The guards, who did not interrupt him, were probably paralyzed with astonishment at this extraordinary, and, to every appearance, superhuman action.
The next adventure exhibits Samson in a very unfavourable light. He attached himself to a woman, name Delilah, who lived in the vale of Sorek, a place celebrated for its choice wines, and in the immediate vicinity of Eshcol, whence the Israelitish spies formerly brought the luxuriant sample of grapes. Some of the Fathers maintain that this was a legal marriage, but with too little probability; no allusion being made in Scripture history to any such contract, and there being nothing in the whole conduct of either to justify any other
conclusion, than that she was a mercenary prostitute, and he her Fatal amour. infatuated captive. The five Philistine princes were not a little
gratified to hear of this amour, expecting that by dextrous management they might render it subservient to their hostility against Samson. They immediately offered the woman a large bribe of eleven hundred pieces of silver each, or five thousand five hundred shekels in the whole, upon condition of her ascertaining from him the source of his extraordinary strength, and how it might be countervailed. He at first amused her with the assurance that if he were bound with seven green withs, (probably the flexible branches of vines, which are very tough,) he should become as weak as another man. This experiment was soon tried; but the Philistines found themselves deceived, for he broke them as soon as he was attacked. Next, pretending that new ropes which had never been used would fully accomplish the purpose of enfeebling him, he suffered himself to be bound; but when they would have seized him, he snapped them as before. A third time he deceived Delilah and his enemies, by directing her to weave the seven locks of his hair, with the web, into tresses; but he awoke out of sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam and web, or the whole machinery of the loom.
At length, by incessant importunity, this crafty woman obtained the important secret that his strength lay in the preservation of his hair.” He stated to her that, having been a Nazarite from his
2- Alcathoe, quam Nisus habet; cui splendidus ostro
Inter honoratos medio de vertice canos
Thalamos taciturna paternos
Ovid. Metam. Lib. VIII. L. 8–10 et 84-86.
Crine suum spoliat.
taken by the
conception, no razor had touched his head; but that if deprived of A.M. 2881. this ornament and glory, which was also the sign of his obedience 1.c. 1120. to the laws of Nazariteship, upon which divine aid depended, he should certainly be enfeebled. Upon this she despatched a message in all haste to the lords of the Philistines, who deposited in her hand the price of her treachery; and when she had cut off his hair as he lay asleep upon her lap, the Philistines took him, put out his Samson is eyes, bound him with fetters of brass, and, having carried him to Philistines. Gaza, compelled him to do the work of a slave in a prison. In this ignominious condition he continued for some time, till on a certain occasion the Philistines assembled in great multitudes to offer a sacrifice and keep a feast in honour of Dagon, their god, to whom they attributed their success in securing the detested Israelite. In the midst of the festivity, and with a view to enhance its pleasures, they thought of sending for Samson, that they might indulge the dastard spirit of ridicule over a humbled enemy. But their sport was soon terminated by an unexpected calamity; for having requested the lad that led him about, to allow him a little respite by reclining against one of the two pillars which supported the building, Samson uttered a fervent petition to heaven for strength to be avenged on the Philistines, and grasping firmly both the pillars, the one with his right hand, and the other with his left, he pulled them from their positions, and buried himself with three thousand persons, including the Philistine princes, in one mighty ruin. Thus ended the exploits of twenty years. It is not easy to determine what was the shape of the building in which the lords of the Philistines, and these immense multitudes of spectators were assembled, or to what purposes it was usually devoted. But it is evident that ancient structures frequently depended much, or wholly, upon a single pillar or stone; the whole strength of this building, for instance, rested upon the two pillars supporting the roof. A similar stress must be supposed, in other cases, upon the corner-stone (like the key-stone of the arch) to which such frequent allusion is made in the Scriptures; it is said that a theatre of Rome, capable of holding many thousands of spectators, was so constructed as to depend upon a single pivot; and hence Cato expressed his astonishment at the folly and rashness of the Roman people, who would trust themselves in a building, wherein, if a single hinge gave way, more lives would be lost than were sacrificed in the battle of Cannæ. His relations now fetched home Samson's remains, which were yielded without hesitation in the universal panic, to give them an honourable interment in his father's sepulchre.
During the entire life of Samson, and after his death, the Israelites were in a state of general subjection to their enemies; and in what sense Samson is denominated a judge is not very obvious: not certainly as a civil magistrate, but probably as exercising a defensive power in behalf of the Israelites, against the exactions
A.M. 2884. and insolence of their oppressors. As from the very nature of their B.c. 1120. office, the judges were not so much regular governors, as extraor
dinary protectors raised up and invested with a divine commission, for the purposes of occasional interference to effect reformation, or to afford a defence, we are not to be surprised that Eli, who is usually ranked in the order of succession next to Samson, should, however, be rather considered as supreme in the state during the period in which the latter performed his exploits. But although for forty years he united in himself the two principal civil and ecclesiastical functions, and though in some respects he was highly estimable, his history, as given in Scripture, consists only of a few fragments, interspersed through the more important life of his successor, SAMUEL; and in a similar manner we shall interweave it
in our narrative, rather than aim to give it a very distinct prominence. Hannah and It was at the time when Eli was presiding as high priest at
Shiloh, that Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, a Levite, and an inhabitant of Ramah, having gone to the usual sacrificial festival at Shiloh, availed herself of an opportunity of “ pouring out her soul before God” at the tabernacle; requesting the removal of the reproach which she daily suffered from Peninnah, her copartner in the embraces, though far her inferior in the affections of Elkanah, by the bestowal of a son. The fervent, yet silent manner of her appeal, induced Eli to mistake her emotions for intoxication, with which he most precipitately accused her; but upon the circumstance
being explained, he as readily retracted, and changed the language A.M. 2833. of uncharitableness into that of benediction. The acceptance of B.C. 1171. Hannah's prayer was at length corroborated in the birth of a child, Samuel. whom her piety and gratitude concurred to name SAMUEL, that is.
“ asked of God.” Having been devoted as a Nazarite from his infancy, he was no sooner weaned, than his parents presented him to Eli for the service of the tabernacle, by whom he was invested with the distinguishing ephod.
The extraordinary character of Samuel soon began to be developed, in a commission which he received immediately from Heaven, to denounce its displeasure against Eli, for his criminal remissness with regard to his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, whose libertine baseness was scarcely reproved, and not at all restrained by parental authority. The spirit of the aged priest upon the occasion, demands notice, and deserves imitation; “ It is the Lord,” he exclainned, “ let him do what seemeth him good.” The appearance of a prophet like Samuel in this period of suspended revelations, awakening in the bosoms of the almost desponding Israelites the liveliest anticipations, they immediately adopted measures to disenthral themselves from Philistine subjugation ; but they were defeated with the loss of four thousand men. As they imputed this disaster to the absence of the ark, it was fetched into the camp amidst great exultations, but a second overthrow involved the loss of thirty
thousand foot, (among whom were Hophni and Phinehas,) and above A.M. 2833. all of the ark, which the enemy captured; intelligence of which B.c. 1171. latter calamity being suddenly communicated to Eli, he fell backwards “ and his neck brake, and he died.” The Philistines had but little cause to triumph in the captivity of the ark. This sacred possession was carried into the temple of Dagon, to whom they ascribed their victory; and the priests, upon entering the national shrine, the next morning, found their god fallen to the ground before the ark. Imputing this circumstance to accident, they again set up the statue. The following day, the image was discovered again fallen, and the head and hands broken upon the threshold of his own temple, so as to leave the trunk only remaining. The people themselves were smitten with grievous bodily diseases, which pursued them from city to city, wherever they transported the ark, until they restored it, with commemorative offerings, to the Israelites. Dagon is described by the sacred historian as being human in the upper part of his figure: in the lower, he is supposed, upon authorities too numerous to cite, to have been in the shape of a fish. · The captivity of the ark, and the consequent suspension of the A.M. 2863. public services at Shiloh, tended to the increasing debasement and B.c. 1141. degeneration of the people, which only stimulated our eminent prophet and ruler to exert his energies to accomplish a general reformation, by whose means an assembly was at length convened Samuel at Mizpeh, for the purpose of publicly renouncing their sins, and assa returning to God by fasting, humiliation, sacrifice, and prayer, prophet. This solemnity excited the apprehensions of their enemies, who accordingly determined upon frustrating their plans, by coming suddenly upon them; but as their repentance was sincere, and their consequent reconciliation to offended goodness immediate, the Supreme Being declared himself in their favour after Samuel's sacrifice and intercession ; the Philistines were panic-struck by a tremendous thunder-storm, and by their flight and dispersion enabled the pursuing Israelites ultimately to dictate terms of peace: in commemoration of which deliverance, Samuel erected a monumental memorial, which he called Ebenezer, or “the stone of help.”
While victory had now rendered the Israelites secure from external attacks, the proper administration of justice, by their illustrious governor, conferred upon them internal prosperity and happiness. Samuel exercised his judicial authority with evident advantage to all classes of the community, and by annual circuits took upon himself the inspection and regulation of civil affairs. He moreover erected a public altar of worship, as the best substitution for the deserted ordinances of Shiloh ; and to him have been ascribed those institutions which were called the schools of the The schools prophets, of which we cannot at this distance of time collect any probh
prophets. very exact information. They appear to have been originally