Samson, Bible Archaeology

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Tamara Lempicka, detail of painting


born to be bad

A male lion with fearsome teeth in its open mouth

Samson's story
She done him wrong

Hair styles of ancient Assyrian warriors - similar to Samson's

Bible Warriors

Map of the lands of the Bible

Where it happened








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Roaring lion


The Philistines


Bible Study Resource

Samson came from the tribe of Dan (Judges 13-16). A Nazirite from birth, he was renowned for strength and courage. 

Samson did not lead his tribe in war, but he sacrificed his life for his people. His story with its mingling of sex and hero-worship made a a wonderful tale about love and revenge. 

Scholars have pointed out the significance of the story's symbols: 

  • Samsonís strength depended on his long hair, as the sunís power is in its rays 

  • he was betrayed to his enemies when Delilah (her name means 'night' - 'leilah') shaved off his hair/rays 

  • blinded and humiliated, he revenged himself on his tormentors by hurling aside the central pillars of the temple of Gaza and bringing death to the entire assembly -- and himself. 

Above: reconstruction of a temple like the one in Samson's story: 1, 9, courtyards; 2  entrance room; 3 main hall; 4 wooden pillar resting on a stone base; 5 shrine; 6 storage room; 7 raised plastered platform; 8 stone threshold like the one described in 1 Samuel 5:4Ė5; 10 street. 

The pillar bases of an excavated Philistine temple at Tel Qasile

The pillar bases of an excavated Philistine temple at Tel Qasile

The Philistines

The epic of his exploits and his romance with Delilah may originally have been a village folk tale reflecting social life and rivalries during this period of initial contact between the highly civilized Philistines and the only-recently nomadic Hebrews. Secure in their five coastal city kingdoms (see map below), the Philistines, who were equipped with chariots, continually challenged the presence on their land of the weak Israelite tribes. 

With few arms (the Israelites had slings and perhaps some axes and armor but no chariots, the Hebrews were at their mercy. The book of Judges therefore could not relate that the Danites found a 'Judge' who could deliver them from the enemy. Instead, it tells of a series of desperate partisan attacks centred around a single charismatic hero of herculean strength. 

Philistine pottery

Philistine pottery

The location of the land of the Philistines

The location of the land of the Philistines


See other fascinating links between 
Archaeology and the Bible




Bible Study Resource for Archaeology: Samson & Delilah, background to the story, ancient armor, cities, chariots, Philistines

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