Strength!

October 1st, 2016| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0

Strength!

A long time ago, in a place far away ….

Sometime in the early 1300s, somewhere in Toulouse, France ….

The parchment is officially called the “Decretals of Gregory IX,” collections of the Pope’s letters. The volume is striking for its splendid illuminations, characteristic of the medieval manuscripts.

Particularly stunning is a piece of art on one of its pages. This enigmatic figure certainly looks like “a certain little—and powerful—green guy” from the Stars Wars franchise. Bloggers Damien Kempf and Maria Gilbert on the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog highlighted this strange coincidence between science fiction and a religious tome. What was that Yoda character doing in the 14th century?

Well, he is supposed to be around 900 years old, you know.

Explained curator Julian Harrison:

I’d love to say that it really was Yoda, or was drawn by a medieval time traveler. It’s actually an illustration to the biblical story of Samson—the artist clearly had a vivid imagination!”

Interestingly, we have no idea what Samson looked like, except for this in Judges 16.

And he [Samson] said to her [Delilah],
“If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the loom and fasten it with a pin,
then I will become weak and be like any other man.”
So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the loom.
Judges 16:13–14

This is the only physical description of Samson that we have: his never-cut hair was braided in seven locks. If Samson were shaped like Superman, it would have been obvious that his strength was exclusively muscular. It is therefore quite likely that he was an ordinary-looking dude, except for his odd hair length and style.

That’s why the Philistines are convinced that Samson’s power was supernatural. Every time Samson bluffed Delilah—that his strength would be abated if he were bound with seven “fresh cords/sinews” or new ropes or if his hair was woven into a loom, or if he were shaved—the Philistines believed him. This is magic, after all, they thought, that’s why it wasn’t obvious what fresh cords or new ropes or hair would have to do with the man’s might.

But with Samson’s fourth and final answer to Delilah, he had told the truth: shaving his head would negate his strength, not because of some magical property of his hair, but because he would then have violated a key aspect of his dedication to God, as the angel of God had warned Samson’s mother in her pregnancy.

“For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son,
and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God.”
Judges 13:5

The subsequent sequence of events is illuminating: his hair was gone, and his strength was gone because God was gone.

She … shaved off the seven locks of his hair.
Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. …
He did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
Judges 16:19

Later his hair regrows, and his strength returns because God enables him.

The hair of his head began to grow again ….
Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, … please strengthen me.”
Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and …
he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it.

Judges 16:22, 28, 29

His hair had nothing to do with his strength. God was his strength. And God alone is ours, too.

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