Aug 22, 2016

Samson, the Biblical Muscleman

The famous muscleman Samson appears in the Hebrew Bible in Judges 13-16.  His long hair is the source of superhuman strength, allowing him to wreak all sorts of mischief on the evil Philistines.  But Delilah teases the secret out of him and cuts his hair.  The Philistines blind him and put him to work on a giant millstone.  But he regains his strength long enough to pull down the pillars in the Temple of Dagon, killing himself and 3,000 worshippers.

Sounds similar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Several incidents from Samson's life have inspired artists. Leon Bonnat's Samson's Youth (1891) portrays a young, naked Samson killing a lion with his bare hands.  He will later use the lion's jaw to make up a riddle for the Phillistines.

At Yale University you can see a statue by John Cheere (1709-1787) of Samson getting a...I mean Samson slaying a Phillistine (he really hated them)

Probably the most common subject for artists is the betrayal by Delilah.

Giovanni Francesco Guercino's Samson Captured by the Phillistines (1619) emphasizes his muscular backside, and pushes Delilah over to the side in insignificance.

Samson and Delilah (1609-10), by Peter-Paul Rubens, shows the sleeping muscleman about to get cropped.

Paul-Albert Rouffio, Samson and Delilah (1874) by Paul-Albert Rouffio, shows a long-haired Samson with a smoking body reclining at the feat of Delilah.

Another popular theme is Samson pulling down the pillars at the Temple of Dagon. This statue is in Portugal.

This stylized depiction, with Samson as massive and square-edged as the pillars themselves, is in Ashdod, Israel.

Guido Renni's The Victorious Samson (1609) doesn't show any temples being destroyed.  A rather young, naked Samson is removing the blindfold from his eyes.