Philistines See Samson Before He Appears

Philistines See Samson Before He Appears
Judges 16:23-25

In the book of Judges, chapter 16, the long-haired Samson has been shaved and lost his God-granted super-powerful strength. He is now blinded and imprisoned in a grinding room. The Philistines he has tormented (as part of God’s plan) are gleeful.

Let’s examine a small issue of the Judges text from chapter 16. From the New King James Version:

Judges 16:23-25 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said: “Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!” 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said: “Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy, The destroyer of our land, And the one who multiplied our dead.” 25 So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars. (NKJV)

In verse 24, “when the people saw him,” who is the referent of “him?” Is it the god Dagon or Samson? When people saw Dagon? The people saw Samson?

Per the sentence construction, it might be either Samson or god Dagon, Yet as the people have not actually called for Samson to be pulled out of his cell and brought out for display, the “him” of verse 24 must refer to Dagon, yes? Samson does not appear in view of the people until verse 25. Yes?

But then, does the god Dagon — a statue of some sort — somehow make an appearance, other than simply being already part of the scene?

Neither Dagon nor Samson makes good sense as the referent for “him.”

The Hebrew of this phrase is “seeing him” and nearly all English translations keep this ambiguous “him.”

The Amplified Bible however, interprets the Hebrew “him” as Samson, and explicitly substitutes “Samson” as this object:

23 …for they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands!” 24 When the people saw Samson, they praised their god… (Amp)

Beyond this word interpretation, some see the “him” phrase as part of a larger misplacement of text in this passage. There is an arguably better flow of text if the “when the people saw him” line is moved near the end of verse 25, after Samson is put on display. We show this in the graphic depictions below:

Some of the text seems to be in the wrong location:

Here is our conjectural “correction:”

Given our rearranged text, now who is the referent? From our rearrangement:

“… when their hears were merry, they said “call for Samson,” so they called for Samson. And when the people saw him, they praised Dagon and said ‘our god has delivered our enemy, the destroyer of our land, and the one who killed many of us.’ And he performed…”

Here it is clearly Samson.

Furthermore, the passage and situation as a whole reads more cleanly.

But is this cleaner passage the more original passage?

We at Bible Bits are reluctant to tweak the Biblical text. At the same time, we recognize the certainty of textual corruption due to copyist error, editorial insertion, and the nuances of English translation choices.

In any event, the examination of passages for possible text misplacement is a good Bible study technique. Even in cases where there is no corruption, this close examination of the words and text forces the student’s mind to know and understand what God is saying by comparing the possibilities of what God might be saying. It is an analysis tool, and analysis is good, as long as one doesn’t overlook the obvious.

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If you weigh-in on this passage and Bible Bit, please stay close to the text misplacement issue, and be sure to cite your scholarly sources, and quote from Bible passages. 🙂

Blessings to you! God’s blessings to you!

Please read the actual Bible for yourself. 🙂

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