Samson and Delilah
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woohooligan Nov 9, 2015
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This past Thursday was my birthday and I spent it at the doctor. I've had this spot on my arm that's slowly grown for at least a decade and although there weren't any side-effects a couple different physicians had told me I should have a dermatologist look at it. Well because I didn't have medical insurance for most of that time, it never happened, until last Thursday on my birthday. They biopsied the whole thing and I'll know from the lab if it's malignant in a day or two. In the meantime, I've got a quarter sized hole in my arm. :P It's all good. :D

If you'd like to do something special for my birthday, please share the comic and let people know they can support Woohooligan on Patreon. Thanks!

In other news, this is a story about editing.

Editing: a thing we all take for granted.

As I sit here trying to figure out where to start writing this, I can't help but think this must be how a lot of editors feel after their first read through a new manuscript... especially from a new, unpublished author. The manuscript is soooo bad, I literally have no clue where to begin. I guess that tells me where I should begin.

Writing 101 - Syllabus
1. Have something to say.
2. Stay focused! Don't try to say everything at once.
3. Some other stuff... I wasn't really into this...

Since this is a story from the Torah, which later became the old testament of the Christian Bible, we can safely assume that the authors wanted this story to convey some kind of moral, like how the story of the boy who cried wolf is supposed to teach us about the dangers of lying and losing people's trust. The big question though is where exactly is the moral in the story of Samson? Scholars actually don't entirely agree on this point, although they do mostly agree that the intended moral was about avoiding foreign women. This is emphasized by the fact that Delilah was only one of three Philistine women Samson liked - a wife, a hooker and finally it was said he fell in love with Delilah, the only one the Torah cares to name. The message is "no foreign women, no way, no how!" Don't marry them, don't sleep with them and especially don't fall in love with them. In that respect, it's in-keeping with the misogyny that starts in Genesis when all of mankind's troubles are blamed on Eve -- even Samson's mother isn't deemed important enough to mention by name.

(As an aside, Delilah's name translates from Hebrew as "weak" or "languishing", a reference to her subduing Samson by cutting his hair... it would be like naming your daughter "venom." So obviously, the Puritans loved it!)

Getting to my point here, however, the story of Samson fails on every conceivable front as a lesson for Jews or Christians about life or faith, so here's my list of absolute failures in this story.

1) Logistics I won't belabor this point too much, because frankly, these are the smallest problems with the story of Samson, although they're the easiest to spot. Samson kills a thousand armed Philistines with the jawbone of an ass... and somehow none of them ever think "gee, maybe we should run away, etc." It's the equivalent of staring down an Abrams tank that's just mowed down dozens of regiments of heavily armed men and thinking, "I'm kind of muscly, I think I can take it!" But that's actually the smaller of the logistical problems, because the temple Samson destroyed is supposed to have had three thousand people on its roof. These people weren't constructing football stadiums or the Roman Colluseum, their temples were tiny, the size of a small American home or smaller. Three thousand people on the roof is a Noah's Ark situation and the way the bible describes it, this was just supposed to be their typical annual festival... and then they get three thousand people on top of this building and somehow all that weight is held up on two tiny little pillars? I realize these people didn't exactly have the army core of engineers at their disposal, but I'm pretty sure they were capable of better than that kind of house of cards.

2) Wait, what? Calm down, tell me what happened. The story of Samson doesn't read like a story that had a purpose. It reads like a story that was told off-the-cuff by a bullied 5th grader, who's trying to save face by writing revenge porn and then gets distracted by a diatribe about how girls are icky-gross and have cooties. I don't make this stuff up, folks! All the items in these three comic pages are pretty much as they are in any bible, you can see for yourself. I did have to edit it some to fit it into the space I allotted for the story, which meant I had to remove some parts.

I had to remove Samson's bet with his thirty groomsmen over a riddle, in which he totally Bilbos them with a "what have I got in my pocket" question that's not actually a riddle. So after stumping them with the non-riddle, you see how the authors are obviously some incredibly racist people who can't allow any Philistine to be a decent person as they're so incensed by the idea of losing a bet they accepted (and some expensive linen) that they threaten to kill his fiance and her father so she'll tell them the answer to the "riddle". And then of course when they answer Samson's "riddle" just under the wire, Samson realizes that they've coerced his wife into telling them... the obvious, logical, rational, sane, compassionate response to which is to GO KILL THIRTY TOTAL STRANGERS FROM ANOTHER CITY who were minding their own business, and use their stuff to pay the bet. What did I say? Revenge porn. No fair! Kevin cheated at monopoly and now I owe him $20 - I'M GONNA KILL THE CLERK AT THE 7-11 BECAUSE HE'S A JOCK AND HE PROBABLY DESERVES IT BECAUSE JOCKS BULLY NERDS LIKE ME!

I had to remove the bit about Samson hiding in a cave, because, you know... when you're an indestructible √úbermensch, hiding in a cave is the way to go!

I had to remove a bit of back and forth between Samson and the Philistines - those wacky Philistines always trying to kill Samson (and somehow never realizing that they could have abducted his friends or family), and Samson setting fire to all their crops. Oh, that Samson, he's such a card!

I also had to remove the story in which the Philistines lay an ambush for Samson at the city gate on his way to see the hooker and Samson decides instead to just pick up the entire city gate and carry it up into the mountains, all thirty tons of it in one hand. Because Samson basically is the Jewish Hercules (although he predates the classical Greek myths) - limitless strength, limited intelligence. Although that does raise an interesting question - why exactly is it that in almost all of our world mythology, strength and intelligence are treated like opposites. The strong characters in ancient mythology are almost invariably dumb, and then neither do you ever see a smart character simply decide to make himself strong. Contrary to the Avengers movies, the reason Thor could wield Mjolnir in the original myths is because he had a magic belt and gloves. How come Loki never tricked Thor into handing those over? Or any of a million other ways that a smart guy like Loki could achieve strength? I'm smart, what do I need invincibility for? Pfft! Hey, I'm a smart cop, I don't need a bulletproof... oh. After all, Tony Stark was smart enough to build all the Iron Man suits. Did it really take thousands of years for someone to envision a character who would do that?

Speaking of brains, that brings us to:

3) Real danger is really dangerous! This one's pretty simple to understand. If you want to warn someone of danger, you have to make it clear that the thing you're warning them about is actually dangerous. A knife in your kitchen is potentially dangerous, but we use them all the time because they're also a useful tool and as long as you know what you're doing, your risk of losing an eye or a finger is low. A large firecracker is a bit more dangerous, but if your example of poor firecracker safety is lacking, your kids are likely to still blow off a toe... "hey kids! Don't touch the firecrackers -- when I was your age, my friend Kevin put a lit M-80 in his shorts and lost his pecker!" No blowing off my pecker with an M-80, got it! But I'm sure this lit bottle-rocket in my sleeve is fine.

That's basically how the story of Samson reads. Somehow Samson is smart enough to know that his Philistine groomsmen had coerced his wife into revealing the answer to the "riddle"... and then a few years later he totally forgets that when Delilah ASKS HOW SHE CAN KILL HIM! And she didn't even do it subtly, like his wife did. According to the bible, she just flat out asks him how she can kill him... Actually it's even worse, because apparently Samson knew something was up and lied to Delilah three times (like I said, I didn't make any of this up), and then the fourth time apparently without any kind of truth serum or anything, his brain suddenly turns to tapioca and he tells her. The bible tells that this is the AWESOME POWER OF NAGGING!

So in the long run, while the authors wanted young Jewish men to learn the lesson "don't mess around with foreign women", what they heard was a little different. Don't be a dumb-shit who sleeps with a woman he knows is trying to murder him and then gives her the tools to do it because he doesn't want to hear her nag. Got it. I think I can accomplish that.

Some Hebrew scholars contend that the original text indicates that Delilah used her kung-fu grip on Samson's naughty bits during sex in order to extort the truth from him... the problem here being that even if that's true, Samson's still a dumb-shit for ignoring the first three direct requests for the information to destroy him... and for taking no precautions to prevent his hair being cut after his secret had been revealed.

Some Hebrew scholars contend that Samson had to eventually succumb to Delilah and have his eyes gouged out, because he had sinned by being with these foreign women and losing his eyes was the appropriate punishment for that... On the one hand, while I've said Samson sounds like a Mary Sue in a piece of revenge porn, we see that the original authors created their hero flawed, like us... On the other hand, they gave their hero flaws that aren't just laughable, they UNDERMINE THEIR ENTIRE RELIGION.

4) God creates the stone that God can't lift. I guess it's unfortunate for the early Jews that the Omnipotence Paradox wasn't described until the twelfth century... Basically, however, the Torah makes a whole lot of promises about what God is like and what God will or won't do. God is all powerful, God is all knowing, God is perfectly just, God will never lie to you... and then they dash it all to pieces by writing the story of Samson in which God should logically be arrested for entrapment.

Okay, so to explain this, I have to back up a little and talk about the three women Samson was involved with. Yes, the Jews of the day wanted their children to stay within the tribe (and we see how well that worked out for them, given that early Jews were all very dark skinned and today they're mostly very light-skinned). Yes, Samson got involved with foreign women and yes, the Torah says he was punished for that... it also says however that God PLANNED for Samson to get involved with those women. Lets forget for a moment that he wasn't actually responsible for cutting his own hair, so to punish him for that would be like finding out your kid had been kidnapped and then spanking him for being tied up and thrown in a van. Going back even before that, the earliest passages in Judges 14 about Samson being attracted to a Philistine woman say that his parents were unaware that God planned for Samson to try to marry that specific woman, as a part of God's plan to smite the filthy Philistines.

So the end result is, apparently, God's plan is at odds with itself.

1) God's people obey him. (That's why he was punishing them at the beginning of the story.)
2) God smites the Philistines.
3) God uses a violation of item 1 to accomplish item 2.

Ostensibly the reason Samson had to "break his vow" (in the same way that a mugging victim might break his own ribs), was so that he would find himself in the Philistine temple at the end to bring it down on top of them all... but umm... omnipotent God couldn't find any other way to make that happen? Lightning not good enough? Earthquakes not good enough? Spontaneous human combustion not good enough?

But the real problem for both God and the Jews is that God has now ensured the Jews have no way of knowing what God wants from them. The message to Jews is "God wants you to obey... until he doesn't." How will they know when they should obey? That's a good question... one that's not answered because Samson and his parents also didn't know the plan. This leads to the obvious problem for Jewish parents: yeah, mom?! You don't like me fornicating with Brittany, fine! But how do you know my fornicating with Brittany isn't God's plan?! Samson fornicating with Philistines was God's plan! D'oh!

At this point, all bets are off. If Samson's disobedience was planned, then any disobedience might be planned and the only real sensible thing to do is to go ahead and stick that lit M-80 in your shorts and say "everything will be fine, God's got a plan!"

Yeah, that's a corner they're not painting themselves back out of.

Houston, We Have Problems: It's pretty obvious at this point that, as badly as this story was written, its target audience was young Jewish men, not little children. And yet somehow, people today seem bound and determined to make every bible story for children. "Okay, kids, so let me tell you the story about how Lot's neighbors tried to rape God's angels! This is a good one! Get your blankets."

This is where we hit the modern paradox. What do we do with this thousands of years old manuscript? It's a part of our history, so even if we don't believe it, we want to keep it in tact. And if we have to keep it in tact, then we can only edit by way of emphasis, shining a light on some bits and leaving others obscure... (the only way Samson for kids ever works) aaand... that means we have to put up with a lot of weird nonsense that comes of people taking bizarre things away from it... but I guess the reality is people take bizarre ideas away from everything, even if it was created yesterday, so we'll all just have to learn to live with it... and while we're at it, laugh at it, because frankly, sometimes we're all pretty dumb. Spielberg strung us along through THREE episodes of Jaws before we realized in Jaws 3: the Revenge that the family could have moved inland! :)

I think we're doing okay though... Frankly, if you line up stories by popularity, what you can notice is that the ones that have become really popular are the stories that actually have good morals instead of revenge-fuelled racist tripe like Samson. Even if you only picked from bible stories, the most popular ones are stories of redemption and underdogs like David and Goliath. Is there blood and senseless killing in the bible? Sure... God sends a bear to kill forty-two kids because they called Elisha names... yeah, it's in there... but those aren't the passages people remember. The ones people remember are full of hope. And I think that speaks to all of us, that although our stories are sometimes horrible, we as people are far better.

In the words of Gandalf, "I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay... small acts of kindness and love."

Stay awesome, Hooligans!

You are an important part of Laughter for a Better World!

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Some Guy Nov 10, 2015
Samson Da Barbarian - I can't help but be reminded of, and recommend the Samson Trilogy by DarkMatter2525 on youtube:
woohooligan Nov 10, 2015
woohooligan Thanks! I really enjoyed those. :D

Yeah, the logistics of three thousand people on the roof... that was a great visual. I was thinking that same thing, the temples should have been tiny, especially if it was supported by only two pillars... and yet they got a football stadium full of people on it. heh... I ended up not mentioning that sort of Noah's Ark problem because I'd already drawn and written so much aside from the logistical problems. Same thing with the thousand guys he killed with the ass-bone - you would think seeing dozens of regiments of armed men torn apart in front of you by a single guy would be a deterrent. That's like seeing a Abrams tank and thinking "well, I'm pretty muscly, I think I can take it!"

Really wasn't expecting the sudden Cerebus syndrome at the end, but it makes a really good point -- the story of Samson really should be viewed in the same light as 9/11.
Zero Nov 20, 2015
Is it D? Pretty sure it's D.
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