Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Book of Samson

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The Book of Samson

by David Maine

The Book of Samson by David Maine
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2007, 240 pages

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David Maine was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona and has worked in the mental-health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife, journalist and novelist, Uzma Aslam Khan (author of The Story of Noble Rot, 2001; and Trespassing, 2003), who was born in Karachi, and has studied and taught English in the USA, Morocco and Lahore.

The story of Samson appears in the Old Testament Book of Judges. It also appears in the Tanakh (the sacred book of Judaism, combining the Torah and other writings) where Samson is known as Shimshon or Simson, which apparently translates as either "of the sun" or "one who serves God".

It is interesting to note that of all the biblical figures Maine could have chosen for his third novel he chose to focus on the tale of Samson, a person who is arguably the first and most famous Judeo-Christian "suicide bomber" (my words), who "prayed to the Lord .... please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines" and thus "killed many more when he died than while he lived" (Judges 16.28 & 30). It's also interesting to note that the story of Samson is absent from the Quran, which does not condone suicide in any form.

Did you know?

  • Samson has been portrayed many times in the arts, fitting the moods of different ages. For example, Michelangelo sculpted Samson and Two Philistines, and Rembrandt completed a whole series of paintings around the 1630s including The Blinding of Samson, Delilah Calls the Philistines, The Sacrifice of Menoah, Samson Accusing His Father-In-Law, Samson Betrayed by Delilah and Samson Putting Forth His Riddles at the Wedding Feast. Milton (an ardent republican) penned Samson Agonistes in 1671, shortly after the Restoration of the English monarchy replaced the short-lived republic; Handel composed Samson (1743), and Cecil B. DeMille directed Samson and Delilah (1950).
  • Samson was a Nazirite, which comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning consecrated or separated. A Nazirite is a Jew who takes an ascetic vow to abstain from all grape related products and from cutting his hair, and to avoid corpses and graves, even of family members.
  • Followers of the Rastafari movement (often referred to as Rastifarians) consider themselves nazarites - hence the dreadlocks.

This article was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the November 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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