Led by Moses, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years but did not cross the river into the Promised Land. Nearing the end of his life, Moses named Joshua his successor, so it was Joshua, not Moses, who brought the Israelites across the river, and it was also Joshua who vanquished the native Canaanites—who were slightly darker complexioned than the Israelites and thus altogether innocent of the ways of war. Joshua vanquished the Canaanites pitilessly, as God instructed him, and Diversity grieved to watch indigenous people routed, and she stood on the side of the road as the Israelites ran amuck, laying waste to the locals, and the road was littered with death, and Diversity looked straight into the camera, and a solitary tear leaked from her eye.
But what could she do? Were these not the sons and daughters of Abraham? Had she herself not promised Abraham and his descendants the land to which they now returned? Her only recourse was to raise up another people, the Philistines, to keep the Israelites in check. And so it came to pass that the Philistines became the perennial adversaries of the Israelites, tormenting them not only with war, but with fast food, elevator music, and paintings of dogs playing poker.
Joshua named no successor at his death, so leadership among the Israelites fell to men and women called judges, not only because of their long robes but also because of their habit of criticizing those around them in harsh terms, regardless of whose feelings they hurt.
The mightiest of these judges was Samson.
Before Samson was conceived, an angel appeared to his mother and told her that she would become pregnant, and that the son whom she bore would be a great warrior in the struggle against the Philistines, as well as the very embodiment of masculinist chauvinism and heteronormativity. To fulfill that destiny, however, her son would have to live a pure life. Wine must never pass by his lips, the angel told her, nor must a razor ever touch his scalp, nor must he eat anything unclean, nor touch anything dead. The woman relayed the angel’s words to her husband, and the two lay together, and they conceived a son, whom they called Samson, and they raised Samson as the angel had instructed them.
One day, when Samson was a young man, he left his parents’ village and wandered through the towns of the Philistines, taking in the sights with the full malignant rapacity of his male gaze. One of the sights he took in was a young woman from city of Timnah. He decided that she was the woman he would marry, and after he returned home, he told his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”
His parents tried to talk him out of it. “Isn’t there even one acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”
But Samson’s mind was made up. “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”
Reluctantly, his parents consented. Samson therefore returned to Timnah to introduce himself to the woman. On the way, however, he was attacked by a lion, whom God had sent to rebuke him. Samson grabbed the lion by its mouth and ripped it in half. As he stared down at the two halves of the lion, Samson muttered underneath his breath, “Everybody’s a critic.” He heard the sound of hands clapping behind him. He turned and saw a Philistine boy leaning against the wooden post of a vineyard. (For this was the form that Bias had taken.)
“Man!” the boy said. “That was badass!”
“What choice did I have?” Samson said.
“You tore that pussy up!”
“Yes, but I took no pleasure in it. What is your name?”
The boy thought for a moment. “Zarathustra.”
“Is that a Philistine name? It is unfamiliar to me.”
“That’s right…it’s a Philistine name. That’s the ticket.”
“I’m pleased to know you, Zarathustra,” Samson said.
“Can you teach me how to do that?” Zarathustra asked.
“How to do what?”
“How to tear that pussy up. That was so badass.”
Samson shook his head. “No, you are too young.”
Zarathustra left, shaking his head, and Samson continued his trek to Timnah. There he spoke to the young Philistine woman whom he liked, and afterward he was even more determined to marry her. His parents were able to arrange the marriage as Samson wished.
Samson returned to Timnah to marry the woman, and on the way he stopped to look at the dead lion, and he discovered that a swarm of bees were living in the carcass, and he reached in and scooped out a handful of honey, which he ate as he went along. Then, out of nowhere, the shepherd boy again appeared, and he looked at Samson with great admiration.
“Zarathustra!” Samson exclaimed. “Come to my wedding!”
To which Zarathustra replied, “Wow, that was so badass!”
“The way you ate out that pussy! You just bent over and ate it out like it was nothing!”
“It was very sweet,” Samson said.
“You are such a badass!”
Samson looked up and saw Timnah before him, and was glad he had reached his destination, but when he turned back around, the shepherd boy was gone.
So Samson married the Philistine woman, and then he held a week-long feast to celebrate his marriage, and thirty men from Timnah showed up to celebrate. As he regarded the Philistine men, he proposed a wager. “I will tell you a riddle. If you can answer it correctly within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments. If you cannot answer correctly, you must given me thirty linen garments.”
“Tell us your riddle!” the men shouted.
Samson told them his riddle: “How many feminists does it take to grind grain into flour?”
For three days, the Philistine men could not come up with an answer. Then they went to Samson’s wife and told her, “Did you invite us to your wedding feast to steal our property? Find out the answer to your husband’s riddle and tell us, or we will murder you and your parents and everyone in your parents’ household.”
So Samson’s wife flung herself into his arms, sobbing, “You hate me! You have given my people a riddle, but you have not told me the answer!”
He replied, “No one, not even my own father or mother, knows the answer to that riddle. Why should I tell you?”
But Samson’s wife wept ceaselessly for the remaining days of the feast, and on the seventh day Samson relented and told her the answer to his riddle…which she in turn told to her countrymen.
Before sunset on the seventh day, the Philistine men came to Samson and repeated the riddle, “How many feminists does it take to grind grain into flour?”
“Yes,” Samson replied. “Now tell me your answer.”
“Here is the answer,” they said: “That’s not funny!”
Then Samson burned with rage, for he knew that the Philistine men could not have solved his riddle if his wife had not told them the answer. So he stormed out of the marriage feast, and he went to the Philistine town of Ashkelon, and he struck down thirty Philistine men there, and he took their linen garments, and gave these garments to the thirty Philistine men of Timnah in payment of their wager with him. But Samson continued to burn with rage, and later on, during the time of the wheat harvest, when he went again to his wife, he learned that her father had given her to one of the Philistine men to whom Samson had lost his bet.
“Isn’t her younger sister more attractive?” the father said. “Take her…and I’ll ever throw in a sister-to-be-named later.”
Instead, Samson caught three hundred foxes and tied them together in pairs, tail to tail. Then he fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches, and let the foxes loose in the wheat fields. In this way, he burned all of the Philistines’ wheat as well as their vineyards and olive groves.
When the Philistines discovered who had done this thing, they put to death Samson’s wife and her father.
Thus ended Samson’s first marriage. He returned to his parents’ home among the Israelites, but the Philistines pursued him. They found him in Judah and rushed toward him, shouting their war cries, but Samson lifted up the jawbone of an ass and struck down a thousand Philistine men. “With the jawbone of an ass,” Samson said, “I have made asses of them.”
Again, he heard hands clapping behind him and saw the shepherd boy.
“That’s what they get for assuming….”
“Zarathustra, my friend!” Samson said.
“You tore that ass up!”
“No, the ass was dead when I found it….”
“You tore that ass up like it was nothing.”
“The Lord provided the ass.”
“Why didn’t you take the younger sister?”
“What younger sister?”
“Your wife’s younger sister. Their father offered her to you, straight up.”
“How could I, under the circumstances? The man had betrayed me.”
“You passed up sister-in-law-ass,” Zarathustra said. “That’s so badass.”
“Man, you would have torn that ass up!”
Samson led the Israelites for twenty years after that, and the Israelites won many battles during that time. But as the proverb reminds us, once you go Philistine, you never go back. Thus, Samson fell in love with another Philistine woman called Delilah from the Valley of Sorek. As word of his infatuation circulated, the Philistines came to her and said, “See if you can trick him into revealing the secret of his great strength so that we may subdue him. Each of us will pay you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”
So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be subdued.”
Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have no been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
So she told several Philistine men to hide in her room, and she waited until Samson fell asleep, and she tied him up with seven bowstrings, and then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Whereupon Samson woke up, snapped the bowstrings, and dispatched the men.
Then Delilah said, “You have made a fool of me! You lied to me! Now tell me how you can be subdued!”
To which Samson replied, “If anyone ties me with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
So again Delilah told several Philistine men to hide in her room, and she waited until Samson fell asleep, and she tied him with new ropes, and then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Whereupon Samson woke up, snapped the new ropes, and dispatched the men.
Then Delilah said, “Again, you have made a fool of me and lied to me! Tell me how you can be subdued!”
To which Samson replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my hair into the a fabric on the loom and tighten it with a pin, I’ll become as week as any other man.”
So once again Delilah told several Philistine men to hide in her room, and she waited until Samson fell asleep, and she wove the braids of his hair on the loom, and she tightened the fabric with a pin, and then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Whereupon Samson woke up, pulled out the pin, undid the fabric, and dispatched the men.
Then Delilah said, “How can you say you love me when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength!” Day after day, night after night, she nagged him until he was sick to death of the subject.
So at last he told her the truth: “No razor has ever touched my scalp,” he said. “If my head were shaved, my strength would be gone, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
This time, Delilah sensed that he had told her the truth, and she reported as much directly to the rulers of the Philistines, who paid her the silver shekels they’d promised. Then, when Samson fell asleep on her lap, she shaved his head, and his strength left him, and he was as weak as any other man. Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Whereupon Samson woke up, and the Philistines rushed into the room, and they seized him, and they gouged out his eyes, and they made him a slave, and they set him to work in their mills, grinding grain into flour.
Gradually, however, Samson’s hair began to grow back….
Some time later, the rulers of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to celebrate the capture of Samson, declaring, “Dagon has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”
Many of the people also came to the temple to celebrate with their rulers, and while they were in high spirits, the people shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.”
So the rulers sent for Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When he was brought among the pillars of the temple, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean on them.” The temple, by then, was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof of the temple were three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Strengthen me once more, and let me get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars of the temple. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He pushed with all his strength, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus, he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Then Samson’s brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him in the tomb of his father. Among his mourners was a lone shepherd boy who could be heard muttering, “That guy was such a badass.”