Photo: Man Fighting a Lion
Credit: Tel Beth Shemesh Excavations
In a previous post on the Philistines, I mentioned that the Philistines were a menace to the people of Israel during the period of the judges. The Bible says that Shamgar and Samson fought against the Philistines, but were unable to overpower them (read my post on The Philistines).
According to the book of Judges, Samson had much interaction with the Philistines. He married a Philistine woman and was betrayed by Delilah, who probably was also a Philistine woman.
Recently, archaeologists have found a seal that may shed light on the story of Samson. The seal, found a Beth Shemesh, depicts a man fighting a lion. According to Shlomo Bunimovitz, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, the seal may be an early reference to the story of Samson in the book of Judges. The seal is dated to the 12th century B.C., approximately the time that Samson lived.
According to the book of Judges, Samson killed a lion with his bare hands:
“Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When he came to the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion roared at him. The spirit of the LORD rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid” (Judg 14:5-6).
It is impossible to know whether the seal of the man killing a lion is direct evidence of what Samson did. But since the seal is dated to the time of the Judges, it is possible that the story of Samson or a similar story was already known in the 12th century B.C. in Beth Shemesh.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary