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Last updated: 1/25/2017
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The Story of Samson I

Samson 1 / Samson 2
Images of Women in Renaissance Prints and Drawings
Biblical Subjects / Mythological Subjects / Allegorical Subjects / Historical Subjects
Adam and Eve / Noah / Lot and his Daughters / Joseph / Samson / Jephthah and his Daughter
David / Judith / Esther / Susanna and the Elders
De Vos Old Testament Women 1 / De Vos Old Testament Women 2 / De Vos New Testament Women
The Virgin Mary / Mary Magdalen / The Woman taken in adultery / The Crucifixion / The Lamentation / The Resurrection
Women play a crucial role in the story of Samson as told in Judges 13:1-16:31. The story begins with the statement that "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years" (Judg. 13:1). Samson becomes the means to begin to reclaim Israel. Manoah and his wife, who is barren, pray to God, and a man appears to his wife warning her not to eat anything unclean lest she harm the baby that is to come. Manoah, who has not spoken to this man finally gets to hear him confirm this message and requests that they eat together, then that he be allowed to make a sacrifice to the man. He is instead told to make a sacrifice to God: "So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD" (Judg. 13:19-21). In due time the child is born, named Samson, and receives the gift of strength from God, who also begins moving him to act: "And the spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol" (Judg. 13:25).

The first of those actions is to request that his father get him a Philistine woman as a wife. His father and mother, unhappy with this notion, urge him to take a woman of Israel for a bride, but ultimately do as he demands; "Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel" (Judg. 14:3-4). On the way to visit the Philistine woman, Samson is attacked by a young lion, "And the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid" (Judg. 14:6); on the way home, Samson sees that bees have made a nest in the lion's body and he scoops out some of the honey and eats it and offers some to his parents but he does not tell them where it came (Judg. 14:9). Samson makes a feast for his wife and thirty young men come to celebrate the wedding. Samson offers them a wager: if they can guess his riddle, he will give them blankets and clothes for thirty; if not, they must give him the same amount, Unable to guess his riddle (where did the sweetness originate), they beg Samson's bride to get the information from him: "And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. And the spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house" (Judg. 14:15-19).

Samson returns to claim his bride, and is told by her father that, thinking Samson displeased with her, he has given her to someone else, but that Samson is welcome to her younger daughter. Less than happy with this response, Samson takes action again: "Judg. 15:3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives. Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam" (Judg. 15:3-8). The Philistines are not pleased with Samson and demand that the men of Judah tie him up and hand him over for punishment, which they do: "Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them. And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock. And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men" (Judg. 15:11-16). This slaughter marks the beginning of Samson's public office: "And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years" (Judg. 15:20).

Samson's desire for Philistine women continues, and he falls in love with another one: And it came to pass afterward, that he loved "a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver " (Judg. 16:4-5). She begs to know the secret of his strength, and though she repeatedly betrays him, ultimately he tells her the truth, is captured, blinded, and set to work in a mill: " Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years (Judg. 16:23-31). From the repetition of the statement that Samson "judged Israel twenty years" both before and after he gives in to Delilah, it seems clear that Samson weakness for Philistine women becomes the means by which God uses him to begin to humble the Philistines: if the blind Samson can slay more Philistine's than he could when he still could see, shouldn't blind Israel be able to do as much if it, like Samson, calls upon God for help? Individual prints are likely to focus on the incident with the angel or on individual scenes from Samson's history; cycles can explore the story at more leisure. On this and the next page, we present two cycles and one individual print, all late 16th-Century Netherlandish.

Select Bibliography: W. Th. Kloek et al, Northern Netherlandish Art 1525-1580: Art Before the Iconoclasm (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1986); H. Diane Russell, Eva / Ave: Women in Renaissance and Baroque Prints (Washington DC: The National Gallery of Art, 1990); Ellen Schultz, ed. Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg 13000-1550 (NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986). For Galle, see Arno Dolders, ed. The Illustrated Bartsch 56: Netherlandish Artists: Philips Galle (NY: Abaris Books, 1987); Manfred Sellink, ed. The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings, and Woodcuts 1450-1700. Philips Galle. 4 vols. (Rotterdam: Sound & Vision Publishers, 2001); Manfred Sellink, Philips Galle (1537-1612). Engraver and print publisher in Haarlem and Antwerp, 3 vols. (Amsterdam: 1997).
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Manoah's sacrifice (Holl. 224). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 1 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter. Galle succeeded Hieronymous Cock as the major publisher print publisher in Antwerp; Hendrick Goltzius was one of his pupils. This Samson cycle is rare as a complete set.

Set price: $9000 (sold only as a set).
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Samson killing the lion (Holl. 225). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 2 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter.
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Samson married to a Philistine (Hol. 226). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 3 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter.
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Samson slaying the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Holl. 227). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 4 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter.
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Samson and Delila (Holl. 228). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 5 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter.
Philips Galle (Antwerp, 1537-1612), Samson pulling down the pillars (Holl. 229). Engraving after Maerten van Heemskerck, c. 1569. Plate 6 from The Story of Samson published in Antwerp by his son Theodor Galle (Dutch, 1571-1633). Very good impression on laid paper. "Martinus heemskerck inuentor. Phillipus galle fecit. Theodor Galle excudit." Image size: 258mm diameter.

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