“If I Be Shaven, Then My Strength Will Go from Me”

A Queer Reading of the Samson Narrative

In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Marco Derks1
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Samson is well known for his long hair and exceptional strength. Most commentators, however, have overlooked the fact that it is Samson himself who constructs a connection between his hair and his strength. He had considered his hairstyle a sign of his hypermasculine identity instead of a demarcation of his Naziriteship. Reading the Samson narrative from a queer perspective, this article shows how Samson’s “heterosexuality” is produced, appears, and dissolves back into queerness. Samson’s hypermasculinity is a covering for his queer identity and results in his construction of several interrelated dualisms (Israel/Philistines, male/female, strong/weak, etc.) and in his excessive use of violence (physical, sexual, rhetorical, symbolic) against both women and men. When he meets a woman (Delilah) who doesn’t fit in his phallogocentric ideology, he reveals his secret through a non-genital erotic play (BDSM) with her and loses his strength when she symbolically castrates him by cutting his hair.

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