Samson’s Lion Encounter (Judges 14:5–6) and Persian Period Leonine Iconography

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 School of Religion, Lee University41124Cleveland, TNUSA
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This essay addresses the composition of Samson’s lion encounter (Judg 14:5–6) in two parts. First, the narrative of the lion encounter is considered in its literary context (Judg 14:5–6), with particular attention to three difficulties or ambiguities in the narrative arrangement: the presence/absence of the parents, verbal repetition, and the meaning of the חידה. The incongruity of these details indicates redactional seams that, as the present essay argues, might be explained with reference to a Persian period compositional setting of Judg 14:3–6. Second, as supporting evidence for this hypothesis, the essay contextualizes Samson’s lion encounter with reference to Persian period leonine iconography. Two major iconographic motifs are considered—the “heroic encounter” and Herakles depictions—both in their broader settings (the ancient Near East and Greece respectively) and in specific Levantine examples. These artifacts serve to fill out Samson’s heroic characterization and to provide tantalizing material evidence for a possible Persian period setting of this episode in the Samson narrative.

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