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and admiration ; and his sayings, chiefly riddles and puzzles, never fail to cause pleasure and merriment.

The land of Canaan was bounded on its south-western frontiers by the territory of the Philistines, which, running into the provinces of Dan and Judah, extended in a narrow strip of land along the shore of the Mediterranean. The Philistines, descendants of the giant races that once possessed Canaan, rude, warlike, and restless, had grown into a powerful nation, and were among the most implacable and most dangerous enemies of the Hebrews. In these perpetual feuds, the Israelites, weakened by idolatry and disunion, were often defeated and subdued, and had then to submit to merciless oppression. The burdens both of the war and servitude fell naturally most heavily upon the neighbouring tribe of the Danites; but they were felt with more or less weight by the whole nation. During forty years the Israelites bore the hateful yoke, and they sent

up

their cries for help and rescue. Their deliverer came at last from the tribe of Dan. In the small town of Zorah there lived a man of the name of Manoah, whose wife was childless. One day an angel appeared to her, declaring that she would become the mother of a son who should, in due time, save the Hebrews from the hand of the Philistines. The boy was from his birth to be dedicated to God as a Nazarite; no razor was ever to touch his hair ; even the mother was to abstain from strong drink and all unclean food. Amazed by what she had heard, she told it to her husband, who devoutly prayed for another appearance of the Divine messenger, to learn more fully the duties that awaited him and his wife. The vision was repeated, and the angel announced again, this time both to Manoah and his wife, the birth of the wondrous child, and renewed his former injunctions both with respect to the boy and the mother. Manoah entreated bis guest to stay and to partake of a meal which

he would speedily prepare. The angel declined, but left it to him to sacrifice a burnt-offering to God. When Manoah had laid the kid he had slaughtered upon the rock which he was using for an altar, and had kindled the fire, the angel, rising upon the flame, ascended with it towards heaven, and was lost to their view. Awed, yet reassured by the miracle, Manoah and his wife worshipped silently, certain that the promise they had received would come true,

When the child was born, he was called Samson, the sunny, the bright; and he grew, and God's blessing was with him. His exploits commenced when he was a mere youth. On one of his frequent roaming expeditions, he came to Thimnah, situated south of his native town Zorah. There he saw a Philistine maiden who so pleased him that he resolved to make her his wife. His parents were unwilling to bring an idolatress into their household, and entreated their son to select a bride from among his own people. But Samson obstinately insisted upon his choice, and went to Thimnah with his father and mother, to make them acquainted with the maiden. On the way, and whilst he was wandering alone in the vineyards near the town, he was met by a young lion; he seized the wild beast, and rent it asunder as if it had been a kid. Then he joined his parents unconcerned, without mentioning his feat. Returning to Thimnah some time afterwards to celebrate his marriage, he found, upon looking at the spot where he had before killed the lion, that a swarm of bees had built their hive in the

He took some of the honey and ate it on his way. At Thimnah be prepared a wedding feast, to which he invited thirty of his companions, and which was to last for seven days. Delighting in riddles, and desirous to perplex his guests, he put before them the following puzzle : Out of the eater came forth food, and out of the

carcase.

strong came forth sweetness. If they guessed the meaning, he promised to give to each of them a shirt and a suit of apparel, but if not, then they were to give him thirty shirts and thirty suits of apparel. Unable to explain the riddle, the guests urged Samson's bride to persuade him to tell her the interpretation, and then to communicate it to them. She succeeded by artful appeals to her husband's tenderness; and on the last day of the feast the men said: "what is sweeter than honey, what is stronger than a lion?' Samson, easily divining the source of their knowledge, answered in his quaint manner: 'If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle. Resolved to pay his debts in no ordinary way, and at the same time to chastise the cunning deceit of the Philistines, he went down to Ashkelon, and in the full flush of his strength slew thirty men, and stripped them of their garments, which he gave to the wedding guests. He then returned, angry and mortified, to his father's house in Zorah.

In the height of the Eastern summer, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson came back to claim his wife, when her father told him that in his absence she had been given to one of his companions, and offered him her younger sister in her stead. Enraged at the insult, he exclaimed, This time I am free of guilt with respect to the Philistines, if I do evil to them ;' he rushed out into the fields, caught three hundred foxes, tied them together by their tails, two and two, putting a lighted firebrand between them, and let them loose into the standing corn, into the vineyards and the olive-groves. The affrighted Philistines asked each other, “Who has done this? And when they heard it was Samson, who thus sought to punish his father-in-law's treachery, they went up to the house of the latter, and burnt it to the ground. Samson's wife and her father perished in the flames. Some of the

old affection was still lingering in the hero's heart, and eager to avenge his wife's cruel and untimely death, he attacked the Philistines single-handed, and caused a great slaughter among them. Then he hurried back into the territory of Judah, and there concealed himself in one of the caves of the rocks of Etam. The incensed Philistines pursued him, and demanded that tbe daring offender should be delivered into their hands. The men of Judah, fearing their masters, and anxious to propitiate them, surrounded the cave where Samson lay hidden, remonstrated with him sharply for what they considered reckless imprudence, bound him with two new cords, and brought him a prisoner to the Philistine camp at Lechi. A shout of joy arose from the heathen hosts; but the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson, and the cords upon his arms became as flax burnt with fire, and his bands fell loose from his hands.' Then taking for his weapon the jaw-bone of an ass which he found near, he slew with it a thousand men, in commemoration of which exploit the place where it was achieved was called Ramath Lechi (the height of the jaw-bone). Wandering alone amidst the rocks, weary and exhausted, far from brook or spring, the hero prayed earnestly to God for help; the ground clove at his feet, and a stream of refreshing water rushed up before him : the spring remained, and was long famous under the name of Enhakkore (spring of the praying).

Samson was now the recognised chief and Judge of Israel. His strength and the terror of his name were sufficient to maintain peace for twenty years.

One night, when he had roamed into Gaza, one of the chief cities of the Philistines, his enemies, ever lying in wait for him, surrounded the walls and barred the gates, with a view of attacking and killing him in the morning. But Samson, guessing their evil designs, arose at midnight,

and unhinging the two huge gates, placed them on his shoulders, bar and all, and carried them as far as the top of a hill before Hebron.

In the valley of Sorek, in the territory of Judah, there dwelt a woman, Delilah, deceitful and avaricious, whom Samson loved. The wily Philistines determined to make her the instrument of his ruin. She was to entice from him the secret of his strength. It is a strange incident in his life, showing us how weak was the moral nature of that giant in outward strength. At first, he tried to baffle the insidious enquiries of the traitress, and his answers evinced his usual humour : “If they bind me with seven fresh withs that were never dried, then shall I be as weak as any other man.' When he had fallen asleep, Delilah, hiding a number of Philistines in the room, tied his arms with green withs, and suddenly arousing him, she exclaimed, “The Philistines are upon thee, Samson !' He sprang up and broke the withs, as a thread of tow crumbles away when touched by fire. The secret of his strength was still his own. Again the false temptress urged him to tell her how he could effectually be pinioned. Samson, enjoying the jest, replied, If they bind me fast with new ropes, which have never been used, then shall I be weak, and be as any other man. Delilah fastened him with new ropes, and once more gave the signal for the Philistines' attack. But Samson tore the cords from his arms like threads. When Delilah still continued to weary him with her entreaties, he said he would lose his strength if she entwined the seven locks of his head with linen threads. In his sleep she did so, and fixed his locks to the wall with a strong nail, but at the words, “The Philistines are upon theel' he started up from his sleep, carrying away with him the nail, and facing his enemies in unimpaired vigour. Delilah now lavished upon the hero her fondest caresses : 'How canst

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