Judges 16:29: Samson between Two Pillars

Verse 29:[1] And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up (or, he leaned on them[2]), of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

[And taking hold, וַיִּלְפֹּת] This word is found only here, and in Ruth 3:8[3] and Job 6:18[4] (Dieu). [They render it variously.] And he bent (Montanus, Kimchi in Drusius, Rabbi Levi and Schindler in Dieu). But what did he bend? The Columns. Thus our translation (Serarius). But it is preposterously said that Samson bent and overturned (for they Kimchi and Schindler render it) the columns, and then leaned with each hand against them. Others render it in a far better manner, he held, or grasped, or, embraced (Dieu). Thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Vatablus, Rabbi Salomon in Dieu. See what things are on Ruth 3 and Job 6 (Dieu).

The two middle pillars upon which the house stood: Question: How could so great a building, containing so many thousands of people, rest upon two pillars so near placed together? Here infidels triumph, as if they had got an unanswerable argument against the truth of the Scriptures. But it is a far more incredible and ridiculous thing to imagine that the penman of this book should feign such a circumstance as this is, if it had been false, whereby he would have utterly overthrown the credit of the whole book; and that he should do this before a people that could easily have confuted him; and that people should have so high a veneration for that book in which they knew so notorious a falsehood to be: these things, I say, are far more absurd to believe, than the truth of this relation. But to this I shall add two answers. First, It is no sufficient argument to prove that this was not true, because we do not at this day understand how it was done. There were many great works and excellent pieces of art, some footsteps whereof are left in ancient writers; but the exact way and particular manner of them is wholly, or in a great measure, unknown and lost; so that Pancirollus hath written a whole book of such things.[5] Particularly, the old way of architecture is much in the dark, as is confessed by the learned. It may be pretended, that though there might be curious arts of building in the learned and ingenious part of the world, it is not probable they were among such a rude and barbarous people as the Philistines. But this is certainly a very great mistake; for these people were either in part of, or very near neighbours to, the Phœnicians, from whom it is confessed the arts came to the Grecians. And forasmuch as many things which were concluded by the ancients to be impossible, are by the wit and industry of later ages found to be possible, and certainly true; it cannot be strange if some things now seem impossible to some men, which were then known to be practicable. And he that will venture his faith and salvation upon this proposition, that such a building as this was simply impossible, because he doth not see the possibility of it; or, which is all one, That no man understands more than he doth; will find few admirers of his wisdom. And to question the truth and divinity of the Holy Scriptures, which is so fully and clearly proved by sundry arguments, upon such a nicety as this, is but a more learned kind of doting. Answer 2: Instances are not wanting of far more large and capacious buildings than this, that have been supported only by one pillar. Particularly, Pliny, in the fifteenth chapter of the thirty-sixth book of his Natural History, mentions two theatres built by one Caius Curio, who lived in Julius Caesar’s time, each of which was supported only by one pillar, or pin, or hinge, though very many thousands of people did sit in it together. And much more might two pillars suffice to uphold a building large enough to contain three thousand persons, which is the number mentioned, verse 27. Or the pillars might be made two in the lower part merely for ornament sake, which might easily be so ordered as to support a third and main pillar in the middle, which upheld the whole fabric.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּלְפֹּ֙ת שִׁמְשׁ֜וֹן אֶת־שְׁנֵ֣י׀ עַמּוּדֵ֣י הַתָּ֗וֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֤ר הַבַּ֙יִת֙ נָכ֣וֹן עֲלֵיהֶ֔ם וַיִּסָּמֵ֖ךְ עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם אֶחָ֥ד בִּימִינ֖וֹ וְאֶחָ֥ד בִּשְׂמֹאלֽוֹ׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּסָּמֵ֖ךְ עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם.

[3] Ruth 3:8: “And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself (וַיִּלָּפֵת): and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.”

[4] Job 6:18: “The paths of their way are turned aside (יִלָּפְתוּ); they go to nothing, and perish.”

[5] Guido Pancirolli (1523-1599) was an Italian antiquarian and historian, jurist and law professor. Although he wrote several works, he is largely remembered for his Two Books of Things Lost and Things Found, chronicling the loss and gain of knowledge on various subjects.

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