Homilies

THE DAYSPRING of Thy mysteries hath appeared amidst the readings:Thy great
image is borne by the books of prophecy,Which carry Thee in solemn procession, for
the world to see how fair Thou art.From generation to generation Thy type hath
peered out like a luminary,And gladdened with its rising whoever saw Thee and
marveled.
With the allegories and dark sayings in the Scriptures,The just in sundry places
portrayed Thee through their revelations.In their own times and generations they
reverently bore Thee up,And one handed Thee to the next, to become illustrious in
Thee.The righteous Noah received Thee from Seth, that goodly man,And in the
succession of the world he placed Thee with Abraham.Isaac received Thee and
raised up a likeness of Thee on Gologtha,And Jacob stole Thine image and fled to
the land of Aram.
Thou didst ordain Thy testimony in Joseph, who shone among the Egyptians,And
Moses saw Thee on Mount Sinai with Thy Begetter.Aaron depicted Thee with the
blood of sacrifices and oblations,And he sprinkled the entire path of Thy great
slaughter with blood.Jesus bar-Nun, apparelled in Thy comely name,Barred the day
at will, and suffered it not to move forward.Gideon prefigured Thee with the dew
that he brought down when he prayed,And in Thee the conqueror conquered the
camp of the Midianites.
Jephthah found out the path of Thy sufferings by the slaying of his daughter,
And sprinkled it with virgin's blood on Thine account.BUT WHAT SHALL I SAY of
Samson? for this illustrious man alsoWas rich in allegories and mysteries for
whoever examines him.Behold, a homily on the glorious demands of meThat I record
his history also with these renowned and valorous men.The place of his figure is
empty, and it reproves and pains me,Since I have not fashioned for him the figure of
a homily with the virtuous.Grant me, Lord, to pay my debt to the Nazirite also,That I
may depict for him too a likeness that is fair and full of wonder.He did foolish deeds
from time to time, yet I ought not, for this,To disdain and neglect this man, who is
recorded with the illustrious.The elect Paul sings unto him that can understand,"The
time would fail me to tell of Samson."Time, then, would fail me also to tell Of this
Nazirite and of the allegories found in him.It was this man's lot from God that in his
time He also should be one of the saviours of Israel, as it is said. Because of his
faith in God, he was among the renowned;And among the Judges, the most valiant
of his day. The mother of this man beheld an angel, who spoke with her, And told
her that she would conceive and bear a Nazirite and a saviour; And that prudent
woman told her husband Of the revelation that she had had from God.Then the man
of the Lord appeared once again to her and her husban,Repeating his words to the
woman that she would conceive and bring forth Samson. He charged the woman not
to drink wine or strong drink,Neither to eat any fruit of the vine. "The child will be a
Nazirite unto the Lord all the days of his life, And his mother shall rear him in
continence and without  defilement."
The woman's husband made a meal and set it on a stone, And sacrificial fire
manifested itself upon the offering. NOWADAYS WE SHOULD MARVEL at the
righteous of those times,How pure they were, how simple and bereft of guile. They
spoke face to face with angels, And were rich in the revelations of the Divinity;They
were humble, innocent, and straightforward, And they became not proud or puffed
up by their revelations. Like a countryman, like a kinsman, like a neighbor, The
watcher spoke to Manoah and his wife concerning Samson; And in like manner did
they accept from him what he said, Speaking with him freely, fearing nothing. In
their simplicity they even made a meal for him, But sacrificial flame devoured it. The
fire rose up, and as the angel was fiery also, He rose in the fire, which ate up
Manoah's offering. The man of fire and the flame ascended to Heaven, And a wonder
was accomplished through the revelation that came to pass.As He promised, God
gave barrenness a son, Samson,Who was to deliver the people reduced to bondage.
The Lord gave him power and strength and bravery, To take up arms and deliver the
downtrodden people.The Lord chose him and sent him to wage war against the
Philistines; He gave him strength for a vigorous slaughter.So Samson began to visit
the villages of the Philistines,For the power of God had begun to shine in him. He
went down to their country for a woman that he desired to marry, And a mystery
encountered him that was yet manifest and clear.To espouse a wife, he went down
to the country of the Philistines, And a lion's whelp roared against him like a fierce
adversary. Whom does Samson resemble if not our Lord, Who came to espouse
The Church of the nations, and death met Him like a mighty foe? Samson went down
to take to wife that daughter of the uncircumcised, Hereby depicting our Lord, Who
betrothed with His Gospel the daughter of the pagans. COME LOOK HERE, if thou
knowest how to see aright,And conceive hereby an image of these virgins and their
betrothed.Against Samson, who went into the land of the Philistines, A lion's whelp
bounded forward to make him a mockery. And against our Lord, Who came to
espouse the daughter of the pagans,Death made bold to bring Him into his lair and
take authority over Him.Let us now see what was done to death and to the lion
By our Lord and also by Samson His Nazirite. The murderer marshalled a lion against
Samson Because he saw in him a fair image full of virtues. The beauty of that
Hebrew he sought to ravage Through the lion that came forth and met young
Samson.
Then the Son's mystery dawned upon that Nazirite,
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And gave him power to fashion an image full of wondrousness;
Then the Spirit of the Lord took possession of him mightily,
And he seized the lion's whelp and tore it asunder like a kid.
Types of his Lord blazed in him like luminaries,
And they gave him power and strength to slay the lion.
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Without armor or sword, he rent it with his hands,
For the youth bore the armor of mysteries on the path he took.
To espouse a woman, who depicts a figure of the Church of light,
Samson made his journey; and on this account he slew the lion's whelp.
The daughter of the nations was prefigured in the daughter of the pagans,
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For the Son of God slew death when He delivered her.
He raised up an image of our Lord in the land of the Philistines,
For it was Samson's lot to raise it up there.
The Son of God stirred from His place and came to our land
To espouse the Church of the nations, as we have said.
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But death met Him, the lion that ate all generations,
And He slew death as Samson slew the lion.
He continued His way, and by His Cross He betrothed and took to wife
Her for whose sake He was come down to the home of the earthborn.
The lion was unable to stay Samson's journey,
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For he espoused and took a wife as he pleased and then departed.
Nor was the journey of the Son of God stayed by death,
For He took the Church, made her His own, and then ascended.
These mysteries blazed in that Hebrew,
Wherefore he ripped open and slew the lion, as ye have heard.
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He rent the lion asunder, went his way, and made the betrothal as he desired;
And as he returned, the mystery plainly went another step forward in him.

A COMB OF HONEY appeared in the lion,
A great parable which could not be interpreted save in our Lord.
Samson took the honey and ate from the skeleton;
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A new deed was this, even that the eatable proceeded from the eater.
A revelation came upon the Nazirite and gave him light,
And his path ran forward with allegories and hidden types.
He seized upon a riddle, that sweet came out of the bitter,
And except in our Lord, the saying he propounded was not to be explained.
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He framed a parable, and of the Philistines he demanded the interpretation;
But the secret was kept, to be explained only in its own time.
For the riddle filled with mysteries was kept close and stored up
Until the Son of God dawned forth and clarified them all.
Nor did Samson understand the parable that he fashioned,
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For the time was not yet come for the mystery to be told openly.
He knew that he slew the lion and found honey,
But what the mystery of the lion and the honey meant, he knew not.
He made that which came to pass into a riddle for the Philistines,
Desiring that the deed be explained even as it had occurred.
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But the mystery of our Lord, Who is the end of Samson's entire path,
Was hidden and stored up amidst those prophetic revelations;
And our Lord came like the day unto those in darkness,
And the light of His mystery sprang up and was made known throughout the world.
The riddle that the Hebrew bound before the Philistines
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Was not explained till Christ came to the world.
Bitter is death, and our Lord is sweet honey,
And it manifestly came to pass that the Sweet came out of the bitter.
Death is the eater that ate all generations,
And from it came forth Christ, as Bread for the world to eat.
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Here it was fulfilled that the eatable came forth from the eater,
But at that time who knew how to interpret these things?
Not even did Samson, who made the riddle with the lion that he killed,
Understand the hidden mystery brought to pass.
Until the light, even our Lord, rose upon His creatures,
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The buried treasure of these mysteries was not uncovered.
For if mysteries of our Lord were not found in Samson,
Neither would his birth have been heralded by an angel.
The type of the Son was announced by an angel,
And because of Him, revelations were given at sundry times.
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Every one whose lot it has been to escort the procession of the Son of God
Hath been honored with revelations and with visitations of angels.
Fair was Samson when he portrayed the type of the Messiah,
And made the riddle that the sweet came out of the bitter.
Our Lord, the Word, is sweeter to the mouth than honey,
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The sweet taste that hath sweetened the bitterness of the whole world.

NOW, THERE ARE IN THE HISTORY of Samson both beautiful and blemished deeds,
Both heights and depths; and it is right to tell the whole tale.
Where he bore up the types of his Lord, he was fair,
But where he fell away from modesty, he was detestable and defiled.
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He was fair when he slew the lion's whelp,
But detestable when vanquished at a woman's hands.
He was again comely when he brought the sweet from the bitter,
But ignoble when revealing his secret to a woman.
Let us then relate all his story as it is,
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And not be vexed that there be in it deeds both foul and fair.
He made a marriage and took a wife, as it is written,
And he set forth unto the Philistines the riddle of the honey and the lion.
Samson promised to give the Philistines changes of garments
If the parable he made were interpreted,
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But straightway woman's treachery rose up against the excellent man,
And, learning his secret, made him a debtor to the Philistines.
Then the heroic man burned with indignation and in great wrath heaped up their
slain,
And began rousing up strife for the slaughter of the Philistines.
He cast them down dead, and plundered their corpses, and took their garments,
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So that it was from their own that he gave to them, to pay what he promised.
He wrought mightily and his sword was drunk with their slain;
He terrified them and filled their heroes with consternation.
Through the riddle, his bravery had been revealed,
And it had become known that Samson slew the lion's whelp;
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And now he waxed vehement again, heaped up their slain, and took their garments,
And the tidings of his mighty deed went abroad into all the land.
He was wroth at the treachery that befell him, and he went forth,
That vengeance should come upon the Philistines for all their misdeeds.
But that still greater misfortune should be visited upon them by the valiant man,
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They gave his wife to another man, and his fury was multiplied.

THEN WENT SAMSON and caught three hundred foxes and brought them,
Devising by their means to burn up all the land.
He set them in pairs for the deed,
And between two foxes he bound a torch and lighted it.
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Then the hundred yoke of beasts and fifty flew throughout the land,
Kindling a fire that spread out swiftly behind them.
A new spectacle alarmed the Philistines,
For fire was swiftly spread throughout the land by torches;
The foxes fled lest they be burned by the torches,
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And the fire, bound to the beasts, ran on.
Who could catch the beasts and check the fire,
Or who was sufficient to quench the blaze?
Throughout the whole region the fire ran, and who was able
To quench that burning of all the countryside?
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In the hay stacks and the standing wheat the fire was enkindled,
And the thickets of the land on the face of the earth were consumed in flames.
The burning spread through their vineyards and olive groves, leaving them in ruins,
And all their woodlands perished in the flame.
O the beasts! who might catch them, to hold back the fire?
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O the fire! who was there that could put it out?
Lightning bolts of fire ran swiftly through the land;
Dreadful was the sight of the blaze as it set upon its course.
Who hath seen, who hath witnessed, who hath reckoned,
Who hath known how that conflagration ran?
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What could the dwellers of that country, who saw the fire overrun the land,
Say of the great burning that came to pass?

TIDINGS WENT FORTH that Samson had set the whole region on fire,
And that another marvel was arrayed beside its fellows.
At this deed the Philistines sounded the alarm,
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Striving to capture Samson and disgrace him that burned their land.
The Philistines went up in assault against the Hebrews,
And so the sons of Samson's nation seized him out of fear.
They bound him firmly with new ropes
And delivered him to the Philistines to make sport of him.
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Then the power of God appeared upon the Nazirite,
As he mightily broke his bonds and threw them down.
And he found the jawbone of an ass, as it is written,
And instead of a weapon, which he had not, he took up the bone.
And the naked man fell upon the ranks of the Philistines
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And cut them down, heaping up piles and piles of their corpses.
A thousand men slew he with that jawbone singlehanded,
For the Spirit of the Lord had taken hold of him in that strife.
Weaponry was confounded because Samson sought no weapon,
And powerless was the sword, for a bone took the victory.
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Bow and bowstring of the Philistines failed, and all their arrows,
For with one jawbone one brave man laid waste a legion.
The forgers of weapons were put to shame by that battle,
For here the forged weapons availed their masters nothing.
Buckler and shield availed not the warriors,
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For Samson took but a bone and slew a thousand men.
All the weaponry of those warriors was made a laughingstock,
For in the contest one dry bone took the victory.
Samson brought down a thousand as one man,
And he taught the land that it is the Lord Who has power over victory.
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NOW, SAMSON THIRSTED as he fought, and he asked for water;
And the Lord opened a spring in the bone for him to drink.
From one wonder yet another wonder sprang,
That by the twain Samson's Lord might be glorified.
With a bone that was dry, he slew a thousand as he fought,
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But when he thirsted for water, water sprang up for him from the bone.
The Lord bored through the barren bone and gave him water,
So that the sign that He wrought would be great and full of wonder.
It was a marvel that Samson triumphed without a weapon,
And again a marvel that water was found within the bone.
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A spring flowed from that bone in Samson's presence,
And I should be amazed if the wonder were granted only that he might drink.
Great was the wonder, like that done at the hands of Moses,
For there a rock and here a bone became a spring.
The region was astonished at the prodigies done through Samson,
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The mighty champion of God's household.

AFTER SAMSON WROUGHT this great miracle,
He entered a city unto a harlot, as it is written;
And what I shall say of Samson, I know not,
For his history troubles and perplexes me.
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I hear that he prayed, and that water sprang up, and he drank;
But after a little I find him with a harlot.
He went forth and slew a thousand as they had been one man,
But then he betrayed himself, a woman cut off his hair, and he became a mockery.
Why did the Lord's Nazirite go in unto the harlot?
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His tale confuses me, and I know not what to say of it.
The Lord is very meek and forbearing towards the sons of men,
And where they fall, it is not He that seeks to cast them down.
The mighty deeds that Samson wrought were God's,
But the others which were not good were his own.
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It was not that God told him to go in unto the harlot;
He himself wished to go in, and the Lord did not constrain him, since he was free.
When he thirsted and asked for water, the Lord gave it him and he drank;
And when he would go in unto the harlot, he went in as he willed.
But how the Lord will judge the last judgment
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Is not thine affair; weary not thyself with what concerns thee not!
But perchance this also, I mean that Samson went down to the harlot,
Was suffered him by providence, that he might fall for thy sake,
To be for thee a mirror which revealeth blemishes,
That thou mightest see thyself and not fall as he fell.
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SAMSON, THEN, entered the town unto the harlot,
And the inhabitants made an uproar and gathered to take him captive.
Samson rose at midnight for his deed,
And stirred himself mightily for a marvel.
He drew near the shut gates of the city and wrested them off,
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And bore them on his shoulders as he issued forth.
He lifted up the door-posts, the bars, and the tall gates, and departed;
Thus did the mighty man despise and mock his guards.
This was a wonder seen in no man but Samson,
Who carried off door-posts, gates, and bars upon his shoulders.
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He did not wish to open the gate and depart as a fugitive,
But lifted them clean off as a man of great strength.
The fastened gates stood not before him when he went out,
For the type of the Son was guiding that Hebrew.
Sheol is a harlot, and all generations were her men;
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And she seized our Lord, that He should be with her like the rest.
So He went in, and slept, and the door of the tomb was shut upon Him,
And in their madness they stood guarding Him as they did Samson.
But the Saviour rose from the grave and broke down
All the bulwarks of Sheol as He departed, and they stood not before Him.
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And this likeness brought Samson in unto the harlot,
For she too is a Sheol, being perdition to all that draw near her.
This type which was depicted in Samson gave him the strength
To lift up the gates and the iron bars and to depart as he did.
Many had gone in unto that harlot of the Philistines,
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But no man save Samson broke down the gates of her town.
All generations went in unto Sheol, the ravager of all,
But excepting our Lord, no man threw down its walls and quickened its dead.
This mystery was kindled in this Hebrew,
And he pulled up the gates of the fortress after going in unto the harlot.
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He confounded the Philistines by his mighty deed,
And depicted an image of them that guarded the tomb of the Son.

WITH THE MYSTERIES of his Lord he was strengthened for the deed,
Even Samson the Nazirite, who shone in the land of the Philistines.
The heroic man set the gates and bars upon his shoulders,
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And climbed up and placed them on Mount Hebron, as it is written.
But after this, the mysteries left him to be tried,
Whether he would triumph by himself without help.
And he desired a woman, again a harlot, and went in unto her,
But she began to take sides with them that sought his ruin.
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She devised treachery, she laid snares, she hid nets,
So that the young stag becoming entangled would be put to scorn.
She began in her cunning to wheedle and cajole him,
That he might show her the cause of his mighty strength.
She spoke to him with treachery and craft,
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And the intimacy that women have towards their men.
Now she tells him to show her wherein his great strength lieth,
Then she holds her peace, lest he perceive treachery afoot.
At other times she is merry, and urges and asks him
To reveal to her the secrets of his heart, that she might mock him.
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For a while he preserved himself from the harlot,
And said to her one thing in place of another:
"If they bind me with seven wet cords,
Then I shall be weak"; and she did as he told her.
But when she woke him to see whether he had truly lost his strength,
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The cords that bound him, as they had been smoke, withstood him not.
Like as when a flame breatheth upon
Fine threads of wool and tow, so broke he them.

THE HARLOT, HOWEVER, pressed him further in the matter
And wearied not, seeing her first snare did not catch him.
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Again she cajoled him and again he said to the polluted woman,
"If they bind me with ropes, then I shall be weak."
So did she, and with tightly knotted ropes
She bound him while he slept; but when she roused him, he broke them.
The great strength of his Naziriteship seethed within him,
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And thereby he defeated and triumphed over all forces.
He broke the bonds as though fire had consumed them,
And neither ropes nor cords withstood him.
Yet once more the harlot with craft and perseverance
Laid a snare that might not slip, but catch.
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Again she coaxed him and again he told her something else
Because of her bold and continual coaxings.
"If they weave the hair of my head like a web with the pin,
Then straightway my strength will vanish and I shall be weak."
And she, who was constant in laying snares and wearied not,
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Wove his hair carefully as he told her.
But when she roused him, he lifted the pin with his hair
And terrified the Philistines with a great astonishment.
But that beguiler and layer of snares for murder desponded not,
And was yet vigilant over the deed.
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She further cajoled him, and persuaded him, and vexed him;
She lamented, she jested, she urged, she quarrelled, she afflicted him.
With every device, with every enticement, and by all means,
She wheedled Samson; then he revealed his secret and became a weakling.
He showed her what the cause of his strength was,
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And from whence there was found in him indomitable power.
"I have been a Nazirite from my mother's womb," he said to her,
"And there hath never come a razor upon my head, even from my birth.
But if I be shaven, and take the hair from off my head,
My Nazirite strength will go from me, and I shall be weak."
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As soon as that most treacherous woman captured the secret from him,
She sent and called the Philistines for the deed,
And caused him to sleep, and shaved him, and delivered him up;
And when she woke him, he rose and succumbed like a weakling.
The mighty man fell into a woman's hands,
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And she forbore not to cut and fell the high majestic cedar.
She digged a pit, and thrust down the lion, and he fell, and was overcome;
And the strong man became the mock of the woman that vanquished him.
The entire land learned of the woman's treachery against Samson,
And the proverb rose up, "Keep the words of thy mouth from thy wife."
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A second Eve cast down a second Adam, that is, Samson,
And he fell from the greatness wherein he stood.
She stole from him all the power of his Naziriteship,
And he became a weakling and a great mockery for the Philistines.
Eve expelled Adam from Paradise;
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Delilah took from Samson his rank of Nazirite.
At the world's beginning Adam set up a mirror for thee,
And midway Samson set up another, if thou wilt but look.
And behold, Delilah and Eve can be clearly seen for what they are
By him that would keep himself from ruin.
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In these twain, woman's treachery is expounded to thee,
And moreover the prophet also cries out, "Keep the words of thy mouth from thy
wife."
Alas, the mighty Nazirite Samson became a mockery,
A great laughingstock and infamy for generations to come!
The mighty man of valor who overcame a lion's whelp in battle
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Was at a woman's hands brought low, a great disgrace!
Like a viper she bit the Nazirite, and his hair fell away,
And he became feeble, wretched, weak, and tottering.

THEN THE PHILISTINES, having taken the lion, gathered,
To make sport of the man that had multiplied their slain.
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In their frenzy, they put out his eyes and destroyed his beauty,
And quenched the lamp of light whereby he saw.
They made an ugly blot on him that was so fair,
And the mighty man fell under great humiliation.
They brought him in and bound him, and he did grind at the prison mill,
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And was there as a source of great festivity unto the Philistines.
These matters that are in the divine Scriptures
Were put there by the Creator for the profit of all.
Let him that would gain his life read and be profited
By the treasures buried for his sake in the readings.
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Samson grinds; who then shall not flee the harlot
And haste his course, lest her fumes reach him?
She made the Nazirite a shaven man because he yielded to her;
Who does not tremble to hear the doings of vice?
She yoked that mighty lion-slayer to a millstone;
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Who then will hearken to her, save a fool who, like her, is wicked?
Let Samson be a mirror unto the discerning,
And let them hate the doings, the enticements, and the treacheries of vice.
The man fell into the hands of them whose slain and corpses
Were daily heaped high in their borders;
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And in their joy they made a great festival to the idols,
As though Dagon had bound Samson who had vexed them.
The men and women of the Philistines assembled
For that great festival which they made on account of Samson.
And when they reeled with wine in their merry-making,
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They said, "Let that Hebrew come to dance and amuse us!
Let Samson come, let all the people see the mocking of him,
And let every man that sees his fall rejoice and mock at him."

THEN CAME GREAT SAMSON, fallen from his greatness,
The lofty man who came down from the loftiness wherein he stood,
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The chosen man that strayed, desired, and became a harlot's intimate,
The Nazirite from whom the beauty of his Naziritehood was taken away.
He was shaven, blinded, and made a laughingstock unto the Philistines,
And they made sport of him by compelling him to dance and make them merry.
The wretched man, however, in great affliction and grief
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Was moved to take vengeance upon the Philistines.
He persuaded them to bring him to the pillars of the house,
As a man that had labored and would rest from exhaustion.
He drew nigh and grasped the two pillars of the great house
And cried to the Lord to give him strength in his weakness.
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Here he taught that even when a man has fallen away from God,
Yet if he cry to the Lord with pain of heart, He will hear him.
For the Lord never withholdeth His mercies from them that ask,
Even though a man should fall into unseemly lusts.
As soon as contrition enters the soul,
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And shakes out of it the dregs of lust that made it turbid,
And the soul with discretion sends up prayer unto God,
He hearkens to her, though she be covered with ten thousand blemishes.
Samson prayed after destroying his rank of Nazirite,
After the power of God had withdrawn and forsaken him,
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After he had lost his senses with the harlot,
After he had willingly surrendered himself to derision,
After the Lord surrendered him to the Philistines
And rose not up to help him when he was blinded at their hands.

AFTER ALL THESE THINGS came to pass, Samson prayed,
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And because he prayed with contrition, God heard him and granted his request.
He considered within himself that he had lost his Nazirite beauty,
And had been stripped bare of the power of his fortitude,
And that the Lord's Spirit by Whom he had prospered was fled from him,
And that being tried he could not of himself triumph in the fight.
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Contrition entered and shook his soul because of these things,
And the man was moved to make supplication with a broken heart.
The Lord, Who seeks to heal those who are broken in heart,
Hearkened to Samson and, stretching out His hand, gave him strength.
Then rose he with power against the pillars of the house, and they fell,
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And he turned the pagans' feast into mourning with the terror that he made.
He toppled the pillars, and the house of the Philistines collapsed;
With fury he brought ruin on those seated above and below.
He filled the place with piles of their carcasses,
And the land did stink with the heaps of the dead he piled up.
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The last blow dealt by Samson outdid all the former;
Blessed is He that hearkens to whoever cries out to Him. Amen.
End of the Homily on Samson
A Homily on Samson
By Mar Jacob, Bishop of Serugh (+ A.D. 521)

Translated from the Syriac by the
Holy Transfiguration Monastery