Literalism in the King James Bible: Samson

One of the trans-natural events given in the Old Testament is the report that Samson slew a thousand phillistines with the jawbone of an ass. This is strange. A jawbone of an ass could hardly kill a single Phillistine, much less a thousand. It is of the flimsiest construction.

The Old Testament is rife with double entendres and nuance especiallly when dealing with the foibles of Samson. He is shown as a boastful loudmouth hero who much liked his own press.

Yes, it is said in the Bible that Samson killed a thousand Phillistines with the jawbone of an ass. And yes, this year my own jawbone said that I broke eighty on the golf course almost everytime I took to the links.

Think. For two thousand years we good Christians have believed that Samson literally killed a thousand Phillistines, when all along, the Hebrews were just having a little in-house joke. :smack:

You just figured out that the bible is a literal pile of bullshit?

No Fescue, and I don’t kick a young dog just because he’s got a tick.

Milum, did you actually go to the trouble of registering just so you could make a bad pun?

Well done. :smiley:


I’m sorry that you broke your own, human jawbone. Still, this doesn’t mean that jawbones in general are particularly flimsy. In fact, it’s generally a bad idea to punch someone on the jaw, as that’s a good way to break your own hand.

Cite, Thunder?

“it’s generally a bad idea to punch someone on the jaw, as that’s a good way to break your own hand.” ~ Thunder

Bless you Thunder, that sounds mystic, almost oriental. But the physics don’t work. Make your point.


There’s nothing mystic about it, Milum. The jawbone is harder than your own hand. That’s why you risk breaking your hand if you punch someone on the jaw.

Besides, you said that the jawbone of a donkey is “of the flimsiet construction.” I’m asking you how you arrived at that conclusion. Obviously, one shouldn’t draw conclusions about the jawbones of asses based merely on the damage that YOU sustained.

Oops. Sorry; I had trouble parsing your comment regarding your own jawbone, and I think I misinterpreted what you really meant.

Anyway, it’s hardly unusual to use a jawbone as a weapon. Native Americans did it, wielding jawbones as short clubs. Horses use their own jawbones to fend off attackers and annoyances. Additionally, a skilled combatant could always use the weapon against the less sturdy parts of human anatomy – the nose or the solar plexus, for example.

So no, I don’t think we should be quick to conclude that a donkey’s jawbone is extraordinarily flimsy, or that it would not serve as an effective makeshift weapon.

Double-entendres don’t equal mutual exclusion.

The OP is clever to point out the irony of a hero talking up his own exploits being reduced to slaying thousands with the jawbone of an ass. Similar ballyhoo was made of the shepherd David after he killed Goliath (“Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his tens of thousands.”). There’s nothing like a good PR agent, is there?

But that doesn’t mean Samson wasn’t a mighty judge and warrior who could overcome many opponents even though he lacked superior weapons.

Whether this is a debate about literalism in the Bible or physics, I’m not sure.

Even the most hard line literalist has to acknowledge that there are instances of metaphor and hyperbole in the Bible. I mean, we’re not really the salt of the earth, are we? Not literally salt, right? Well, okay, Lot’s wife is, I guess.

And perhaps, ages before Einstein, Samson figured out that speed is the key to an effective bludgeon, not mass. If he generated enough speed with his arm (and whipped the aforementioned jawbone), I don’t doubt he could kill someone with it. Or several someones. And, as in the case of David (who didn’t slay tens of thousands, just one giant), thus precipitate a route of the entire army.

Word of mouth being what it is, I can easily see such an exploit turning into wholesale slaughter by the time the story got around.

The point is, Samson did a mighty deed against a whole army without a huge arsenal at his disposal. And the story, as such stories are wont to do, gained breadth and scope as it was carried along.

Do you go looking for a young dog in a pile of ticks?

Here is a picture of an abscure musical instrument made of a horse’s lower jawbone; I know it’s a horse, not an ass, but I suspect they aren’t terribly dissimilar.

Looks like it would make quite a formidable weapon to me.

Now as to whether that renders the Samson story literally believable is another issue altogether; personally, If I wanted to refute the ‘killed 1000 Philistines’ assertion, I think I’d rather be asking “what, they all queued up and attacked one at a time, did they?”

(obscure, sheesh)

Philistines are pretty much a bunch of wusses by my experience, I slew like 28 of them last year alone, although I used a
T-ball bat and it was made of aluminum. So I could see a longhair with god on his side pulling it off.
Plus, the bible never said if he made any modifications to the jawbone, like attached a really big club to it, or a sharp nail or something.

Maybe he slew a bunch of really old and frail philistines just to pad his statistics. The bible says that people lived like 120 years sometimes back then, and they probably weren’t in as good shape as the 120 year olds we have these days, what with advances in healthcare and all.

At any rate, yeah, can’t really take the bible literally.

Thanks guys for the fun song and dance, but the music slows and there is only one chair. Who among you will now come forth and sit before God and the Internet, your great -grandchildren yet to come, and say proudly and unequovically …

Samson killed 1,000 philistines with a jawbone from a donkey. It was a magic jawbone and he never did break it.

_____________________;j ___________________

You want us to pretend that we hold an opinion that we don’t, so that you can play the part of the magician, whisking away the curtain of ignorance to reveal <gasp> the truth!


Look, you said that a donkey’s jawbone is “of the flimsiest construction,” and could not possibly serve as an effective weapon. In response, we asked how you determined this to be so. We also provided evidence that animal jawbones are quite sturdy indeed, and would make rather effective weapons.

If you have any evidence to the contrary, please provide it soon.

Here is a picture of the jawbone of an actual ass, as it happens, conveniently presented alongside a real human head; I think the head would come off worse in a collision.

Interestingly, the Old testament account specifically mentions a fresh jawbone; a fresh bone would be mush stronger and less brtille than a weathered or dried one.

You’re still not going to get me to invest wholeheartedly in the story though.


You all seem to be talking about the relative merits of the burgeoning capabilities of the small jawbone of a literal ass (donkey), rather than the delightful possibility of a humorous aside from the Old Testament suggesting that Samson’s boastful stories were told by the jawbone of a ass (meaning Samson).

I wonder why?
Help me understand by talking this quiz…

(A) I truly believe that Samson slew 1,000
Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.____ yes no

(B) I truly believe that the ancient Hebrews
who wrote the Bible were so dumb that they
really thought that Samson slew 1,000
Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.____ yes no

© I believe that the ancient Hebrews who
wote the Bible thought Samson a baffoon
and made jokes behind his back._________ yes no

(D) I think like Fescue; the Bible is bullshit.__ yes no.

Thank you. ________ :slight_smile: _______________________

It seems to me that you’re presenting a false quadrilemma, for reasons that DAVEW0071 already explained.

Moreover, you’re the one who said that a jawbone would make a pitifully flimsy weapon. We’re merely questioning that claim, providing contrary evidence, and asking how you concluded that donkey jawbones are indeed fragile in the extreme.

[E] The ancient Hebrews were at least as smart as my grandchildren, who understood the concept of story and how stories that were perhaps not literally true conveyed a message anyway. Apparently that’s become post-graduate level studies in the three years since Jordan explained it to me at age four.