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Meaning and etymology of the name Samson

Samson Samson

Samson, son of the Danite Manoah of Zorah, is the Bible's legendary strong man, a Nazirite who judges Israel for twenty years, until his heroic death in the temple of Dagon, brought about by Delilah.

The name Samson comes from the word shmsh (shemesh), sun (the meaning of the root shmsh is unknown). The sun is mentioned well over a hundred times in the OT, in all kinds of usages. Surrounding nations worshipped the sun but Israel was strictly told not to (Deuteronomy 4:19), although respectful parallels with the Living God were certainly drawn (Psalm 84:11). The sun is a mighty creature but ultimately God has it in His hands (Joshua 10:13 but also Exodus 10:21-29).

The name Samson is the word shemesh postfixed with the waw-nun extension. This extension personifies or localizes the root: the name Samson means Sun Man.

It should be noted that the proverbial sunny impression of the sun in our culture is not shared by that of ancient Israel. In an agricultural society such as that of Israel, the weather was viewed differently than in our industrial age. A sunny day was not greeted with more or less enthusiasm than a rainy day. The motion of the sun was the prime measure of time. The sun stood symbol for God's glory (Psalm 148:3) but it could kill when there was no shelter (Jonah 4:8).

For a meaning of the name Samson, NOBS Study Bible Name List reads a modest Sun-like. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, swinging from the rafters as usual, exclaims Splendid Sun, i.e. great joy and felicity! But neither the like-part of NOBS nor the felicity of Jones are truly expressed in the name Samson.

A related name is Beth-shemesh.



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