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Velikovsky, the Exodus and Samson's Riddle

PostPosted: Fri 07 Feb 2020 3:10 pm
by dragonsteeth
In ‘Worlds in Collision’ Velikovsky argued that certain biblical stories such as those in Exodus contained records of unusual astronomical events, and argued that other Bronze Age cultures such as ancient Greece and Mesopotamia linked such events to stories and mythology about their astral deities. An important claim by Velikovsky was that the gathering of manna, a key element of the story of the journey through Sinai was based on real rather than fictitious or fanciful events.

One of the more memorable Bible stories was concerned with Samson’s Riddle. On a visit to his bride-to-be (not Delilah) Samson had killed a lion that crossed his path. Days later when he retraced his steps he found that a swarm of bees had made a hive within the lion’s body and so he stopped to gather up the honey as a gift for his parents. On the day of his wedding feast Samson posed a Riddle as a challenge for his Philistine guests which the Bible claims was based on the story of the encounter with the lion

The Riddle can be found in Judges Ch. 14: 14, and theEnglish translation in the King James Bible gives us;

Out of the eater came forth meat,
Out of the strong came forth sweetness.

Other translations show slight variations and we can check the original Hebrew text, but the meaning or sense of the text amongst the various translations remains consistent.

Writing in her book ‘Wise, Strange and Holy: The Strange Woman and the Making of the Bible’ Prof. Claudia Camp gives the Hebrew text of the story of Samson and the lion extensive coverage. She continues for twenty pages (pp.117-138) discussing the subtleties of the language in which the Riddle was couched but eventually concludes that it tells us as much about Samson’s love of strange women as it does about bees and lions.

Other writers have questioned whether the text for the riddle could have been borrowed from an earlier tradition whose original significance has now long been forgotten. Did the author of Judges simply try to adapt the story of Samson to compliment the words of a pre-existing saying ? The explanation that the riddle’s ‘sweetness’ could sensibly represent honey always appeared flawed. Bees would never be found nesting in a recently deceased carcass.

A different insight into the text comes from the Victorian author of ‘The Bible and the Monuments’, (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1895, pp 157-8). In a discussion of the names of Mesopotamian deities the author, William St Chad Boscawen, noted that the Babylonian name ‘Irkalla’ had the meaning of ‘the Great Eater’ which he claimed called to mind ‘the eater’ of Samson’s Riddle. The name Irkalla was used for the astral deities who ruled the Babylonian land of the dead. So it could be used for the gods of Mars and Venus or for the underworld itself. Venus as Queen Ereshkigal generally had dominion over this underworld or Sheol, but sometimes as a wife she reigned in tandem with her husband Nergal/Mars.

Looking again at Boscawen we find on just the previous page he had written that the name of Nergal, the mighty Babylonian god of Mars also had the meaning ‘strong’ or ‘strong one’. To find the two titles within the Riddle, both ‘the eater’ and ‘the strong’, coming together in this way is unlikely to be purely by chance. Can these two Babylonian deities featuring in the Riddle help us to explain its original meaning? In ancient Babylonian symbolism the god Ner or Nergal was depicted as a winged lion, but the extent to which such a representation might have contributed to the presence of a lion in the Samson story is uncertain.The key to understanding the true meaning of the riddle always remained hidden within the word ‘sweetness’.

The Philistines, who to this day are renowned as a byword for cultural ignorance, got the answer wrong answering ‘What is stronger than a lion, what is sweeter than honey’. But the ‘sweetness’ of the Riddle was not the sweetness of the honey from the body of the dead lion, it was the sweetness of manna, the ambrosial bread of heaven gathered by the Children of Israel on the journey through Sinai. In the Hebrew tradition manna was closely identified with the Shekhina, the pillar of light by night and cloud by day. The Shekinah meaning ‘God with us’ came to be identified with the Messianic Saviour in both Jewish and Christian religions. It was this Redeemer who was recalled by the author of ‘Isaiah’ who wrote saying ;

‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, on them
hath the light shined ’ Ch 9 : 2.

In ‘Worlds in Collision’ pp. 175-6, Velikovsky argued that the word used by Isaiah for the ‘great light’ was Noga and that Noga was the Hebrew name for Venus. Velikovsky devoted two sections of Ch. VI to ancient references to the ambrosial food or manna pp. 137-141, and discusses ancient traditions relating to ambrosia, or to the Oriental honey-lash, from all around the World.

Why should so many Bible scholars have failed to consider whether the sweetness of Samson’s Riddle could represent the manna of the Exodus? There cannot be a single commentator who has worked on these texts who would not have been familiar with the story of its honey sweet manna from heaven.. There are more than fifteen references to manna in the Old and New Testaments, but these texts all derive from the primary Exodus account. This ‘new’ reference in the ‘Judges’ comes from a thread tracing back through Mesopotamian mythology and is invaluable as it provides an alternative Bible account independent from the Bible story in Exodus..

In the Riddle it was the astral deities Nergal and Ereshkigal who were providers of the divine food. These deities were not just distributing this heavenly food, they were providing it from within their own bodies. This matches the theme in Exodus of divine food being provided from the body of the Messianic Saviour. The idea of consecrated bread representing the body of the Saviour is still a central theme of Christian religions. In both the Catholic Mass and in the Protestant Service for Communion the consecrated bread is still said to represent, or even to be, the body of Christ the Saviour. This tradition goes back not just to the words of Jesus at the Last Supper but to the time when Redeemer of the Exodus provided the wanderers with the heavenly food which sustained them on their journey through the wilderness.

The words of the riddles are pithy and succinct with the ‘eater’ of the first line representing the ‘Great Eater’ of Middle Eastern mythology, and the ‘strong’ of the second line being Nergal ‘the Strong’ and mighty god of Mars. The Philistines failed to answer correctly but for Mesopotamian scholars, whether ancient or modern, the Riddle should not have been quite so baffling. They just needed to think of the divine food of the Exodus. Instead of thinking about lions and bees and honey they just needed to think manna.

Finding an independent reference within the Scriptures to this ambrosial food should be of special importance both for Biblical scholars and for supporters of Velikovsky. This discovery alone cannot confirm the existence of this divine bread of heaven but it must lend weight to the arguments of those who like Velikovsky believed that manna from heaven really did play a special role in the history of the Jewish Nation.