Wednesday, October 9

Moshe (Moses) and Shimson (Samson)

Great men and women throughout our world's history have become leaders. Some would measure a great leader by the speeches they make, in which case the oral speeches of Abraham Lincoln (the Gettysburg Address of 1863) or Pericles (Funeral Oration from the 400s BC) would make each a leader. If we were to consider someone to be a good leader as a result of war, perhaps we would choose King Leonidas I, Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte. In the Biblical canon, we are exposed to figures such as Job, Jesus, St. Paul and many others. But perhaps two leaders worth comparing are Moshe (Moses) and Shimson (Samson).

Moses probably lived c.1525-1445 BC. Samson likely lived somewhere around 1110-1170 BC, so from the outset we find that these are two very different figures who lived in different eras of Jewish history - and as such, are representative of these different eras. There are various similarities and differences between Samson and Moses which illustrate their different qualities and different identities as leaders. For example, although Moses gave speeches now and then he was not fond of talking and was "slow of speech." Jewish tradition records that Moses burned his mouth with a hot coal as a child and hence had a speech impediment. Samson is not recorded as having given moving speeches to large crowds, although he is noted for his riddles and for taunts being more of his style, and he does indeed end up addressing his wedding party. Moses was not necessarily a warrior, although according to the early Jewish historian Josephus, prior to his murder of the Egyptian, Moses had led an Egyptian army to move on the Ethiopians, and hence had some experience as a warrior. In the Biblical narrative, Samson attacks the Philistines on several occasions (Judges 14:19; 15:8, 15).

Subsequently, both Moses and Samson disobeyed God, though in different ways. Moses disobeyed God when he struck the rock twice allowing water to flow at Meribah (which means "quarreling") instead of waiting on the Lord's work, and Samson disobeyed God when he revealed the secret of his strength and in turn had his strength taken from him by Delilah. Both men were leaders in different ways - Moses led around one million Israelites out of the Egyptian lands and into the Sinai desert, where they witnessed some of the most incredible recorded miracles in Scripture. Samson is considered a judge (from the Hebrew word shoftim), which C.S. Lewis believes would be better rendered as "champion," and can also be translated as "leader." Samson fought the enemies of Israel at the time and ultimately gained retribution for Israel, while Moses introduced the Law, the Tabernacle and its contents, and allowed Israel as a nation to grow closer to God.

Both leaders have differences - Moses did not fight often though he had killed before whereas Samson had killed numerous Philistines; Moses was born a Hebrew slave and raised an Egyptian prince. Learned in both reading an writing, Moses received a royal education, although he went on to become a shepherd and ultimately the one who led his people out of Egypt and became the Law-giver. Samson was born to Danites and fought again the Philistines although the desires of his heart were more important to him. Although both leaders have their faults, and both achieved great things during the duration of their lives, Moses would likely be considered the better leader.

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