David Maine’s fictional, “unauthorized autobiography” is told by Samson, chained to the pillars of a Philistine temple. He ruminates just before he famously converts his impending death at the hands of the Philistines into a suicide in which his magical strength brings down 3,000 Philistine mockers — both governors and civilians, men and women — along with himself. I would have wanted to paint Samson in poetic phrases: a pious Nazirite, a Herculeslike figure, who lived the ascetic life pledged by his previously barren mother; but in the end a man betrayed not only by the sensuous Philistine harlot Delilah, but by the deadly sin of lust.
I would have sought to depict Samson as a vital judge to the House of Israel who had strayed once, but redeemed himself when his moment of death was at hand.
But Maine’s “good read” doesn’t see it that way. His Samson speaks in the offensive patois of a twenty-first century pulp fiction satyr. Aboorish womanizer, who speaks of women in scandalously derisive terms, a Nazirite whose weakness for “the enemy’s daughter” was not limited to Delilah. A “judge,” whose judging was in the mien of a Solomon-oncrack who actually sliced the baby in half in impatience over tirelessly bickering litigants.
Maine’s volume doesn’t present quotations from the text of the Book of Judges. So the reader is forced to go there for himself when he is finished reading “Samson’s” own musings. And what does the reader find? The myth of Samson is just that. Samson, mythically Herculean to be sure, is a man scrawnily weak in character — a rapacious womanizer who never actually judged anything. (Maine seems to have created the baby-splitting incident for color.) The Bible’s Samson has no spiritual insights, nothing but how many Philistines did he kill. But what about God? What about God’s precious Israelites? Nothing!
So, while we are entitled to accept the mythology of Biblical figures like Samson, Maine helps us motivate ourselves to correct a significant misimpression that has hyped Samson over the generations. And through his unique brand of fiction, he makes us think more objectively about many of our other Biblical icons. That, indeed, is the beauty of the genre that Maine executes so well.