Samson's Suicide: Death and the Hebrew Literary Canon

Rachel Sylvia Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawn from the biblical narrative, the image of Samson came to be used as a depiction of the self-sacrificing nationalistic ideal that dominated Zionist ideology. Though much has been said about the popular and widespread use of this image in Israeli society and culture, I contend that it was not solely his heroism, strength, and symbolic identity as the new Jew that marked this biblical figure for reuse in popular forums, but that his final suicide (martyred sacrifice) underpinned the drama of the Samson narrative. The symbolism of Samson soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves for the modern nation state altered as attitudes towards sacrifice for the collective changed. The heroism of the Samson myth collapsed, and subsequently was inverted, becoming a powerful tool for criticizing the Israeli military hegemony. This article traces a literary history of the changing narrative of the archetypal Samson.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-91
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


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