Okay, okay, my informal poll of CT editors and designers doesn't have the scientific rigor of a study from Barna Research. Still, the results are suggestive. "When did you last hear a sermon about Samson?" Some CT staffers said never; others said not since they were very young (and then in Sunday school rather than in a sermon proper). Not a single respondent recalled hearing a sermon or lesson on Samson since childhood.

Pastors of America, shut down your laptops for a minute. Seminary professors, take five. Samson! Is there a more gripping figure in the entire Old Testament? Where did we go off the rails? How did we lose our stories?

A clue may be found in The Book of Samson (St. Martin's), a novel by David Maine. This is Maine's third novel with an Old Testament base, following The Preservationist (Noah's Ark) and Fallen (Cain and Abel and the Fall). I don't know what he believes or doesn't believe today. Since 1998, he has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife, the novelist Uzma Aslam Khan. He inhabits biblical stories and wrenches them into fiction with a fierce intelligence and a cunning wit.

Maine's Samson tells his own story, hewing closely to chapters 13 through 16 of the Book of Judges but fleshing out the biblical narrative. In Judges, for instance, we read how Samson was angered when the Philistines pressured his wife to give them the answer to his riddle: "And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle" (Judges 14:19, KJV). In the novel, Samson briefly describes all thirty killings, one by one, with the bravado and cruel humor of what anthropologists call an "honor culture" ...

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September 2007

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