Closure in Samson

  • Marian Broida


In recent decades several scholars have argued for the coherence of Judges 13–16 based on its multiple internal thematic and structural parallels. Yet previous generations of scholars considered Judges 13–16 to be a loose cycle of stories. Exploration of the narrative’s closural mechanisms suggests two primary reasons that the episodes strike readers as disconnected: powerful closural devices at the ends of some individual units, particularly evident in 15:17–20, and a relative lack of cohesive ties between units, especially with regard to consistently-portrayed supporting characters and references to Samson’s hair. Samson’s redactors chose to build elaborate webs of thematic and structural connections rather than make a few simple changes that would enhance readers’ perception of a continuous plot. One plausible reason is that the redactors prioritized structural unity—specifically, a large-scale if atypical ring composition—over a coherent plot, with verse 15:20 enhancing, not hindering, the reader’s sense of coherence.