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A tapping could be heard at an open window of Naamah’s house. Sipporah immediately rose and went to the window to learn what the dove would reveal. After a moment, she returned to the table with news from afar.
“Samson is dead,” she announced sadly.
“What? How? How do you know this?” Naamah asked, her voice quavering.
“If you want to know what is in the wind, you must listen to the birds,” she replied. “I do not know all the details, but it seems that at the festival in Gaza today, Samson’s strength returned, and he destroyed the temple of Dagon. Thousands of worshipers were killed with him.” 106
“She is very intuitive,” I explained to Naamah. “I believe what she says. I must go immediately to claim Samson’s body before it is lost. Sipporah and Azzah will stay with you until I return. We do have another horse. Perhaps one of your nephews may want to assist me.”
Raising her voice, she said, “Beriah, run to Bocheru’s house and tell him that Nahum must come immediately to help fetch the body of Samson from Gaza. Go quickly!”
Beriah ran out the door and down the road to Bocheru’s house.
“I do not know if your intuition is correct or not, but it is certain that we must find out for ourselves,” Naamah said. “Ride swiftly.”
We hurried out the door of the house, and the horses ran swiftly toward us from the nearby pasture. Dogma ran with them. In a few minutes, we saw Nahum running down the road toward us. We were introduced quickly, but we wasted no time. I mounted Pegasus, and Nahum awkwardly leaped upon Pleiades’ back, holding her mane.
“Don’t worry,” I told him. “She is easy to ride. The hard part is getting on her back. If you can get on her back, you will not have any trouble riding her. She knows where to go. Just go where she goes.”
“We will be back as quickly as possible!” I shouted, as the horses wheeled about and took off down the path toward the main road, followed by Dogma.
As we rounded the curve on the road, we passed through the veil of time and found ourselves approaching the temple of Dagon in the middle of Gaza. A cloud of dust still lingered in the town, as if a dust storm had passed through recently. Men and women were running to and fro. Some were screaming, others were crying. A great disaster had occurred, perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of the city.
We arrived in the midst of turmoil, and Nahum had had no time to prepare himself for the sight before him. Yet the shock of being transported to Gaza in an instant was even greater than the scene before our eyes. “What happened??” Nahum asked with a bewildered look on his face. “Where are we? How did we get here?”
“These are no ordinary horses,” I explained. “I am sorry I had no time to warn you. We have been transported to Gaza in a moment of time, because it is urgent that we claim Samson’s body before it is desecrated by the Philistines. Just accept it as a miracle from God, and let us complete our mission, so that we can leave this cursed city.”
We rode the horses carefully through the crowd toward the fallen temple. As we drew near, we could see five giants lifting the heavy stone pillars to allow others to remove the dead bodies of those crushed beneath the fallen roof. Many were being carried away for burial.
“Goliath!” I muttered. “It seems that Goliath and his brothers are working hard to clear the rubble. Perhaps he will not recognize me. Under the circumstances, I do not think it would be a good idea to be friendly.”
The temple had been constructed so that worshipers could look down from the balcony upon the altar and statue of the merman. People had flocked to the temple and had packed the upper and lower levels to watch Samson’s performance.
Indeed, Samson had given them quite a performance! They had come to watch a weak man pretending to be strong, so that Dagon might boast of his superior strength. But instead, Dagon had fallen, and those most devoted to him had died with him. Suddenly, their city of strength had been greatly weakened.
Dogma led the way with his nose discerning who was who amidst the rubble. He knew the dark smell of Philistine Dagon worshipers. As he and the horses picked their way carefully toward the center of the ruins, Dogma barked. “Here! I have found him!”
“Who said that?” Nahum asked. “Surely, the dog does not speak!”
“That is no ordinary dog,” I explained. “If you are able to hear him speak and understand his language, then you are a blessed one. You are receiving much revelation this day. I am sorry I had no time to prepare you for this, but we must hurry and finish our task.”
We began to remove the rubble from the broken pillars so that we could reach the lifeless body of Samson.
“This day is not at all what I envisioned when I awoke this morning,” Nahum said, shaking his head. “It started out as such an ordinary day!”
“This is the day of Yahweh!” I said, standing erect. “Look, and remember this day, for it is a small picture of things yet to come when the God of heaven casts down the gods that men create in their own image. For Yahweh of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. The pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and Yahweh alone will be exalted in that day. But the idols will completely vanish, their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship.” 107
“But will the day of Yahweh also destroy Israel? Why was Samson killed as well? Where was his God?”
“Samson is the one who prayed for the strength to destroy this temple,” I answered. “He knew he was going to die, and he accepted his fate. He knew at the end that he could not deliver Israel, and that his calling was coming to an end. It was only after he lost his eyes that he truly saw his own condition and understood his spiritual blindness.”
“Could not God heal his eyes?” Nahum asked, as he pulled Samson out from under a wooden beam that once had held up the balcony of the temple. “I have heard of such things happening in the past.”
“Perhaps you are referring to the story of Shalam, whom God healed of blindness many years ago,” I said. 108
“Yes,” said Nahum, “my uncle Manoah told me about his healing. Shalam had been blinded by Samson himself, but God healed him.”
“Samson showed no mercy upon Shalam,” I said with a note of sadness. “For that reason, Samson brought blindness upon himself, for God judges all men according to their own standard of measure. God used the Philistines to carry out His judgment upon Samson, even as God has now used Samson to carry out His judgment upon the ungodly worshipers of Dagon in Gaza.”
“It seems that everything that happens has meaning, even if we do not understand it most of the time,” Nahum said.
“It is complex,” I said, “because so many things are interwoven into the story. Each man’s story is part of a chain reaction that began with the sin of Earthyman and its consequences. Every act is resolved by the divine law, either by justice or mercy. The better you know the Creator’s laws, the more you will be able to understand each link in the chain—and perhaps find a way to bring situations to a merciful end.”
Nahum and I hoisted Samson’s lifeless body on Pegasus’ back and walked carefully through the rubble toward the street that was full of stunned mourners. Everyone was too busy and preoccupied with their own grief to pay attention to us. But then we heard a boyish voice.
“Are you friends of Samson?” the small voice asked.
We turned and saw the boy, who appeared to be about ten or twelve years of age. “Yes, lad,” Nahum replied. “I am his cousin, but he was like a brother to me.”
“And I knew him since he was a child,” I added. “Why do you ask? What was he to you?”
“I held his hand to guide him at the temple,” the boy said. “I was his eyes while he was here.” 109
“Then how is it that you did not die when the temple collapsed?” Nahum asked.
“He told me to run quickly after asking me to lead him to the two main pillars of the temple. He said that he no longer needed my eyes, because he could now see again. I do not know what he meant, because he appeared to remain blind. But before I left him, I heard him pray to his God, saying, ‘Remember me and strengthen me this last time for the sake of my two eyes.’ 110 Then I ran from the temple, as he instructed, and suddenly it came crashing down. He spared my life.”
“So what will you do now?” I asked. “Do you have family?”
“No, my parents died when I was young, and the temple took me in as a servant. But now that the temple has been destroyed, I have nowhere to go. Everyone here has been devastated by the disaster, so I cannot expect help from anyone.”
“Then come with me,” Nahum said. “Be my little brother. I will give you a home and teach you the ways of the God of Israel. We serve a God of love, and he loves both Israelites and Philistines.”
The boy looked at Nahum’s kind face and tearfully nodded.
“Good. Then it is settled, little brother.” Nahum swung the boy onto Pleiades’ back and then mounted behind him. “By the way, what is your name?”
“I am Yaleed,” he said. 111
“You are no longer Yaleed,” Nahum said, “for hereafter, you will have a new life. A new man requires a new name. You, my little brother, will be called Heber, 112 for you are an immigrant from the land of the Philistines to the land of Israel, and from Dagon to Yahweh.”
“Welcome to your new life, Heber,” I said warmly. “It is time for us to leave this place.”
As we left the city, I walked beside Pegasus who was carrying Samson’s body. Heber and Nahum rode Pleiades. Dogma trotted ahead to scout for possible trouble. We walked north on the coastal highway as the sun began to lower itself toward the great sea below. An unusual mist arose around us, and a faint figure appeared ahead of us.
“Who is that ahead of us? Is he one of your friends?” Heber asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “you could say that he is a friend. It is an angel who walks with us, a messenger from God who often transports us to other places according to the will of the Creator. I believe we are about to leave this place,” I commented. “He has appeared to us at other times where mists arise out of nowhere.”
We continued to walk, but after a short time, the mist dissipated, and we found ourselves between Zorah and Eshtaol near the house of Manoah. “We lost two days in that leap in time,” Pegasus observed in a low voice. “It is now the third day since we began this trip.”
“We are home!” Dogma barked his announcement.
The women came running out of the house to meet us, along with another young man who I perceived was Nahum’s younger brother, Micah. Sipporah hugged me solemnly. Azzah and Naamah wept when they saw Samson’s lifeless and bloodied body.
“So it is true,” Naamah said sorrowfully. “My son is dead. But at least he is now at peace, for he has been delivered from a fate worse than death.” She turned toward Azzah, and the two hugged each other and wept together as the men stood quietly, respecting the moment.
“I have prepared grave clothes for my son,” Naamah said. “Bring him into the house. We should prepare his body for burial.”
Micah and Nahum, assisted by Heber, carried him carefully into the house.
“Aunt Naamah, this is our new brother, Heber. He was one of the last to see your son alive, for he was Samson’s eyes to guide him during his final day on earth. Samson asked Heber to bring him to the pillars of the temple, intending to destroy the temple. He spared the boy’s life by telling him to run from the temple. He had nowhere to go after this, for he was a temple slave. So I have adopted him into our family, even as our father adopted us.”
“Welcome to our family,” Naamah said with grandmotherly warmth. “Let me give you a hug.”
The boys laid Samson’s body upon the table and wrapped it in the grave clothes that Naamah had prepared for the occasion. When all was done, we stepped back and formed a circle around the table. Naamah took a deep breath and began to speak her final tribute:
Your strength, O Israel, is slain on the high places!
How have the mighty fallen!
Do not speak of it in Gath,
Do not proclaim it in the streets of Ashkelon,
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
How have the mighty fallen! 113
We paused in reverent silence. “Samson found his faith at the end,” I said finally. “He remembered Yahweh, and Yahweh remembered him. He remembered the law of blind servants, and appealed to God to release him from bondage for the sake of his two eyes. Because he believed the word of God, he asked to be taken to the pillars, knowing that God would give him the strength to topple them. He died as a man of faith, 114 even though that very faith was the cause of his death.”
The room was silent. “We should bury him now,” I said at last.
“Yes,” Naamah said. “Come with me. Let us walk to the tomb of his father.”
We stepped out of the house, where the servants waited with bowed heads. Nahum and Micah led the way, carrying Samson on their strong shoulders, as the procession walked to a nearby clearing among the trees. A rock tomb had been constructed some years earlier. It was large enough for many people, and Manoah lay there with his ancestors. The horses helped us roll away the stone that blocked the low entrance. The boys carried the body of their cousin into the tomb and placed it upon a smooth rock opposite the body of his father. 115
Leaving the tomb, they replaced the stone on its entrance and stood silently for a moment. “Rest in peace, my brother,” Nahum said softly.
Azzah took Nahum’s hand, and they were comforted, each feeling the grief of the other.
“It seems that God is again raising up a new family,” Sipporah whispered to me.
“I think Naamah will be well cared for in her golden years,” I replied. “The estate will have an heir after all.”