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The Man Who Wore Dreadlocks:  What The Bible Says about Samson

By Betty Miller

What the Bible Says about Samson's Race

Pastors Bud & Betty Miller on Samson’s Race

Many people who have viewed the TV mini-series of The Bible that débuted in March of 2013 have asked whether Samson was black, like the actor who portrayed him. To answer this we must look at scripture, as the Bible reveals the truth regardless of human suppositions, opinions and ideas.

Poetic License

Before discussing this topic, we should note that the producers’ motive in filming this series was to better acquaint this generation with the Bible. And I do believe they are accomplishing this.  They kept the theme of this production closely in line with the Bible–showing that Bible stories are real and that the God of the Bible is with His people. It was emphasized that the same God is still here for all who will turn to Him in faith and repentance. Since some are asking if casting Samson as a black man in this series is really in the Bible, we will first respond by stating that most importantly a new generation is learning the amazing stories in the Bible. I applaud them for bringing forth such a challenging work.

Almost all Bible movies over the years have taken poetic license with the stories to make them more realistic. However, the additional scenes or changes in interpretation typically are to make the story more appealing to a modern audience.  Perhaps the authors of this series wanted to take a nontraditional approach to gain more social and cultural impact with a Samson who wore dreadlocks.

However, as a teacher of the Word of God, when people ask me a direct question about the accuracy of something, in all good conscience I feel I should reply forthrightly, especially since BibleResources.org is in the public forum.  Although I have only seen the first two series at this time, I have noted some things that do not line up exactly with the Word of God in the story about Samson.

What the Bible Says about Samson

Samson was from the Israelite tribe of Dan. According to the Bible, the Danite tribe consisted of the descendants of Dan, a son of Jacob and Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant (Genesis 30:40). In the Biblical account, Dan is one of the two children of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid and one of Jacob’s wives, the other child of Bilhah being Naphtali. Some scholars see this as indicating that the authors saw Dan and Naphtali as being not of entirely Israelite origin (being descendants of handmaids rather than of full wives) so I can only presume that may be why they portrayed Samson as black in this movie series; however, the Bible does not say Samson was black, nor that he was not of the Jewish race. This is theory, in my opinion, as the Bible does not tell us what color of skin Samson had. Certainly there is a possibility there were Ethiopians who may have been black who joined the original Israelites.  Moses married one. (Moses’ first wife Zipporah was “Shemitic” (descended of Noah’s son Shem). However, Moses married a second time to a woman from Ethiopia (Kush)–whose name is never mentioned. This can be found in the Bible: Numbers 12:1: And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.)

Since the Bible pointed out that Moses married a black woman, it stands to reason if Samson was black, the scripture would have also noted that, even as it did concerning the Ethiopian in the New Testament that Phillip witnessed to. With the mention of the Ethiopian in the New Testament and the one Moses married, this seems further proof that Samson was not black since the scripture did not record it, as in other places in scripture.

Some have written us, questioning this portrayal, as it has created some confusion because the scriptures do not say that he was black. Even previous older movie depictions show him as a Caucasian, an Israelite. The Bible tells us he was a Hebrew judge of Israel from the tribe of Dan. Portraying him as black will not matter for most people’s understanding, but for true students of the Bible it is important to defend the accuracy of the Bible. However, the portrayal of Samson being black does not change the impact of the story of Samson in this movie. Here is what the Bible says about the genealogy of Samson. We want to point you to the entire thirteenth chapter of Judges for the whole story.

Judges 13: 2And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
4
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
5
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
Samson was that son.

Additional Deviations

As a defender of the accuracy of the Bible, we can point out other deviations from the scripture in this mini-series story of Samson, as well. The Bible did not say that Delilah cut off his hair.  It states that she caused him to sleep (which could have meant she got him drunk) on her lap and then she called a man servant in to shave his head. The seven locks the Bible spoke of were probably braids (Judges 16:19). It also appeared to me in the movie there were more than seven locks on the black man’s head. (The seven locks have a spiritual meaning.)

Now it is not a great departure from Scripture to show Delilah cutting his hair as she was the instigator behind the act. However, to be totally accurate, we must acknowledge that the Word of God said that a man shaved his head while he slept in Delilah’s lap. A contributor to his loss of strength could also have been that he broke his Nazarite vow of refraining from drinking alcohol, because he never woke up while his head was being shaved so he must have been in a drunken stupor.

Judges 16 (KJV):
19
And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20
And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.

Other instances in which the producers take poetic license in some scenes stir me to comment, too. I do not approach this casting of Samson from any racist viewpoint, as we have many black brothers and sisters that are wonderful saints of God and they have my utmost respect and admiration. However, because many people who have never read the Bible will believe what they see, they might not understand that Samson was an Israelite and a Hebrew judge of Israel. This is important because of the spiritual types in the Bible. It will not matter for most people’s understanding, but for true students of the Word, it is very important in the understanding of Bible doctrine. Personally, I think it would have been better if they had not portrayed Samson as black, as it raises more questions than answers, especially since the scripture is silent on this matter and even previous movies portrayed him as a Caucasian Israelite.

Another departure from scripture in the movie was the scene that depicted Dagon’s house collapsing immediately after Samson’s eyes were put out.  This did not happen right away, but there was a time lapse, as Samson was first taken to the prison house for a time and forced to grind at the mill. (The spiritual lesson we learn from this, is that when one sins, they can end up grinding at the mill of bondage in spiritual blindness.) Later after Samson’s hair began to grow again, he was taken to the house of Dagon where he used his last act of strength to destroy his enemies along with about 3,000 of the Philistines when he pushed on the house’s pillars causing the whole house to collapse. (Go to Judges 16 to read the entire story as recorded in the Bible.)

All For God’s Glory

I am rejoicing that someone would invest their time and talents to produce and show this great series. I do not think that it is appropriate to criticize this work because of the lesser scriptural inaccuracies, when overall, so far, they have kept the stories in the Spirit of the Bible. It is better to have an overall knowledge of the Bible than none at all. This generation is in great need of recognizing the God of the Bible and this series acknowledges Him.

The bottom line:  We all need to learn more about the Bible. Our questions should drive us to read God’s Word to see if videos, movies and sermons line up with the Bible records, instead of solely depending on others to tell us what it says. Bible study is rewarding and fun. God can, and will, reveal to every true seeker the answers we are seeking if we will begin to read and study the Bible. In regard to The Bible series, we praise the Lord for every work that brings glory to God.  We pray that the Lord will bless this work to direct people to read the Bible, so they can know the God of the Bible.

You can use the Bible search feature at www.BibleResources.org to personally study and search the Bible for topics of your interest in several different translations.


Copyright (c) 2013 – Christ Unlimited Ministries – http://BibleResources.org

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Topic: What the Bible Says about Samson
Related Topics:  Baptism in WaterGift of the Holy Spirit; Gift of Tongues; Born Again

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What the Bible Says about Samson

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20 Responses to What the Bible Says about Samson

  1. michael OQuinn says:

    Put together very well. This should be taught at all our churches this is great information.

  2. rich says:

    they spoke against moses wife because she was a decendent of cush. from what research…cush was a bad man

  3. Michael Trusell says:

    I think to find the identity Samson….it would behoove anyone to find the identity of the isrealites! In Joktan & Peleg’s time the people were divided. The question is how…seeing as in those same days…a Hamite by the name if Nimrod united the people.

  4. Michael Trusell says:

    I also don’t think Samson had braids….his hair would’ve constantly grew….that would result in constant combing. That would’ve constantly pulled some hair out. I should know because I’ve had braids. So it would’ve been forbidden to have braids. I have locs now & I can tell the difference.

  5. Drew says:

    Sir,
    Thank you for discussing the race of Samson. My wife and I were watching the Bible series last night, and after noticing a number of inconsistencies with the word of God, we finally turned it off. Any cursory study of history demonstrates that the ancient Israelites were Caucasian. Why would there be a prohibition against mixing in Deuteronomy 23:5, as well as in Ezra and Nehemiah? In addition, David is described in I Samuel 6:12 as ‘ruddy.’ Back then Cush was Caucasian too; however, just like every other country in the Middle Easy and Africa, tremendous racial amalgamation – similar to America over the past 30 years – has taken place.

    • Bible Resources - BibleResources.org says:

      Thank you, Drew, for your comments. We appreciate hearing these views.
      Blessings,
      Bible Resources Staff

      • Angela says:

        I appreciate knowing your views and the type of views that you appreciate because it’s important to see the true hearts of people when they are thumping the Word of God. One can almost get fooled into thinking they are really saints…almost.

    • Michael Trusell says:

      Cush was not Caucasian. His descendants are Sudanese, Ethiopian and Somolians. They would beg the differ as my wife is from Sudan. Those people are darker than blue & gorgeous. Western media & teachings say otherwise. The Cushites derived directly from the Hamites who were the progenitor of the dark, wooly haired races. Also the Israelites were not Caucasian as it is stated they were a new race. In The book of Amos, God asks are you not children unto me as you are to the Ethiopians? Hence they were children of men(Hamites & Shemite). The last anyone checked the Ethiopic race was not Caucasian. Notice also that as the Hebrews had an Ethiopian culture. They were a nation of priests and kings. They had an Ethiopian writing system “Ancient Aramaic”. The cuneiform is as English to Spanish. When I want to research the history people I look for culture, language, and writing systems that can be compared to others. Then since no thing is new under the sun….I look at today’s ways of doing things and compare them with the ways of the ancient world.

    • roymason says:

      Why does anybody ask the producers of “The Bible series” the reasons they had chosen a black actor to portray Samson ?

      • Angela says:

        Because they can’t have God not be God only for a certain race of people. It’s a desire for superiority in the eyes of God and forced onto all the rest of us. It is truly sick and a scourge on other human beings. You people should stop to consider God’s second greatest commandment aside from loving Him. It is to love others as yourself and that includes non whites. God didn’t have the scriptures put together with a “race” in mind except the Israelites and last I checked it was their faith not their “race” that made them God’s chosen. It wasn’t even “their” faith it was the faith of ONE MAN whose skin if you want to be about skin, was extremely most likely of absolutely no white hue. Wow…

    • Ray says:

      The Bible did say Samson had locks; I don’t think there were any Caucasians in ancient times with locks. But across the border in Egypt some people did have locks. Your “Back then Cush was Caucasian too” is a ridiculous statement. Cush other names, Nubia was one, Ethiopia was another. The Bible did say this: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin…” The only Caucasians in Africa, came later and they were the Greeks, who North African colonized portion of Greece, and the Greeks had relations with Egyptians and some later intermarried. In the 4th Century B.C. Alexander the “Great” took over Egypt. The Israelis weren’t Caucasians they were hard to tell apart from the Egyptians. Racial mixing was more common than you think.

  6. greg says:

    I must say I am more than annoyed at Hollywood (or wherever it is) historical innacuracies which are just ways to appease those who protest the most.

    Samson was not black but definitely the sort of colour you would expect from Israel. After all, black people back then had it worse than they do these days by a fair margin.

    However, this isnt the only historical innacuracy. In films like Thor and The Avengers, they show Heimdahl (I may have spelled that innacurately) as a black man yet in Norse mythology, he was described as “The whitest of the white”.

    What really does annoy me the most is that it matters what history says until it comes to Caucasian or Biblical reference people and places. In those cases they only care to be shown as “politically correct”. I am amazed that they havent cast every great American President of note as something other than what history says, that being the ethnic background of that person. What is a TV show or film worth if it shows innacuracies this badly?

  7. roy mason says:

    Why does anybody ask the producers of “The Bible series” the reasons they had chosen a black actor to portray Samson ?

  8. Josiah says:

    I enjoyed all of the discussion surrounding the race of Samson; it provoked me to think a bit. The essential element to keep in mind when watching something produced or recreated by ‘Hollywood’ is that it will never cover the entire truth. The Bible itself does not record everything that has happened in history. Although there are plenty of inaccuracies depicted throughout this series, it gives an overall synopsis of the biblical account. An account that today’s society needs! Now for the “students of the bible,” of course these inaccuracies can be very frustrating but this is why the Word of God instructs us to study to show ourselves approved. Furthermore, for mature saints, the race of Samson is irrelevant when grasping the many lessons and examples of God’s power illustrated in the life of Samson. A final thought. Based on a brief historical analysis, I personally believe that Samson would more closely have been a person that would resemble or be described today as “non-white or Caucasian.”

  9. ldjonsey says:

    For white people to assume that all the people of the Bible (unless explicitly stated otherwise) were white is absolute ridiculousness to me. It is a far more natural assumption to assume people ranged in various shades of color (from the lightest tan to the darkest black). “Caucasion” is a term used only in the last few hundred years. Developed by a European to classify people based on their skin color and therefore assert false superiority. Christians should not be so concerned with skin color (outward appearance). I have never considered what color Samson was, and quite honestly, who living today can be certain of his pigment? To debate such things minimizes the message in his story. If points out how small-minded and worldly some who claim Christ really are. It shows your heart.

    • Angela says:

      AMEN! It’s disgusting.

      • Trina Galloway says:

        It is sad that our society can only see black and white with white being the most obvious. If we left it up to society, blacks or African-Americans never existed, but we did. We did back in Biblical times and we do now. A note to Caucasians or Europeans, we do exist and have for as far back as man has recorded. Don’t try to eliminate our color, the real truth has been hidden for decades upon decades and one day the true color will be revealed. Ditto to Idjonsey and angela.

  10. Leo says:

    I just watched The Bible up to Messiah and I think it is a good intent of a film to portray the most intricate and wonderful of all books. This Shimshom debate on his ethnicity or race is clearly unnecessary for the studious, it is obvious that he was not african. To regular people (most of viewers) suppose this since it is Jewish History (shall I stress this more?) and it is understandable, but the story itself as the programme portrays it carries the goal as a whole to inform the public of the True God, to know God, show real people that endured, their repentance, and a possibility of a relationship of holiness with God.

  11. Dominique says:

    The Israelites are what people of today would call a “black” race of people. The Ethiopians are another black race – Cushites. The Bible isn’t going to speak in terms of skin color because many in that area were what people today would call “black.” Archaeology has shown that the ancient Egyptians were what those today would call a black race. This is why Joseph’s siblings couldn’t tell who he was when they saw him after selling him (because he too was black and the only way of denoting their race was by their way of dress and even language). This is also why Mary and Joseph could hide in Egypt (because they too were what you would call black).

    It wouldn’t make sense to constantly state their skintone. They were Israelites – not “black” because that’s not a race. It only denotes a skintone. Race defined by the Bible is not the same as the world has taught that race is defined. Race is your nationality (which is comprised of a common culture and language). What you’ve stated in this article is ONLY your opinion because you said “they weren’t entirely of Israelite origin” showing that you do not understand what the Bible teaches on race/nationality. You are what your FATHER is because you are his seed (Job 8:8). This is also why lineages were only described using the men in the lineage (Genesis 4:16-26, chapter 10 and luke 3:23-38).

    Many people in America think there is only black and white race when there are in fact many “black” and “white” races. The Israelites are scattered as the Bible said they would be because of their transgression (Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 28) and we are being awakened as the Most High speaks of in what is commonly referred to as the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37).

    I just had to bring the truth because I’m tired of our book being twisted.

    Shalom all

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