[Milton-L] Samson's prayer of revenge

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 28 18:37:48 EST 2008

I'm not sure which would be a more brutal way to lose one's sight, having one's eyes cut out or having them perforated, but more to your point, I don't know why Milton would differ from earlier interpretations that you have noted.
  John Gill, in his exposition of Judges 16:21, interprets the Hebrew to mean "gouge out" but also notes a variant interpretation that surfaces in the Arabic version:
  and put out his eyes; that should his strength return to him, be might not be able to see where and whom to strike, and so be incapable of doing much mischief any more; the word signifies, they "dug" or "bored them" {i} out; they plucked or cut out his eye balls, so that it was impossible his sight should ever be recovered; according to the Arabic version, they blinded him by putting fire to his eyes; the Jews observe, that this was done in just retaliation, measure for measure; Samson, they say {k}, went after his eyes; that is, by taking one harlot after another; therefore the Philistines put out his eyes:

  (See commentary to Judges 16:21 at http://www.freegrace.net/gill/)
  I'm not claiming that Milton knew Arabic, but I wonder if he could have known of a variant tradition (or traditions) that would help us make sense of his expression in Samson Agonistes: "eyes fast fixt."
  By the way, the version that we find in the Arabic, i.e., "putting fire to his eyes," might explain the use of a red-hot poker to blind Samson in the 1984 television movie Samson and Delilah, directed by director Lee Philips. (Has this motif been used in other Samson movies?)
  Milton often goes outside of traditional Christian interpretation for his source materials. Looking into the rabbinical traditions on Samson might be interesting. I wonder what John Seldon says about Samson's blindness.
  Jeffery Hodges
Harold Skulsky <hskulsky at email.smith.edu> wrote:
  The variant translations in LXX are "exekopsan" and "exoryxan"--"cut OUT," "dug OUT." Jerome has "eruerunt"--"drew OUT," "rooted OUT." I would wager that Junius-Tremellius gives "eruerunt." Why would M have differed from earlier interpreters in imagining the Philistine attack as meticulously surgical rather than brutal?

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University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

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