Questions From Readers
● The Bible tells that Samson killed men and animals. How could he touch dead bodies in view of his being a Nazirite?—M.G., Australia.
According to the Mosaic law an Israelite could take a vow to live as a Nazirite for a time. While under his vow he was not supposed to touch dead bodies. We read: “All the days of his keeping separate to Jehovah he may not come toward any dead soul. Not even for his father or his mother or his brother or his sister may he defile himself when they die, because the sign of his Naziriteship to his God is upon his head.” (Num. 6:6, 7) If such a one did accidentally touch a dead body, he would have to go through a purification ceremony and make certain offerings. The time already elapsed would not count, and he would start the Nazirite period over again. (Num. 6:8-12) So one thus serving for a temporary period would be careful not to defile himself by touching a dead body.
Before Samson was born Jehovah’s angel told his mother: “A Nazirite of God is what the child will become on leaving the belly.” (Judg. 13:5) Samson was to be a Nazirite all his life. Hence, if he accidentally touched a dead body, he could not start a set period of Naziriteship over. While Samson undoubtedly had respect for the Nazirite requirements, the fact that he was a lifelong Nazirite made his situation somewhat different from those serving as Nazirites for only a short time.
Though Samson was a Nazirite, God selected him to be a judge and to “take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judg. 13:5) It is understandable that he would, in line with his assignment, come in contact with dead bodies, and he did. He struck down thirty Philistines and stripped them of their outfits. Later he went smiting the enemy, “piling legs upon thighs with a great slaughter.” And with a moist jawbone of a male ass he killed a thousand Philistine men. Did Jehovah disapprove of Samson, a Nazirite, striking down Israel’s enemies like that? No, for just before the third slaughter “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon” Samson, giving him superhuman strength. And when Judge Samson was exhausted from the battle, “God split open a mortar-shaped hollow” and miraculously provided water to revive him.—Judg. 14:19–15:19.
Another time Samson demonstrated his God-given strength by bare-handedly and in self-defense killing a roaring maned young lion. (Judg. 14:5-9) We cannot be certain whether the Nazirite restriction about touching dead bodies applied to animal carcasses. The Israelites in general, and the priests in particular, were already under certain regulations that made touching dead unclean animals a thing to be avoided, for it resulted in temporary uncleanness. (Lev. 11:24, 25; 22:2-7) Possibly Nazirites were not restricted further in regard to animals. If Nazirites were to avoid touching all dead animals, that would have made them vegetarians, and there is nothing in the Scriptures saying that they were such.
Samson continued to judge Israel for twenty years, and so it is obvious that God overlooked his touching dead enemies when necessary. (Judg. 15:20) Jehovah made an exception in the case of the Gibeonites, and he could do so in this case so that Samson could fulfill his assignment as judge and deliverer of Israel. (Joshua chap. 9) The fact that Samson allowed his hair to remain long shows that he respected the requirements of a Nazirite that he could fulfill. (Judg. 16:17) He found God’s favor and is recorded in the Scriptures as an example of faith for Christians.—Heb. 11:32; 12:1.
● Was the girl who danced on Herod’s birthday, and who asked for the head of John the Baptist, named Salome?—J. A., U.S.A.
Yes, it appears so, though the Bible does not give her name. The account in Matthew 14:6-8 reads: “When Herod’s birthday was being celebrated the daughter of Herodias danced at it and pleased Herod [Antipas] so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Then she, under her mother’s coaching, said: ‘Give me here upon a platter the head of John the Baptist.’”
The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us that Herodias married her uncle Philip (not the district ruler mentioned at Luke 3:1). This marriage resulted in a daughter named Salome. Later Herod Antipas visited his half brother and became infatuated with Herodias. Divorcing his wife, Herod arranged to marry his niece, Herodias.—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter V, paragraph 4.
John the Baptist openly denounced this adulterous marriage, and was imprisoned for his boldness. (Matt. 14:3, 4; Luke 3:19, 20) But this was not enough for Herodias, who “was nursing a grudge against [John] and was wanting to kill him.” At Herod’s party she got an opportunity. Her daughter, whom Josephus says was named Salome, danced and then asked for John’s head.—Mark 6:19.
This accomplice-in-murder named Salome should not be confused with the Salome who followed Jesus. (Mark 15:40; 16:1) The Salome named in the Bible was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles James and John.—Matt 27:56.