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masc. proper name, Biblical strong-man (Judges xiii-xvi), from Late Latin, from Greek Sampson, from Hebrew Shimshon, probably from shemesh "sun." As a generic name for a man of great strength, attested from 1565. Samsonite, proprietary name for a make of luggage, is 1939, by Shwayder Bros. Inc., Denver, U.S.
In the Old Testament, an Israelite servant of God who pitted his invincible strength and his wits against the Philistines on many occasions. He was eventually betrayed by his lover, the beautiful Delilah, who tricked Samson into telling her that the secret of his strength lay in his uncut hair. Delilah cut Samson's hair while he slept, and then called for the Philistines, who captured and blinded him. During his captivity, Samson's hair grew back, and he eventually pulled the Philistines' banquet hall down on their heads.
of the sun, the son of Manoah, born at Zorah. The narrative of his life is given in Judg. 13-16. He was a "Nazarite unto God" from his birth, the first Nazarite mentioned in Scripture (Judg. 13:3-5; comp. Num. 6:1-21). The first recorded event of his life was his marriage with a Philistine woman of Timnath (Judg. 14:1-5). Such a marriage was not forbidden by the law of Moses, as the Philistines did not form one of the seven doomed Canaanite nations (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4). It was, however, an ill-assorted and unblessed marriage. His wife was soon taken from him and given "to his companion" (Judg. 14:20). For this Samson took revenge by burning the "standing corn of the Philistines" (15:1-8), who, in their turn, in revenge "burnt her and her father with fire." Her death he terribly avenged (15:7-19). During the twenty years following this he judged Israel; but we have no record of his life. Probably these twenty years may have been simultaneous with the last twenty years of Eli's life. After this we have an account of his exploits at Gaza (16:1-3), and of his infatuation for Delilah, and her treachery (16:4-20), and then of his melancholy death (16:21-31). He perished in the last terrible destruction he brought upon his enemies. "So the dead which he slew at his death were more [in social and political importance=the elite of the people] than they which he slew in his life." "Straining all his nerves, he bowed: As with the force of winds and waters pent, When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars With horrible convulsion to and fro He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder Upon the heads of all who sat beneath, Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests, Their choice nobility and flower." Milton's Samson Agonistes.