The map above shows a portion of the Shephelah related to incidents in the life of Samson. It is taken from A Pisgah—Sight of Palestine, published in London in 1650 by Thomas Fuller (1608–1661), the first biblical geography (maps with text) published in English. The book contains 21 skillfully engraved maps, including this one of the territory of the tribe of Simeon, and its text is a delight to read, full of wit and quaint messages of homiletic sense and charm.
Samson’s thoughts turned from the low hills of the Shephelah to the bustling coastal cities on the plain, with their busy marts and fair Philistine girls. Upward toward the Judean plateau, Samson could see only relatively harsh conditions, small towns and a crude material culture. Recognizing his attraction to the Philistines, Samson’s parents asked their son: “Isn’t there any woman among our relatives and people who will satisfy you? Do you have to take a wife from among these uncircumcised Philistines?” Samson replied: “Get her for me; for she pleases me” (Judges 14:2–3). Yet Samson was not able to live comfortably with the Philistines. Culturally, Samson was an Israelite—a Nazirite from the womb. This tension between two alien ways of life was expressed in incidents of violence recorded in Samson’s life. Full-scale hostilities involving opposing armies apparently did not occur until the time of Samuel, but local outbreaks must have been common. After all, the Shephelah belonged neither to the plateau nor to the plain. The people of each area could rightfully see the foothills as their natural frontier. The Shephelah therefore belonged to whoever was stronger, and in the days of Samson both sides lay claim to it, but neither could possess it entirely.
In the northeast quadrant of the map, Samson pursues the Philistines with the jawbone (lehi) of an ass, the source of the place-name. Behind him he leaves “heaps upon heaps,” a word-play since the Hebrew chamor is used both for “an ass” and “a heap.” A nearby spring is called En-Hakkore (Crier’s Spring) because Samson was sorely in need of water to quench his thirst after this victory. In Rupas Etham, or the Rock of Etam, is a cave that served as a dwelling place for Samson.
Diagonally across the map, Samson is seen carrying off the doors of the city-gate of Gaza and depositing them on top of a hill to the east of Hebron. Note how carefully Samson avoids trespassing on land dedicated to the priestly tribe of Levi, indicated by the two concentric circles surrounding the Levitical city’s endowed land used in support of the priests. On the banks of the Sorek River, we see the house of Delilah, the “femme fatale” whose betrayal of Samson ultimately led to his own demise when he brought down the Temple of Dagon in Gaza. Samson’s life ended tragically, but in his last moments he was able to fulfill his destiny, “to strike the first blow to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).