When I decided to read the entire Bible on my own, I should not have been so shocked that it was dramatically different then I thought. I went to Catholic school for something like 8 years.
Going to a religious school, I can tell you the synopsis of most biblical stories like the back of my hand. I can recite many prayers and bible verses (even if I don’t know where in the bible they are) from memory.
It’s logical that the writer’s of children’s bibles take some allowances with the stories. They even leave some out entirely. Kids don’t need to hear about Jael killing Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple while he slept. I can only imagine the psychological implications of sharing that one.
As I started recognizing the differences, I thought they would all be sensical. I can see why I never knew that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found the people worshiping a golden calf that many of them were killed by their own family members and that Moses made them drink the gold. That would be too violent for my elementary school mind to handle.
What I wasn’t expecting was the story of Samson and how different it was from what I recalled. I now understand the true lesson: It’s never too late to seek forgiveness from God. That lesson was lost on me until I read the book of Judges myself. I’m not sure if my school was unique in teaching the story of Samson and Delilah alarmingly inaccurately but nevertheless, I was appalled to find out the truth about Samson.
Samson is crazy. He seems unstable. He’s born of a women who couldn’t conceive (God loves this story line) and is blessed with strength. He ignores his parents plea not to marry a Phillistine, tries to get rich with a weird riddle, is mad that he’s tricked into not putting 30 men in the poor house, kills people to meet his debt, goes home to pout, gets bored, goes back to get his wife but finds she’s not available, TIES FOXES TAILS TOGETHER AND SETS THEM ON FIRE. I know times were different but WOW! So many questions. How did he catch the foxes? How did their tails tie together? Did the foxes die or did they know stop, drop, and roll?
Anyways, the story of Samson that I knew was a romantic tale of a heroic martyr who, despite being a man of God, sacrificed it all. I remember feeling so sad for Samson and for Delilah and their lost love. It seemed so unfair to me and, to that effect, I thought the lesson was to sacrifice incredibly for God even when it’s not or doesn’t seem fair (which is a good lesson too) but I guess I missed the forgiveness lesson, which is a real shame. I can’t think of a better (or more exciting) demonstration to kids that, as you travel through life, no matter how far you’ve strayed you can always come back to God.