The Face of an Israelite Judge

Another Samson mosaic revealed at Huqoq

Strong as an ox, Samson effortlessly carries the gate of Gaza on his shoulders in this newly discovered mosaic decorating the floor of the fifth-century A.D. synagogue at Huqoq. Photo by Jim Haberman.

During excavations this summer, yet another mosaic depicting Samson was uncovered at the fifth-century synagogue of Huqoq in Lower Galilee. Last year, as reported in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review,* the Huqoq Excavation Project—led by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority—unearthed a mosaic depicting an episode from Judges 15 in which Samson ties 150 pairs of foxes to torches by their tails to destroy the fields of the Philistines. The mosaic found this season is a scene of Samson—gigantic in stature—carrying the city gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). As Jodi Magness explained, “The discovery of two Samson scenes in the Huqoq synagogue suggests that it was decorated with a Samson cycle—the first such cycle known in Israel.” Also discovered this season was a mosaic that may depict a martyrdom story from the apocryphal book of Maccabees. If confirmed, it would be the first example of imagery from an apocryphal book being used to decorate an ancient synagogue.

Read more about the new Huqoq mosaics.



Related Resources

For more on Huqoq and its impressive mosaics, read these Bible History Daily exclusives:

Karen Britt, “The Huqoq Synagogue Mosaics.”

David Amit, “Mosaic Inscription from a Synagogue at Horvat Huqoq.”




* Jodi Magness, “Samson in the Synagogue,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2013.

Posted in Biblical Archaeology Sites, News.

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  • HMcken says

    Samson in the scriptures had seven long locks (dreads), which would have passed his waist, long enough to be woven in Delilah’s loom (his coniving mistress) . His hair is still long when he carries away the city gates in anger, after one of the assination attempts on him fails. It was only after he finally revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah, that she had his hair shorn off and eyes plucked out . The mosaic scene above incorrectly represent the sequence of the story (read Judges 16)

  • Jay says

    The first question here was about Samson’s short hair yet he had the super stength as if he had his seven long locks in dealing with Philistine house. I would appreciate a reply to my reply that might counter what I have stated; not for debate but just for clarification. I did not intend that there was any question about evidence or mis-reading.

  • Jay says

    In the picture here, Samson’s hair length is only like mine becomes, six or seven weeks after a haircut; not long enough for seven locks. This is just a quick interpretation and I am not a bible scholar. After Samson was in prison his hair began to grow back as it says in the scripture (KJV). A marginal note indicates that Samson’s hair had returned to its length at the time it was shaved off (vs 22). Yet my interpretation has been that it was only the Almighty who gave Samson the strength to do what he finally did to the Philistines. A marginal note in my 1560 edition of the Geneva Bible points out what I have always believed.

  • Alex says

    Why is Samson here depicted with short hair?

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