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Non Fiction

The Lion’s Honey by David Grossman

One of the most memorable biblical stories for me is Samson and Delilah. Strength, seduction, hero, capture, hair… who would forget?

Samson the hero; a brave warrior, leader of men and Nazarite of God? or a misfit given to whoring and lust, who failed to fulfil his destiny? In Lion’s Honey David Grossman takes on one of the most vivid and controversial biblical character and psychoanalyse it.

Until it is mentioned though, I forgot that Samson had battled with a lion, involve with many women, when I thought it was just Delilah, and his final betrayal by the one woman he loves, Delilah.

The book begins with The Book of Judges in the bible, 29 pages from chapter 13 to 16 in the original King James translation. Followed by a foreword and followed by part story part analysis of the events of Samson’s life, climax into Samson’s final act of death, bringing down a temple on himself and three thousand Philistines.

Grossman asked if the hero of our story is a man who does not know, and perhaps will never reall understand, that God, even before his birth, has nationalised his desires, his love, his emotional life. – page 41

Is Samson’s downfall pre-destined and the will of God? Is Samson’s downfall happened so that he could fulfil a higher mission? It does seem so in this biblical context. But why did he succumb to Delilah’s trickery? when evidently he knew that she is not trustworthy?

The answer to the last question, however, lies within this book.

The brilliance of this book however is not the psychoanalysis but Grossman’s symbolic interpretation of Samson as both the epitome of the Israel psyche and the birth of the suicide killer.

To this may be added the well-known Israeli feeling, in the face of any threat that comes along, that the country’s security is crumbling – a feeling that also exists in the case of Samson, who in certain situations seems to shatter into pieces, his strength vanishing in the blink of an eye. This kind of collapse, however, does not reflect one’s actual strength, and often carries in its wake an overblown display of force, further complicating the situation. all of this attests, it would seem  to a rather feeble sense of ownership of the power that had been attained, and, of course, to a deep existential insecurity. – page 89

As a symbol of strength, Samson name is found on ‘Samson’s Foxes’ of the 1948 War of independence to the ‘Samson’ unit created during the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s etc.

‘Those who were slain by him as he died’, it is written, outnumbered those who had been slain by him when he lived’, and in the echo chamber of our own time and place there is no escaping the thought that Samson was, in a sense, the first suicide killer; and although the circumstances of his deed were different from those familiar to us from the daily reality of the streets of Israel, it may be that the act itself established in human consciousness a mode of murder and revenge directed at innocent victims, which has been perfected in recent years. – page 143

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Samson and Delilah, ca. 1610. National Gallery, London


Short, concise, thought provoking as most of the novels in the Canongate myth series aspire to be. This book is a good read for the lonely soul and a juxtaposition of Samson and today’s Israel.

First line:

There is a point in the Samson story – the moment he falls asleep on Delilah’s lap – that seems to absorb and encapsulate the entire tale.

Last line:

Let my soul die as it had always lived. Without being truly close to another soul, alone among foreigners who sought without surcease to injure it, ridicule it, betray it. Let my soul die with the Philistines.

My first book for the Read-a-Myth Challenge, more to come! (By the way, I am hosting this, together with Bina@ifyoucanreadthis :))

HardbackPublisherCanongate 2006Length: 156 pages ; Setting: Biblical time.  Source: Reading Library.  Finished reading on28 May 2010. Translated from Hebrew by Stuart Schoffman.

Other views:

Marg @ the adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Rhinoa’s Ramblings
Things Mean A Lot

About the writer:

David Grossman is a leading Israeli writer whose work has been translated into 25 languages. He is the author of six internationally acclaimed novels and a number of children’s books. Gross man has been presented with numerous awards including the Chevalier de ‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France). He lives with his wife and children in a suburb of Jerusalem. Alongside Amos Oz, he has been one of the most prominent cultural advocates of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Have you read any of Grossman or books from the Canongate Myth series?

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


9 thoughts on “The Lion’s Honey by David Grossman

  1. Hey there! Long time no “see”! Just back from my overseas trip now catching up on friends’ blogs 🙂

    I like your review and find for this book. My favorite biblical story is perhaps Elijah. But I am intrigued by your review. I will certainly check out this book and see if it stocked in our library!

    Posted by Wilfrid Wong | June 1, 2011, 12:13 am
  2. And there is! OK, I am heading to the library near my workplace this lunch time! Woohoo!.

    Posted by Wilfrid Wong | June 1, 2011, 12:14 am
  3. Wonderful review, Jo! I haven’t heard of this book – it is a new discovery for me, thanks to you 🙂 Congratulations on completing your first book for the ‘Read-a-Myth’ challenge!

    On suicide killers, I read a book a few years back called ‘Blossoms in the Wind’ by M.G.Sheftall. I read it for book club and I haven’t seen it reviewed anywhere else. It is a book about Japanese Kamikaze pilots (who crashed their planes on American ships during the Second World War). The writer of the book is American but the book is written from the Kamikaze pilots’ perspective. It is a beautiful book and it deserves to be better known. If you are interested, you can check it out.

    Posted by Vishy | June 1, 2011, 6:54 am
  4. I ve read a few grossman books to me he is onbe of the top Hebrew writers at moment ,he has a way of conveying Israeli ,I ve not read this and I think I will read it at some point not sure if this is on offer at book people they do some collections will go have a look later ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | June 1, 2011, 9:50 pm


  1. Pingback: My past year’s read on Mythology | The Read-A-Myth Reading Challenge - June 4, 2011

  2. Pingback: May 2011 Wrap-up Post | The Read-A-Myth Reading Challenge - June 5, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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