Bible Reference: Judges 16:1-22
Heart of the Story: Samson fell in love; his love’s name was Delilah. Delilah is a Semitic name; however, Delilah’s actions put her firmly in the Philistine camp. She was his downfall.
Story Line: Possibly Delilah was half Israelite and half Philistine which may have explained why Samson was so comfortable around her. Josephus noted that Delilah was a harlot; however, the Bible doesn’t label her as such (Whiston, 1987). Delilah lived in the Valley of Sorek, located between Israelite and Philistine lands. When Philistine leaders learned that Samson was spending time with Delilah, five of them went to her. Each offered Delilah eleven hundred shekels of silver if Delilah cajoled Samson to reveal the secret of his great strength so they could tie Samson up and subdue him.
Not once do we read that Delilah loved Samson; her behavior revealed just the opposite, i.e., that she was willing to use him for gain. Of course the offer of 55,000 silver shekels was a tremendous amount of money, equivalent to the price of 275 slaves at the rate offered for Joseph centuries earlier (Judges 16:5, textnote NIV). That money would mean that Delilah could live an independent life style throughout her life with servants to wait on her.
As we read the Bible account of Samson and Delilah, it appears that the two of them are playing a game. She asks him the source of his amazing strength and he answers with a lie. As the same time that Samson lies, his answer is logical perhaps because it is a challenge to implement. For example, in Samson’s first response he tells Delilah that if he is tied with seven fresh, thongs (braided rope), he would become as weak as other men. The noted Israeli botanist, Nogah Hareuveni proposed that the throngs that Samson identified were made from the yitran plant (Hareuveni,1989). Accessing seven fresh thongs would have been a challenge for the Philistines. Yitran didn’t grow in the Sorek Valley where Delilah lived. Rather thee yitran plant grew along the seashore. Yitran available in local markets would have been dried, not fresh. To make fresh yitran thongs, fresh yitran bark had to be brought from the from the Mediterranean Sea coast in one day’s time. Plus, the yitran had to be smooth, that is without twigs, so it could be braided into a rope.
Clearly the Philistine rulers believed Samson’s answer. They brought Delilah seven braided ropes made from yitran. While Samson was asleep, Delilah tied Samson hands with the ropes. With Philistines hid in an adjoining room, Delilah cried out “Samson, the Philistines are upon you” (Judges 16:9, NIV). Samson snapped the yitran thongs and killed his attackers, clearly demonstrating that the secret of Samson’s strength was not associated with yitran rope. After one failure Delilah kept badgering Samson to learn the reason for his strength. Samson gave her two more false answers, i.e., new rope never used on another person and weaving seven braids of his hair into fabric on a loom. Each time the Philistines believed Samson’s answer and each time Samson fought off Philistines when they attacked him.
Pondering Relationships: After three lies and three attempts on his life, a reasonable person would have concluded that Delilah was working with the Philistines to capture him. Apparently, Samson did not put the cause and effect relationship together of his identifying the source of his strength and the Philistines attempting to capture. Samson continued to live with or visit Delilah, blinded by his love for her. Eventually, Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say, ‘I love you’ when you won’t confide in me” (Judges 16:15, NIV). When Delilah uttered these words, most of us think back to Samson’s wife who used the same ploy, i.e., “if you loved me.”
Seemingly, Samson didn’t learn from the result of giving the riddle’s answer to his wife. Alternatively, Samson was so blinded by his love for Delilah, that he saw no guile in her. Samson’s love for Delilah coupled with her continuing to nag and prod wore Samson down. Finally, Samson told Delilah that he was a Nazarite, set apart to God from his birth. He had never cut his hair; but, if his head was shaved, his strength would leave him. He would be no stronger than other men. Samson’s answer showed that he was 1) aware that he was set apart for God, 2) to be a Nazarite and keep the Nazarite vows, and 3) the importance of not cutting his hair.
Delilah sent word to the Philistines that she had the secret to Samson’s strength and once again they came to her home in the Sorek Valley. Gently, Delilah put Samson to sleep on her lap. Perhaps Samson was drunk otherwise he would have felt his hair being shaved off. After his hair was removed, Delilah called out, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” (Judges 16:20, NIV). Samson woke from his sleep and thought that he would once again go out of the house and free himself from the Philistines. In that moment in time, Samson did not know that God had left him.
Because of Delilah’s betrayal of Samson, the Philistines captured him. They gouged out Samson’s eyes, bound him in bronze shackles, took him to Gaza, and set him to grinding grain in prison. Never again in the Bible do we read about Delilah. Was she remorseful about any of her actions? How did she feel when she saw or learned that the Philistines gouged out Samson’s eye? Did she think about how her proud lover may have felt chained to a grinding stone in prison, a job usually allocated to donkeys?
Reflection: What are we to learn from mistakes we make?
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Copyright July 31, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth