Why Why Why Delilah?

Judges 16. 1-31

Delilah ©MicahHayns
My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah
I could see, that girl was no good for me
But I was lost like a slave that no man could free

I’m sure we’ve all crooned along to this Tom Jones classic. It’s a fantastically dark song about a woman caught in adultery who is murdered by her man:

She stood there laughing
I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more

The story of Delilah in the book of Judges is also a pretty dark tale, but this time the woman doesn’t end up dead. Delilah is a classic example of the female archetype that we see in both ancient and modern myths and stories:

 The Femme Fatale

The Femme Fatale is portrayed as seductive, sexual, intelligent and beautiful. She normally eschews family life and is considered dangerous. She uses her ‘seductive’ skills to bring about the fall of a man previously thought to be invincible. We might think of Salome (‘bring me the head of John the Baptist’), Cleopatra or Carmen. Or more recent examples are Christine Keeler of the Profumo scandal, or Villanelle in Killing Eve.

Samson was Judge in Israel at a time when they were under the dominion of the Philistines. He was waging a private battle against them which culminated in a massive Israelite victory, and Samson was seen as the strongest and most powerful hero of his time.

That is until he fell in love.

I could see, that girl was no good for me
But I was lost like a slave that no man could free

It is likely that Delilah was a Philistine – she’s certainly portrayed as a foreigner. Unlike most other women she isn’t defined by her relationship to another man – we aren’t told who her father or brother is – she just appears, which adds to her intrigue and danger.

The Philistines offered her an enormous amount of money (11,000 pieces of silver) in return for information about Samson’s weakness so they could beat him in battle. It’s the riddle that he doesn’t want anyone to find out: the secret to his strength.

Coax him and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him

Judges 16.5

We don’t know if Delilah agreed to betray Samson out of loyalty to her people, hatred of Samson, or for the money.

My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah

But she agreed. This led to her using all of her wily skills to find out her lover’s secret. She pleaded – ‘please tell me what makes your strength so great’; she pretended to be hurt – ‘you have mocked me and told me lies’; she was assertive – ‘until now you have mocked me.. tell me how you could be bound’.

Samson played along for a while.

‘if they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out,’
‘if they bind me with new ropes that have not been used’
‘if you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and make it tight’
… then I shall become weak

Judges 16. 7-14

All those cords – it’s all rather kinky! But each time he broke free.

She then appealed to the heart and used persistence (which, when applied to women, is often called nagging).

How can you say, ‘I love you’ when your heart is not with me?…Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him, he was tired to death. So he told her’

Judges 15. 16-17
Samson and Delilah, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553)

Once she had the secret she passed this on to the Philistines who paid her. She soothed him to sleep on her lap and another man came in and cut all his hair off: his strength left him. He was then blinded, thrown into prison and humiliated by being forced to ‘entertain’ his guards (we don’t know exactly what that means).

My my my Delilah
Why why why Delilah
I could see, that girl was no good for me

 

His hair grew back and his strength returned and so in a final act of revenge Samson pulled the pillars down on them all, killing himself and his Philistine captors. We don’t know if Delilah was amongst them. I think it’s unlikely she stuck around once she’d got her cash. She was far too wily for that!

Forgive me Delilah I just couldn’t take any more

Reflection and Prayer

If you’re now humming the Tom Jones song Delilah you might want to have a listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S87jWwzvwd8

If you’d like to listen to something a little more erudite then Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson and Delilah has a fantastic aria called Bacchanale which you can listen to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdITMksls0Y

Samson and Delilah had very different ways of showing strength didn’t they?Samson’s strength seemed to lie in his physical appearance, and yet even this powerful man had a weakness. On the surface, Delilah seemed the weaker of the two, but she demonstrated great strength through her cunning and powers of persuasion. It can be difficult to gauge the strength of others, we often don’t even know our own abilities – some of us look strong on the outside and yet inside are weak and vulnerable; and others are perceived to be weak and yet in adversity turn out to have nerves of steel and an ability to withstand all kinds of trials.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power...
Therefore take up the whole armour of God...fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Ephesians.6:10,15-18 

As we pray for strength in these troubling times, perhaps we might like to pray the prayer of St Patrick, whose Saint’s Day was earlier this week, for ourselves and for our loved ones. Maybe we can imagine ourselves putting on the armour of God as we do so.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all who love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
St Patrick’s Breastplate

Author: clarehayns

College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator of Christ Church, Oxford | Mum of three boys | wife of a juggler and magician | Council of Reference of ZANE - http://www.zane-zimbabweanationalemergency.com | enjoys board games, dog walking, films, eating out.

6 thoughts on “Why Why Why Delilah?”

  1. Dear Clare, I am really enjoying your blogposts. So timely too, now that we cannot gather together. Fascinating women you have uncovered for us. I am looking forward to reading the rest. Take good care of yourself during these anxious times. David Meara

    Like

  2. Hi just to say this blog is brilliant!
    I look forward to reading it daily. It’s a refreshing change.
    Thank you Very much

    Like

  3. I am beguiled by your women, all so different. Women had such a bad deal in those times and it is only fairly recently that women – in this country -managed to attain equality. Fascinating stories, thank you.

    Like

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