Delilah – her name means “delicate or dainty one”
Her story is found in Judges 16
Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever known that feeling, an emptiness in the deepest part of your soul, when you realized the one you loved & trusted has been unfaithful to you or shared your secrets with your enemy? Samson knew that feeling. He was betrayed by the woman he loved. He was betrayed by Delilah.
Not many people call their daughters Delilah – a name that has become synonymous with a femme fatale who will ultimately bring disaster to any man who becomes involved with her. The strongest man who ever lived, Samson, and the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, were both brought down by bad women. Perhaps Solomon was thinking of Delilah when he wrote Proverbs 5 and the following verse in Ecclesiastes 7:26:
And I discovered that [of all irrational sins none has been so destructive in beguiling one away from God as immoral women for] more bitter than death is the woman whose heart is [composed of] snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. Whoever pleases God will escape from her, but the sinner will be taken captive by her [evil]. – AMP
A Woman Named Delilah
The Bible says: Samson WANTED his wife, he HAD SEX with a prostitute, but he LOVED Delilah.
“Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah who lived in the valley of Sorek.” Judges 16:5
Delilah’s nationality is a mystery. Jewish rabbis and Josephus think she was a Philistine but the Bible does not say one way or another. I, personally, think she may have been a Jewess who betrayed her own country’s spiritual leader for money. (Delilah is a Hebrew name, she lives in the territory of the tribe of Dan, calls out “The Philistines are upon you” to Samson and then there’s the Micah’s mother thing – see below.)
Most commentaries call her a harlot – citing her actions as those of a loose woman (sleeping with a man for money) – but the Bible does NOT call her a prostitute nor does it explicitly state that she had illicit sexual relations with Samson. In fact, some scholars think she and Samson were married. More likely he went from wanting a wife, to visiting a prostitute, to becoming a live-in lover.
The Study Bible for Women says, “ironically the one time Samson appeared to love and trust someone, she proved to be as callous and uncaring to him as he had been to others.” Philistine rulers came in secret and offered Delilah a boatload of silver to betray her strongman. She accepts and the game is afoot.
And Samson loves to play games. He fooled his parents by giving them honey out of a dead lion. A riddle with his groomsmen destroyed his relationship with his now-deceased wife and her family members. He burned the Philistines crops by tying torches to the tails of foxes, killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey and after visiting a prostitute carried the gates of Gaza several miles away at midnight to show the city their security system was a joke. Now he’ll try and brush off Delilah’s persistence with a series of jokes.
Delilah starts the game with flattery – batting her eyes, squeezing his big bicep and saying, “Please tell me why you’re so strong and no one can ever capture you.” When that failed, she worked on his character then his feelings. “You are lying to me. You don’t really love me.” Then she turns on the waterworks – using the same technique as Samson’s dearly departed wife who wept the whole seven days of her wedding feast. Delilah nagged Samson day after day and pleaded with him until she wore him out – one Bible version says until “he was annoyed to death” – then he gave in and told her the whole truth.
“While you were sleeping”
I used to think the euphemism for having sex with someone you’re not married to – sleeping together – was kind of weak. Sleep is such a benign term. The biblical words fornication and adultery pack way more punch. But a recent phenomenon on social media changed my mind – sleeping around someone else involves trust. Father’s Day 2016. A new father decides babies are kind of boring so he sees how many Cheerios he can stack on his sleeping infant’s face. The pictures go viral and spark copycat behavior. The first time I saw the images, I slammed my Ipad shut and had to walk away. I was mortified that a parent would betray their trusting infant in such a trivial way.
Sleeping all night in the same bed with someone you don’t know (and can’t trust) is almost as foolhardy as having sex with a total stranger. All of us, every one of us, are completely vulnerable when we are asleep. Samson trusted Delilah. She didn’t deserve it but he trusted her. It was while he was sleeping that she betrayed him – four times. Instead of running for his life after the first attempt, invincible Samson kept on playing Delilah’s dangerous game. Josephus believed the phrase “she made him sleep upon her knee” means that she drugged him that final night. The men who were paying her for the information on how to defeat Samson hid in the room next door, watching for their moment to pounce.
The Bible does not tell us what happened to Delilah after she betrays Samson. Did you she have any remorse? Was she present when the lords of the Philistines brutally gouged out her lover’s eyes – those wandering eyes that had gotten him in so much trouble? Was beautiful Delilah counting her stacks of silver the last thing Samson saw on this earth?
Some say Delilah was probably in attendance at the great celebration giving glory to Dagon, the Philistine’s grain god. Blind Samson was brought out for entertainment and tied up between a couple of pillars. Did Delilah mock him and gloat over her victory? Was she alarmed when she noticed that his hair had grown out? The Bible indicates that we will, surprisingly, see Samson in heaven. Hebrews 11 lists him as a man of faith. At this, his weakest moment, he cries out to God. True to form – he asks amiss but he still asks – he seeks revenge for the loss of his two eyes rather than the glory of God. But God, who is rich in mercy, gives Samson the strength for one last task – to quite literally bring down house. (Isn’t that the goal of every good entertainer?) Samson killed more of God’s enemies that day than he did in his whole life. Was one of the victims Delilah?
John Milton wrote the tragedy Samson Agonistes where a repentant Delilah visits Samson asking for forgiveness and begging to touch his hand. She “apologizes” but blames him for telling her his secret in the first place. She’s just a weak woman, prone to gossip so it’s really all his fault anyway. Samson doesn’t buy it saying: “How cunningly the sorceress displays her own transgressions to upbraid me mine.” Some things never change.
Then there’s a third possibility. A wild possibility. When studying the Bible, they say “context is king.” Well, tacked right on to the story of Samson’s death is the tale of Micah’s Mother (Judges 17), a woman who has placed a curse on whoever has stolen her 1100 pieces of silver. Hmmm. Sounds very familiar.
Wycliffe Bible commentary says: “The fact that the amount was eleven hundred shekels of silver has led some commentators to identify Micah’s mother with Delilah.”
Could it be that a Jewish Delilah was so unpopular with her own people that she had to move to Ephraim? Could it be that she had a son named Micah who stole her money and then confessed it? Could it be that she finally spends 200 pieces of the blood money she earned betraying Samson on making an silver idol that becomes the downfall of the tribe of Dan, the very tribe that Samson came from?
How is Jesus Involved in the Story of Delilah?
Herbert Lockyer says: “Delilah was a woman who used her personal charm to lure a man to his spiritual and physical destruction and she stands out as one the lowest, meanest women of the Bible – the female Judas of the Old Testament.”
Samson’s actions were not anything like those of our Savior Jesus but he was a judge sent to deliver his people – a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Sinful, flawed Samson was betrayed for 1100 pieces of silver – a king’s ransom equivalent to hundreds of pounds of silver or approximately 550 years of a laborer’s daily wage. The perfect son of God – Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – however, was betrayed for the paltry sum of 30 pieces of silver – the price paid to a master when his slave was killed accidentally.
Questions to Ponder
- Why is Delilah’s sordid story included in the Bible?
- Why would God use a man like Samson to accomplish His Will?
- Perhaps Samson’s mom witnessed the disaster her turbulent son made of his life. Do you have a rebellious child like Samson? Where do you turn for help?
Lord, I confess my need to control things in my life. I, right here, right now confess that you are sovereign and more than able to untangle the mess I’ve made of my life. I confess that I manipulate things to get what I want all the time. Please forgive me. Help me to surrender to Your Will and to live my life Your Way. Help me to extricate myself from unhealthy relationships that do not honor You. Please give me a passion for purity. Amen.
The Bottom Line
Things I learned from Delilah: You can’t put a price on your integrity.