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Samson and Delilah in the Bible: Story and Meaning

Samson and Delilah are two well-known biblical figures within Christianity. Samson is famous for his incredible strength, which Delilah seeks to find the source and remove. Read their Bible story and its meaning in the New Testament context.

Samson and Delilah in the Bible: Story and Meaning

Who were Samson and Delilah?

Samson was a Nazirite unto God from the womb, as were the prophet Samuel and John the Baptist. Samson would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines, a work brought further by Samuel, Saul, and King David.

Samson was a judge, perhaps the last before Samuel. He was a man of prodigious strength, a giant and a gymnast--the Hebrew Hercules, a strange champion for Yahweh! He intensely hated the Philistines who had oppressed Israel for some 40 years (Judges 13:1) and was willing to fight them alone. He seems to have been actuated by little less than personal vengeance, yet in the New Testament, he is named among the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32). He was good-natured, sarcastic, full of humor, and fought with his wits as well as with his fists.

Delilah is the woman who betrayed Samson to the Philistines (Judges 16). She was presumably a Philistine, though that is not explicitly stated. She is not spoken of as Samson's wife, though many have interpreted the Bible account in that manner. The Philistines paid her an extremely high price for her services. The account implies that of beauty, personal charm, mental ability, self-command, nerve, she was quite a remarkable woman, a woman to be respected for some qualities, while she is to be utterly disapproved for her deception and ill-intent.

Bible Story of Samson and Delilah

The scripture account of Samson and Delilah comes from chapter 16 of Judges:

Samson at Gaza

Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, "Samson has come here." And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, "Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him." But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. (Judges 16:1-3)

Since the gate of the city was locked by night, the Gazites assumed all was well until dawn. Samson awoke at midnight, tore down the doors, and carried them to Hebron, a distance of over thirty miles.

Samson and Delilah

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, "Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver." So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you." (Judges 16:4-6)

The Valley of Sorek is also known as Alsorech. Delilah, though we are not told, presumably was a Philistine. Samson's love for her for a time proved stronger than his call from God to deliver Israel (13:5) and brought him down (16:15-17).

Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man." Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known. (Judges 16:7-9)

Then Delilah said to Samson, "Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound." And he said to her, "If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man." So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread. Then Delilah said to Samson, "Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound." And he said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man." So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web. (Judges 16:10-14)

And she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies." And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his heart, and said to her, "A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man." (Judges 16:15-17)

Ancient Faith provides insight into the meaning of this portion of the Bible account, saying:

"After a tryst with a prostitute (16:1), Samson begins a sexual relationship with another Gentile woman, Delilah.  She betrays him after he reveals to her his Nazirite status (16:17).  Here Samson reveals his level of understanding.  He knows about the vows that have set him apart from his mother’s womb.  This means that he has been violating them deliberately and unrepentantly.  The means of repentance for the breaking of these vows had been set out in Numbers 6, and Samson has ignored them.  Further, he knows that his source of strength, the Spirit, will depart from him if he breaks the one vow so far unbroken, that regarding his hair.  Even being blinded and held prisoner does not bring Samson to repentance.  In his final ‘prayer’ he requests from God no forgiveness and expresses no contrition.  He asks only for one last burst of strength so that he can get revenge on the Philistines for what they did to him."

When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "Come up again, for he has told me all his heart." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep and said, "I will go out as at other times and shake myself free." But he did not know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. (Judges 16:18-22)

The Death of Samson

Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, "Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand." And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, "Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us." And when their hearts were merry, they said, "Call Samson, that he may entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them." Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. (Judges 16:23-27)

Irenaeus notes about this passage: "The lad who guided Samson by the hand (v. 26) typifies John the Baptist, who showed to the people the faith in Christ. And the house in which they were assembled signifies the world, in which dwell the various heathen and unbelieving nations, offering sacrifice to the idols. Moreover, the two pillars are the two covenants. Samson leaning himself upon the pillars indicates that, when instructed, the people recognized the mystery of Christ."

The phrase "that he may entertain us" likely refers to their request that he do tricks only an incredibly strong man could do.

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes." And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines." Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:28-31)

Samson - ISBE on Biblestudytools.com
Delilah - ISBE on Biblestudytools.com
Samson and the Origins of Monasticism - Ancientfaith.com

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Photos.com

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