Bad Girls of the Bible – A Truly Bad Girl Hair Day – Delilah
If Samson had fallen in love with a nice girl from home, there would have been no story. But he fell in love with a girl named Delilah.
“The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew, and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.” Judges 13:24-25
Samson’s Nazirite vows are outlined in the sixth chapter of Numbers – which includes no fruit of the vine (not even raisins), no contact with dead bodies, and no haircuts.
Samson’s larger-than-life exploits in the book of Judges, chapters 14 and 15 depict a rather mean-spirited, biblical Paul Bunyan who wields his vastly superior strength like an ax on the necks of the Philistines.
His enemies had good reason to fear Samson, of whom the banner headline in the Timnah Times might have proclaimed, “He-man tears apart a lion with bare hands. “
His stunts were legendary. When his bride, a foreigner, was given away to his best man instead, Samson tied the tales of 300 foxes together in pairs, attached a flaming torch to each set of tails, and sent them running into his enemy’s grainfields, destroying everything in their path.
The Philistines retaliated by burning Samson’s wife and father-in-law to death. Samson eventually took revenge by striking down 1,000 men with the jawbone of a single donkey, a move that was flashy and personal.
Samson needed someone to cut him down to size. It took a woman to accomplish the task—a woman named Delilah.
“Sometime later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.” Judges 16:4
In Hebrew, “Delilah “is variously translated as “languishing “or “weak. “In Arabic, “Delilah “means “flirt “or “coquettish woman.”
By any definition, this valley girl’s charms worked on poor, besotted Samson, who not only trusted her but loved her. We are never told that she loved him in return, yet it’s clear that he cared deeply for her. She was not a one-night stand, like the woman in Gaza, or an abandoned wife, like the woman in Timnah. He “fell in love” with the woman. Period. The other two women are not named in Scripture, but this mysterious woman of whom we know so little, no past, no nationality, no family- had a name and a delectable one at that.
We know very few facts about Delilah, but the things we do know raise more questions than they answer. She lived in the Valley of Sorek, between Israelite and Philistine lands, which tells us where her home was located, but not where her allegiance dwelled. Was she Philistine or Israelite? The scholars can’t agree on that one.
She had a house of her own, a rare distinction unless she was independently wealthy (meaning the bribe that followed wouldn’t have had nearly as much appeal.) Or she could have been a widow. Or a prostitute. Though if that was the case, why wasn’t she so named since the harlot in Gaza sported that label?
For Samson, the vulnerable spot wasn’t his long hair; it was Delilah herself.
Over the centuries, commentators have slung buckets of mud in Delilah’s direction. Though referred to merely as a “woman” in the Scriptures, she’s since been labeled “a harlot,” “a heartless seducer,” “a temptress,” “dark and sinister,” “a temple prostitute,” and “one of the lowest meanest women of the Bible” – the female Judas of the Old Testament. She could also be viewed as a pawn. Yikes, girl!
“The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said …” Judges 16:5
This snippet of the story reveals an important fact: betraying Samson wasn’t Delilah’s idea. Yes, she bought into it-literally, as we will see in a moment-but conventional wisdom says, “follow the money. “And the money led back to the Philistines. They were the ones who planted the seeds of betrayal in her heart.
If Delilah were on the witness stand, I’d have only one question for her: “Delilah darling, did you choose to be with Samson for your pleasure, and then hear from the Philistines, or did those bad boys set you up to tear Samson down from day one?”
“See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. “Judges 16:5
The reputation of Delilah as one who could lure a man must have been known far and wide.
It was Samson’s mysterious strength his enemies wanted to pursue.
Most translations say “afflict” him; it means “tie, bind, imprison, bring low.”
Did you notice something?
The Philistines went to her directly. Not to her father, her brother, her husband, or her son, as would have been customary.
“Each one of us will give you 1,100 shekels of silver.” Judges 16:5
This is some significant money. Delilah made her choice without hesitation.
“So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” Judges 16:6
Give the woman credit for one thing: she didn’t water down her request. She didn’t appeal to his male ego by asking, “What makes you so strong, big boy?”
Delilah knew that Samson liked riddles. We read in earlier chapters that he liked riddles and verbal games his whole life, so she approached him by playing his own game.
Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Judges 16:7
Of course, that didn’t work
We know this because the Philistines brought fresh thongs – not skimpy bathing suits, but narrow leather strips, and she used those to tie Samson down to no avail. Talk about weird.
“But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame.” Judges 16:9
This became uncomfortable for Delilah, especially since the Philistines were hiding in the room when it happened, waiting to subdue him. Whether a minute later, or a day, or a week, she brought up the subject again.
“Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.” Judges 16:10
Strangely, Delilah is always the one accused of deception since she is the straightforward one in this scene, and Samson is the one whose answers are false.
There are opposing motives. He told fibs for sport. She spoke truth for silver.
They went through this exercise twice more. Samsom insisted that new ropes would hold him, then proceeded to break the ropes as if they were mere threads. He declared that if she wove his seven braids into the fabric on a loom, he’d be helpless. When he woke up from his sleep, he pulled up the entire loom braids, material, and all.
Three lies. Three surprises. The third time wasn’t the charm. But Delilah-like Mrs. Potiphar, her sister in seduction – was nothing if not persistent. Notice how carefully she did not profess love for him but used his love for her like a cattle prod.
“Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me?” Judges 16:15
If you really loved me…
Delilah’s true nature, if not already evident, was revealed here. No adverbs are needed to discern the tone of her voice. The woman was whining.
“With such nagging, she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.” Judges 16:16
The nagging and the whining were enough to wear him down, which is what happened with the first wife chapters earlier.
“Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me… “So on the seventh day, he finally told her, because she continued to press him.” Judges 14:16-17
Hundreds of years later, one of the writers of Proverbs might’ve had Samson in mind when he penned: “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” Proverbs 27:15–16
Samson is about ready to throw in the towel again.
“So he told her everything.” Judges 16:17
“No razor has ever been used on my head, “he said, “because I have been a Nazarite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” Judges 16:17
“When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands.” Judges 16:18
Delilah was a bad girl, at any price. She put no value at all on Samson’s love, life, or loyalty to her. The truth is, the silver didn’t represent Samson’s price; it was her price. She was the one who was bought and sold. Her pride, her name, and her reputation, however, soiled they may have already been, were now shamed for eternity.
“Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.” Judges 16:19
Samson awakened, thinking the occasion would be like the last three; he would shake off the ties that bound him and raise his arms in victory once more.
“But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” Judges 16:20
He found out soon enough. Suffice it to say that Samson learned the hardest lesson of all about the consequences of sin: separation from God.
At this point in the story
Delilah disappears from Scripture. Samson, however, made one more earth-shaking appearance when his enemies gathered to celebrate their triumph over him.
Would Delilah be hailed a hero for bringing down the mighty Samson? Or would the Philistines despise her for not standing by her man, but handing them over to the authorities for a heartless reward of silver?
If she was on hand for the festivities, Delilah left her riches behind for her survivors because few, if any, walked away that fateful day. Samson managed to save his reputation, if not himself, when he called on God for one last show of strength, and pulled down the pillars of the crowded temple around him, killing “many more when he died than when he lived.”
The Lord used Delilah’s treachery for good, nonetheless, bringing Samson to his knees in humility and the Philistines to their death.
So what happened to Delilah?
A century ago, a commentator concluded, “Delilah rises suddenly from darkness… and goes down in a horizon of awful gloom.”
“Maybe Delilah left town long before that disastrous day. Or maybe the last thing she saw before her eyes closed for eternity was the strong hero she’d once brought to her knees, lifting up his eyes to the heavens, calling on a God she would never know. Of all Delilah’s shortcomings, this was by far the greatest: not that she was rich in silver, but that she was poor in spirit.
Lessons we can learn from Delilah
1) The love of a man is to be treasured.
When men declare their love for us, we should handle them with the utmost care, even if the feelings aren’t mutual. “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” Proverbs 31:11
2. Silver and gold aren’t very good company.
What Delilah gained in goods she inevitably lost in relationships. The same thing can happen to us when we pursue a materialistic lifestyle and leave behind dear friends in our frenzy of accumulation. “To be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1
3. Weaknesses need to be strengthened, not exposed.
On purpose or by mistake, the people we’re closest to reveal their vulnerable spots and weaknesses eventually. We need to fight the urge to use that knowledge against them as a weapon for public embarrassment, even in jest. Keeping someone else’s limitation a secret between the two of you will knit you closer together. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
4. For a happy home, keep your scissors out of reach.
We might not chop off all seven braids at once, thereby reducing our man’s power to nil, but how many among us have snip snip snipped at our man’s sense of worth and value by undermining him with not so gentle jabs at his masculinity? The world cuts our men down enough. Even as we enjoy it when they build us up, so should we be ready with emotional bricks and mortar for their improvement. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1
A big thank you goes out to Liz Curtis Higgs for our lesson today, from her book titled, “Bad Girls of the Bible.”
Tune in next time when we look at another bad girl. Yes, there are a few we can learn from.
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