Dissecting Delilah

  1. Languishing

There is one female gender name that has entered into history with all the connotations of disdain and shame; a pretty-sounding name that no decent mother would call her loving daughter.  The name is Delilah, which, according to some Bible dictionaries, means “languishing,” and by others is translated as “delicate” – the delicate one.  It is next of kin to another kindred female name, Jezebel.  Delilah’s story is told in the Bible book of Judges, chapter 16, in the episode that saw the strong Samson ignobly put out of service by that woman’s soft touches.

  1. The Castle in the Valley

She lived in a valley called Sorek.  To meet her, a man had to go down, even from such lofty points as “the top” of blessed Hebron Hill.  She lured men down her valley; a valley from which they never more rose to their previous hills (Judges 16:3-4).  According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Sorek meant “red,” which might also have been an omen to forewarn her ‘downed’ and ‘valleyed’ guests, if they had been smart to discern names – her name and where she lived.

A Red Valley stained with the blood of earlier callers should not have been thought a safe guesthouse, no matter how strong any man thought he was, no matter the record of his past triumphs over young highway lions (Judges 14:5-6).  A bloody valley of notorious titanic clashes between unfortunate Mighty Hands and conquering Clever Lips powered by seducing gods was no gulf field for any man who still dreamed of greater heights.

If Samson had read his history well and known all the mighty and lofty that had been downed in her valley, he might have plotted his route around rather than through her sepulchral Valley of dead dry bones.  She never lost a fight in her own Valley.  Never man fought her under her roof, on her soil, and won.  Those she could not slay, she wounded badly – and her victims were not few; neither were they little men.

Never man left her valley whole as he had entered, for “NONE that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life” (Proverbs 2:19).  None.

26 For she hath cast DOWN many WOUNDED: yea, many STRONG MEN have been SLAIN by her.

27 Her house is the way to hell, going DOWN to the chambers of DEATH (Proverbs 7:26-27).

Her graveyard abode with its obituaries of “strong men” slain was often peculiarly described by ‘down’ words: “cast down,” “going down, and “chambers of death.”  She didn’t fell mere men.  They were often choice “strong men” and mighty, who prided themselves in their celebrated strength, undermining her subtilities and untested secret strengths.

Delilah was no mere person.  She was a famous woman who dealt not with mere men but lords, provincial lords from all over her Philistine country.  She did not go to them, they came to her; not once but often (Judges 16:5, 8).  The Samson of God probably sought to join that ‘Big League’ of the famous and the mighty, never knowing what he was getting himself into.

  1. The Woman in the Valley

Samson “loved a woman in the valley” (v.4).  Were there no women to love on the hilltops of Hebron from where he cascaded down her way?  Need such a mighty man take such great risks to go ‘down’ merely to feel her flesh?  What was it about this “woman in the valley” that often drugged and dragged lofty men down?  What was it about Sorek Valley that made mighty men restless even on blessed Hebron Hills, until they were down there to their doom?  To Mount Horeb Elijah fled from Jezebel to encounter God (1 Kings 19:8); from Hebron Hill down to Sorek Valley the champion of Israel descended, to be dethroned by the undermined Delilah.

As soon as Samson had entered her space, the Philistine pack smelled their prey, and they rushed down with a bargain for his priced head: “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (v.5).  Then the romance began, “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee” (vv.5, 6).  The message was clear: to bind, then afflict, for who is first bound can then be afflicted.  A saner man might have fled the Valley at once, but Samson stayed.  He was in love too much to care.  And she loved him, too, she said; too much to kill him.  He could not smell the devil-coffee brewing to smother his young life and ministry.

  1. The Ping Pong of Death

His “great strength” was her problem.  To “afflict” him was her aim, and theirs.  Still, he loved her too much to care when fathers warned, “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).  The ping-pong had begun.  She asked, and he lied; she pried further, and he parried her with newer lies; but she was not one to give up too soon.  She was committed to his doom, so the game of death went on.  She put him to sleep, and “he awaked out of his sleep”; she put him back to sleep again – on the cushion of her naked laps, and “he awoke” (vv. 14, 19, 20).  At some points he “went away,” but was often back again – to the slab of her laps, as if bewitched (vv.3, 14).  The back and forth and “up” and “down” on Delilah’s chessboard soon neared its fatal close (Judges 14:1,2,5,7,10; 16;3,4,5,31).

  1. His Foes were her Friends

Delilah often used against Samson the info she got or stole from him.  She traded him with her kinsmen for ‘pieces of silver.’  She exploited against him her privileged closeness to him.  After all, he was a Hebrew ‘immigrant’ at her mercy – on her Philistine soil, so he was not to ‘dictate’ to her whom to call or not.  She could not be subject to his restrictive ‘Hebrew rules’ in her Philistine land.

Those with whom she often talked were ever prompt to supply her with instruments of slaughter; “the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs … and she bound him with them” (v. 8).  She kept a secret link with those that hated him, calling them often on a coded line that Samson was not to know.  While her body lay in bed with him, her soul roamed outside with them.  What she said to him about him was not what she said to them about him.  At home, she was a ‘lover’; outside, she was a killer.  Her handlers knew her well.  Only the fooled, like the Hebrew Samson, believed her ‘love’ and ‘care’ and the frequent loud cries for outside ‘help.’  At home she spoke the sweet language he loved to hear; abroad with ‘her people,’ she spoke her native vampirish language. We call such folks “Hypocrites.”  But if you said that to Loving Samson, you might have been termed an unkind intruder; an old-fashioned religious bigot and a Jewish ‘racist’ (Judges 14:3).  He was an Open Liberal Trailblazer.  Who knows, but the ‘loving God’ of Rahab and Ruth that he also served, was going convert that Languisher through him; so, Samson lingered.  He did not know Delilah.

Delilah said that she cared, but she often called Samson’s killers, or did things that could kill him, not once or twice or trice.  She said that she cared, but she often erred against him, and never admitted that she was wrong.  If the first and second were mistakes, certainly not the third.  Yet Samson lingered in her valley like a hypnotised gecko before it is swallowed by the snake.

There were men with her, “abiding with her in the chamber (v.9).  Not just one man but more.  They were the killers-in-waiting that she called her ‘brothers’ and ‘cousins’ and ‘domestic staff’ (v.12).  She covered them with good names as they cooked their cauldron for his anointed head.  She ran a secret room that he never knew.  In one room, she ‘loved’ him dearly, worrying often about his killers; in her other “chamber” – the Philistine ‘chamber of commerce’ where they traded in foreign souls, she sold him.  His foes were her friends.  Whenever she cried out, they rushed in, always on her side against him, not once or twice or thrice.  Still, he loved her too much to worry as she ‘pressed’ on to know “wherewith thou mightest be bound” (v.10).

Mark those who are always quick to answer to Delilah’s calls and cries for ‘help’; you might discover that they are the underground members of her killer squad.  Samson also might have known, but no; his blindness had begun even before his eyes had been plucked.

  1. She Called him by her Names

She dug for his secrets feverishly, but never told him hers, except to sing her old tunes of love that she said he did not reciprocate. “How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?” she often nagged (v.15).  Bluntly, she accused him that his heart was being ‘manipulated’ by ‘outside forces.’  She told him that his heart was elsewhere instead of “with” her, implying, like the typical Philistine woman, that his heart was ‘with other women’ – ‘outside’; in effect, that he was an unfaithful partner; yet it was she who had her heart outside, with men who sought her Samson’s ruin.  Often, thus, she accused Samson of her own crimes, and she did it to his face.  Meanwhile, all that Samson did was to hope that, somehow, someday, it would all pass away.  He had not learned Delilah at all.

She “pressed him daily with her words,” and she kept that pressure on, until “his soul was vexed unto death (v.16).  She knew her game, and she played it well.  Samson was in love too much to sense or to care.  He answered her every call, even if he had to lie as many times.  He trusted that his God would always be on his side, as on the Timnath Highway when he had torn the young lion; as at Ashkelon when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he … slew thirty men” (Judges 14:19); as at Lehi where he had slain a thousand men with just the jawbone of an ass; as at Gaza lately when he pulled out the city gates.  If it got worse, he knew the formulas of God.  All to do was simply shake himself “as at other times before,” and his God would be appeased (v.20).

“Thou hast mocked me these three times, she lashed out at Samson (v. 16).  She called him a mocker when she was the one.  She kept a record of all his ‘offences’ and would confront him with her counts, “these three times.”  Still, Samson lingered.  He trusted too much in his God to fear her gods even when he lived in lies.  He had had two failed relationships, so he was going to stay at this to ‘make it work,’ and show a true Israelite ‘commitment’ to a relationship, to the glory of his God and the pride of his Hebrew nation.  He was unlike the fickle Philistines who made feeble commitments.  He was going to make that ‘blessed’ point, not minding the cost.  After all, good things don’t come easy.

She pestered him with many unkind names. “Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies,she pushed (vv.10, 13), often calling him a mocker and a liar, yet she was the worse; the snaky killer merely awaiting her perfect strike.  She counted his sins but covered hers; she condemned him but cleared herself – a very partial judge and jury in the courts she often called.  Still, he didn’t care. He was too much in love to hear those forebodings of his near disaster.

  1. She Pressed Him

Delilah was the ‘presser,’ or Oppressor, yet it was she who often cried out to outsiders, making sensational headlines with her cries, and she loved that devil game.  It was her voice for ‘help’ that the outside world often heard, and to which they readily responded, against the man her lips said often that she loved.  Throughout the story, not once did the outside world hear Samson’s voice from the room; her voice they heard many times.  She was the one to cause the crises then call the Philistine police in. She always started the fire, then raised the alarms to call the fire service.  But Samson was not to know that it had all been planned – with ‘her people’ outside.  Money had been agreed: “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (v.5), which sounded very familiar, like “thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:15).

In all the bouts, she called ‘her people’ in.  Samson never called his own.  He trusted in his God.  Delilah never said anything good about him to her team. All she ever did with her lips to her outside gang was how he might be bound, restricted, restrained, limited, captured, ruined.  In all her conversations, Samson was the villain.  They all loved it so, yet Samson seemed not to know.

Delilah was a ‘presser,’ yet she complained consecutively of not being loved.  She pried his secrets to sell to his foes, then claimed with poisoned kisses that she cared more than those she called to do the kill.  The fooled man fixed his gaze on distant ‘enemies’ against whom she raised her recurrent alerts of ‘care,’ yet she was the enemy that he never knew, an enemy concealed with kisses, a nearer enemy than those afar that he feared.  Some Bible translations, like the New Living Translation, call her not just a ‘presser’ but a Tormentor.  According to God’s Word Translation, she was even a Pest; one who “pestered” Samson and “made his life miserable.”  Ever seen a miserable man?

Delilah had won many belts from her many fights with mighty men.  She was Oppressor, Tormentor, Pesterer; the undefeated Languisher of Sorek Valley – but she never looked like it if you judged her by her feeble frame and fine phrases. Her gentle touches were her deadly punches.

Delilah was an untiring schemer.  At one point, she tried “new ropes, and bound him” (v.12).  Then, restricted with her ropes, confined by the limits she had contrived upon him, she called his killers.  Newer ropes was not her problem.  She went to fresher lengths in her agenda to weaken him into “another man” (v.12).  If she could take away from him that touch of God that made him unique from everyone; if she could make him weak, she would be satisfied (v.11).  His fall, not his rise, was her unconfessed agenda.  She ‘pressed’ on, “day by day,” with words most injurious to the soul.  But Samson was a strong man; and strong men don’t cry out at the pesterings of a woman.  He was going to make his Godly point, even though it could be costly.  He could never have believed if prophets had prophesied that the longer he lingered there, the nearer he got to being Delilah’s next headline: “Another miserable Mighty Man, conquered by the merciless Valley Queen!”

  1. The Nocturnal Queen

 18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines…

19 And she made him sleep upon her knees… (Judges 16:18-19).

It is strange that Delilah was usually more active and strongest when others were asleep.  At a previous time, she had tried it, but Samson had mercifully “awaked out of his sleep” and her plot had been foiled (v.14).  But Delilah never gives up ‘loving’ her prey, despite how many ‘times’ he fails her.  She loves him unto his death.  So, again, she summoned all her ‘delicate’ spells and “made him sleep” once more – this time upon the cushion of her lascivious laps.  An abnormal, stupefying, anaesthetic sleep often came upon her captives before they were offered; a strange sleep of death, from hell, in her cosy Valley Castle.

Being with Delilah often induced a kind of paralysing, sedating sleep that increased the vulnerability of her captives, which was when she loved to strike.  Strangely, like those of whom it is said that they fly by night, “while MEN slept” was usually Delilah’s ‘operational hours’ (Matthew 13:25).  While Samson slept was typically when she called upon and secretly conferred with her camouflaged blood-seeking Philistine lords in malicious league against the Lord’s anointed.  She often exploited his weakness and those moments of his weakness.  She induced his distractions and exploited them to her malicious advantage.

If Jesus should be believed, that those who transact in tares while the good man is asleep are “his enemy” and “an enemy,” then that is who Delilah was – Enemy, despite her fine phrases and ceaseless kisses.  Delilah was a fine actor; a serpentine pretender and deceiver. Beneath her deceptively delicate exterior was a deadly devil that brought languishment upon unsuspecting men.  In Samson, thus, was focused a cosmic conflict unseen with the naked eyes: “the lords” versus the LORD; their anointed Queen versus His anointed.  The battlefield was Delilah’s room.

Delilah was a nocturnal queen, more active only when decent others were asleep.  In our part of the world, she might have been called a witch, especially also as one who sought an innocent other’s downfall; one who plotted with other pretenders to kill the one she claimed she loved.  Witchcraft comes in different colours, some of it in the name of love.  It fights in different rings, sometimes in dark romantic bedrooms down the Sorek valley.

As far as Samson was concerned, “he loved a woman”; but she was in it for a different reason.  Business.  She didn’t love him.  They both did not call their relationship by the same name of love.  Yet Samson did not seem to care.  He loved her with the true love of the God of Israel, even if she still behaved the suspicious Dagon way of her false Philistine clan.

“Entice him,” her ‘lords’ commanded her (v.5).  Samson thought that he was being loved, not knowing that he was being enticed.  Her lavish kisses did not mean to her what they meant to him.  She took her orders from the Philistine “lords,” not from her lord; very unlike Mama Sarah (1 Peter 3:6).  In her, too, was focused another conflict – a conflict of allegiances; allegiance to her “lords” versus allegiance to her lord.  Other lords were her true lords, like the python Princess at Philippi, that sly sorceress who played ‘preacher’ until the day that mercy exposed her hidden masters (Acts 16:16-19).

  1. Confessions from the Coven

Her partners in the plot were later to make a confession that opened some eyes to the true identity of Delilah the Queen of the Night.  Whereas Samson, to all appearance, was ensnared by a woman, “the lords of the Philistines” were to confess that he had been the victim of their god.  It was no mean men who said those deep words.  As if the lords did not say it enough, even “the people” made it into their music: “Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand” (vv.23-24).  In other words, Delilah had been a mystic tool in the episode; she had been the decorated bait of Dagon their god – a god that was half-fish, half-man.  That pretty lady had not won entirely by feminine charms.  She had been aided by diabolic powers of which her handlers and even “the people” were very aware.  We might then think of the ‘delicate’ Delilah not merely as a witch who was more active while others slept, as a smart actor who played roles to deceive, but also as a priestess of Dagon and a sorceress of sorts.  In her was combined so much that was wrong and devilish, covered up with false smiles and sedating Philistine fragrances.

Despite her scintillating ‘lailah’ name and romantic voice, Delilah was a snare.  But Samson was not to care about such Philistine ‘superstitions.’  He believed in his God of Israel.  Blindly, he also assumed that he was going to win by the might of his muscles a battle that had moved into the mystic realms of the gods.  While the Philistines as a community engaged Dagon their god, Samson’s isolated mind was on how to “shake myself” by the formula that had mercifully worked for him “as at other times” (v.20).  He had no people supporting his proud one-man squad against that united hateful horde.  Also, he was never to know that this was a different turf.  He was going to be the sorry victim of an enemy wrongly assessed.  He was to learn too late, in his last and only proper prayer, that spiritual battles are not fought or won with physical might (v.28), not especially when one proudly says, “I will go out and shake Myself, as Me have always done.”

If that confession had come only from “the people,” we might have dismissed it as ‘fake news’ and as Jewish ‘propaganda,’ but not so the words of nobles, from the Council of “the lords of the Philistines.”  If that had been the confession just of one lord, we might have said that he was bribed, but not when it was the confession of “the lords.”  Those people had always known something of which the strong Samson didn’t care.  It is said that drunkenness sometimes brings out unpleasant truths that consciousness subdues.  The lords said what they said WHEN their hearts were merry” as they revelled where they had gathered “to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice” (vv.23-25).  So, we know: Delilah had been no mean woman.  She was Dagon’s Delicate Arrow; Dagon’s champion who threw people down into languishment.  Her dark room had been the boxing ring of a titanic clash between that champion of Darkness and Samson the strayed champion of Light.

  1. A Heart Misplaced

“Keep thy heart with ALL diligence,” Solomon wisely advised, “for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  Samson did not.  He told Delilah “ALL his heart” (v.17).  To tell such a woman as Delilah his heart was very unsafe; to tell her “all” his heart was stupid and suicidal.  Soon as she heard anything of substance from Samson, she secretly leaked it to her coven of concealed Philistine lords.  His cherished privacies were her fond headlines.  Her allegiance was not to him but to those who seemed intent on destroying him.  She said in her words that she was in love with him, but in her acts, she had been inseparable from ‘her people.’  Still, Samson sensed nothing, blinded by the god at whose bait he had begun to nimble salaciously.

Samson’s undoing was to put his heart into the hand of an enemy that he thought was a friend.  He seemed to not have known that there are places to not put one’s heart, let alone “all” the heart.  There are people you don’t tell everything, especially when they seem too eager to hear everything, like Delilah.  Strong men should learn to talk less in certain quarters, into certain ears.  Delilah was a leaking pipe.  Whatever Samson told her in confidence was soon ‘breaking news’ in the social medias of Philistia, even his lies – especially among his haters.  There was no secret with Delilah.  Lofty Philistine lords confided in her, true; but that did not mean that she could also be trusted with covenant Kingdom secrets.

Anyone who deliberately betrayed a previous trust could kill at the next chance.  If Delilah hadn’t killed Samson until then, it was not because she could not do it; it was only because she had not found the perfect opportunity.  If her first ‘gossip’ against Samson was a ‘slip of the phone’ – or the tongue, and the ensuing assassination attempt on his life was one of ‘mistaken identity,’ the second and third could not also have been mistakes; yet Samson was too much in love to take note, or to remember the words of the fathers who, very early, had worried, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines” (Judges 14:3)?

By whatever seemed out to kill Samson, he often sought for friends from his deadly foes, and at last moved in with Delilah who was best of friends with those that hated him.  Years later, Solomon might have been replaying Samson’s lamentation when he wrote,

12 … How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;

13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! (Proverbs 5:12-13).

Samson played the hide-and-seek with Delilah.  She would put him to sleep, he would mercifully awake before the harm was done.  She would try newer ropes, and he would snap them before her people got a hold of him.  But not for long was the fun to last.  He lingered too long for grace to continue to cover him in that wrong place.  At last, on her laps she put him to the sleep from which he was never to recover.  He “awoke out of his sleep” as before, true (v.20), but without his covenant locks of hairs.  He shook himself in the practised manners, yes, but uselessly this last time, for “the LORD was departed from him” (v.20).  Her people got him and promptly put out his eyes.  He had slept his last sleep with his anointed head on the slab of Delilah’s laps.  His eyes were gorged out, maybe as thankful sacrifice to their erotic god that had fatally invaded those eyes with blinding lust.

  1. Abandoned to Die

After the deed was done, we hear no more of Delilah in the life of the man she often said that she loved. She was not there by his blinded side to sing those love songs with which she often lured him to sleep in the face of danger.  She did not follow him in lamentation as his enemies took him from her valley, badly blinded.  She basked in his glory then fled his shame.  It was up to his grieving family later to clear his carcass (v.31).

Samson’s name meant “like the sun,” but crossing paths with Delilah the Languisher took the sun and the shine out of his life.  He became, very sadly, a hopeful nation’s sunset at noon.  She never told him it would end that way when they started so romantically, when she used to sing to him her sedating songs now replaced in his head with the unceasing din of grinding stones in his Philistine prison house.

21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him DOWN to Gaza, and BOUND him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the PRISON HOUSE.

 22 Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again …

 28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me… (Judges 16:21-22,28).

  1. Prayer

… Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name … Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  Yea, though I walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Matthew 6:9, 13; Psalm 23:4)Amen.

  1. Epilogue – Forgiven but not Restored

Sin has consequences, some of which linger prominently despite forgiveness.  Some scars from healed wounds can be no less embarrassing than those deep wounds had been painful.  In their memorial ugliness some scars become an open book for others to read and be warned.

In Hebrews chapter 11, Samson is listed in the Hall of Fame, in a verse that named such great heroes of faith as David the king and Samuel the prophet, implying that despite his stuttering runs he had crossed the finishing line well (Hebrews 11:32).  His last prayer was, “O Lord GOD, remember me … strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”  That prayer was answered.  Samson was forgiven, mightily forgiven; but not restored.  The eyes he had lost in the Valley of Delilah were not restored by the mercy that forgave his descent down that valley.  The sin had been forgiven, but he lived with the consequences thereof; the sin had been forgiven, but he still had to carry the reproachful blindness from a forgiven sin.  He groped the rest of his new life through the darkness of an old sin.  On his ‘outing parade’ before the taunting Philistine crowd, that mighty judge of Israel, blinded, was led by the hand of a little boy.  Who would have believed that the day would ever come when the man who pulled out a city gate would be led by a little lad!  Sin carries consequences that grace does not always erase.

God is mighty to forgive, but some sins carry grave consequences.  Some injuries leave terrible scars.  Forgiveness might heal a wound, but not the scars.  Some scars will remain as a sorry storybook, so that he that hath an ear might hear.

From The Preacher’s diary,

October 24, 2021.


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