Samson and Delilah - Bible Story
The story of Samson and Delilah reminds us just how important it is to guard our hearts and follow God's way! Before we look deeper into the story, let's understand more about the characters involved.
Who was Samson?
The name Samson means "of the son". Samson was the son of Monaoh, born in town of Zorah in the tribe of Dan, on the border of Judah. (B.C. 1161) His home was near Bethshemesh, which means "house of the sun." Samson's birth was announced by an angel during a dark time for the Israelites. Israel was under the rule and oppression of the Philistines. Samson was born a Nazirite and was set apart with supernatural strength from God to do His work in the nation of Israel. The narrative of his life is given in Judg. 13-16. He was a "Nazarite unto God" from his birth, the first Nazarite mentioned in Scripture (Judges 13:3-5; Compare Numbers 6:1-21). The first recorded event of his life was his marriage with a Philistine woman of Timnath (Judges 14:1-5 ). Samson takes his place in Scripture, 1. as a judge --an office which he filled for twenty years, 2. as a Nazarite, and 3. as one endowed with supernatural power by the Spirit of the Lord. As a judge his authority seems to have been limited to the district bordering upon the country of the Philistines.
He intensely hated the Philistines who had oppressed Israel 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), and was in no ordinary sense an Old Testament worthy. He was good-natured, sarcastic, full of humor, and fought with his wits as well as with his fists.
Samson became great in his own eyes and began pursuing women outside God's plan for his life. During his wedding sermon to a Philistine woman, Samson was so humiliated by her and the wedding guests that he sought revenge by killing 1,000 Philistine men.
Samson and Delilah Story Summary
Samson was God’s chosen man during a time when the judges ruled Israel. From birth, he was destined to liberate Israel from the Philistines. While Samson was incredibly strong in body, he was very weak in character. Among his character flaws was a fondness for Philistine women. One was named Delilah.
Samson then fell in love with a beautiful Philistine woman named Delilah. The rulers in Philistine came to Delilah and offered her money if she found out what made Samson so strong. Delilah went home and made a great meal for Samson and asked him what made him so strong. Samson responded that if he was tied up with seven new bowstrings that had not been dried, he would lose his strength. Delilah went and told the rulers who instructed her to tie up Samson in his sleep. To Delilah's surprise, Samson had tricked her and was able to break free. Samson again told that he would lose her strength if tied up with bowstrings but that they had to be new and never used. Delilah again tried to trap Samson while he slept but he was able to break free. Delilah was very hurt by Samson and questioned his love for her since he could not share his secret to his strength.
The next day Delilah asked Samson continually about his strength and bugged him so much that he finally told her the secret to his strength - that he was given his strength at birth by God and that if his hair was cut he would lose his strength. That evening as Samson slept, Delilah cut his hair and called in the Philistines. The Philistine men were able to capture Samson. They barged in, gouged his eyes out, and took him to prison in Gaza.
The Philistines brought Samson out before a great crowd of rulers and thousands of people gathered in the temple to celebrate his capture. Samson's hair had begun to grow back and as he leaned against the pillars of the temple, he prayed to God for strength once more to defeat the Philistines. Samson used all of his might and pushed down the temple, killing himself and thousands of Philistines and rulers.
God forgave Samson and still accomplished great things through Samson. It was through Samson's destruction of the temple and his death that the Israelites were freed from the Philistine rule. Read more about the Bible story of Samson and Delilah in the Scripture below and use the articles and videos to understand the meaning behind this teachable event in the Bible.
Was Delilah Samson's Greatest Weakness?
Samson was strong. Time and again the Bible tells us that the power of God came upon him and he was able to take down a lion and snap the ropes that bound him as though they were little strings. Somewhere along the way, Samson began to believe his own press release! He began to believe his strength was his alone. He could rely on his own muscles and power. So coming up against Delilah, a woman no less, was a joke to Samson. He’d been able to conquer anyone else who had gotten in his way, he was certain he could make quick work against Delilah, too. But what a terrible mis-judgment on the part of Samson, for Delilah was not like the other women for whom Samson had shown utter contempt. Delilah was different and tomorrow, we will find out that she was well-chosen.
To better understand what Samson was up against, I went to my Hebrew dictionary to find out what Delilah’s name meant. In Biblical times, a great deal of effort was given to choosing a name for a child. Often names were given which described the child’s calling from God. Other times names seemed to carry an almost prophetic description of a child’s future. What I found out about Delilah supports the fact that the meaning of her name fittingly described her effect on those she met.
The Hebrew meaning of Delilah is “languishing.” I didn’t really understand exactly what this word meant so I checked my trusty Webster’s Dictionary and was in for a surprise. “Languishing” means to become weak or feeble. To waste away. To exist in miserable and disheartening conditions. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, however, I realized immediately that the reason God told Samson to stay away from the Valley of Sorek, the Valley of the Vine, was not that God was trying to be arbitrary or demanding or narrow. It was that God knew that Delilah lived in that Valley. God knew that “weakness” resided in the Valley of the Vine and God understood, even when Samson didn’t, that on forbidden territory, Samson’s strength would be turned into weakness. Blinded by his love for Delilah, Samson became weak – unable to resist and flee. (excerpt by Dorothy Valcarcel, Transformation Garden)
Lessons from Samson's Life
- Samson was the object of parental solicitude from even before his birth. One of the most suggestive and beautiful prayers in the Old Testament is that of Manoah for guidance in the training of his yet unborn child (Judges 13:8). Whatever our estimate of his personality is, Samson was closely linked to the covenant.
- He was endowed with the Spirit of Yahweh--the spirit of personal patriotism, the spirit of vengeance upon a foe of 40 years' standing (Judges 13:1,25; 14:6:19; 15:14).
- He also prayed, and Yahweh answered him, though in judgment (Judges 16:30). But he was prodigal of his strength. Samson had spiritual power and performed feats which an ordinary man would hardly perform. But he was unconscious of his high vocation. In a moment of weakness he yielded to Delilah and divulged the secret of his strength. He was careless of his personal endowment. He did not realize that physical endowments no less than spiritual are gifts from God, and that to retain them we must be obedient.
- He was passionate and, therefore, weak. The animal of his nature was never curbed but instead ran unchained and free. He was given to sudden fury. Samson was a wild, self-willed man. Passion ruled. He could not resist the blandishments of women. In short, he was an overgrown schoolboy without self-mastery.
- He accordingly wrought no permanent deliverance for Israel; he lacked the spirit of cooperation. He undertook a task far too great for even a giant single-handed. Yet, it must be allowed that Samson paved the way for Saul and David. He began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. He must, therefore, be judged according to his times. In his days there was unrestrained individual independence on every side, each one doing as he pleased. Samson differed from his contemporaries in that he was a hero of faith (Hebrews 11:32). He was a Nazirite, and therefore dedicated to God. He was given to revenge, yet he was ready to sacrifice himself in order that his own and his people's enemies might be overthrown. He was willing to lay down his own life for the sake of his fellow-tribesmen--not to save his enemies, however, but to kill them. (Compare Matthew 5:43; Romans 5:10.) (International Standard Bible Encylopedia)
Why We Should Heed the Lessons of this Story
Samson and Delilah are some of the most famous Old Testament characters, probably because their story is so action-packed. Like so many Bible stories we first heard as children, reading it as adults brings out a wealth of details and lessons we didn’t notice before. Here are things you may not know or have considered about Samson and Delilah.
Who Were Samson and Delilah?
Samson was an Israelite from the tribe of Dan; we don’t learn his mother’s name, only that his father was named Manoah. His mother hadn’t been able to have children, then received a message from an angel that she would finally have a child (Judges 13:1-5). The angel explained that Samson should be raised as a Nazirite, a term first mentioned in Numbers 6:1-21 where God lays out the requirements for someone dedicating themselves to God’s service:
Abstaining from any fermented drink (including vinegar), abstaining from grapes or any food made from grapes (including raisins), never getting a haircut, never touching or being near anything dead (even undergoing a cleansing and rededication ceremony involving sin offerings if they happen to be with someone when that person dies).
Interestingly, the Numbers passage describes Nazirites who are only temporarily dedicating themselves to God, with a set time and a ceremony to commemorate the end of their commitment (Numbers 6:13-21). Samson is apparently set up by God as a Nazirite for life and doesn’t choose the role himself. Some post-Old Testament Jewish sources argued that Nazirites can be temporary or permanent obligations, with differences. The Nazir, an essay on Nazirite vows included in the Babylonian Talmud, argues that permanent Nazirites didn’t have to abstain from dead things. This would explain why Samson’s mother wasn’t told he had to abstain from dead things, just haircuts and grape products, and why he didn’t lose his strength after removing honey from a dead lion.
In addition to being a Nazirite, Samson was also a judge, a protector over the Jewish people in a period before they had kings. Other judges fought Israel’s enemies in various ways (such as Gideon and Jephthah), and some are mentioned as leading the people and providing moral instruction (such as Samuel). Judges is selective in what it tells us about Samson: Judges 15:20 says that he led Israel for 20 years but only tells us about a handful of events, his military, and romantic exploits. This means we can’t say for sure if Samson was just a warrior or if he also taught and led people. Since the angel highlighted that Samson “will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines,” (Judges 13:5), it seems his primary job was defending Israel by fighting the Philistines.
Samson’s role as a warrior started when he tried to marry a Philistine woman, which immediately put him in conflict with Philistines. As part of the wedding, a seven-day feast (Judges 14:17), 30 Philistine men who were Samson’s “companions,” probably something like modern-day groomsmen. Samson told them a riddle as a bet, the answer being that he had killed a lion and found honey in its carcass later. When the men couldn’t figure out the riddle, they threatened Samson’s wife, who got the answer from him (Judges 14:10-18). When Samson found out he’d been tricked, he angrily left the wedding feast, and his wife was married to someone else. Eventually, (the text says “at the wheat harvest,” which suggests a new season had arrived), Samson went back to his wife, found out she’d been married to someone else, and started making things hard for the Philistines in earnest. Over time, Samson burned Philistine crops (Judges 15:1-5), killed Philistines who had murdered his wife to get at him (Judges 15:7-8), killed 1000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:9-17), and tore up a set of city gates as he left an ambush (Judges 16:1-4).
What Happened to Samson and Delilah?
The last major story about Samson describes how he fell in love with a woman named Delilah who lived in the Valley of Sorek (according to some sources, the border between Philistine land and the tribe of Dan). Philistine leaders offered Delilah silver to find out what made Samson so strong. Samson made up answers on three occasions, saying that he had to be tied with seven bowstrings, or with fresh ropes, or have his hair weaved into a loom before his strength would go (Judges 6:6-14). Each time this measure failed and Samson drove away Philistines who tried taking him by surprise. Finally, after much nagging, Samson told Delilah that his hair had to be cut for his strength to go away. Philistines shaved Samson’s head and captured him, blinding him and putting him in a prison where he worked a grain mill’s wheel (Judges 16:15-22).
What Delilah did after this is not known, although many adaptations of the story (such as Cecil B. DeMille’s 1949 epic Samson and Delilah) depict her being at the final scene of Samson’s life: over time, Samson’s hair grew back in prison. One day the Philistines brought Samson out as a spectacle for a temple sacrifice to their god Dagon. Samson asked to be put next to a pillar so he could lean against it, and then prayed for strength. His strength returned and he knocked two pillars over, killing everyone in the temple (Judges 16:23-30).
Why Did Samson Fall for Delilah's Schemes?
Read the story of Samson and Delilah in one sitting, and Samson looks pretty stupid. Who tells someone their biggest secret after enemies have conveniently shown it after the last three times that the person asked for that secret? Good evidence throughout the story indicates that Samson was arrogant and foolhardy. However, there are several things we often miss about Samson and Delilah’s situation.
First, the text doesn’t say that the Philistines showed up immediately after Samson talked to Delilah. It says Delilah “sent word” (Judges 16:18) to the Philistines after talking to Samson. So, it wasn’t like the Philistines were in the next room listening and then jumping out of the closet when they got a signal. There was some time delay, possibly a day or more, between Samson talking to Delilah and the Philistines showing up each time.
Second, if scholars are correct in saying that Delilah lived on the Israel-Philistia border, then the Philistines probably came to attack Samson many times. They may have come to attack him so many times that it felt routine, so Samson didn’t put the hints together and realize what Delilah was doing.
Third, Samson had a history of foolhardy choices when he wanted women. He saw a Philistine woman one day and decided to marry her, even though a Nazirite marrying a foreigner would have been a big ethical breach. When he was made to look foolish, he left his own wedding, then came back months later (“at the time of the wheat harvest”) saying, “I’m going to my wife’s room” (Judges 15:1). The emphasis on going to his wife’s room suggests that this visit was more about sex than reconciling with his wife. Later, Samson went into the Philistine city of Gaza and stayed with a prostitute who he apparently met in passing (Judges 16:1). So, Samson had a history of doing the foolish thing to get a woman he wanted, possibly because he figured his strength would always be there to get him out of trouble. Since he’d been made a Nazirite from birth, he may not have really believed his strength would ever leave him.
3 Warning to Christians from the Samson and Delilah Story
There are plenty of things we could learn from the story of Samson and Delilah, from lessons about relationships to lessons about being better members of our communities. Here are three particular lessons we can all start following today:
Watch out for arrogance. Samson first got in trouble when he suggested a riddle that no one but him could solve, with a solution that highlighted his unbeatable strength. He continued to behave arrogantly and take foolish risks throughout his life, and it ultimately got him into trouble. Regardless of how skilled or blessed we are, we need to remember to be humble.
Consider carefully who you fall for. While Samson telling Delilah his secret was foolish, there was a gradual weakening where she pressured him daily. Living with a partner who is foolish, vindictive or just not following God will affect our lives in ways that we don’t expect. While most of us (hopefully) won’t fall in love with partners who conspire to have us killed, we can all benefit by being careful about the partners we choose.
Remember that love isn’t just about you. Samson didn’t think carefully about the romantic partners he pursued. He didn’t understand that selecting a partner doesn’t just affect the two people involved. It involves becoming part of a community—the partner’s family, the neighborhood they live in—and that community will be affected by whatever choices the couple makes. By not thinking about how marrying a Philistine would create trouble (or how his actions against the Philistines would affect his Philistine wife), Samson created cycles of violence that harmed him and others around him. We would all do better if we considered what community we join when we choose a partner and the responsibilities that brings.
Read the complete Bible passage of this story below and browse related articles, videos, and sermons to learn more about its meaning: