Who Were Samson and Delilah?
Their love affair could have been featured on the cover of today’s tabloids — handsome, burly Samson, madly in love with the gorgeous and cunning Delilah, whose betrayal not only brought down a legend but killed thousands.
Yet they’re right in the middle of the book of Judges, one of the Old Testament’s more interesting historical depictions.
Who were Samson and Delilah, really? Let’s take a look at the flawed but God-led man and the woman who stole his heart — and helped snuff out his life.
Who Was Samson?
Samson was an Israelite judge with supernatural strength who led his people for 20 years during a time of great conflict with the Philistines.
His origin story is told in Judges 13. Much like the prophet Samuel, who would come some years later, Samson’s mother was barren and could not conceive. An angel appeared to her and told her she would bear a son, but she must drink no wine or fermented beverage and eat no unclean foods during her pregnancy, and after she gave birth her son was to be a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord.
Nazirites were Israelites who voluntarily took a vow to enter the service of the Lord, abstaining from alcohol and never cutting their hair, among other requirements.
The angel told Samson’s mother, “He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).
And indeed this was so. Samson was blessed by the Lord and filled with the Spirit, enabling him to do amazing things, including tearing apart a lion with his bare hands (Judges 14:6) and, with the jawbone of a donkey, killing 1,000 men (Judges 15:15).
The stuff of legends, he ended up leading Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines. He was also known for being hotheaded, emotional, and perhaps a bit foolish when it came to his tastes in women.
Then one day, Samson met Delilah, and fell in love.
Who Was Delilah?
The Bible tells us Delilah was a woman in the Valley of Sorek. Some scholars believe she was a Philistine, but the Bible is not clear on this. However, the Bible is clear that the Philistine rulers offered her a massive amount of silver—enough to make her extraordinarily rich—if she could discover the secret of his great strength so they could overpower and subdue him (Judges 16:5).
Delilah complied, trying her best to get Samson to reveal his secret. But Samson had been tricked once already by a woman he loved (Judges 14:15-20), with disastrous consequences. And he wasn’t about to let it happen again.
However, Scripture tells us her nagging was relentless — much like emotional warfare.
“How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me?” she said (Judges 16:15).
Day after day, the begging and the pestering went on.
What Happened in Samson and Delilah’s Story?
One day, Samson finally gave up and told Delilah his secret.
He told her, “‘No razor has ever been used on my head,’ he said, ‘because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man’” (Judges 16:17).
If we’d hoped Delilah truly loved Samson and would keep this information to herself, we were wrong.
Delilah told the Philistine rulers, and then she had servants shave off Samson’s seven braids while he slept.
Because of her betrayal, the Philistines were able to subdue him, gouge out his eyes, and imprison him.
Why Did Samson's Long Hair Give Him Strength?
It wasn’t Samson’s special hair or special qualities that gave him such strength, of course — it was the power of God the Highest at work in him. When Samson took his vow to become a Nazirite, he committed to following certain rules. This covenant, outlined in Numbers 6:3-7, included not cutting his hair, not being around corpses (even his closest relatives), and not eating or drinking anything fermented or that comes from the grapevine, including seeds or skins.
When his hair was cut, the conditions of the vow were violated, hence God’s power left him.
As long as his hair was uncut, he was a Nazirite and empowered with super-strength courtesy of God Almighty.
But uncut, he was a Nazirite no longer — he was simply a regular man. And the Philistines took great advantage of this.
What Happened to Samson and Delilah?
While Samson was in prison, his hair began to grow. One day, the Philistines took him out of prison to make public sport of him. Thousands of people were in attendance at the temple, where the Philistines were sacrificing to their false god and otherwise celebrating.
There, Samson turned to the Lord. He prayed that God would give him strength once more so he could exact revenge for the wrong done to him.
God did just that, restoring Samson’s strength.
With one final show of supernatural vigor, Samson pushed mightily against the pillars of the temple, and it came crashing down, killing him and thousands upon thousands of Philistines — far more than he’d ever been able to defeat in his lifetime (Judges 16:30).
The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Delilah, but many assume she died along with all the others in the temple.
Samson’s body was claimed by his relatives, and he was buried in his father’s tomb.
What Does This Story Mean for Us Today?
This story has a few key messages:
One, as evidenced by Samson’s mother, when we obey God, great things can happen.
Two, be careful about who you marry — and about who you reveal precious secrets to.
Three, God takes vows seriously.
Four, when we are blind to sin and foolishness and succumb to rage or arrogance, bad things can happen.
Five, God uses both wicked and righteous people to do His good works in the world.
Six, it’s never too late to turn back to God. Samson repented, and God used him to destroy the temple of the false god and thousands of wicked Philistines.
Seven, our betrayal can come back to bite us — Delilah’s actions not only brought down Samson but thousands of Philistines, too.
And finally, all of our strength comes from God. It’s not about us.
The tale of Samson and Delilah is far more than a sensational love story, or yet another battle between the Israelites and their heathen enemies. It’s a story of how God can use even broken, sinful, flawed men like Samson to accomplish His great and glorious purposes.
Samson was far from perfect. He was arrogant at times, and clearly had a love for women who didn’t have his best interest at heart.
But he was committed to God. He honored his vow, and he willingly allowed the Spirit of God to use him for God’s purposes and plan.
When that vow ended, things changed, but he still turned back to God and finished well.
The Bible is filled with stories of God using broken or imperfect people: Abraham was old, yet God made him the father of nations. Joseph was abused, yet God used him to save the Israelites from starvation. Moses had a speech impediment, yet he was considered the most important prophet in Judaism. Jonah ran from God, yet God used him to save the Ninevites. Peter denied Jesus three times, yet he was the rock upon whom Christ founded his church.
And God can use us, too. Thanks be to God!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Robin Skjoldborg
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.