Bad Girls of the Bible: Lessons from Delilah
The story of Samson and Delilah, which is dramatised in the book of Judges, Chapter 16, tells the story of the world’s strongest man, reduced to a puny weakling, meeting an untimely death all in the name of love.
A beautiful Philistine woman, Delilah, the only woman in Samson’s story who is named, was loved by Israel’s last and most colourful judge, Samson. It was no secret that Samson was a ‘gyalis’, but for every gyalis, there is that one woman who can tame him. And Samson, we are told, “fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah”. (Judges 16:4). However, nowhere does it say that this gold-digger of Sorek loved Samson.
Delilah was later urged by the rulers of the Philistines to lure Samson into revealing the source of his strength, with the promise that they would pay her handsomely if she delivered him to them. The Philistines were led by five men of equal authority, and each man promised Delilah shekels of 1,100 silver if she could deliver. Some scholars say that in modern money, that would be about $15 million in total. Delilah agreed.
The Bible records that three times, Delilah, who has been described as the female Judas of the Old Testament, asked Samson to tell her the source of his strength, and three times, he lied. Each time, the story ends the same way. Delilah – having done exactly what Samson said would deplete his strength – wakes him up with the agitated cry, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.” Of course, this strongman easily makes his escape. Finally, in desperation, she draws the ‘you don’t love me’ card.
15 “And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
16 “And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 “That he told her all his heart.”
These verses in Judges are Samson’s death sentence. Having heard of his Nazarite vow to never cut his hair or else he would lose his strength, Delilah lovingly cradles him to sleep in her lap and calls for a servant to chop off Samson’s locks. Samson loses his strength, he is captured by the Philistines and his eyes gouged out. After that, Delilah disappears from the story, possibly to live a fairy-tale life of happily ever after with her cold, hard cash.
From Welsh singer Tom Jones to dancehall singjay Mavado, the notoriety of this biblical bad girl, Delilah, has had a strong pull on contemporary singers. Mavado, in his chart-topping single, Delilah, states:
“Love you to my heart, love you to my soul,
I thought you were for real, but you’re playing a role,
Lying to me, that is all you do
Fancy cars and superstars, that’s the things you choose ... .
She seh man a wicked, but woman a Delilah ... .
Delilah is a girl, she wanna gain the world ... .”
Bible Gateway describes Delilah as “a woman who used her personal charm to lure a man to his spiritual and physical destruction, and she stands out as one of the lowest, meanest women of the Bible.”
However, despite her infamy, Fr Sean Major Campbell, advocate for human rights and public theologian, believes that Delilah was a victim of xenophobia, misogyny, and bribery and that the story is used to show how foreign women were not to be trusted (especially when they fail to worship Yahweh). The account has been used throughout the ages to advance a lesson to beware of foreign women. Just call Delilah’s name and men would be reminded to stay closer to home in how they choose their women.
The public theologian labels Delilah, “the smart one”.
“Physical strength and sexual prowess have never been the true indicators of superior intellect. In the text, we see strong, macho Samson. We see the crafty bribers. However, the wise one is Delilah. She is not blinded by lust. She goes into this relationship with eyes wide open. She knows her purpose and her goal. Her autonomy is without doubt in this plot,” the human rights advocate says.
Samson, he points out, enjoys his limited attempt at outsmarting Delilah. He also enjoys whatever his focus was with regard to this smart woman. “We may deduce from the Delilah story that men ought to be more committed to the ideals of their particular value system,” Campbell states.
HOLD FAST TO UNSHAKEABLE VALUES
He notes that vows do not cause a cessation of sexual appetite. Vows of marriage, celibacy, abstinence, and even that of the Nazarite, are no guarantee against the quest to fulfil the natural desires of and for the flesh.
“If I realise that, and I want to keep the Nazarite vow, then this cannot be sacrificed for a feel-good moment. You cannot afford to take chances with the very essence of deeper self as you understand it.
“Maybe if Samson was a serious Rastaman, who holds a ‘meds’ more often, he would not have been so easily lured into the arms of deceit,” the public theologian said.
He adds: “Many Christians use this story to warn young men about deceitful women. However, there would be much wisdom in reminding men that they themselves are often their own worst enemies. It is men who must keep wisdom alive and hold fast to particular unshakeable values. Understand that it all starts with you versus seeking to demonise women.
“We also do well to remind women to beware of being trafficked. Your capacity for luring strong and powerful men has been exploited through the ages. However, this diminishes your humanity and may even lead to your demise.”
Campbell wisely advises that in the end, no one benefits from corruption. “Corruption breeds anger, vengeance, violence, pain, and untimely death. Anyone may be like a Delilah, Samson, or briber. Choose the best version of you in 2020 and always,” he concludes.