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Delilah, of Sorek, was the last mistress of Samson, the Danite judge of the people of Israel. She came under hire of the Philistine land owners to find out what gave him his superhuman strength. With a promise of 1100 shekels of from each of them, she set out to bring the Hebrew strongman to an end of his "reign of terror" which he had waged against the Philistines for twenty years.

Finding Samson's weakness had taking some nagging, but after giving false information three times (closer every time), her constant badgering paid off. Finding out that the man got his strength because of an oath to Yahweh made on his behalf—a Nazarite vow concerning no cutting of his hair[1]—she arranged for a barber to come while he slept.

Having succeeded Delilah was a rich woman, though nothing else is known of her after this episode.


The name Delilah is derived from the verb dalal, meaning "to bring low." Though it is impossible to know whether this name was one given to her at birth or through her life experiences, it proved prophetic in the case of her lover.

If named this at her birth, she may have been a sickly child (one meaning of the verb is "to be feeble."). Another possibility is that she was considered too weak to work the vineyards of the Sorek valley. Her parents had perhaps, as is often the case, wanted a boy.

If the name was acquired in her adult years, it was perhaps after being abandoned by her parents and surviving as young women often do in that situation. If not a slave, she probably made a good living at her feminine wiles.


Delilah was born in the Sorek valley of Philistia near the frontier of Judah. Probably the daughter of poor farmers, she ended up working in the brothels of a Philistine city in the latter days of the judges (c. 1100 BC)

Just before meeting Delilah, Samson had a liaison with a prostitute (possibly another plant, for the leadership knew he was there). He had walked away with the city gates at midnight, displaying his strength as they watched from the shadows. Delilah was probably hired to entice him once more into a trap.

When it became known that she had become Samson's mistress, the deal was struck. Delilah, the "low life," was to become rich enough to get out of the "business" for good. It was not an easy assignment.

When asked the secret of his strength, Samson began to lie. It is not clear if he knew that God would fail to honor his faith if his hair was cut (he had broken the vows hei mother had made for him many times over in other ways), but his action show he suspected the outward sign was a giveaway. However, in his usual manner, he talked in riddles, each time getting closer to the truth. First he told her that if he were bound with seven green strips of wood woven together, he could not escape.

Delilah somehow trusted him, for she preceded to get just that kind of binding ready. When he woke in a start, the bonds shattered as if they were burning cords. Delilah pouted, so he told her that it was a new cord that was needed. The next night, she tried that, with the same result. If the landlords were like others that had tried to destroy Samson, they were certainly not pleased. Finally Delilah was given an answer that almost hit on the truth: he needed to be bound to a loom by his long hair.

It is clear that the Philistines knew nothing of Hebrew Law, for the long hair was certainly not the norm in that society. Giants ruled the day, not men with the braided hair of a woman. Alas, though, the loom was shattered when Samson awoke with a start for the third time. Supposedly sober (he was not supposed to drink strong drink), the mighty Samson had seemed to have won. But his femme fatale was no quitter. Turning on the tears, she questioned his love for her. Pouts reached a new level. And finally, Samson broke under pressure. The Nazarite vow was the key. He was dedicated to Yahweh, the God of Israel. All Delilah had to do was cut his his braided hair.

Delilah called in a barber after Samson fell asleep. The sharp razor cut through the hair with ease. Then, as before, Delilah woke her lover, screaming "the Philistines are here!" Thinking nothing of it, Samson jumped up, but the Spirit of God was not with him. He was as weak as any "normal" man. Delilah collected tens of thousands of shekels, and watched as her prey was taken away.


  1. Judges 16:17 (Link)