"And she made him sleep on her knees; and she called for a man,
and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head:
. . . and his strength went from him."
For starters, Samson falls for and marries a Philistine woman of Timnah, and entertains thirty Philistine companions there at a seven-day wedding feast. He tells these guests a riddle (about a lion he slew with his bare hands) and bets new garments for all thirty that they can't solve it. The guests then tell his wife they'll burn up her and her father unless she gets the answer for them. The tearful wife badgers Samson the whole seven days till he tells her the answer. When the wedding guests then win the bet by solving his riddle, Samson knows they have "plowed with (his) heifer." He goes out and kills thirty Philistines for their garments, which he gives to the guests. He then angrily goes home to the town of Zorah.
When Samson later tries to visit his wife, he learns that her father, thinking the Hebrew had spurned her, has given her away to Samson's best man. This makes Samson so mad that he burns the Philistines' cornfields and vineyards.
The Philistines retaliate by burning up the wife and her father. Vowing to get them for that, Samson smites the Philistines "hip and thigh with a great slaughter." Set on vengeance, the Philistines march into Judah where Samson is hiding. Samson lets the fearful Judahites bind him and hand him over. Then the Spirit of the Lord comes mightily upon him. Snapping the cords that bind him, Samson slays one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
They don't have to say any more. "Tell me, I pray thee," Delilah says to Samson, "wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee." Samson tells her that if he is bound with seven green bowstrings that have not been dried, he will be as weak as any other man. He's lying, of course, though not necessarily because he distrusts Delilah. Maybe he just likes kinky sex games. Not knowing that Philistines are lying in wait in the chamber, Samson lets Delilah tie him up with the bowstrings. But when she tells him, "The Philistines be upon thee, Samson," game's over--he snaps the bowstrings and the Philistines are foiled again.
On two more occasions Delilah, accusing Samson of mocking her, asks him wherein his strength lies and how he might be bound. Both times she tries what he tells her ("The Philistines be upon thee, Samson"), and each time it turns out he has lied.
Delilah now really goes to work on him. "How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?" she pouts. "Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth." She presses him daily till Samson is "vexed unto death" and finally tells her the truth: He has been a Nazarite from birth, a razor never having touched his head: "If I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man."
But the Philistines forget to keep giving him haircuts. One day as he is displayed for sport in the crowd-filled temple of Dagon, with the lords of the Philistines present, Samson literally brings down the house: He has gained enough strength from his growing hair to dislodge the temple's two middle pillars. His last words are "Let me die with the Philistines," and he dies with over three thousand of them as the building collapses.
Contrary to Cecil B. DeMille's epic, we are not told in the Bible if Delilah (repentant in the movie) is anywhere around when Samson dies with the Philistines. I've got to hand it to DeMille, though. Going to see his "Samson and Delilah" when I was eight years old was the best dime I ever spent on a movie.
And I still wonder if the real Delilah was half as good-looking as Hedy Lamarr. Take it from me, that Austrian beauty could make eight-year-olds weak in the knees.
For the 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer's retelling of the tale (translated from the Middle English by yours truly), click here.
For some good heavy reading, see John Milton's 17th-century tragic poem "Samson Agonistes."
For something lighter, see Christian scriptwriter Bob Snook's short, hilarious radio script "Delilah Finds the Secret to Samson's Strength."
Visit the archeological sites of Ashdod, Ashkelon (1 and 2), Ekron (1 and 2), Gath, and Gaza, the five major Philistine cities, and read about
Dagon, the Philistine god in whose temple Samson took his final revenge.
The entries on Samson and Delilah in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
A Samson psychological profile.
Scholarly articles by Anton Karl Kozlovic on DeMille's "Samson and Delilah" in Belphégor, Comparative Religion and Culture, McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry, Sincronía, and Women in Judaism. See also "Have Lamb Will Martyr" and "Serpentine Evil and the Garden of Eden."
A history and lyrics of the song "Samson and Delilah" recorded by the Grateful Dead.
Synopsis of the opera "Samson et Dalila" by Camille Saint-Saens.
A description of the oratorio "Samson" by George Frideric Handel.