A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: Samson and Delilah

Definition

Samson was an Israelite soldier in the continuing wars against the country’s enemies. He became renowned for having supernatural strength, which he demonstrated several times against Israel’s strongest enemies, the Philistines. He became one of the judges of Israel, a position he held for twenty years.

Samson and Delilah by Gustav DoreHowever, Samson fell in love with a Gentile woman named Delilah. The Philistines bribed her to discover the source of Samson’s strength so that they could overpower and capture him. She agreed and pleaded with Samson to tell her. He answered with a lie that his strength would disappear if he were tied up with fresh bowstrings. When he was asleep, she tied him up as he described, having first hidden men inside her house to ambush him. Yet when she cried out that the Philistines were attacking, Samson easily snapped the bonds, having lost none of his strength. 

She tried twice more to wheedle the truth out of him, each time bringing Philistine men to capture him, but discovered Samson had not disclosed the truth and so retained his strength. Finally Delilah complained that Samson couldn’t really love her if he kept lying to her. She nagged him day after day until he could stand it no longer and told her the truth, that he was so strong because he had been dedicated to God as a baby, as a sign of which he’d never had his hair cut. 

Delilah realised that he had at last told her the truth, so summoned the Philistines again, who paid her for the information. She lulled Samson to sleep, then his hair was cut off. According to the Bible at that point the spirit of the Lord left him. When Samson woke his amazing strength was gone and Delilah mocked his weakness as the Philistines easily seized him. They gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him in their own country of Gaza. However, Samson’s hair started to grow back… 

The story illustrates:

  • Samson’s failure resulted from prioritising his physical desires above his commitment to God
  • His strength derived more from God’s anointing on him than from his muscles
  • Forming a close relationship with someone who does not honour God can be dangerous!

Related topics

Big ideas from the Bible: Women in the Bible

Bible References

Judges 16:4-21
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