In a book with an enormous range of personalities, there is one character whose persona is perhaps greater than the rest of them put together.
Samson is the mightiest, scariest, wildest of all the judges. A one man whirlwind, he quite literally put the fear of God into our enemies, the Philistines.
Yet because of his passionate nature, he was overcome by his blind love of a beautiful woman, Delilah. “She who brings low” proved stronger than the Biblical superman of strength.
The Bible describes her as a woman from the valley of Soreq, a name which some scholars suggest means “grapes”.
Samson being a peculiar, lifetime Nazirite (forbidden to drink wine or eat grapes), might have considered it somewhat risky to associate with such a person, given her name and her provenance. Yet love blinds us to potential disaster, and he persisted in consorting with her.
She must have been quite some woman, because she repeatedly asked for the secret of her lover’s strength, only to be given three consecutive false answers.
The fact Samson, the strongest he-man of the Hebrew nation, kept returning to her arms speaks strongly of her beauty, her sexual allure, and her personal charisma. She was eventually able to do what none of his enemies could achieve.
According to our rabbis, Delilah diminished Samson physically, intellectually and spiritually. We have seen how she took his strength away, as well as his intellect, because he trusted her. She took away his spiritual link with God, because she was a dangerous foreign woman and a wicked non-Jew.
Earlier rabbinic sources say Delilah was barren, but later ones tells us they did have children. Mighty men like their father, they were the first to enter the fray in the war with the kings of Cush. Each one had a triumphal voice like a lion’s roar and would loudly call out: “Salvation is the Lord’s, may Your might be for your people, the tribes of Jeshurun, Sela”
Today, of course, she is best remembered as the temptress in many an old master.
Zvi Solomons is rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berkshire in Reading. JCoB.org