The Bible Says What? ‘Delilah wasn’t a treacherous woman, just a mighty warrior’
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The Bible Says What? ‘Delilah wasn’t a treacherous woman, just a mighty warrior’

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Liberal response.

Sephardi Torah scrolls
Sephardi Torah scrolls

“When Delilah saw that Samson had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines…” Judges (16:18)

Jewish tradition has, on the whole, not given Delilah very good press. For obvious reasons, of course.

She is loved by Samson, the Nazarite of famous strength who serves as the final Judge of Israel. Cecil B DeMille’s 1949 film Samson and Delilah brought to life years of negative portrayals of the woman, that saw her fixed in many minds as the treacherous woman.

But just pause a minute. She was, according to tradition, a Philistine and widely accepted as the enemy of the Israelites. No man had been able to bring an end to Samson, such was his strength.

Audre Lorde states: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house… They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

So rather than read this story as we perhaps always have done, can we not see this as a story of a female warrior?

Delilah does not try to fight Samson as a man would, but her methods prove more effective than any sword.

She is the only woman in the Samson story whose name we know. There is some debate over the etymology of her name, but what is clear is that it is a word play on the Hebrew for ‘night’.

Perhaps this is a nod to the recognition that the darkness of the night is the only way to close down the mighty sun, with Samson/Shimshon sharing a root with shemesh, the Hebrew word for ‘sun’.

So, too, is Delilah the only one to be able to defeat the invincible Samson.

Rabbi Charley Baginksy is interim director of Liberal Judaism

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