Delilah (דלילה - D+*uL+iJ+L+oH+, Standard Hebrew meaning "[One who] weakened or uprooted or impoverished" from the root dal meaning "weak or poor".) appears only in the Hebrew Bible Book of Judges 16, where she is the "woman in the valley of Sorek" whom Samson loved, and who was his downfall. Her figure, one of several dangerous temptresses in the Hebrew Bible, has become emblematic: "Samson loved Delilah, she betrayed him, and, what is worse, she did it for money", Madlyn Kahr begins her study of the Delilah motif in European painting.
Delilah was approached by the lords of the Philistines, the enemies of Israel, to discover the secret of Samson's strength, "and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver." Three times she asked Samson for the secret of his strength, and three times he gave her a false answer. First he told her "If they bind me with seven green withes that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man." Then he told her "If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man." A third time he told her "If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web." On the fourth occasion he gave her the true reason: that he did not cut his hair in fulfillment of a vow to God; and Delilah, when Samson was asleep on her knees, called up her man to shave off the seven locks from his head, then betrayed him to his enemies: "the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house."
Some consider one of the false secrets given by Samson, that his strength would leave him if his hair were woven into a cloth, to be reminiscent of arcane woman's magic of the art of weaving that is also inherent in the myths of Penelope, Circe, Arachne.
The toponym "Sorek" or "soreq" is identified only in connection with the Samson story. In the fourth century CE, Jerome mentions a "Capharsorec" that was near Saraa. Modern Israel has a Soreq Valley and even a Sorek Vineyard (since 1994/5) producing Merlot. Soreq, however, is the grapevine itself in Genesis 49:11, Isaiah 5:2, and Jeremiah 2:21. Samson had been dedicated as a Nazarite, "from the womb to the day of his death"; thus he was forbidden to touch wine or cut his hair. Delilah may be a "vine-woman" (compare the mythic Greek name Oenone), personifying the womanly temptations of the vine that would betray his Nazarite dedication.
Petrarch instanced Samson and Delilah in his Trionfi, as a victim in his allegorical depiction of the Triumph of Love. Somewhat inappropriately it would seem to a modern eye, the theme was depicted on more than one fifteenth-century Tuscan painted marriage tray. In the North, the Late Gothic theme of Weibermacht, of the dangerous strength of women, included in the series a conventional scene of a seated Delilah, with Samson asleep in her lap, shearing the "seven locks" from his head: the woodcut by Master E.S. might be a scene of courtly love, Madlyn Kahr has remarked, save for the ominous scissors in Delilah's hand.
A small grisaille panel by Andrea Mantegna in the National Gallery, London places the duo beneath a dead tree wound about with a luxurious vine (the debilitating power of the fruitful woman) and a fountain that overflows and seeps away into the ground, with undertones of unbridled sexual appetite. In Northern Europe the Delilah theme was more prominent among painters like Lucas van Leiden and Maerten van Heemskerck, who made a large woodcut of the subject after Titian. Tintoretto followed Titian in introducing a female accomplice of Delilah's; Rubens added further females, with a suggestion of a brothel, and came back to the subject several times. No major seventeenth-century artist approached the subject more often than Rembrandt.
John Milton personified her as the misguided and foolish but sympathetic temptress, much like his view of Eve, in his 1671 work Samson Agonistes. By the time of Camille Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila (1877) Delilah had become the eponym of a "Delilah", a treacherous and cunning femme fatale.
References in Film and Television
- Delilah has been portrayed on film and television by, among others, Hedy Lamarr, Rosalba Neri, and Belinda Bauer.
- The fact that Delilah did not do the actual cutting of Samson's hair is an issue in a scene in Delbert Mann's film, Fitzwilly (1967).
- In the HBO series Carnivàle, Delilah is the bearded-woman of the sideshow. She often shown butting heads with the caravan's leader, Samson.
- A Simpsons episode from the second season was named "Simpson and Delilah."
- In an episode of the TV series Friends, Ross and Rachel consider naming their daughter Delilah. After the baby is born, however, Rachel exclaims, "Suddenly she sounds like a Biblical whore".
- In the twelfth episode of the TV series 30 Rock ("Black Tie"), Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) uncharacteristically compares Pete Hornberger's (Scott Adsit) wife to Delilah. Jordan exclaims, "Seems like you've got yourself a Delilah" after hearing Pete embarrassingly impersonate Elmo while on the phone with his children. Jordan continues, "Pete, you've got two types of women in this world: one who gives you strength and one who takes strength from you, like Delilah took strength from Samson... in that movie! My wife gives me strength, makes me feel like a man! That's why she's so special! It's like this, Pete: I love my wife. I love her! We're a team! That's why eight times a week I go to the strip clubs. It gives me energy which I bring back to her. She likes it. It makes me feel strong... like a Samson."
- In season 2, an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is titled Samson and Delilah that featured a song about it.
References in Music
- Samson and Delilah is a grand opera in three acts by Camille Saint-Saëns. It was first performed in 1877.
- Delilah (Dalila) is a character in Samson, the oratorio by Handel, first performed in 1743. The libretto by Newburgh Hamilton is based on Samson Agonistes by John Milton.
- "Delilah" is the name of a song made popular by Tom Jones. It was written by Les Reed and Barry Mason. Cover versions have been recorded by many bands including: The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Flogging Molly, Zen Cowboys and Leningrad Cowboys.
- Regina Spektor sings of Samson and Delilah in "Samson" from her 2006 album, Begin to Hope.
- "Delilah" is the name of a song by Queen. It tells about the cat that Freddie Mercury loves (the most).
- "Delilah" is also a song by The Cranberries.
- In the musical The Producers Max Bialystock mentions Samson and Delilah in the song "Betrayed".
- The New Radicals song "Someday We'll Know" contains the line, "Someday we'll know why Samson loved Delilah".
- The song "Sam and Delilah" by George and Ira Gershwin from Girl Crazy is inspired by the legend.
- In The Dresden Dolls' song called "Delilah", she's referred to as 'a sucker for the ones who use her'.
- Neil Sedaka wrote a song titled "Run, Samson, Run", a short and upbeat re-telling of his story, and in the end he warns all men "there's a little of Delilah in each and every gal."
- The song "Hair" by PJ Harvey is about the story of Samson and Delilah.
- Fields of the Nephilim refer to Delilah within the song "At The Gates Of Silent Memory" from the Elizium album.
- Middle of the Road had a hit with "Samson and Delilah" in 1972, written by G. Capuano, M. Capuano and H. Stott. The song, in short, tells of the cutting of Samson's hair, including the line "She was undecided but man that hair just had to go".
- Bob Dylan's song, "Tombstone Blues", on his Highway 61 Revisited album, makes reference to Delilah, ('The geometry of innocence flesh on the bone/ Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown/ At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone/ But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter').
- The song "Gouge Away" by the Pixies is a retelling of the story of Samson and Delilah.
- There is a Bruce Dickinson song named "Delilah".
- Chuck Berry has a song named "Beautiful Delilah".
- Delilah is mentioned in the song "Stepping Stone" by G. Love and Special Sauce.
- The Blasters have a song called "Samson and Delilah" that retells much of the biblical tale.
- There is a Carol Ann Duffy poem entitled "Delilah" from The World's Wife anthology
- The Grateful Dead have a song called "Samson and Delilah", which first appeared in concert in 1976 and stayed in the band's live catalogue until 1995. It is a cover of the Reverend Gary Davis original.
- Van Stephenson's 1984 hit song "Modern Day Delilah" tells of betrayal and deceit from a hair dresser who "keeps her scissors razor sharp".
- In the song "Dead Girl" from the grunge band Acid Bath, on the album Paegan Terrorism Tactics, we can hear the following line "Delilah played the dead girl at the freak show"
- The band Inkubus Succubus also have a song "Delilah".
- The band Plain White T's has a song titled "Hey There Delilah".
- The band Otep makes a reference to Delilah in the song "Fillthee".
- In The Phantom of the Opera, Erik (the phantom) calls his love-turned-traitor a "lying Delilah".
- The Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" references Delilah in the second verse: "She broke your throne, and she cut your hair."
- Thomas Dolby tells the story of Samson and Delilah in a song of the same name, the only commercially available copy being on his 1983 Live Wireless, in a duet with Kevin Armstrong.