Delilah, Lost by Janet Maika’i Rudolph



Delilah is a beautiful name on its own merits. As a biblical personage Delilah is forever connected to Samson for their tales are intertwined. As it is told in Judges, Samson is the clear hero of the tale and Delilah is merely the temptress who betrays him. But as in all spiritual accounts there is more here than meets the eye. A spiritual journey is never a linear affair. When reading the story of Samson and Delilah, it immediately becomes clear that something mythical is afoot. The root of Samson’s name is the same as the word shamash, the Hebrew word for sun. The root of Delilah is lila, meaning night. Right away we understand that this story contains apparent opposites, heavenly aspects, the sun and the night, light and dark . . .

Even though Samson is known as a hero, famous for his strength and courage, he actually has a checkered, even cruel, past. As the story is told in Judges, Samson falls in love and plans to marry a Philistine woman from the town of Timnah. As part of his traditional bridal gift, he promises to bring thirty suits of clothing for his Philistine guests. Unlike what we would expect, he doesn’t have the 30 suits of clothing made to order but sets out to murder thirty other Philistines and when they are dead, steal their clothing. Not surprisingly, the Philistines are angry.  As the acts of retribution on both sides escalate, Samson burns the Philistines’ fields by taking 300 foxes, tying burning torches to their tails and setting them loose to run through the fields. This is a particularly vicious act because it is done at harvest time which affects the food supply of the whole community.

Vengeance follows vengeance until 3,000 men of Judah arrive to arrest Samson but like his namesake, the sun, he uses the flames to burn through the ropes that bind him when he is arrested.

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him:
and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him,
and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire,
and his bands loosed from off his hands.
       – Judges 15: 14

He also kills 1000 Philistines in the process. But then without further explanation Samson is elevated to become a judge in Israel. He led in this capacity for 20 years. (Judges 15:20) After this time, Samson leaves his judgeship and meets Delilah in the Valley of Sorek. The sun meets night and the story turns again to where it started – with love.

But all is not well between them. Delilah colludes with the Philistines to betray Samson. She tries to uncover the secret of his strength.

So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, what makes you so strong?
And how could you be tied up and made helpless?”
        – Judges 16:6

Each time he answers this question, Delilah goes to the Philistines with the information to prepare an ambush. At each try she ties him up as he describes. As per his instructions, she ties him up variously with “seven fresh tendons that had not been dried,” “new ropes that had never been used,” and a rope woven from “seven locks” of his hair. Each time that Delilah binds him, and the Philistines arrive to capture him, Samson tears off the ropes “like a thread.”

Finally, she pleads to him:

“How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me?
You have mocked me these three times,
and have not told me where your great strength lies.”
        – Judges 16:15

Samson reveals the true secret – that his hair is the source of his strength. Delilah then proceeds to cut his hair while he was sleeping. This weakens him as “an ordinary man” and the Philistines successfully capture him.

The story of Samson ends when the Philistines gouge his eyes out and make him a “mill slave in the prison.” His hair begins to grow again, and with it his strength. One day the Philistines bring Samson out to entertain them at a festival.  He is chained between two pillars to dance for them.

He embraced the two middle pillars that the temple rested upon,
One with his right arm and one with his left, and leaned against them;
Samson cried, “Let me die with the Philistines!” and he pulled with all his might.
The temple came crashing down on the lords and on all
the people in it. Those were slain by him as he died
outnumbered those who had been slain by him when he lived.
     – Judges 16:29-30

Traditional commentary shakes its collective head that Samson could be so naïve as to tell Delilah the truth about his strength after she had already betrayed him three times. Traditional commentary only looks through the lens of Samson in this.

But what if this story really is the re-telling of an old myth that was completely different? What if Delilah is the hero, or at least heroic in her own right? What if everything got reversed? And/or what if there are hidden, esoteric secrets embedded within the story. It is a story that certainly captures our imaginations as so many biblical stories do. 

Elizabeth Cunningham wrote a wonderful series (one of my favorites) about a Celtic Magdalen named Maeve. Maeve was raised by eight warrior witches. In the first of this fabulous series, Magdalen Rising, Maeve’s eight mothers have a philosophical take on their own story-telling. As explained with Cunningham’s sparkling wit; “A tale was ‘true’ if it was well told.” In that vein, in my next blogpost, I offer my own tale of the mythic Delilah and who She might have been (as well as who Samson was). I will do my best to tell the story well enough so you know it’s true.     

 

Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, and One GodsIn Ardor and Adventure, Janet.



Categories: Bible, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Theology, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Myth, Spirituality

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21 replies

  1. Great telling of this story so far. I look forward to Part II; I will hold off on my own re-interpretation of Delilah until then.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! I had forgotten the details of the Biblical story. Samson sounds like a piece of work. It is fascinating to know the meaning of Samson and Delilah’s names and the clue they hold to other dimensions of the story. I look forward to your story of Delilah. I know it will be well told!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have never liked most of those OT tales of mean and nasty men turned into heroes, good women turned into whores, and goddesses turned into demons. But your interpretation–light and dark! and heroic Delilah!–is very interesting. Thanks for your insights.

    In Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act I, scene 2, Don Armado and Moth (his servant) are talking and Armado asks about “men of good repute and carriage.” Moth names Sampson “for he carried the town gates on his back like a porter.” When Armado asks about Delilah, Moth says her complexion was “of the sea-green water.” “Is that one of the four complexions?” Armado asks. Moth replies, “…the best of them” and adds that “she had a green wit.” (Green, he also says, is the color of love.) This is the kind of nonsense that makes the play so much fun and so nicely skewers the Old Testament story.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. It does indeed skewer the OT story, Barbara, thanks for sharing that. Green is the color of the heart chakra and in Hawaiian Huna it is the color we use for Aloha spirit or love so . . . .another bit of something taken for granted that we can look at again and reclaim for its beauty.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I got lost in this tale – vengeance and the like – all those rules and men – it reminds me of our present politics.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just listened to Saint-Saens’ _Samson et Dalila_ as performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2018 (virtually). Of course, the story is shortened (when you’re singing, you can’t “tell” as much), but Samson is depicted as a conflicted hero. The conflict is duty to God or love of Delilah. I had forgotten what a terrible violent character he was in the Bible, similar to his vengeful God. But the operatic Delilah is portrayed as worse than in the Bible, purely a temptress who uses her sexual wiles to debase a good man. My delight was in the music and especially mezzo Elina Garanca. Her singing “redeemed” Delilah for me!

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    • Thanks for that posting Nancy, I have never heard that opera. I may need to check it out. Although I am not thrilled with the direction of Saint-Saens’ story it does point to a vibrant point: These stories capture our imaginations and seep into our consciousness. That is why I am hoping to write “well-told” stories (as others have done) to balance those narratives with a bit of pagan and feminist wisdom

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is awesome, Janet – and these stories are so often written to be satire about corrupt and violent political leaders, carefully worked by the storyteller to get away with blistering satire and scathing critique. I always liked Delilah, the covert spy operative outsmarting the enemy. I think it would make a great movie :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ohhh I do like your take Trelawney. I took it in a more mythic direction in my re-write which will be up next week. But it does sound like it also needs to be re-told as you see it as well – Delilah as a covert spy operative. Very nice.

      Oh my, can you imagine if say 10 feminist writers get together and re-write some of the stories, what amazing aspects will be brought out??? All different, all vivid and all revealing different truths. Wow there is something to work for.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll join this project. I’ve been re-framing Biblical women for years, and love to compare my versions to those of others. (The Truth about (M)Otherhood: Choosing to be Child Free, edited by Helene Cummins, Julie Anne Rodgers and Judith Dunkelberger Wouk will be published next month by Demeter Press http://demeterpress.org/product-category/preorder/?orderby=price-desc. My chapter is an analysis of Biblical women without children temporarily or permanently.)

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        • OK judithmaeryam, you’re on! From idea to project. Can do we manifest this?

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          • Who else here is interested? My friend and sister Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Miki Raver has published books on Biblical Women and several other Kohenet sisters are currently teaching Lesser Known Women of the Bible via Zoom from England. And R’K’ Jill Hammer, of course.
            My current project is Jezebel, for several different venues. I have also written or spoken on Balaam’s donkey, Delilah, Jezebel, Judith, Miriam, Rachel and Teraphim, and Tzipporah. I’d love to do King David’s women and women in Samson’s life. Not to mention Elijah and the priests of Ba’al, but that doesn’t involve women except by their absence.
            It occurs to me that I have just agreed to take on a new project, to expand articles on the Gift Economy on Wikipedia to include the insights of Genevieve Vaughan on the role of mothers. I wonder how re-framed Biblical women would work there?
            [I’m not sure why WordPress doesn’t put the capital letters in my name.]
            Judith Maeryam

            Liked by 1 person

        • Oh and I did want to say judithmaeryam, how interesting that sounds about your work of women without children in the Bible. I have never thought of that angle. It certainly would have been quite the statement of independence, esp. in that time period.

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          • There is no Biblical woman who says she does not want children. But Miriam, for example, whose life is told from childhood to death, is identified by her brothers and parents, and her own role as prophet, but never by a husband or child. The Rabbis, clearly uncomfortable with this, matched her with named Biblical men to create a family.
            (As well, following Savina Teubal, I say that the matriarchs did not have children until late in their lives because they were Priestesses from an ancient matriarchal society in which they were responsible for the fertility of the land and thus had to forego personal fertility.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Oh wow, a lot there and I love that concept and connection to ancient priestesses. Is that explored in the book you mentioned above? I will definitely be checking it out. [I love FAR, I have gotten so much excellent reading material on this site and have learned so much]

          I am also greatly looking forward to your take on Samson and Delilah.

          Thanks

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        • Oh Judith Maeryam, I missed your previous post as it got stacked in my e-mail. I see you are also Judith Dunkelberger Wouk (sorry if I missed that somewhere) and not only contributed to the book but you are an editor. Outstanding!

          Is there some other place I can read your works? They all sound fascinating. Websites? Books?

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          • Thanks. I did not start doing this seriously until I retired, and then it was mostly as a panellist at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, so there is not a lot published. I have a piece called “Re-Calling our HerStory: Miriam the Prophetess” in the issue “Women and Water” of Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme”, a York University publication, volume 30, number 2,3. Not on Biblical women, “Women, Chevra Kadisha and the Gift Economy” was recently published in the Feminist Gift Economy issue of CWS/cf vol 34, nos 1,2. (This one is available on-line.)

            Liked by 1 person

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