Shimshon Text and Notes
4 Now it was [some time] after this that he fell in love with a woman in the Wadi of Sorek/Vines, her name was Delila. 5 The Philistine overlords went up to her and said to her: Seduce him and see whereby his might is so great, whereby we can overcome him, so that we can bind him, to subdue him, and we ourselves, each one, will give you a thousand and a hundred pieces of silver! 6 Delila said to Shimshon: Pray tell me, whereby is your might so great, whereby can you be bound, to subdue you? 7 Shimshon said to her: If they were to bind me with seven moist gut-strings, which haven’t been dried, I’d become weak, I’d become like any man! 8 The Philistine overlords brought her up seven moist gut-strings, which hadn't been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now the ambush was sitting for her in the inner-room. She said to him: Philistines upon you, Shimshon! He snapped the strings as hempen cord bursts when it smells fire, and his might was not made known. 10 Delila said to Shimshon: Here, you’ve taunted me, you’ve been speaking lies to me— but now, pray tell me: whereby can you be bound? 11 He said to her: If they were to bind, yes, bind me with new ropes, with which no work has been done, I’d become weak, I’d become like any man! 12 So Delila took new ropes and bound him with them, then she said to him: Philistines upon you, Shimshon! -Now the ambush was sitting in the inner-room.— But he snapped them from off his arms like a thread. 13 Delila said to Shimshon: Until now you’ve taunted me, you’ve been speaking lies to me— tell me: whereby can you be bound? He said to her: If you were to weave the seven locks of my head in a warp…. 14 She drove them tight with the pin, then she said to him: Philistines upon you, Shimshon! He awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin, the weaver’s-bobbin, and the warp. 15 She said to him: How can you say: I love you, when your heart is not with me? Three times now you’ve taunted me, yet you haven’t told me whereby your might is so great! 16 So it was, when she had pressed him with her words all the time and had prodded him, so that he became short-tempered to [the point of] death, 17 that he told her all his heart; he said to her: No razor has gone up on my head, for One Consecrated to God have I been from my mother’s womb on: if I were to be shaven, my might would leave me, I’d become weak, I’d become like all men! 18 When Delila saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the Philistine overlords, saying: Come up this time, for he has told me all his heart! The Philistine overlords went up to her, they brought up the silver in their hand. 19 She lulled him to sleep upon her knees, then she called for a man and he shaved off the seven locks of his head; she began to subdue him, and his might left him. 20 Then she said: Philistines upon you, Shimshon! He awoke from his sleep, and he said [to himself]: I’ll get away as time after time, I’ll shake myself free! But he did not know that YHWH had left him. 21 The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes, then they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with double-bronze, and he had to grind [grain] in the prison house. 22 But the hair of his head began to sprout again, as soon as it had been shaven off. 23 Now the Philistine overlords gathered to sacrifice a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, for [a feast of] rejoicing. They said: Given has our god into our hand Shimshon our foe! 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, indeed, they said: Given has our god into our hand [Shimshon] our foe, destroyer of our land, who made many our slain! 25 Now it was, since their heart was in good humor, that they said: Call for Shimshon, that he may provide-amusement for us! They had Shimshon called out of the prison house, and he provided-amusement before them. They stood him between the standing-columns, 26 and Shimshon said to the serving-lad who held him by the hand: Let me rest, let me feel the columns on which the house is founded, so that I may support myself on them! 27 Now the house was full of men and women, all the Philistine overlords were there, and upon the roof were about three thousand—man and woman— who were seeing Shimshon provide-amusement. 28 And Shimshon called out to YHWH, he said: My Lord, YHWH, now be mindful of me, now strengthen me, just this one time; O God, I would take revenge, a single revenge for my two eyes from the Philistines! 29 Shimshon touched the two middle columns, on which the house was founded, he put-his-weight on them, one with his right [hand], and one with his left, 30 and Shimshon said: Let me die with the Philistines! He inclined with might, and the house fell down on the overlords, on all the people who were in it. Now the dead whose death he caused at his death were more than those whose death he had caused in his life. 31 His brothers and all his father’s house went down, they lifted him, brought him up and buried him between Tzor’a and Eshtaol, in the burial place of Manoah his father. Now he had led Israel as judge for twenty years.
4 Delila: Pronounced De-lee-LAH; trad. English “Delilah.” In Ezekiel 17: 6, 7, the word dlyh is used to refer to a vine, perhaps another allusion (see the note to v. 15 above) to Shimshon’s breaking his Nazirite vows (and note the use of Sorek, “Vines,” immediately following here). A similar Arabic word means “flirt” or even “scheme,” referring to a woman. Niditch brings other meanings, derived from Heb. d-l-l: hair (loose curls), connected to both the beginning and end of the cycle, and “slight,” contrasting Delilah with the brawny hero. Most significant, in my view, is Exum’s noting the name’s resemblance to Heb. layla, “night,” evocative of seduction and a fitting contrast to Shimshon’s name connection to “sun.”
4 Sorek: A few miles south of Tzor’a.
7 gut-strings: Bowstrings, which would be well-nigh impossible to break with bare hands. I’d become weak, I’d become like: Heb. ve-haliti ve-hayyiti, which feels like a deliberate rhyme. It recurs twice here, and suggests the rhythm of a folktale. The usual translation is “I will become as weak as any other man,” but that misses the style.
11 new ropes: In folklore, unused objects often have pristine, magical powers. Thus, animals described as “having not yet yielded to a yoke” are sometimes used in special rituals (Num. 19:2, I Sam. 6:7).
13 head: The allusion to Shimshon’s hair is a fine narrative strategy for getting us closer to the truth; Shimshon is clearly growing tired of this game and is ready to reveal all.
13 warp [of a loom]…: The text appears to be defective, and is appropriately filled in by LXX, along the pattern of the previous trials. I have left it here as it appears in MT.
17 all men: Most translations from LXX on have emended “all” to “any,” as in the previous occurrences of the phrase. But the slight shift in wording here may give Delila a hint that Shimshon has cracked at last (see the double “all his heart” in the next verse).
21 double-bronze: Chains.
21 grind [grain]: By pushing a heavy stone mill in a circle with a pole, a task usually performed by large animals or slaves.
23-4 our: Each Hebrew phrase ends with the suffix -einu, “our,” creating a kind of rhyme. See II Sam. 12:11 for a similar scheme, based on -ekha, “your.” While such rhyme is rare in the Bible, and we cannot accurately gauge its ancient effect, it does command our attention.
30 me: Lit. “my (very) being.” Others, “soul.” In biblical Hebrew, nefesh almost always means “life” or “life force,” or “breathing/swallowing organs,” and not “soul” in the later sense of an entity distinct from the body.
30 with might: Mentioned so often earlier in the chapter, Shimshon’s strength now returns full bore. And the dead etc. The multiple repetition of the root m-w-t (“dead, death”) highlights the importance of this statement, summarizing Shimshon’s non-leaderly but nevertheless militarily effective career.