🔼The name Delilah: Summary
- Hanger, Vertical Transporter
- From the verb דלל (dalal), to hang or transport.
🔼The name Delilah in the Bible
Delilah is a Philistine woman who lived in the Valley of Sorek, and who famously ensnared Samson and lifted him of his powers by cutting his hair (Judges 16:4). This by itself was quite an heroic act. Samson was gifted with great strength but not any subtlety to speak of. Just before the Biblical narrative introduces Delilah, Samson had spent the night with some unnamed lady, got upset with the local men folk and thus yanked the city gates of Gaza from its sockets and hoisted them up a hill opposite Hebron. A little earlier Samson had married yet another Philistine woman and while the week-long feast lasted, she whined for the answer to a riddle he had posed. He told the woman the answer, she told it to the wedding guests, and Samson took off and killed thirty Philistines, and set fire to their fields by tying burning torches to three hundred foxes.
Delilah too turns to that formidable feminine weapon, and nags Samson for the secret to his great strength until Samson's "soul was annoyed to death" (16:16). Three times Samson gives her the wrong information and three times Delilah attempts to enfeeble Samson. What motivates Samson to finally tell her the truth is a mystery, and the possibilities are (1) he was or became completely demented, (2) he truly loved her, and he wanted someone to love him, because that doesn't seem to have happened much during his life. Modern Bibles usually head this chapter with titles such as "Samson's Failure," or something to that extent, but giving up great strength and dying for the love of an ungrateful woman is precisely why Jesus Christ is celebrated.
🔼Etymology of the name Delilah
The name Delilah looks like it comes from the verb דלל (dalal), meaning to be low or hang down:
The verb דלל (dalal) means to hang, not statically but rather dynamically, usually underway between a reservoir of plenty and a place of need. Adjective דל (dal) means low, weak, poor or thin. Noun דלה (dalla) denotes a drooping bundle of hair or threads of warp hanging in loom. The identical noun דלה (dalla) denotes the poor.
The verb דלה (dala) means to "hang" in that it describes the act of retrieving water from a well by means of a traveling bucket (in English we would call this process to "draw" water).
Nouns דל (dal), דלה (dala) and דלת (delet) mean door but originally referred to a curtain hanging in front of an entrance. Through this entrance folks would travel bearing gifts, wisdom and news from the world at large, much like a bucket from a well. Hence noun דלי (deli) means bucket.
Noun דליות (daliyot) denoted floral hangers made from olive branches, cedar branches, or boughs of the vine.
Whoever made up the name Delilah must have tinkered quite a bit with the root. The question is: why? The author could have called her a Low Life and named her Dalah, Dallah or Dalalah, and be done with it. Whatever the reason (or intended meaning), the name Delilah as it is written looks like it contains the word לילה (layela), meaning night, and that evokes an association with the name of the fabulous night creature Lilith.
For a meaning of the name Delilah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads an enthusiastic Lustful (although in the Bible there are no references to sexuality close to this root). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names refers to the above mentioned root but then concludes in a curious reading of Delicate.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the name Delilah conveys the Philistine mission to extract the secret of Hebrew strength by any means possible, or rather, how the strength of the Hebrews might be annulled. The strain Delilah puts on Samson is captured in her name, Hanger, Vertical Transporter, and her ultimate achievement to separate Samson from his long hair appears to tell how anything young and enticing may lure an ancient society into foregoing its traditions.