Samson and Delilah Myth

The twelfth and last “Judge” of Israel is alleged to have come into the judge lineup as civil war loomed upon the horizon, and his name was Samson, according to priest-written “history” (Judges 13:16).  The name of this “Judge” is derived from the word for the sun, and the revealing number twelve provides another clue that this is but another mythic tale. In typical mythic form, Samson’s birth was predicted to his barren mother (Judges 13), and barren women throughout any holy account always symbolizes the void out of which all Creation seems to become manifest.

As a personification of the sun, Samson is depicted as possessed with a powerful libido (just as was King Solomon, whose name was also derived from words for sun).  The character of Samson, however, falls outside the usual behavioral customs of Israelite society and is flaunted in questionable morality and swaggering vengeance which brings neither intercession for, nor delivery of his people.  In this portrayal, the Samson tale resembles the older Sumerian Gilgamesh myth, Homer’s account of Mycenaean Greeks, and motifs of Indo-European tales.  And from other sources it is revealed that Samson had another distinctiveness that other ancient cultures gave to their fire gods; he was said to be lame.  That is consistently ignored.

Samson loved three women, all of whom betrayed him (they represent creative energy involving as substance).  One sought to lure him through their intimate relationship into revealing the answer to his riddle of a beehive in the carcass of a lion; that information was vital to the Philistines who planned to kill him.  Another woman also attempted to use her sexual wiles as a means of learning the secret of Samson’s strength.  But it is the deception and betrayal of Samson by Delilah that has always held most interest in this myth.

The character of Delilah is derived from the name Lilith (from Babylonian Lilitu, an evil night spirit), a well-known character in earlier myths who was portrayed as Adam’s first wife.  The priests of Yahweh, writing in Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE, discarded this in the corpus of their religious myths but utilized aspects from the older myth.  The name Delilah linked two meanings in one word; the Hebrew letter D (daleth) means “door,” and the  word lilah means “darkness.”  Delilah thus represents the door into darkness.  The letter D also happens to have Qabalah (Cabala) association with resistance, coming from the letter dallet, which represents resistance.  It is from the association with dallet that biblical tales also acquired the character of the Devil to alibi the resistance which mortals feel toward the infinite creative powers.  From this association, therefore, various degrees of resistance can then be excused as works of devils, daemons, demons, and Diablo—the damned D words.

Delilah, who lived “…in the valley of Sorek,” eventually coaxed the secret of Samson’s strength from him after a prolonged affair, and the secret was that his strength resided in his hair, which had never been shorn.  Physically this is absurd; symbolically it makes sense when we remember that the name Samson is derived from the word for sun.  The hair in this myth therefore alludes to the rays of the sun, and if these radiant energies are lost the sun becomes extinct.  Samson reveals to Delilah, “…If they bind me with seven green withes that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.”  (Withes: tough, supple twigs, especially from the willow.)

Use of the number seven is another strong clue that this is but myth.  Hinted here is that the unshorn hair consists of seven strands, and these refer to the seven prismatic colors within the sun’s rays.  The number seven also holds cosmological implication as well, hinting of the seven periods of Creation (ala Genesis).  The climax of the Samson saga has the hero blinded, and brought down to Gaza (which symbolizes the creative energies brought down to the matter plane of Creation activity), and there Samson is compelled to grind in the mill with slaves.  Samson being depicted as harnessed to the millstone (at Gaza) symbolizes the revolving heavens, an illusionary condition that is caused by Earth’s rotating motion about the sun.

Samson’s dramatic exit from this lowly condition was placed at the pillars of the Philistine temple of Dagon, which is representative of the pulling down of creative power upon himself.  Rightfully this “pulling down” symbolizes creative energy being pulled down into material manifestation, but holy myth-writers often reversed the progressive steps of Creation to disguise the true source of their “revealed” wisdom.  Samson’s story is a great tale of action, seduction and intrigue, but how could his escapades ever be interpreted as the delivery of Israel out of the hands of the Philistines?

Conclusion:  The book of Judges, following the book of Joshua, is a composite of war stories, accounts of heroism, and battles between Israelites and their neighbors—violence indulged in to keep and maintain a land that god had allegedly promised to them alone.  It was a strange covenant, to say the least, promising a land which had to be forcibly taken away from established dwellers.  Couldn’t the omniscient Creator have provided his chosen ones with virgin territory?  And that covenant, according to the priest-authors, carried even weirder provisions which stated that the Hebrew-Israelites had to remain apart from that indigenous population—or else!  That is typical regulations demanded by neurotic cult founders. To absorb the native people, it was implied, would invoke divine punishment.  Evidently the invading people were not as hard-hearted as the Lord, and allegedly their willingness to commingle angered the Lord.  Consequently, there arose divinely inspired leaders to intervene on Israel’s behalf, and these are the ones who are  listed in scripture as “judges.”

The historical reliability of the Hebrew scriptures has come under serious scrutiny with the science of archaeology.  For well over one hundred and fifty years of serious study in areas such as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, archaeologists have found no evidence whatsoever that the Exodus saga ever took place; no evidence of Joshua’s take-over of Canaan; and nothing has ever been found to prove that there  ever was a David/Solomon unified monarchy.  And there is yet to be found any archaeological evidence that would support the claim that righteous Israelite “judges” once safeguarded the “Promised Land.”  Obviously, history is not the central objective of these tales; it was a literary project designed for political authority under the guise of godly guidance.

Related post: Fables From the Book of Judges, August 2010.

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8 Responses to “Samson and Delilah Myth”

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  6. Nobby Nobbs Says:

    The writer’s perspective on the mythical nature of the hebrew stories is fairly persuasive, until in his conclusion he begins to level strong criticism against the fabled ‘Lord’ of the mythology, giving the strange impression that he has objections to the nature of the ‘Lord’ whom he has gone to such pains to present as merely a character of the fables.
    If myths and fables these be, why give life to the principle ‘character’ of the stories, going so far as to sympathise with the perpertrators (writers) as though they are the unfortunate victims of the legend they have created?
    It seems, the very thing he has endevoured to assert, he does not entirely believe himself.
    A less than convincing conclusion.

    • A peculiarly disjointed assessment. Yes indeed, there is plenty to object to regarding the humanlike “Lord” of the priest contrived myths. And since that characterization is a constant feature of those myths, that is a feature which requires critical exploration. That is hardly “sympathyzing” with those who wrote such whimsy. Perhaps the perspective of the article disturbed your need to value those myths and prompted a less that convincing criticism?

  7. Interesting analysis, as a believer in the infallible scriptures I’m not here to condemn your views, but, highlight the mythological interpretation you have drawn. Very interestingly done, gives sought of a spiritual view point. Even though I cannot concur with you final opinion I appreciate your research.
    p.s There are many Scientific believers with heavy credentials which have been brushed off by the mainstream(seems to create to much controversy for the modern world), but never the less with interesting and challenging archaeological finds that you may not have come across. Keep your heart open and all the best…Dan

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