Calculating Delilah by Patrick Henry Reardon

Calculating Delilah

If she was even half as pretty as Hedy Lamarr, who played her in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1949 film, it is easy to see why Samson was fascinated with Delilah. Fascinated too, over the centuries, were those many readers of Holy Scripture who found in the tragic romance of Delilah and the Danite the stuff of (as Milton remarks) “Acts enroll’d/ In copious Legend, or sweet Lyric Song.”

However, the romance was mainly on Samson’s side, it would seem. While the Bible asserts that he loved Delilah (Judges 16:4), it does not even faintly hint that she loved him. Much less do the pair appear to have been married. Milton’s Samson Agonistes is an exception in regarding them as such, though Chaucer (“The Monk’s Tale”) does extract from their dolorous story a practical if dubious domestic counsel—namely, that wives are not to be trusted in matters touching limb and life.

The Delilah of DeMille’s film is a Philistine, and this construction of the story is common. Indeed, Saint-Saëns’ opera on the theme portrays her as an ardent nationalist, eager to avenge the Philistines’ humiliation at Samson’s hand.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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