Samson was one of the great Heroes of the Israelites in their fights with the Philistines. God had granted him a superhuman strength to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats unachievable by normal humans. So he overcame a lion with his bare hands or an entire army with only a jawbone of a donkey.
His end came when he fell in love with Delilah a Philistine woman. Living with Samson Delilah was asked by her people to find out the secret of Samson’s strength. Insisting for a long time she found out finally that the source of Samson’s supernatural power lies in his long hair. When she had found out Delilah cut Samson’s hair and called her people. The Philistines captured Samson and blinded him. As a prisoner he had to work in a mill grinding grain, which was the typical work for slaves.
Later when the Philistines wanted to celebrate their triumph they took Samson to their temple. But in the meantime Samson’s hair had grown long again and he had recovered his old strength. Tied to the temple's central pillars Samson was able to break them and led the whole temple come down. There he died with many of his enemies. What happened to Delilah is not mentioned.
The story of Samson and Delilah is therefore primarily that of a valiant warrior who became a victim of his passion and his treacherous wife. But what did Delilah really? She betrayed Samson, but she risked a lot for her people the Philistines. In the end I cannot see a big difference between her and Judith. That one is a traitor and the other a hero depends only on the perspective of Israelites.
But it’s not my turn to judge Delilah. I will show the interpretations of the artists. And there dominated the naïve hero who is betrayed because he trusted his wife.
On this “Samson and Delilah” painting from about 1610 by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) yet the most important characteristics can be seen. The nude breasts of Delilah symbolize not only sexual attraction but also a false motherly security. There is the strong Hercules-like figure of Samson, who is falling victim of his trustfulness. In the background is a statue of Venus and Cupid, indicating the cause of Samson's fate.
Happy Victoria Day! - Self-portrait, 1835 Queen Victoria at age 16