Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Dalila

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Dalila (Heb. Delílâh). Samson, sometime after his exploit at Gaza (Judges, xvi, 1-3), "loved a woman, who dwelt in the valley of Sorec, and she was called Dalila" (verse 4). The village of Sorec was known to Eusebius and to St. Jerome (Onomast.), and rightly placed north of Eleutheropolis near Saraa, the home of Samson. It is now called Khan Silreq. The valley of that name, mentioned in the text, was probably a little lateral valley of the great Wadi Serar, or the Wadi Serar itself (Lagrange, "Le livre des Juges", 247). The railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem passes through this region a little to the west of the station of Deir Aban. The district was on the borderland between the possessions of the Israelites and those of their principal enemies and oppressors at this period, the Philistines. Sorec may have been inhabited by the latter; and although it is not stated to which people Dalila belonged, the story told in this sixteenth chapter of Judges of her relations with the princes of the Philistines, makes it very unlikely that she was an Israelite. It is not probable either that she became the wife of Samson. The expression above quoted with which Scripture introduces the narrative of her relations with him, and the facility with which the Philistines were brought into her house, not to speak of her readiness to betray the Israelite hero, suggest rather that she was a harlot, an opinion that is now more common among commentators.

The Philistines, thinking that the strength which had made Samson familiar to them must be due to some magical charm, seek to find out what it is. Their princes, probably the five mentioned in Judges, iii, 3, and elsewhere, coming to Dalila, to whose house Samson often resorted—if he did not live there—say: "Deceive him, and learn of him wherein his great strength lieth, and how we may be able to overcome him, to bind and afflict him: which if thou shalt do, we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver" (verse 5). This sum must have appeared enormous to Dalila. She undertakes to discover the secret of Samson's strength and the means to overcome it. Four different times she asks him to tell her his secret, having each time a number of Philistines on hand to seize him if she can cajole him into betraying it. Samson at first indulges his humor in answers which allow him to laugh at her attempts to bind him; but finally her importunity prevails, and he tells her of his consecration as a Nazarite and of the necessity of keeping his long hair, the mark of that consecration. Dalila then causes this hair to be cut off while Samson sleeps, and hands him over to his enemies who bring him a prisoner to Gaza.

W.S. REILLY