Samson (and Delilah)


Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):

The story of Samson is composed of three chapters from this book

Chapter 36 Samson's Birth and Mission

Chapter 37 Samson's Feats and Deliverance

Chapter 38 Samson's Betrayal and Death

In The Rainbow Book of Bible Stories by J. Harold Gwynne, D.D.

World Publishing Company, 1956.


Ethnic Origin:

Hebrew, Israelites


Running Time:

approximately 14 minutes and 32 seconds??


Power Center(s):

My third story is focused on an adult group of listeners. For the third story we had to develop a story program around a common theme. Love and relationships is the theme for the November 26th group. There was no common theme for the Dec 3rd group.


Power Center 1: The relationship God has with his people, the Israelites. I shall accomplish this with the introduction of the conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines. (This power center is also reflected in Power Center 2 because Samson represents the Israelites overthrowing the yoke of the Philistine rule.)


Power Center 2: The relationship Samson has with God. I shall accomplish this by showing how Samson followed God's commands. The theme of the story is that Samson's weakness for falling in love with Philistine women leads to his downfall.

In the end Samson renews his vows with God and God gave him the strength to perform the greatest deliverance for the Israelites.


Revised Power centers: Pain of war – achieve this by illustrating the never ending cycle of war and how their is still war going on today


Sadness of war – Hopefully people will feel sad that Samson was betrayed and died.


The revised power centers are applicable to today’s war in Israel and in Afghanistan.

I chose these because I wanted to focus on the struggle between the Israelites and the Philistines. I want people to think about the destruction that war causes and how love is the answer.


Theme: All is fair in love and war


Theme: The theme for the second group is origin. Origin consists of where the story originates and what culture the story comes from. I revised my story to have a new introduction that incorporates this new theme.



Angel of the Lord

Samson's Parents

      Manoah - Father of Samson

      Mother of Samson


Samson's first wife - woman of Timnath

Samson's First Wife's father

Men of Timnath

Harlot of Gaza






1.      An Angel of the Lord goes to Samson's parents and tells them that they are going to have a son. They are told how to raise him.

2.      Samson is born and he is very strong. He chooses to marry a woman of Timnath. When walking to see her, a lion attacks him. He kills the lion then a swarm of bees exit the lion and honey is on the inside of the lion's carcass. He gives the honey to his parents and proposes a riddle to the Philistines at the wedding feast. If they cannot solve the riddle they have to provide the finest cloth and gold. They cannot solve the riddle for three days

3.      The Philistines learn the answer to the riddle from his wife. Samson provides the cloth by killing Philistines from a different city. Samson's wife is given to his friend. Samson goes and burns all their crops. This angers the Philistines and they tell the Israelites to hand Samson over. The Israelites hand Samson over. Samson kills a thousand men with a donkey's jawbone.

4.      Samson goes to a harlot and the Philistines plan to kill him when he leaves the city in the morning. Samson leaves at midnight with the gates of the city on his back. Samson falls in love with Delilah. The lords of the Philistines offer her a large sum of money to discover the secret of Samson's strength.

5.      Delilah tries to find the secret of Samson's strength. First, he tells her to tie him up with seven green willow twigs. She does but when the Philistines come to capture him he breaks free and overcomes them easily. Next he tells her to bind him fast with new ropes. She does but when the Philistines come to capture him he breaks free and overcomes them easily. Then he tells her to weave the locks of his hair into a web with a loom, She does but when the Philistines come to capture him he breaks free and overcomes them easily. Finally he tells her that the secret of his strength is that a razor has never touched his hair. She cuts his hair and the Philistines capture him.

6.      The Philistines rejoice that their enemy is finally caught. They place him in the slave quarters grinding the mill. During a feast, they bring him into the temple in order to mock him. Samson prays to God for strength and he brings the temple down on their heads. That day was the day of the greatest deliverance for the Israelites.



The Israelites had lost touch in their relationship with God. They worshipped false Gods and they had forgotten the deliverances of the past. The Philistines had oppressed the Israelites for the past forty years. Samson was born. God planned to use Samson to deliver the Israelites from oppression and slavery. Samson's parents were instructed to raise Samson as a Nazarite. "No razor shall touch his head and no wine shall touch his lips."


Samson grew up and the Spirit of the Lord was strong within him. Samson was the strongest man alive. God placed it upon his heart to seek out a woman of the Philistines to marry. God did this so that a conflict would arise between the Philistines and the Israelites. Samson sought to marry the woman and she was kept from him. The Spirit of the Lord rose up in Samson and many Philistines died. Samson performed many feats of strength.


Delilah caught Samson's eye and he began to fall in love with her. The Lords of the Philistines went to her and promised her a large sum of money if she could find out the secret of Samson's strength. Delilah tried day after day to learn the secret of Samson's strength. His soul became troubled and he finally told her the truth.


The Philistines finally captured Samson. They put out his eyes and placed him in the slave quarters to grind at the mill. They assembled to rejoice and offered a sacrifice to their god Dagon. They brought forth Samson and they planned to mock him and the God of Israel. They placed Samson between the pillars of the temple that supported the roof. With one last prayer to God, Samson brought down the temple on the Philistines and himself. Samson killed more Philistines that day than he had killed in all his other battles.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavors":



Nazarite: A person who took a special vow of self-dedication, such a person was not to drink beer or wine, cut his hair or touch a dead body. (Numbers 6:1-21) The vow could be taken for a certain period of time, but some people were dedicated to God as Nazarites from birth.


In present day Israel, Palestinians and the Israelis war over possession of the holy land. In Biblical times there were, wars between the Israelites and the Philistines.


Angel speaking to Samson’s parents

“You are going to bear a son. Therefore be careful, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. When your son is born, he shall be dedicated to God by the Nazarite vow; and he shall in time begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”


Samson proposing riddle to the men of Timnath

"Out of the eater came forth meat,

And of the strong came forth sweetness."


Men of Timnath answering Samson's riddle

"What is sweeter than honey?

"And what is stronger than a lion?"


Samson after slaying a thousand men with a jawbone.

“With the jawbone of an ass,

heaps upon heaps,

with the jawbone of an ass,

have I slain a thousand men.”


Delilah speaking to Samson

“Tell me, I pray you, the secret of your great strength and how you might be bound by those who would subdue you.”



Finally, in a moment of weakness, and against his better judgement, he told her everything that was in his heart saying, “A razor has never been put to my head; for I have been a Nazarite to God from the day of my birth. If I am shaved, then my strength shall go from me and I shall become weak and be like an ordinary man.”


“The Philistines are about to fall upon you, Samson.”


Delilah speaking to the lords of the Philistines

"Come up this once, for he has showed me all his heart."


“O Lord God, remember me, I pray you and strengthen me, I pray you, only this once, O God, so that I may be at once avenged upon the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, one with his right hand and the other with his left hand.



This story can be told for many different audiences. There is a repetitive aspect of this story that would appeal to younger audiences. This story also has aspects of adventure that would hold the attention of a young adult. I chose to focus on adults for this telling.


Allan B. Chinen describes middle tales in the article “The Message of Midlife Tales.” Middle tales are tales that appeal to people in the middle of their life. This time is commonly termed “mid-life.” Chinen describes the common themes of middle tales as: personal failures, martial conflict, disillusionment, and loss. Chinen believes the purpose of the middle tale is for adults to find wisdom and self-acceptance instead of glory or wealth.


The focus of the middle tale is frequently the dark side of life. The story of Samson definitely explores the darker side of life. Samson is a character that battles with his lust for women and his love for God. His lust for women leads him into trouble each time, it is only through the gifts that God gives Samson, is he able to escape.


I believe the story of Samson will give adults a chance to reflect upon their “wilder days.” It will hopefully take them back to a time when they were young and remind them of some of the past relationships they were in. I believe that listeners will identify with the youthfulness of the story and the strength of the main character.

These aspects will remind them of the teen to late twenty years.


The decision that Samson makes to tell Delilah of how he can be bound should remind young and old listeners of the times when they let their guard down to love.


Chinen also describes the theme of “loss of magic” in middle tales. This trend is also evident in the story of Samson. After Samson confides in Delilah the secret of his strength, the Spirit of God leaves him. His “magic” is lost when his hair is cut.


The Zipes article, “On the Use and Abuse of Storytelling,” might argue that fairy tales are told is in order to overcome the repressed feelings of childhood. Jack Zipes believe that adults are avoiding their feelings and these repressed feelings seep into the stories that we pass down from generation to generation. Zipes also believes that stories are abused when we use them as ways of manipulating children to social adjustment.


The majority of Zipes theories apply to fairy tales and stories that are told to children. Zipes believes there should be a clear separation between psychologist and the storyteller. I believe that storytelling has always been therapeutic for people. If that therapy is taken away, then won’t part of the storytelling process be changed? Part of the trance in storytelling is when the emotions of the listener are reflected and even magnified in the story. I believe we enjoy stories that take us through the human spectrum of emotion. If the fact that someone fictitious may be (remotely) going through what we have gone through helps us, then why complain? I agree with some of the finer points of the Zipes article (yes, storytellers are not therapists) but if storytelling is therapy… then so be it.


Erikson describes young adulthood in the eight stages of man. He says that young adults are establishing meaningful and intimate relationships with others and are looking for a connectedness. In middle adulthood, people move toward a stage of caring for others. They sacrifice for the next generation.


Young adults will want to establish meaningful relationships with romantic partners and they will also want to experience a connectedness with God. Middle adults will be involved in giving to the next generation. In this stage, middle adults will be establishing the basis to evaluate life's worth in old age. This period will involve the productive work and caring for others. It will involve periods of stagnation and creation.


Piaget's development stages describe formal operation as the last stage of development. In this stage people develop their ability to understand and construct abstract thought. They move away from relying on concrete evidence.


The story of Samson will involve all the stages of development. For younger audiences, it contains some repetition. For young adult audiences, it contains the hero, going through a series of adventures. The main character Samson is involved in situations that require complex solutions. The story is not straightforward and the lines are not clearly defined between good and evil. And for adult audiences, it contains aspects of evaluating life's worth and elements of sacrifice at the end.


Bibliographic Information on other versions/variants (at least two)?


In Stories from the Bible retold by Alvin Tresselt

New York, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan 1971



In Brian’s Wildsmith’s Illustrated Bible Stories as told by Philip Turner

New York, F. Watts 1969




Mamo Jalwalo

In Folktales of India edited Brenda E. F.

Chicago, University of Chicago Press 1987


Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability,"


“There was among the Israelites a man stronger than any man alive, named Samson, whom the Lord had blessed.”


The story of Samson retold by Alvin Tresselt briefly summarizes the history of the Israelites, explained the reason for Samson’s strength, the feats that Samson performed and then moves directly to the story of “Samson and Delilah.” This story did not appeal to me for that reason.


Delilah binds Samson with seven green willow stems, new rope, and on the third time shaved his head.  Samson’s hair grows back and eventually he is brought before the Philistine lords to be mocked. Samson brings the roof of the temple down upon their heads.


This story was very short. It was only three pages. The character of Delilah lacked depth. Why did she do the things that she did? The character of Samson lacked depth also. When his past feats are explained more, the struggle between the Philistines and Samson makes more sense. (It also sets the tone for the struggle between the Philistines and the Israelites.” Overall, this story seems “rushed.”

The story had some great illustrations!


“After the fall of Jericho the Israelites quickly overran the Promised Land,

for many years they had to fight the Philistines for possession.”


The story of Samson retold by Philip Turner, begins with a small introduction to the Israelite struggle. This story explains the name of the chapter in the Bible from which the story of Samson is taken.


“During these desperate years Israel had many great leaders whom they called Judges. Samson was one of the most famous of the Judges and he was certainly the strongest”


The story goes on to summarize Samson’s feats. This story includes a summary of one story that the Tesselt story lacked. One evening Samson left the fortress of Gaza with the main gates on his back.


Then the story moves to the story of “Samson and Delilah.” In this story, Delilah binds Samson with seven green willow stems, binds him with new rope, weaves the locks of his hair into a loom and on the fourth time shaved his head.  Samson is brought before the Philistine lords to be mocked. He is placed between the great pillars. Samson brings the roof of the temple down upon their heads.


This story seemed “rushed” also. The introduction is better because it describes the struggle between the Israelites and the Philistines. Yet the description is incomplete, in the story retold by Gwynne it explains the other dangers that the Israelites face.


“Now it was the nation of the Philistines that troubled and oppressed the Israelites for a period of forty years.” It goes on to describe the Philistines and the God that they worship. Even some Israelites worship Dagon, which is the god of the Philistines. This is important to show that Samson’s parents and Samson are steadfast in their worship of the God of Israel.


The Gywnne story also tells the story of the Angel, and includes all the feats that Samson completes. It is the most complete story that I found and it was closest to the telling that I found in the Bible. I consider the Bible to be the original telling but I chosen this telling because the language was easier.


The Gujarat story of Mamo Jalwalo involves an old couple and a god. The story begins with old couple that is not able to sow the seeds for their farm. They encounter a young man who volunteers to help. This man is so fast and effective at planting the garden they finish before their neighbors do. The old couple decides to keep the young man. They reason that he cannot be human. So they cut off a lock of the young man's hair and he cannot leave. The couple hides the lock of hair in the grain. The first crop fails and the couple sends the young man back to the house for grain. He finds the lock of his hair and goes back to his home.


The Gujarat story was an interesting comparison to the story of Samson. I would argue that in this story the god's power was not in his hair. The lock of hair gave the couple the power to detain the god. In my research for variants and versions, I did identify a story with a giant whose strength came from his hair. I was not able to find this story because it was published in the 1950s.


I was not able to identify a suitable variant for this story.