It's also not clear from the text whether Delilah pressed Samson for the secret of his strength because she was loyal to the Philistines, because she wanted the money offered to her, or because she was strong-armed into it. "The Bible doesn't give motivation," says Yee. Nor do we know Samson's motivation for revealing the secret on the fourth occasion. "He may be teasing her, or he may have an unconscious wish to be bound and vanquished by this woman," says Yee. "The biblical text engages your imagination so that you have questions about why Samson is nuts enough to do this three times."
In what is one of the most familiar stories of a strong man turned weak in the hands of a woman, Samson lies in Delilah's lap after his confession and is lulled to sleep. While she cradles his head, Delilah calls in a man to cut Samson's hair, robbing him of his superhuman strength and any hope of continuing as the Israelites' warrior. In Ackerman's view, this imagery is profoundly sexual. "Hair is a very sexual motif," she explains, particularly for ancient Israelites. "The whole business of the hair would have been a little bit titillating, as would the reference to Samson's head in her lap."
In spilling his secret to Delilah, Samson breaks his vow and suffers God's consequences. Shorn, humiliat-ed, and the prisoner of his Philistine enemies, Sam-son is bound, and his eyes are gouged out. In a final blow to his manhood, he is put to work in prison on a job viewed as a woman's chore—milling grain.
The story culminates not long afterward with the Philistines celebrating at an agricultural festival in the Temple of Dagon by bringing the ruined wreck of Samson out to parade around for their enjoyment. Unnoticed by them, his hair has begun to grow back and, with it, his strength. Standing between the pillars that support the temple, he calls on God to give him one more chance at redemption. In a final and impressive show of God-given power, the blind giant pulls down the pillars, collapses the temple, and dies with the 3,000 Philistines who have gathered to mock him.
There is no further mention of Delilah. Some biblical scholars suggest that she was at the Temple of Dagon to view her handiwork and perished with Samson. If she survived and lived out her days as a rich and vindicated heroine, perhaps she would not care that her actions are now often portrayed as those of a seductress and Judas rather than a clever survivor forever linked to a violent bully who ultimately was beaten by a girl. "I like feisty women, so I like Delilah," says Ackerman, who has named one of her Airedale terriers after the woman who brought Samson down.