‘Evil Looms’: Weaving in the Tale of Samson and Delilah
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Stephen Noegel, in the treatise ‘Evil Looms’ demonstrates the theme of weaving in the Samson and Delilah account, only eighteen verses.1 His thesis is as follows:

I submit that the concantenation of so much weaving imagery and vocabulary in such a short narrative draws upon widespread cultural traditions that associate weaving with female sexuality, deception, and entrapment…

Weaving was a task that both genders undertook (Exodus 35), but is occasionally more associated with women. It was particularly linked to female sexuality in a variety of ways. And, weaving is also associated with spiders for fairly natural reasons, synonymous with entrapment and hopelessness (194); Consider Job 7:6 or Job 8:14, 7:6 being “a quip that exploits the polysemy of תקוה as “hope” and “thread” (194). Both these themes seem to be present in the story of Samson and Delilah.

Samson is to fall in this trap, the trap of threads, the traps of spiders. The looming, foreshadowing moment is also foretold in Delilah’s name, which echoes the word לילה (‘night’). This term is also quite similar to “the דלתות (“doors”) of the gate that Samson hauled off to Gaza (Judges 16:3)” (195). (Doors, of course) are a euphemism as well [Job 3:10, Song of Songs 5:4-5, 8:9]. (196).

Love itself is associated with ‘bonds’, and eventually it comes time for Delilah to cut it. “Such references allow us to understand why “love ” answers the rhetorical query: “

What is sweeter [ מתוק ] than honey, and what is stronger [ עז ] than a lion?” (pg. 201). The allusion to love was previously mentioned in Samson’s riddle (Judges 14:18).

An allusion to the strength of love appears already in the solution to Samson’s riddle (Judg 14:18). As J. R. Porter notes, Samson’ s riddle oddly takes the form of a statement, whereas the friends ‘ solution appears as a question (” Samson ‘ s Riddle: Judges XIV.14.18, ” JTS 13 [1962] 1069, here 106). Exum observes that the solution to Samson ‘ s riddle is another riddle, the answer for which is ” love ” ( “Samson’s Women, 82). She does not explain this, however. I suggest that the solution finds support in Song 8:6: ” love is as strong [ עזה ] as death ” (cf ” the cords of death ” in Ps 18:4-5), and Prov 9:17: ” stolen waters ” (i.e., illicit love) are ” sweet ” ( ימתקו ). pg. 201.

This should come as no surprise, for love often spoken of as a ‘bond’ in the Bible; consider Hosea’s “ropes of love” (Hosea 11:4)

Given the centrality of weaving to the narrative and the sophisticated manner in which the redactor has crafted it, with its “stair-step ” movement from weaker to stronger binds (i.e., cords > ropes > loom > love), it perhaps is worth considering whether the tale also embodies a poetic mimesis of the process of weaving (203).

The chords of lust, and love, are intimately threaded through this text.

Footnotes

  1. Noegel, Scott B. 2017. “Evil Looms: Delilah-Weaver of Wicked Wiles.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79, no. 2: 187-204. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 12, 2017).
News Reporter
From Madison, Wisconsin. B.A. Biblical Studies: Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. M.Div. Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario.

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