Sunday, August 07, 2016

Book Review: DELILAH

Title: Delilah
Author: Angela Hunt
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Pages: 352

I vaguely knew of the Samson and Delilah story from the Old Testament of the Bible. Years ago, in Sunday School, we read of the story, and all that remains of that reading is a faint memory of a woman called Delilah who is loved by strongman Samson, and how she betrays him by exposing his weakness to the enemy.

That reading had given me the impression that Delilah was a prostitute. Here, Angela Hunt paints her in gentler hues and we see the traumatic back story that prompted Delilah to betray Samson. We understand her motivation for doing what she did.

I enjoyed this fictional retelling of this Old Testament story. It was a good reminder that people are all too human and frail and prone to error, and that all too often, we make the wrong decisions, plagued by poor motivation.

Initially Delilah came across as more likeable than Samson, whose only motivation seemed to be to get a beautiful wife.

After the death of her father, Delilah’s mother marries Adinai, a prominent and wealthy yet kind man whose son, Achish, resents their presence. After Adinai’s death, Achish sells Delilah’s mother’s and maintains Delilah herself as his sexual slave, violating her every night. The young Delilah loves her mother deeply and is determined to rescue her from a life of slavery.

Escaping from their home, Delilah’s first thought is to save her mother. While on the run, she encounters three brothers who help her onward. 

It is in Chapter 13 that Delilah and Samson arrive at the same place, though they don’t meet. It is the wedding of Samson and the innkeeper's daughter. Achish is there too.

Samson is disillusioned by his bride-to-be, and he leaves without even claiming his bride. Delilah is anxious for Samson to take up her cause and avenge her mother’s humiliation and death in servitude. She tells herself, Unlike the men of Judah, I would never betray him. It is an ironically prescient statement.

Because, as we know from the Bible, eventually, she does betray him. But at least here we know why. The reasoning may or may not be true, but at least it makes Delilah seem more human.

The brothers take her to the widow who takes Delilah under her wing at the request of the three brothers. The widow, who has deep faith in Adonai, teaches Delilah how to grow flax, and then how to spin yarn and weave cloth. Living with her, Delilah gets a mother figure and a home. But she never forgets her own mother.

While she lives with the widow, Delilah gives birth to a son, the child of Achish. She feels little love for the boy who she names Yagil. The child’s care is enthusiastically taken up by the elderly widow, who remains unnamed through the book.

And all along, Delilah longs to win over Samson to her cause, to get him on her side and to fight Achish and seek vengeance for her mother who dies even as Delilah struggles to earn enough silver to buy her back.

Upon a day, when Samson comes to drink at their well, Delilah who is living there with her son after the widow's death, lures him with her beauty and by magnifying her attractions.

Samson and Delilah fall in love with each other. They begin to live together and Samson becomes the father figure that Yagil never had. For a while, all is good. Delilah convinces herself that this happiness will last forever.

But it is not to be. The fear of Achish endures. One day he espies her at the well. He threatens to break her again, rape her endlessly, unless she brings Samson to him. With her back against the wall, she is unsure if Samson can beat the Philistine army. If his Adonai could accomplish such a seemingly impossible task. So she makes a deal with the rules of Philistia that she will lead them to Samson, but his life must be spared, Achish killed and herself reinstated to her stepfather’s glory.

What happens next we all know, but it is the manner in which Hunt tells the tale, while simultaneously causing us to feel for both Samson and Delilah, who are, in a sense, both victims, that makes them both real people. 

This book caused me to read up on the stories of Delilah and Samson in the Bible. There I learned that Samson was to have saved Israel from the Philistine oppressors. That was the promise given by Adonai to Samson's parents who had been childless for many years before Adonai blessed them with the miracle of this child.

I liked the characters of Hitzig, Regnar and Warati, the three brothers. They were immensely likeable, and their willingness to stand up for her showed that they were good men.

The chapters alternate between the first person points of view of Delilah and Samson.

Israel is under Philistine rule and the Jews have absolutely no rights. The author weaves the political situation of the time and the attendant conflicts in very smoothly.

I could not understand how Samson could kill 30 Philistine men for their garments and still be perceived as having done the righteous thing.

Rei was an understated character who was always with Samson. He was a servant of Samson, but it is in the end that I realised who he really was.

Samson’s character too undergoes a change. From being brash, he became more gentle and sensitive, in my opinion. More than the love of Delilah, I think, it was the love of Yagil that made him that way.

In the end, I felt sorry for both of them. For how things turned out. 

I would like to recommend this book to anyone who loves Biblical fiction.

(I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I read it on NetGalley.)

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...