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Judges 16:19 New International Version
After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.

English Standard Version
She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.

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  • What I can’t figure out is how any woman whether she tantalized or taunted Samson was game enough to even try knowing she could be found out and Samson could easily have thrown her across the room into next week. – Nihil Sine Deo Oct 10 '20 at 18:22
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    There's a magnificent contralto solo in the Oratorio "Samson and Delilah" where she sings (in French) "My heart at thy sweet voice". The woman oozes seductive sentiments, generally drives him up the wall, and he succumbs - not just to her verbal requests, I dare say. He falls into deep slumber on her lap, then out come the scissors. Torment at every level, but mainly suffered by Samson once he discovered her treachery, then turned to mockery. – Anne Oct 12 '20 at 17:46
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At https://biblehub.com/judges/16-19.htm, 12 versions translate it as afflict, only 3 uses torment.

ESV Judges 16:18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

This is the scenario:

  1. Samson felt asleep.
  2. She tormented him.
  3. He woke up without knowing that he had been tormented.

What kind of torment was that? I'd say that ESV over-translated the word.

By far, the word "torment" appears mostly in the Book of Revelation:

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The verb עָנָה (anah) comes in several forms including Qal infinitive, Niphal, Piel (as here), Pual Perfect, Hiphal, Hithpael. The form used in Judges 16:19 is Piel.

For completeness I have listed the meaning of this form of the verb below in an appendix as per BDB. Note that this word can mean "afflict or torment", but it can also mean to humble or weaken (see references below).

In this context, I note that whatever Delilah did (as per עָנָה) it was while Samson was still sleeping as it was only after he awoke that he realized that his hair had been cut off.

In fact, we are told what she did - she asked for hidden men to come out and cut of Samson's hair so that his strength would be gone; thus she would weaken and humble him. Benson observes:

She began to afflict him — To humble and bring him low, in which sense the original word is often used. For, it seems, as soon as the razor touched his head, his strength began to be diminished, which she perceived by some means or other. He awoke and said, within himself, I will go out as at other times — Samson probably did not find, immediately after he was awake, that his hair was shaven, which made him speak in this manner. He wist not that the Lord was departed — That he was not present with him as he had formerly been; that he no longer supplied him with that extraordinary and supernatural strength with which he had before endowed him. And justly, indeed, did God depart and withdraw his presents and gifts from a man who put it into the power of a harlot to rob him of that which he knew had been appointed the tenure whereby he was to hold them.

Many version correctly reflect this meaning here:

  • NIV: and so began to subdue him
  • NLT: In this way she began to bring him down
  • BSB: In this way she began to subdue him
  • CSB: In this way, she made him helpless
  • HCSB: In this way, she made him helpless
  • ISV: and so began to humiliate him
  • NET: She made him vulnerable
  • Darby: and she began to overpower him

APPENDIX: BDB meaning of עָנָה

Piel. Perfect3masculine singular עִנָּה Deuteronomy 22:24 5t.; 2 masculine singular עִנִּיתָ Psalm 88:8; 1singular עִנֵּיתִי Psalm 35:13, suffix וְעִנִּתִךְ consecutive Nahum 1:12, etc.; Imperfect יְעַנֶּה Job 37:23, etc.; Imperative עַנּוּ Judges 19:24; Infinitive absolute עַנֵּה Exodus 22:22; construct עַנּוֺת Isaiah 58:5 +, etc.; Participle plural suffix מְעַנַּיִךְ Isaiah 60:14; Zephaniah 3:19; —

1 humble, mishandle, afflict: individual Genesis 16:6; Genesis 31:50 (J) Exodus 22:21; Exodus 22:22 (twice in verse) (E) Job 30:11; by imprisonment and bonds Judges 16:5,6,19; Psalm 105:18; a nation by war or in bondage Genesis 15:13 (J) Exodus 1:11,12; Numbers 24:24 (twice in verse) (E) Deuteronomy 26:6; 1 Samuel 12:8 (inserting וַיְעַנּוּם מִצְרַיִם, so ᵐ5 Dr Bu Kit HPS [compare Th We]), 2 Samuel 7:10; 2 Kings 17:20; Psalm 94:5; Isaiah 60:14; Zephaniah 3:19; dynasty of David Psalm 89:23.

2 humble, a woman by cohabitation, Genesis 34:2 (J) Deuteronomy 21:14; Deuteronomy 22:24,29; Judges 19:24; Judges 20:5; 2 Samuel 13:12,14,22,32; Ezekiel 22:10,11; Lamentations 5:11.

3 afflict as a discipline (God agent) Deuteronomy 8:2,3,16; 1 Kings 11:39; Psalm 88:8; Psalm 90:15; Psalm 119:75; Isaiah 64:11; Nahum 1:12 (twice in verse); Lamentations 3:33.

4 humble, weaken, object כֹּחַ Psalm 102:24; משׁפט Job 37:23 (compare Talmud עִנָּה דִּין); נֶפֶשׁ oneself, by fasting Leviticus 16:29,31; Leviticus 23:27,32; Numbers 29:7 (P) Psalm 35:13; Isaiah 58:3,5; by an oath Numbers 30:14 (P).

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    KJV says "afflict" which Benson and the BDB Appendix clearly explains. Informative. – Lesley Oct 10 '20 at 8:30

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