Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Judges 13

Judges 13: The Birth of Samson

Synopsis

You’ll have noticed that some of the judges get a lot of space devoted to them, and some get hardly any, or only a verse or two. Samson is one of the ones who gets a lot of space; this whole chapter is devoted to just his birth. (Yes, this is Samson, of Samson and Delilah fame. But we won’t get to Delilah until Judges 16.)

But first, it starts with the Israelites. Say it with me now: Once again, they do evil in the eyes of the LORD, and He lets the Philistines have control over them for forty years.

At this time, Samson’s parents are childless, because the wife is sterile. But the angel of the LORD appears to her, and tells her that even though she’s sterile, the LORD is going to grant her a son. They are to raise that son as a Nazirite, meaning that they are to make sure that he doesn’t drink wine, cut his hair, or eat anything unclean. (You can read more about being a Nazirite in Numbers 6.)

This makes the woman—whose name isn’t given, in this passage—very excited, and she goes and finds her husband, to tell him the good news.

Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.’” (verses 6–7)

When the husband hears this, he prays to the LORD, and asks Him to send the angel back, to teach him and his wife how to raise this son. I guess he didn’t feel comfortable with the rules for a Nazirite vow. So God sends the angel back to talk to them, the husband asks if it’s the same person who had spoken to his wife earlier, and when the angel confirms it, the husband asks the angel how they are to raise the boy; “… what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?” (verse 12). And the angel’s reply is interesting: he’s already told them how the boy should be raised.

The angel of the LORD answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.” (verses 13–14)

So the husband offers to prepare a young goat for the angel—at this point, the husband hasn’t understood that this is an angel—but the angel tells him that he should offer the goat as a burnt offering to the LORD, instead. He asks for the angel’s name, and the angel replies “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding” (verse 18—which, according to the footnote, can also be translated “Why do you ask my name? It is wonderful.”).

So the husband does so. He burns a goat as an offering to the LORD, and then the LORD amazes them by having the angel ascend to heaven in the flames of the sacrifice. Even still, the husband and wife don’t yet realize that it was an angel they were talking to; they wait for the angel to reappear, and when he doesn’t, then they realize that it was an angel.

“We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”

But his wife answered, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”

(verses 22–23)


I’m tempted to say something about the wife being the voice of reason, but I’ll hold off.

After all of this, the wife gives birth to Samson. The passage tells us that the LORD blessed him, and also that the Spirit of the LORD “began to stir him” (verse 25).

Thoughts

This passage gives the husband’s name, Manoah, but not the wife’s name. So for this blog entry, I’ve just used “husband” and “wife,” instead of bothering with calling him “Manoah.”

Again, this passage talks about the “angel of the LORD,” which always leads me to ask: Is this Jesus? Or an angel, sent by the LORD? If it’s Jesus, then verse 16 is very interesting; the husband wants to prepare a young goat for the angel, and the angel replies, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD.”

Another thing, which may or may not be related to the point above, is that when the husband realizes that he’s seen the angel of the LORD, he panics because he thinks that he has “seen God.”

When the angel comes back to the husband and wife, the second time, and the husband asks him again how they are to raise the boy, the angel simply replies that he’s already told the wife all that she needs to know. I’m wondering what the tone was, that the angel used, when he said this.

  • Was he annoyed? “I’ve already told you what you need to do, why are you dragging me back down here to tell you again?!?”
    • If so, is this also related to the Israelites not knowing the law the way that they should? “Why do you need me to tell you about Nazirite vows, when Moses already gave you all of the rules?”
  • Or was he simply reassuring them? “Don’t worry, you know all that you need to know. It’s not going to be as difficult as you think.”
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