Chapter 13

JUDGES CHAPTER 13

The Birth of Samson

        • Again, the Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight, so Yahweh handed them over to the Philistines for 40 years.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Though mentioned earlier, the Philistines (3:3; 10:7) were a relatively new presence in the territory of Canaan, which would later be named for them (Palestine). This warlike race of sea people were of Greek rather than Canaanite ancestry and settled into the southwestern coastal areas about 1200 BC. From then on, Philistia was Israel’s natural enemy and increasingly threatened its national existence. Israel’s institutions, such as kingship, developed partly in response to the Philistine challenge.”

        • There was a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan who lived in the city of Zorah. His wife was barren and had not given birth to any children. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to her and said, “You are barren and have no children, but you will conceive and give birth to a son. So then, be careful and don’t drink any wine or other alcoholic drinks, and don’t eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor will touch his head because he will be a Nazirite to God from birth, and he will begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible sets the context, “Prior to their migration to the extreme north (ch 18), the tribe of Dan attempted to settle in Israel’s southwest (Josh 19:40-48). This put them in direct conflict with the incoming Philistines. Zorah was west of Judah, in the area newly occupied by the Philistines. Both Dan and the neighboring Judah submitted to Philistine dominance (Judg 14:4; 15:11).”

          • For those troubled by the fact that Samson’s mother is never named, HCSB adds, “The fact that the author mentions Samson’s father’s name (Manoah) 18 times but does not mention his mother’s name even once is no indication that the Bible considers women to be less important than men (1:11-15). Lineage in ancient Israel was established through the male side of the family, not the female side. The mention of Samson’s mother in these verses, however, is not a detail incidental to the story but integral to it; her role is as significant as that of her husband. The Angel of the Lord appeared to her twice (13:3, 9) before encountering her husband for the first time (v 11), and performed the same number of miracles for both of them (13:19-20). The author, moreover, depicts Samson’s mother as demonstrating better reasoning skills than her husband (vv. 22-23). This theme- the barren wife who, through the Lord’s intervention, bears a son who plays a significant role in the history of the people of God- occurs several times in Scripture; Sarah (Gn 17:19), Hannah (1 Sm 1:19-20); and Elizabeth (Lk 1:13) are notable.”

          • Some people use this passage to assert that drinking alcoholic is a sin. HCSB refutes this claim well, “Manoah’s wife was told that her son must not use wine or other alcoholic beverages. The Lord is not condemning the drinking of wine altogether (9:13); the prohibition was part of the Nazirite vow (Nm 6:1-20). This instance of the Nazirite vow is unique, in that the Lord established it for a human being before than person was born, and required the mother to participate in certain aspects of injunctions of that vow while the child was in her womb.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible discusses the Nazirite Vow briefly, “Any man or woman could take a vow to become a Nazirite, to separate himself or herself to God (Numbers 6). It was to be voluntary (Num 6:2), for a limited time (Num 6:5, 8, 13, 20), and involved three provisions: (1) abstinence from wine, strong drink, or anything associated with the vine (Num 6:3-4); (2) no cutting of the hair (Num 6:5); and (3) no contact with the dead (Num 6:6-8).”

        • The woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me and he looked like the awe-inspiring angel of God. I didn’t ask Him where He came from and He didn’t tell me His name, but He told me, ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son. So, don’t drink wine or any other alcoholic drinks, and don’t eat anything unclean, because he will be a Nazirite to God from his birth to his death.’”

          • Guzik notes, “From the rest of the chapter, we see that we should regard this Angel as no mere angel. As seen before in the Book of Judges (Judges 2:1-5 and 6:11-24), this was Jesus on a special mission, appearing as a man before His incarnation in Bethlehem.”

          • Guzik continues, “This indicates that the Angel of the LORD appearing to Manoah’s wife generally appeared to be a Man; yet His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God…This shows the profound impact the appearance of the Man of God had upon Manoah’s wife. He was very awesome; so much so that she did not ask questions about where He was from or what His name was.”

        • Then Manoah prayed to Yahweh and said, “Please Lord, let the man of God You sent come back and teach us what we should do for the boy who is going to be born.”

        • God listened to Manoah and the Angel of God came to the woman again while she was sitting in the field, but Manoah wasn’t with her. She quickly ran to her husband and said, “The man who came to me today has come back!” So Manoah got up and followed his wife to the man and asked Him, “Are You the man who talked to my wife?” And He said, “I am.” Then Manoah asked, “When Your words come true, what will the boy’s manner of life and vocation be?” The Angel of Yahweh answered, “The woman should pay attention to everything I said to her. She shouldn’t eat anything that comes from the grapevine, or drink wine or alcoholic drinks, or eat anything unclean. Your wife must do everything that I commanded her to do.”

          • Guzik writes, “God honored Manoah’s request for confirmation; but He did not answer this request to know the future. He simply called Manoah and his wife to obey what God already told them to do.”

        • Manoah said to the Angel of Yahweh, “Please stay here and let us prepare a young goat for You.” The Angel of Yahweh replied, “If I stay, I won’t eat your food. However, if you want to prepare a burnt offering, offer it to Yahweh.” For, Manoah didn’t realize He was the Angel of Yahweh. Then Manoah asked Him, “What is Your name so that we may honor You when Your words come true?” And the Angel of Yahweh replied, “Why do you ask My name, seeing that it is wonderful?”

          • Some translations variously render “wonderful” as “secret” or “incomprehensible.” The following commentaries offer discussion:

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “The word is peli, which in Isaiah 9:5 is rendered ‘wonderful.’…”

          • Pulpit Commentary: “The Hebrew word does not mean secret, but wonderful, as it is rendered in Isaiah 9:6, and elsewhere. His name was one which, as St. Paul expresses it, it is not lawful, or possible, for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:4), it was so transcendently wonderful. The feeling of the Hebrews in abstaining from uttering the name was akin to this. Some take the angel to say that WONDERFUL is his name, but the A.V. is right in prefixing seeing – seeing it is wonderful.”

        • So Manoah took the young goat and the grain offering, offered it on the rock to Yahweh, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife were watching. When the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, the Angel of Yahweh ascended in the flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown on the ground. The Angel of Yahweh didn’t appear to Manoah and his wife again. Then Manoah realized that He was the Angel of Yahweh.

          • Side note: In choosing an image to illustrate this event, I had to choose between lesser pet peeves. I highly doubt the Angel of Yahweh was blonde and caucasian. However, I also dislike the images that add wings since Scripture never, ever mentions wings in describing either angels in general, or the Angel of Yahweh. In fact, they are frequently completely mistaken for mere human beings. Obviously, this mistaken identity would not occur if they had the gigantic wings sprouting from behind commonly depicted by artists.

        • Benson Commentary adds, “The presence and command of the angel being a sufficient warrant for the offering of sacrifice by a person who was no priest, and in a place otherwise forbidden. Vitringa, however, supposes that ‘it was the angel who upon this occasion performed the principal functions of the priest; the most essential of which was to put the fire to the burnt-offering.’ Manoah, he observes, ‘dared not to perform the offices of the priesthood in the presence of a personage whom he took for an extra-ordinary prophet, commissioned from God. All that he did was done by order of the angel, or as his minister; just as the Israelites obeyed Elijah afterward,’ 1 Kings 18:34. The angel, or rather he, (for there is nothing for angel in the original,) did wondrously — Bringing fire out of the rock, as in the case of Gideon, Jdg 6:21, to consume the burnt-offering, and then ascending in the midst of the flame, hereby manifesting his nature and essence to be spiritual.”

        • And Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die because we have seen God!” But his wife replied, “If Yahweh had intended to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted the burnt and grain offering from us, nor would He have shown us all these things or told us things like this.”

        • Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes, “And Manoah said unto his wife,…. Being risen from the ground, where they fell on their faces: we shall surely die, because we have seen God; by which it appears that he not only believed him to be an angel, and not a man, but a divine Person; for though angels are sometimes called ‘Elohim’, the word here used, yet good men were not wont to fear death, or conclude they should die on sight of an angel; but their notion was, that an appearance of God to them was death, and were surprised when it did not follow, Genesis 32:30.”

        • Guzik adds, “Manoah perhaps knew what God said to Moses in Exodus 33:20: You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live. Manoah feared that because they had just seen the LORD, they would shortly die…This was a perceptive response from Manoah’s wife. She understood that God had not done so much for them to abandon them now. God’s past work in our life is a promise of His future care and blessing for us.”

        • And the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew and Yahweh blessed him. And the Spirit of Yahweh began to move him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between Zorah and Eshtaol.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “Mahaneh-dan (‘camp of Dan’) is in Danite territory, near Zorah and Eshtaol in the Sorek Valley (18:12), where Mahaneh-dan is adjacent to Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Perhaps Dan had two camps or moved camp seasonally. Zorah and Eshtaol are hometowns of Samson. Zorah is identified as Tel Zora, about 2 miles north of Beth-shemesh. Zorah is mentioned in the Amarna letters as one of the towns in the kingdom of Gezer attacked by Hibiru (El-Amarna 273…) Eshtaol is identified as Khirbet Deir Shubeib, near the village of Ishwa.”

          • On the description of the Spirit of Yahweh beginning to move Samson, the Pulpit Commentary offers this interesting insight, “The Spirit of the Lord, etc. See Judges 3:10, note. To move him – to urge and impel him to strange actions by fits and starts. It is an uncommon expression. In Genesis 41:8 the passive of the verb means to be troubled or agitated, and the substantive is the common word for a time in the phrases time after time, twice, thrice (according to the number specified), other times, etc.; also a footstep; and its derivatives mean an anvil, a bell. The idea is that of sudden, single impulses, such as are described in the following chapters..”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Samson, who receives more attention in the book of Judges than any other judge, is even more of an enigma than Jephthah. Samson reflects a high level of inspiration as a leader. He also personifies the inexorable march toward chaos that highlights the need for a more centralized society under a godly ruler.”