(c. 1115-1065 BC)
The Birth of Samson Foretold
The Israelites again did evil in the eyes of YHWH. So YHWH gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
There was a certain man of Zorah, from the tribe of Dan. His name was Manoah. His wife was barren; she had been unable to bear any children.
An angel of YHWH appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Even though you are barren and have borne no children, you will become pregnant and bear a son. But because the boy is to be a Nazirite to God from birth, there are certain things that need to be done. Make sure that you do not drink wine or fermented drink, or eat anything unclean, from conception to the birth of your son. Then, once he is born, no razor is to be used on his head. He will begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.’
After the angel had left her, immediately the woman went to her husband. She said to him, ‘A man of God came to me. He had the appearance of an angel of God. I was so fearful that 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 bear a son. You are not to drink wine or fermented drink, or eat anything unclean, as the boy will be a Nazirite to God from his birth until the day he dies.”’
Manoah then prayed to YHWH. He said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God you sent come back to us again. Let him teach us what we are to do for the boy who is to be born.’
God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God returned to the woman whilst she was in the field. Manoah, her husband, was not with her, so she hurriedly ran to tell her husband. She said to him, ‘The man who appeared to me the other day has returned to me.’ So Manoah got up and followed his wife.
When he came to the man, he said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to my wife?’
He said, ‘I am.’
Now as the boy’s father, Manoah would have had expectations regarding his role in the upbringing of the child. Of particular concern would have been the child’s Nazirite vows, the training required, and the timing of particular events. So Manoah said to the angel, ‘When your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life? What kind of work will he do?’
But as far as the angel was concerned the boy’s life was to be moulded by YHWH, not Manoah. As a consequence, the angel of YHWH simply repeated the previous instructions.
He said to Manoah, ‘Your wife is to do everything that I told her. She is not to eat anything that comes from the grapevine; she is not to drink wine or fermented drink. She is not to eat anything unclean. She is to do everything I have commanded her.’
Now custom required that Manoah should have provided the man with hospitality immediately on his arrival. But his keenness to discover his role in his son’s upbringing may have affected his judgement. Nevertheless Manoah had not totally forgotten his manners, even if he had not realised that the man was an angel of YHWH.
So Manoah said to the angel of YHWH, ‘Please let us detain you. We will prepare a young goat for you.’
But the angel of YHWH said to Manoah, You may detain me, but I will not eat your food. However, if you would like to prepare a Burnt Offering, then offer it to YHWH.’
Manoah said to the angel of YHWH, ‘What is your name? We would like to honour you, when your word comes true.’
The angel of YHWH said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond comprehension.’
So Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and, using a rock, offered them to YHWH. Then whilst Manoah and his wife were watching, YHWH performed a wonder. A flame on the altar shot up to the heavens, and the angel of YHWH ascended in the flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.
Only when the angel of YHWH did not reappear to either Manoah or his wife, did Manoah realise that he was an angel of YHWH.
Manoah said to his wife, ‘We will surely die, for we have seen God.’
But she said to him, ‘If YHWH was going to kill us, he would not have accepted the Burnt Offering and grain offering from our hands. He would not have shown us all these things. He would not have told us all this.’
The woman bore a son and named him Samson (a variation of the Hebrew word for ‘sun’). The child grew up and YHWH blessed him. For a while he lived at Mahaneh Dan (‘camp of Dan’), twelve kilometres west of Jebus. It was between Zorah and Eshtaol. There the Spirit of YHWH began to stir him.
Posted: 2nd December 2017
© 2016, Brian A Curtis