Chapter 12 left off with a long list of judges, but now we come to the story of perhaps the most famous one of all: Samson.
The story of Samson covers four chapters in the Book of Judges, making it the longest story in the book. It has also been a story that has spawned novels, plays and movies, as well as certain elements contained within popular culture. Even those unfamiliar with Scripture would recognize the phrase “strength of Samson” or the “beguiling charms of Delilah”.
In many ways, it is also one of the oddest stories of the Bible. Samson is physically very strong, but his moral strength seems to be nothing out of the ordinary on more than one occasion. It is evident from this story that God can do great things even with the most fallible of human beings. In fact, God seems to use those very weaknesses in order to strike at the Philistines. In the end, we see a repentant Samson who not only ends his life more dramatically than he lived it, but he also makes the “Hall of Faith Chapter” (Heb 11).
Sometimes, I find myself pondering the weaknesses of men. Take the enigmatic Herbert W Armstrong. In many ways, he was a visionary and great leader. In many other ways, he quite fallible and vulnerable to the schemes and ambitions that surrounded him. Perhaps it should humble us to realize how great God’s compassion and mercy truly extends.
In spite of Samson’s weaknesses, the UCG Bible Reading Program on the Book of Judges points out some parallels between Samson and Jesus Christ. Samson, and to some degree all the judges, were a type of deliverer, savior and Messiah. I offer these parallels from my notes:
|Name means “Like the sun”||Called “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal 14:2)|
|and a “sun & a shield” (Ps 48:11)|
|Deliverer of Israel||Deliverer of world|
|Physical strength||Spiritual strength|
|Conception announced by messenger||Conception announced by Gabriel|
|Barren woman required divine intervention||Conception through Holy Spirit|
|Separated to God from birth for life||Separated to God from birth for eternal life|
So, without further ado, let’s begin the story of Samson.
The chapter starts with the familiar, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD”. This time, they were oppressed forty years by the Philistines.
Manoah was a Danite. His wife, who is not named in the story, was barren. Yet, an Angel of the LORD, a term that often refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, addresses the woman and tells her she will have a son.
3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
Notice that Samson would be used to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Could this be because Samson was sometimes spiritually too weak to use in a more powerful and dramatic way? Would God have rid the land of the Philistines during Samson’s life if he were more obedient, particularly towards the end?
Notice as well the instructions and how detailed they were.
The woman goes to Manoah her husband and tells him she met a man, how he looked like an Angel of the LORD and what he told her.
So, Manoah and his wife both knew the instructions from the messenger. They both knew he would be a Nazarite, set aside from birth. So, what does Manoah do?
8 Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.
~ Jdg 13:8
So, was it because the instructions were so odd? Was it because he had trouble believing an angel would appear to a woman? Personally, I believe the latter for a few reasons. Not only was that a common way of thinking in Jewish culture later on, but it appears to have been a narrative throughout the history of Israel and other nations in the region. However, there were exceptions. Yet, his subsequent actions — I believe — give it away that he doesn’t believe his wife.
God answers the prayer, though, and the Angel of the LORD again appears. He still appears to the woman, though. She has to go get Manoah, who comes and asks how to raise the child.
Paraphrasing, the angel says, “Do what I already told the woman,” and then again tells him the woman must stay away from alcohol and unclean food.
To be fair, some commentaries, including the UCG one I already mentioned, point out that parents need to call upon God for aid and assistance in raising godly offspring. As we see, God will grant the request even though He had already given His instructions once.
Manoah now wants to honor the Angel.
16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.
Manoah doesn’t know it is the Angel of the LORD, even though his wife already told him as much in v 6:
6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name:
~ Jdg 13:6
This angel instructs Manoah to offer an offering to God. This is similar to how Jesus always pointed to the Father.
17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.[a]”
- Judges 13:18 Or is wonderful
The word for “wonderful” or “beyond understanding” is H6383, and it is only used in two verses in the Bible.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
~ Ps 139:6
The word refers to something extraordinary or supernatural.
Superiors name subordinates. Remember the incident where Jacob was renamed Israel? Jacob also wanted to know the angel’s name, but he also refused to answer.
This is a strong indicator that in both instances, the angel was no ordinary angel.
Manoah took a kid and “offered it upon a rock”, which was what altars were to be made of, and then the angel did something unexpected. The flame shot up, and the angel shot up into the sky with it.
“Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD” (v 21).
Now, Manoah was scared that they would both die because “we have seen God” (v 22). He is convinced they did not see an “angel” but God. Again, this is pretty strong evidence that this “Angel” was Jesus Christ before He took human form.
Manoah’s wife then said a wise thing. If God were going to kill them, then why show them all these wondrous things? In all actuality, you get a distinct impression of who is actually the smarter one in this relationship.
So, Samson is born and grew. The chapter ends with an important verse:
25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
There will be times when Samson moves according to God’s will. There will be times when he obviously ignores God’s will. There will be times when it isn’t at first obvious. Verses like the above help to set the stage. What will happen next was God’s will. We have the assurance of v 25 that this is so. There are commentaries that say Samon’s union with a Philistine woman was sinful, but just like their confusion over Jepthah’s vow, that simply is outright false teaching!
Go on to Chapter 14 here.