Samson, Part Two

An Amazing Announcement, Judges 13:2-24

Verse one of Judges 13 serves as a bleak backdrop to an amazing angelic announcement of Israel’s next judge, Samson.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

Those are very familiar words.  God’s people had wandered away from Him and in His discipline, God had allowed the monstrous Philistines to oppress them.  Unlike previous times of discipline, this time the Israelites did not cry out to the Lord for help.  One of the very striking things about Israel at this time is their seeming acceptance of their oppression.  It is as though the people had merely come to accept Philistine oppression as “the way things are supposed to be.”  In fact, as we shall see during the Samson years, the people had no interest in being delivered.

Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”  (Judges 15:11)

What a graphic and pathetic illustration of sin’s power to literally steal hope and ambition from people.  Sin, which seems so exciting at the moment and promises so much always leaves a person apathetic and weak.  Such was the case with the Israelites.

The Israelites, for as long as they were in the Promised Land, had to contend with enemies from without.  But this time, the Philistines were not the enemy trying to get into the land, they lived inside Israel’s territory.  Once a small group of people, they had grown in number and military skill to the point where they began take over territory that rightfully belonged to God’s people.  In an ironic twist, those who had been allowed to remain in the conquered land had now assumed dominion over the conquerers.

If ever there was a true-life picture of what sin can do to a believer, this is surely it.  The Philistine presence in the Promised Land used to be small; they were tolerated, controlled, relegated to a small piece of land, tucked out of the way.  We often do that with sin when we don’t want to deal God’s way with it.  God’s way of dealing with sin is to root it out and cast it as far away from you as possible.  But our way is to tolerate it, control it, relegate it to small piece of our hearts, hidden from people.  But like the Philistines of Samson’s day, sin if it is not dealt with God’s way, will grow in strength and push itself into our lives until it comes to dominate us.

The epic story of Samson begins in a small town called Zorah.

1.  Visits from an angel, verses 2-23

A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless.  The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son.

Samson’s story is different from that of all the other judges because his is prefaced with a detailed account of his birth, especially this angelic visit.  This shows the significance of Samson since this visitation also preceded the births of other key figures in Hebrew history:

Isaac, Genesis 17:2, 9-10;
John the Baptist, Luke 1:11-17
Jesus Christ

There were actually two visits, one to Manoah’s wife, the second to Manoah, the father of Samson.

(A)  The first visit, verses 3-7

The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son.  Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Samson’s mother’s plight was one shared with some other women of distinction:  Sarah and Rachel.  To be unable to bear children in this culture would have been viewed as a mark of God’s displeasure, so finding out she was going to have a child after all would have overjoyed her.  But imagine how she would have felt when the angel told her these two predictions:

  • her son would be a Nazarite from birth;
  • he would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

The similarities between Manoah’s wife and Mary cannot be missed.  Gabriel visited Mary to announce to her that she would become the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).  Notice the similarities and also the glaring difference:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Samson, as great as he would become, would be what we all are:  a deeply flawed human being.  But Jesus Christ would be born the perfect Son of God.

What the angel said to Joseph is even more interesting:

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”   (Matthew 1:21)

Actually, “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.”  But read what the angel added:  “from their sins.”  Unlike the deliverance the judges  provided their people, which would be temporary and strained at best, the kind of deliverance Jesus wrought was eternal and effectual for all people, for all time; deliverance, not from the enemies of this life, but from the enemy of our immortal souls:  sin.  That’s the difference between the accomplishments of man and the accomplishments of the Son of God!

Samson would be a “Nazarite from birth.”  Exactly what a Nazarite was and did is outlined in Numbers 6:1-21, but to summarize, a male or a female could take the Nazarite vow and live that devoted life for a period of years.  Three things were involved in the vow:  no wine or alcohol or any drink made from grapes; no contact with dead bodies; and finally a Nazarite had to refrain from trimming their hair for the duration of their vow.

The study of the Nazarite vow is interesting, but what makes Samson’s case particularly so is that these three parts of the Nazarite vow were divided between mother and son, with the prohibition against hair cutting applied only to the son.  In addition to the Nazarite vows, Samson’s mother was also told not to eat any “unclean food.”  The admonition, in reality, was for all Israelites, not just Nazarites.  The fact that this woman had to be told not to eat any unclean food shows how far the Israelites had drifted from obedience to the laws of God.

(B)  The second visit, 13:8-23

After the angel’s visit with Manoah’s nameless wife, she told her husband what had transpired.  Her husband seems skeptical.  In fact, K. Lawson Younger makes the insightful observation that Manoah was not only incredulous, but also resentful and jealous.  He didn’t seem to trust his wife’s account and he doesn’t seem to want to trust the Lord, either, and in fact, seems intent on manipulating the Lord.

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

The angel of the LORD replied, “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.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD. (verses 15, 16)

In this exchange, Manoah seems to be hospitable, like Gideon was with his heavenly visitor, but unlike Gideon, Maoah wants to obligate his divine visitor through dining together.  In Ancient Near Eastern religious culture this was the case; one would feed a religious leader, like a priest, with the expectation that that priest would then do something on your behalf, like offer prayers or sacrifices.  Obviously, the angel of the Lord knew Manoah’s heart well.

Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.  (verses 17, 18)

Why did the angel of the Lord reply like that?  Again, Manoah is not really interested in getting to know this angel, he was still trying to manipulate him.  And again, as Younger noted, there were three problems with wanting to know the name of angel of the Lord:

  • In the pagan religion of the Ancient Near East, knowing the name of a heavenly being gave one power over that being.
  • Notice he asks his name so that he may properly honor the angel, but only after the angel’s predictions come true.  Again, this clearly shows Manoah had no faith and remained skeptical.
  • Manoah had no idea who he was speaking to; he did not know that this angel was none other than a theophany; God Himself.  His wife knew who He was, but not her husband, yet her husband would give this unknown visitor the kind of honor due only Yahweh!

God would have none of Manoah’s manipulative tricks, as He will have none of ours.  Before we come down too hard on poor Manoah, let’s realize that Christians are expert at manipulating God; we do it all the time, with our songs, our tears, even the way we pray.  Sometimes we think very superstitiously rather than Biblically; we think we can win God’s favor by our behavior or by writing a check or some other manipulative action.  Our efforts will be rebuffed just as Manoah’s were.

2.  Birth of a deliverer, verses 24-25

The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him,  and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

With these final two verses, we see Samson’s birth in fulfillment of God’s promise.  The way these verses are structured, the emphasis is now on the boy Samson, whereas up until verse 23, it was all about his parents.

The name “Samson” is very telling, for it comes from the word for “sun.”  Some scholars see that as an attempt by his mother to honor God, but others see it, in fact, as honoring the Canaanite deity.  Given the state of the nation at this time, I believe the latter to be the case.  Like her husband, who was so spiritually dull he didn’t recognize the angel of the Lord even after his wife repeatedly told him, and like the people all around her, Samson’s mother was spiritually apathetic and worldly.  Even though she was slightly more spiritual than her husband, she did give her son a highly inappropriate name.

3.  A word to the wise!

Chapter 13 of Judges should serve as a warning to all Christians of all ages.  The story of Samson’s parents should give us pause to look at our own lives and ask ourselves some hard questions.

  • Has our Christian experience grown cold?
  • Are we at all sensitive to God’s calling in our lives?  Would we even recognize God’s voice if we heard it?
  • Are we so fascinated with the things of this world that we have become spiritually dull and unresponsive to God’s Word?
  • Have our core beliefs become so compromised with those of the world that we fail to discern God’s will?
  • Do we demand signs from God because our faith is so anemic that we are unwilling or unable to trust Him any more?

Before we get all discouraged, we need to remember God is a good God and He is abounding in grace and mercy, and if we answered all those question in the affirmative, He will do what He can to change us.  What we learn from Samson’s sorry parents is that He condescends to work with people when they don’t deserve it.  Where our commitment to Him is lacking, God demonstrates His commitment to us.  When we cheat on Him, He remains faithful to us.

Advertisements

Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 186,408 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 236 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket

%d bloggers like this: