JUDGES CHAPTER 13
1 Israel is in the hand of the Philistines. 2 An angel appeareth to Manoah’s wife. 8 The angel appeareth to Manoah. 15 Manoah’s sacrifice, whereby the angel is discovered. 24 Samson is born.
Verse 1 Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
Philistines. They have been briefly mentioned by the author of Judges several times previously (3:31; 10:7–11). They were, like the Hebrews, invaders and settlers in Palestine.
(Except the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not lead them there.)
Philistines, in limited numbers, were in the land as early as the time of Abraham (Gen. 21:32).
But their major wave of migration into Palestine probably occurred at the beginning of the 12th century along with that of other non-Semitic tribes from Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands (see page 27).
According to archeological accounts these Peoples of the Sea, as they were called by the Egyptians, were turned back at the gates of Egypt by Ramses III about 1194
In honor of his success in repelling the invaders, Ramses III built a large temple at Thebes (now called Medînet–Habu) and covered its walls with pictures of the battle, among them being realistic representations of Philistine warriors.
After the defeat of the Peoples of the Sea by the Egyptians part of this migration settled in the maritime plain of Canaan, where they largely adopted the religion, customs, and language of the Canaanites.
The Hebrews called the Philistines Pelishtim, and their territory, Pelesheth, which word, by the evolution of language, became “Palestine.” The Philistines settled chiefly in the five ancient cities of the plain, Ekron, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Eglon, which became the centers of the Philistine confederacy.
From there the Philistines spread out into the Shephelah, and eventually, during the time of Saul, controlled all western Palestine as far north as the plain of Esdraelon and the Sea of Galilee.
From the time of Samson they were the main challengers of the Israelites until they were subjugated by David.
Forty years. There has been a question as to whether this period was prior to, or included, the days of Samson and perhaps extended beyond to the battle of Ebenezer in the days of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:13).
Samson was born in the early years of the Philistine oppression (PP 560). According to some authorities, this oppression was contemporaneous with the Ammonite oppression and judgeship of Jephthah (see p. 128).
Verse 2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children.
Zorah. The name means “disease.” It is the modern Ṣar‘a, situated in the Shephelah 14.7 miles (23.5 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.
In Joshua 19:41, as here, it is called a city of the territory of Dan, but in Joshua 15:33 it is called a city of Judah. The city was probably first given to Judah and later assigned to Dan (see on Joshua 19:41).
The city is generally mentioned in connection with Eshtaol (Judges 13:25; 18:2, 8, 11; etc.); the inference is that the tribe of Dan was largely confined to the environs of these two cities.
Zorah was an ancient Canaanite town, being mentioned in the Amarna Letters. Its proximity to Philistia exposed the inhabitants to Philistine influence.
Manoah. The name, which means “rest,” may express the yearning of the Israelites in those troubled days. It does not occur elsewhere in the Bible.
Barren. Barrenness, to a Hebrew woman, was the greatest of calamities. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were likewise barren. So was Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
Verse 3 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.
Angel of the Lord. This was the Angel that had appeared to Moses, Joshua, and others, and was none other than Christ.
You shall conceive. Some of the greatest men of the Hebrew nation were born of erstwhile barren women.
Children like these were in a special sense the gift of God, and were given because the parents were fully devoted to the Lord and would rear them in such a way as to enable these children to be special instruments of the Lord in behalf of His people.
Verse 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean.
Not to drink wine. The mother was to take special care not to use any wine or intoxicating drink made from grapes.
The health and character of this child, given by a direct providence of God, were to be safeguarded by the temperate habits of the mother from the time of its conception.
Anything unclean. It is likely that many Israelites were careless in observing the Levitical laws of clean and unclean foods; otherwise no special mention of this would have been necessary.
Verse 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
No razor. A person under the Nazirite vow was not to cut his hair during the time of the vow.
When the vow expired, he was to cut off all his hair and present it at the tabernacle (Num. 6:18).
The unshorn hair of the Nazirite was the visible token of his consecration, reminding both himself and the people of the sacred vows he had assumed.
The long hair was thus the mark of the Nazirite as the linen garment was of the Levite.
A Nazarite. The word means “separated,” or, “devoted.” It is probably a shortened form of the full title, “devoted to God.”
The Nazirite vow was a voluntary and temporary vow, carried out only for a specified period of time (see on Num. 6:2).
Its significance consisted in a consecration of the life to God. The outward manifestation of the vow consisted of three things:
(1) abstaining from all products of the grape, including the wine or the fruit, fresh or dried (Num. 6:3, 4);
(2) allowing the hair of the head to grow, untouched by a razor or cutting instrument (Num. 6:5);
(3) refraining from approaching a dead body under any circumstances lest defilement be incurred (Num. 6:6).
The Nazirite vow was highly regarded among the Hebrews (Amos 2:11; Lam. 4:7). Samuel was a Nazirite (1 Sam. 1:11), as was also John the Baptist (Luke 1:15; DA 102).
Some have thought that perhaps Joseph (see Gen. 49:26, where the word translated “separate” is the same word used of Samson here in this verse and of all the Nazirites) was a Nazirite.
Begin to deliver. Although the Nazirite vow was ordinarily voluntary and temporary, in the case of Samson the dedication was externally imposed upon him by divine command and began from his birth.
God had a plan for Samson’s life, a plan whereby, through the leadership of Samson, Israel should be delivered from Philistine bondage.
Both the vow and the parents’ faithful training were to influence the child to recognize this plan of God for his life and lead him to consecrate himself to fulfill it.
In Samson, one devoted to God, the Lord designed to set before the people an object lesson of the strength they might attain to overcome their foes through submission and service to their God.
Unfortunately, as Samson grew to manhood, he refused to bring his life into harmony with the plan God had for him. He became self-willed and careless morally.
The weakness of Samson’s own character rendered him unfit to achieve complete deliverance from the Philistines. That task had to be left to others at a later time.
However, through his feats of strength the eventual downfall of the Philistines was begun.
God has a plan for every life. Yet such a plan does not preclude free choice. Men must still choose as to whether they will follow the divine blueprint or not.
Samson’s experience is an illustration of how a man may completely thwart the high destiny planned for him.
Verse 6 So the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name.
Man of God. This was a term generally used of prophets (Deut. 33:1; 1 Sam. 2:27; 9:6–8; 1 Kings 12:22; etc.).
Manoah’s wife probably did not imagine that her Visitor was anyone else than a prophet, although she was awe-struck by the majesty of His appearance to the extent that she did not venture to talk to Him, even to ask Him His name or whence He came.
Compare verse 10 where she again speaks of Him as “the man,” and verse 16, which states that Manoah did not know He was a heavenly visitant.
An Eastern custom is that, when meeting a stranger, the first question usually asked is concerning the name.
Verse 7 And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ”
Day of his death. In telling her husband of the message concerning the child, she added these words which were implied, in the Angel’s statement to her (see verse 5).
Verse 8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.”
Verse 8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.”
Please. Manoah feared that he and his wife might make some mistake in carrying out the instruction, so he sought for further guidance and information.
He took his problem to God in prayer, asking the Lord to direct the Man of God to come back and teach them further regarding the training of this promised child.
One cannot but admire the faith of Manoah, who fully accepted and believed the Angel’s word. He took for granted that in due time this promised child would be given to them.
His faith is in sharp contrast to that of the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, who asked for a sign when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and promised him a child (Luke 1:18).
Blessed are those that have not seen, and yet, like Manoah, have believed.
Verses 9-12 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her. Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just now appeared to me!” 11 So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, “Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?” And He said, “I am.” 12 Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?”
God listened. God honored the prayer of this loyal Danite, even as He ever honors the prayers of believing hearts.
Let your words come to pass. Manoah desired to show his confidence in the message of the Stranger by expressing in this way not only his desire but also his belief that the promise would be fulfilled.
What will be the boy’s rule of life? This prayer should be upon the hearts of all parents. Their children are, in a special sense, gifts from the Lord.
Upon fathers and mothers rests the responsibility of training these little ones, so that they may fulfill the destiny divinely planned for them.
Rearing children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) is one of the most important and difficult tasks of life.
The work cannot be successfully accomplished without divine assistance. Parents should seek the Lord for guidance, that they may know how to raise their children.
In asking how to raise the child, Manoah used the term “we.”
The Messenger had given the original instructions to his wife, but Manoah rightfully looked upon himself as essentially connected with the wise management of the promised child.
The joint endeavor of parents is essential to the proper training of children.
And his work? Manoah’s questions were directed toward a confirmation of what the Angel had told his wife on the first meeting, namely, that the child was to be a Nazirite, fully devoted to God’s service, and that his work would be to deliver Israel.
Verses 13,14 So the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe.”
All that I said. The Messenger did not answer Manoah’s question further than to repeat the instructions He had given to the woman at the first visit.
The Lord sent the Angel back, not to give additional instructions, but to strengthen the faith of Manoah and to help prevent seeds of doubt from growing in his heart.
The parents were urged to obey carefully the directions they had received, that the promised child might be fully consecrated to God for the work he was to do.
Verse 15 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.”
Young goat. It was generally regarded as a special delicacy. Manoah was offering the very best entertainment for the unknown Messenger in an effort to induce his Visitor to remain for a time as their guest, so that they might learn more about Him, and perhaps obtain more information from Him.
Verse 16 And the Angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the Lord.)
If you offer a burnt offering. The Angel refused the offer of food, but suggested that Manoah might offer the young goat as a burnt offering to the Lord.
It is unlikely that Manoah was contemplating offering a sacrifice to the Messenger, for the record states clearly that he did not know that it was an Angel of the Lord. Yet the angels who visited Abraham and Lot partook of earthly food (Gen. 18:8; 19:3).
Verse 17 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?”
What is your name? Manoah was becoming increasingly uncertain about the nature or identity of the mysterious Messenger who had made the remarkable promise to them.
His refusal to eat food and the suggestion that they offer a sacrifice puzzled Manoah to the extent that he put a direct question to Him, hoping to learn His identity.
May honour you. If the word of the Messenger should come true, Manoah and his wife would want to honor Him in a special way—perhaps by naming the child after Him, or by publishing abroad His prophetic power, or by a gift.
As it was, they did not even know who He was, and so could not hope to honor Him later.
Verse 18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
Why do you ask me? Jacob, after recognizing that the one with whom he had been wrestling was a heavenly visitant, had asked the Angel His name and received no reply (Gen. 32:29).
Again this Angel (see on verse 3) refused to identify Himself, this time to Manoah. In contrast, Gabriel identified himself by name to Zacharias (Luke 1:19).
Wonderful. pel’i is an adjective meaning “wonderful.” The noun form of the same word is translated “Wonderful” in Isa. 9:6 (see also Ex. 15:11; Isa. 25:1; 29:14; etc.).
The word denotes something extraordinary, ineffable, beyond human understanding. The best illustration of the meaning of this word is the way it is used in Ps. 139:6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”
The verb is used in the sense of “surpassing understanding” (see Job 42:3; Ps. 131:1; Prov. 30:18). What is evidently meant is not that the name of the Angel was “Secret” or “Wonderful,” but that His name was beyond Manoah’s power to understand.
Verse 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the Lord. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on
Wondrous thing. This is the same root word in Hebrew as that used to describe the name of the Angel. Inasmuch as the word is in the participial form, it may be better to apply it to “Lord,” making the passage read “offered upon the rock to Jehovah, the one working wonders” (see Ex. 15:11).
The reference seems to be both to the wonder God was going to work in the birth of the promised child, as well as to the miraculous disappearance of the Angel in the fire (v. 20).
Verse 20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar—the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.
Flame went up. Perhaps not a miraculous fire like that in 6:21. The Angel declined the food, but suggested a burnt offering. Manoah probably supplied the fire when he “offered” it.
Went up in the flame. This wonder was calculated to increase the faith of the couple in the promised birth of the child. They were to recognize that God was still working wonders in their days.
Can you picture the parents telling the story to little Samson?
Verse 21 When the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the Lord.
Manoah knew. He had suspected before that their Visitor was a messenger from God; now he had indisputable proof.
Verses 22,23 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.”
Desired to kill us. Her reasoning was logical. Manoah was so filled with dread that he thought death would be their lot for having looked on the Angel.
His wife, with quicker, keener insight, quickly realized that the Lord would not make them the promise of a child to deliver Israel, and then destroy them for having looked upon the Messenger through whom He had sent the message.
Her deduction was correct. God does not act in a capricious way with His people. The thoughts He thinks toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil (Jer. 29:11).
Verse 24 So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.
Samson. shimshon. The meaning of the word is disputed. Some think it is derived from shemesh, “sun.”
Near Bethshemesh was a seat of the worship of the sun. However, it hardly seems likely that Manoah’s wife would name her promised son after a heathen deity.
The root word also has the meaning “to serve” in the closely related Aramaic dialect. On the other hand shimshon may simply be descriptive of the parents’ joy at his birth, or of Samson’s “sunny” disposition as a child.
The Lord blessed him. God’s blessings are of many kinds. Those here alluded to included gifts of health, strength, and courage.
Verse 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Spirit of the Lord. See 11:29. Samson knew that he was consecrated to God for a special function. His long hair and habits of abstinence that set him apart from the rest of the people were constant reminders of that.
But human efforts and advantages are not sufficient of themselves to accomplish the work of God (see AA 53).
Began to move him. The Hebrew verb means “to disturb,” “to disquiet,” “to agitate.”
Promptings from the Lord began to stir him up, to agitate his mind to plan action against the oppression of the Philistines.
Samson felt impelled to exercise his unusual strength in deeds of valor.
At times. Some have thought that Samson used his unusual strength at times in this period to perform deeds of valor that the author does not describe, and that his beginning exploits are thus briefly referred to.
Camp of Dan. This is a proper name. Sometimes it is not translated, but given as Mahaneh-dan, as in ch. 18:12. The name originated in the migration of the hard-pressed tribe, which is described in chs. 18 and 19.
Dan’s camp, or Mahaneh-dan, was near Kirjath-jearim (ch. 18:12), 8 mi. north of Zorah (see ch. 18:2).
Eshtaol. The exact location of this town is not known. It is always mentioned in connection with Zorah, which has led to the supposition that they were twin towns (see on v. 2). It has been thought to be the modern Eshwa‘ 2 mi. (3.2 km.) northeast of Zorah (see on v. 2).
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–25 PP 560-562
2–8 PP 560
3, 4 Te 90, 292
4 CD 218; DA 149; MH 333
5 PP 567
7 MH 372; Te 233
12 Ed 276; MH 379; PP 573
12–14 PP 560
13, 14 AH 255; CD 218; MH 372
14 Te 90, 269
21, 22 1T 410
24 PP 562