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The history of Samson always appeals to the imagination. The man of great strength, who is also so weak. In contrast to the previous judges, who brought fellow citizens with them when fighting the enemy, Samson does everything on his own. He does not lead an army like Gideon and Jephthah. In this acting as a loner, where there is no connection with the people of God, Samson also seems to be focused on himself in a strong way. On the other hand, acting as a loner fits in with a people of God who, as a whole, have deviated far from the Word of God.
As far as Christianity is concerned, this situation can be found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. If the decay in Christianity has taken such forms that it is no longer possible for Christianity to be restored at all, it comes down to personal faithfulness to the Lord and His Word. This faithfulness is found in the separation from sin and dedication to the Lord. Then there can be talk of “the man of God” (2 Timothy 3:17). This is the man who in his own life shows the characteristics of God, while everything around him is in a state of decay. It is someone who stands for God and His rights in the midst of a Christianity that does not take them into account. The whole principle of strength lies in the separation to God.
It is good to keep in mind that the people of those days do not so much represent people of today, but that they represent spiritual power that lead a whole people or the individual today. If we apply this to Samson, we see that he represents the idea of the Nazirite. In other words, God wants to show by him that, in a time of decay, spiritual strength can only be found in someone who walks in separation from evil and in fellowship with Him. Complete separation to God is the source of strength in the battle against our spiritual enemies. In a perfect way this can be seen in Jesus Christ. He is the true Nazirite.
The history of Samson is one of peculiar contrasts. In him we see on the one hand the grace and purpose of God, the plan God has for him. On the other hand, we see how little of it ends up in his life. What God means by Samson and who Samson is in practice are two different things. Samson is always a prisoner of the enemy from which he frees himself again and again. He even dies in the hands of his enemies, the Philistines. He is also a type of Israel that has separated God for Himself as a people, but that has not behaved like His people.
This is how it went with the church, which God has chosen out as a heavenly people. The church has become unfaithful to its vocation to behave as a heavenly people on earth. She has become earthly oriented. Philistine principles have crept in and largely determine the face of the church, or rather Christianity. The following applies to her: “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). That is what the Philistines represent. We will experience this phenomenon of ‘holding to a form of godliness’ again and again in the history we have before us.
For the church there is no complete recovery to be expected, although there are times of revival. Its earthly history ends, as in this book, in a still unbroken domination by the Philistines. Samson’s life shows us something of the Christian testimony on earth, both communally and personally. If the testimony becomes an individual matter rather than a common one, it means that the whole is in decay.
In Judges 13, the first chapter of Samson’s history, everything is seen from God’s side. We see how He is at work and makes sure that everything is prepared for the birth and upbringing of the Nazirite. God wants Samson to be a Nazirite all his life.
Numbers 6 contains the law of the Nazirite. There we read that someone can consecrate himself as a Nazirite for a certain period of time on a voluntary basis. To Samson that choice is not presented. God has destined him to be a Nazirite all his life, and He arranges everything so that it is also possible for him to meet it. As this chapter makes clear, the entire preparation testifies to this.
That God does so is another testimony of His unceasing care and love for His people. This is even more evident when we think about how these people have once again become so unfaithful to Him, for the umpteenth time and now to the greatest extent. God is going to act sovereign.
For the seventh time we read it: “The sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD.” The rod that God uses now are the Philistines. The Philistines are not mentioned among the seven evil nations of Canaan. They have already been involved in a disciplinary action before (Judges 10:7). There, however, they are not the main enemy and they are now. They seize the land.
As for what or who the Philistines represent, something has already been said in Judges 3:3. Because of the importance of the recognizability of this enemy, it is good to repeat a few things briefly and add some new characteristics. The Philistines represent people who externally occupy a position corresponding to what God has given to His people, without having a living relationship with God. They possess an external form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). In our time they can be compared to nominal Christians, people who pretend to be Christians, but are not born again. They are imitators.
Philistines represent a religion acceptable to not born again people. Their work is, for example, to stop up wells (Genesis 26:16). The meaning of this is that they prevent the Holy Spirit from working, for wells are a picture of the Word of God which is made alive by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus speaks about this in John 4 and 7 (John 4:13-2 Chronicles :; John 7:37-Malachi :).
Philistines use the things of God for their own benefit. That is the reproach God makes, among others, the Philistines, through the prophet Joel (Joel 3:4-Deuteronomy :). An example is that the nominal Christian gives to certain important biblical definitions a completely different content. Just think of the blessing of the childhood and the son-ship of the believer. Believers are called children of God and also sons of God. What makes the nominal Christian of them? He says that all men are children of God. In this way, this blessing is brought down to the level of the natural, not born again human being.
And what to think of their view on the physical resurrection of Christ, one of the foundations of the Christian faith? The nominal Christian also speaks of the resurrection of Christ, but he means that Christ lives on in the ideas spread by His followers.
With the Philistines it is about recognizing the tactics they use to hollow out the truth of God and make it meaningless. To quote the verse quoted earlier from 2 Timothy 3: “They have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). They invoke the Bible, but in reality the whole Bible doesn’t say them anything. Yet they want nothing more than to introduce their ideas to the Christian area. The Philistines are not enemies from outside the land, but they live in it.
Although they have no right to the land, for God has assigned it to His people (Deuteronomy 32:8-1 Samuel :), they still attach their name to it. The name Palestine is derived from the name Philistine. Of all Israel’s enemies, the Old Testament mentions most the Philistines. They have kept Israel in slavery longer than any other people. David has only defeated them once and for all.
If by grace and new birth we are children of God and not nominal Christians, we have to be very careful not to get under the spell of the pleasant life that the nominal Christians seem to lead. However, it is a life out of and for the flesh and not for God. The only thing that can save us from this is to occupy ourselves with the Lord Jesus, of whom David is a picture.
We see in Samson that he gets under the spell of the attractive side of the Philistines, represented in a few women. He is not the boss of his lusts. That means his downfall as a Nazirite and therefore he fails in his assignment. We will experience the same if we do not remain separated from what Christianity has to offer carnal man. We can no longer be a witness for God; our testimony will be destroyed.
God Begins to Work
Disciplinary action by means of the Philistines does not have the desired result. This time it does not bring Israel to a call to God. God waits in vain. The people have become accustomed to their misery and slavery; that is how deep they have sunk. If there is no calling, there cannot be a return. However, this does not mean that the sources of God’s grace are exhausted. He sees among the people who fear Him. To fulfill His plans, He makes use of a God-fearing couple, who also represented all the characteristics of weakness.
Manoah and his wife belong to the tribe of Dan. That is the weakest tribe of Israel, the tribe that has least responded to God’s command (Judges 1:34). They form a remnant like Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, Anna and Simeon are at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus (Luke 1-2). These are also dark days in Israel’s history. In addition, the woman is barren.
Also the meaning of the name of Zorah does not make the case any brighter. Zorah means ‘nest of hornets’ or ‘wasp’s nest’. Wasps or hornets stick or bite meanly. They are a picture of satanic attacks, seductive spirits, with which we have to deal in the later times in which we live (1 Timothy 4:1-Exodus :). They ‘sting’ where they can, especially to discourage us from doing something for God.
The tribe of Dan is a treacherous tribe (Genesis 49:17). Of all the tribes he is farthest from Jerusalem. Feeling at ease in such a place, having rest there – the meaning of the name Manoah is ‘rest’ –, is not a favorable sign. How can there be rest when everything is so contrary to God’s will? In Zacharia 1 the rest is not healthy either. The reproach there is how the earth can be at rest, while the city of Jerusalem is in ruins (Zechariah 1:11). The following verses show that God will not leave this matter alone and that He is committed to Jerusalem. That is also the case here.
Looking at the background of Samson’s birth, everything seems hopeless. But God starts His work where nothing more can be expected of man. This is how He usually works.
The first one to hear of God’s purpose is not Manoah, but his wife. God turns to her to indicate how weak the condition of the people is. The woman is in the Bible in general a picture of weakness. This weakness is further underlined by the statement that she is barren. An extra emphasis is placed on this by adding that she has borne no children.
So God also addresses Himself to us if He wants to make vessels of blessing of us. It must penetrate us well: if God wants to make use of us, He does not do so on the basis of who we are by nature. By nature we are not able to bear fruit. He says that to Manoah’s wife not as a reproach, but with love.
It seems that her barrenness has thrown her on the LORD. She will have often made known to Him her needs and desires. As a right-minded Israeli woman, she wishes offspring. Maybe she even prayed, like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11), for a son who could be used by God. In the lives of Sarah, Rebekah and Hannah, also God-fearing, barren women, their barrenness has also caused exercises in the soul.
God’s time has come for the wife of Manoah. He promises her a son and gives her some instructions, both for her and for her son.
Instructions for the Woman
Before discussing the conditions that the son must meet in order to be a Nazirite, the mother is told what she has to take care of. From this, we can learn that everything that can hinder the formation of a Nazirite must be removed. It is important that parents take these instructions to heart.
Parents must ensure that they do not allow influences that could cause their children to be misshapen. Parents who hold the interests of God and His people dear will, in their longing for children, pray for children who will be of use to the church. They want them to become true servants of God. They will not be satisfied with less. It’s about God’s church.
The family is not the only area where the formative influence is determined. The local church is also an atmosphere where children are formed. All those who are part of a local church should take into account the fact that their behavior affects the spiritual development of the children attending the meetings. This also applies if the children go with the parents into the houses of the fellow believers.
The upbringing of our children is aimed at making them live separated for the Lord. That requires from the parents to set an example. This attitude should be present with the parents even before the children are born. Wine or strong drink indicate the pleasant things of life that in themselves do not have to be wrong. We have seen before that wine rejoices the hearts of God and men. Wine is a picture of earthly, lawful joy. But if the desire is present to live entirely for God as a Nazirite, the fear that lurks in earthly joy must be recognized.
The things of the earth can have an intoxicating effect. Earthly things can cloud the view on the true calling to live completely for God. They can be given such a large place that they take up the heart and time of someone who is called to live for God. The interests are gradually shifting from a focus on God and the things of heaven, to a focus on oneself and the things of the earth. It is more and more about our well-being than about what God is concerned with in view of His people.
It is also much more pleasant to enjoy to the fullest the good things of this life than to distance oneself from them and instead suffer hardship, slander and loneliness because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people. We must indeed have a good eye for what we live for, or better, for Who we live for.
Besides these things that are not wrong in themselves, Samson’s mother should not eat anything unclean. What is unclean is connected to sin. She must not allow anything sinful in her life. Thus she can remain in connection with God, Who cannot be connected to anything unclean. Parents can’t desire anything from their children in which they themselves are lacking. If parents read bad literature themselves, they cannot expect their children to stay away from it. Spiritual life will then not blossom, but die. If impurity is not given a chance, the power of spiritual life will be able to develop.
It will be clear that giving up harmful business does not in itself guarantee healthy growth. For this to happen, good food must be enjoyed. Yet in this history, the Holy Spirit especially emphasizes how necessary it is to renounce any hindrance that stands in the way of a proper fulfilment of the Nazirite occupation. How important are these instructions for parents who want to raise their children to useful instruments in the hand of the Lord.
A Nazirite is someone who shuns what stimulates nature (no wine or strong drink), who takes the woman’s place in weakness (let his hair grow) and who only wants the power of life to work (do not come into contact with death). These are the necessary conditions for the formation of that Nazirite with whom God can carry out His plan. This plan is to set aside the religion of the flesh – of which the Philistines are a picture – in order to prepare the way to introduce the man after His own heart, the Lord Jesus.
The word Nazirite means ‘separated’ or ‘consecrated’. Both meanings are important to get to know God’s purpose with the Nazirite and hopefully to put it into practice. That intention is to live a life that is separate from sin and devoted to God. God wants these things to affect our hearts and our conscience and to be worked out in our lives.
More Nazirites are mentioned in the Bible. It says of Joseph that he is “the one distinguished [that is a Nazirite] among his brother” (Genesis 49:26). Samuel and John the baptist are also Nazirites (1 Samuel 1:11; Luke 1:15). The Lord Jesus is the Nazirite par excellence. He has drunk wine and touched unclean people and even the dead. Nowhere is there any indication that He had long hair. Yet He is the true Nazirite, because He has fully complied with the spiritual meaning of the precepts that apply to the Nazirite. We too are faced with the spiritual significance of these precepts and are called upon to follow the Lord in them.
As said, Samson’s being a Nazirite is not a voluntary matter, but a calling from God. It will be his exercise to respond to that calling. It is remarkable that the regulations that the Nazirite must comply with in Numbers 6 are divided here between Samson’s mother and Samson himself. The mother is not allowed to drink wine or strong drink, although this of course also applies to Samson, whereas of Samson is only told here that he is not allowed to cut his hair. The long hair is an external feature, visible to others, while the other feature marks are not visible to others. The characteristics that are not visible are more related to the mind of the heart. His long hair, which is visible, is more in connection with showing that mind.
In the discussion of Judges 5:1 something has already been said about the general meaning that long hair has in Scripture. With regard to Samson, the following can be added. The woman is wearing long hair, that is normal. It is her honor (1 Corinthians 11:15). It is a constant symbol of her dependence and it is also her glory. When a man wears long hair, “it is a dishonor to him” (1 Corinthians 11:14). God imposes this shame on the Nazirite. The Nazirite thus shows that he gives up his place as a man, as the head of creation, and that he takes up a place of dependence, that of a woman. By this he indicates that he wants to be weak, that the power of Christ may dwell upon him (2 Corinthians 12:9).
A negative example of what long hair represents can be found in Revelation 9. There the monsters are seemingly strong, but in reality they derive their strength from someone else, namely the demonic Apollyon, which is depicted by their “hair like the hair of women” (Revelation 9:7-Ruth :). They do not follow their own will, but are dependent on this angel from the abyss that has power over them and governs them. For the Nazirite, the long hair means that his whole strength lies in his dependence on God.
About Samson is still written in our verse: “He shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” It expresses that he will not bring about a final deliverance.
The Woman’s Report
When Manoah’s wife has heard the prophecy, she goes to her husband. She first tells him about the appearance of the Angel of the LORD before she tells what He has told her. The Person Who brought the message has made a greater impression on her than what she has heard from Him. She calls Him “a man of God” with “the appearance of the angel of God”. In the Old Testament prophets are sometimes called ‘man of God’. By mentioning him in this way she acknowledges the Divine source of the message.
He also looked like an “angel of God”. It seems that she feels that this Person is more than a human being. They cannot say exactly Who He is. But His appearance makes her fearful. When Gideon discovers that he is dealing with the LORD Himself, he is also afraid (Judges 6:22). Isaiah expresses the same feelings (Isaiah 6:5), as does Moses (Exodus 3:6).
Because of this terrifying sight, Manoah’s wife did not dare to ask for His Name. The Visitor has also not made know to her His Name. He did tell her some things. He promised her that she shall conceive and give birth to a son. He also told her what she should not drink and eat. Finally, He told her that God wants this child to be a Nazirite to God. But she says nothing about their child’s mission, that he would fight against the Philistines.
It is wonderful to see how Manoah reacts to everything his wife tells him. He trusts her completely. He knows his wife’s relationship with God and knows that she does not imagine anything. It is not strange for this couple to share things they have heard or seen from the LORD. Manoah and his wife can talk about the things of the LORD together. It is their common desire to live according to God’s will.
Also today, the way in which man and wife can share the things of the Lord with each other is the basis of a good marriage. Both should have their own relationship with the Lord through personal Bible reading and personal prayer. One cannot do that for the other. But they should not live alongside each other in it. Sharing with the other what each has seen of and received from the Lord, and correcting each other in certain matters, results in harmonious marriage.
Manoah believes that what his wife has told her is a message from God. That is the starting point for his prayer. He has no doubt that what God has said will happen. He only has a question. That question is about the upbringing of the child that will be born. Parents-to-be will get to see a nice example here.
Answers to Prayer
“God listened to the voice of Manoah.” What an encouragement for anyone who desires to raise children according to God’s plan. The way in which prayer is heard is consistent with the earlier visit of the Angel of God. Again God passes the man by to make it clear that nothing of the man’s power can have a place in deliverance. He goes again to the woman when she is alone. She immediately recognizes Him and quickly goes to get her husband. There is no doubt with her, while Manoah has his questions.
He must first be sure that he is indeed dealing with the Person of the first visit. He receives the confirmation. Then he repeats the question he asked in his prayer in Judges 13:8. However, there is a difference between Judges 13:8 and Judges 13:12. In Judges 13:8, he asks how they, as parents, should treat the child. In Judges 13:12 the question refers more to the child itself. He asks about the mode of life and the vocation of the boy.
Asking such questions is important. Parents who do this are aware that they will not have children for themselves, but that they may raise them up for God so that He may be glorified in the lives of those children. In fact, it is about the question for which we raise our children: for a high position in this world or a high position in the kingdom of God? A high position in the kingdom of God requires taking a humble place.
In order to enter the kingdom of God, a child must first be “born again” (John 3:3; John 3:5). Then the development of the Christian character must take place. This is done by growing in the things of God. A child thus formed will later prove to be of great use to the church and in the service of God.
It is important to pay close attention to the child’s mode of life. Parents must ensure that children make time for the Lord’s things, even when they are busy with homework and the like. It is important that their children learn to have a personal relationship with the Lord and to involve Him in everything they do. Children may get to know in the Lord Someone with Whom they may have a confidential relationship.
It is also good to pay attention to the nature of the work they may do for the Lord. Each child has different abilities, is differently equipped by the Lord. Good parents will encourage their children to use their natural abilities for the Lord. They may also teach their children that God likes it when they do what they can. They don’t have to be more than they are.
This awareness of being accepted by God depends to a large extent on the feeling parents give their child that it is accepted by them as it is. Accepting things that are wrong is, of course, excluded.
The answer Manoah gets is the same as the answer his wife has heard before. That answer does not refer to the boy but to the mother. It is remarkable that the Angel does not tell the father these things. We can learn from this that the atmosphere in the house is most determined by the mother and that especially her influence on the formation of the child is great. The title of an old book about upbringing reflects this beautifully: ‘On mothers hand to Jesus’.
When the Angel repeats His answer He gave to the woman earlier, He gives a small extension of the things she must refrain from: “She should not eat anything that comes from the vine.” This indicates that raising a child requires a lot from the parents.
Abandoning one’s own interests and giving up all kinds of pleasures is fundamental for achieving the set goal. That certainly does not mean that there is no more fun to be had or that parents should always be afraid to do something wrong. It’s about what parents are willing to do to make their children really enjoy them. Such parents will wholeheartedly agree with the word of the apostle John: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
In the world, and unfortunately it also occurs among Christians, people do not want (for a while) to have children because they are seen as an impediment to experiencing “the fun things of life”. Children have too many obligations. Whoever sees the real purpose of the child blessing will want to work hard to know that real joy.
The Offering of Manoah
From everything Manoach has heard and experienced, it has become clear to him that a special Guest is visiting him. He must have had the impression that he is dealing with a Divine Person. This is evident from the fact that he wants to offer his Guest an offering, something that can only be done to God. The offering he wants to bring is the same as the offering Gideon brought to his heavenly Guest (Judges 6:19). Yet Manoah doesn’t know who he really has in front of him. Only in Judges 13:21 does he come to the recognition that he stood face to face with the Angel of the LORD.
That Manoah knows not yet whom he has before him, also becomes clear from what the Angel of the LORD says to him in Judges 13:16, that he must bring his offering to the LORD, and not to Someone Who in essence is unknown unto him. This shows us that God wants to be honored by people who know Him and have a relationship with Him through faith. He cannot accept an offering that comes from vague feelings about Him. It is like with the rich young man, who calls the Lord Jesus “good Teacher”, even without realizing to Whom he speaks (Mark 10:17-Job :).
Only if Manoah recognizes him as the LORD, as God, he will accept the offering, or courtesy, but then the bringing of it must be done according to the directions He gives. That brings Manoah to the question his wife did not ask. He asks for His Name. He would like to know more about Him. The name, which we have seen before, often indicates what kind of person we are dealing with. The Name of God expresses His Being.
The name by which He reveals Himself to Manoah is “Miraculous”. This name is also found in Isaiah 9. There it is clearly about the Lord Jesus. It says of Him: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; … And His name will be called Wonderful (Isaiah 9:5). The name “Wonderful” indicates the Being of the Lord Jesus. He is truly God and truly Man and yet one Person. That wonder is too great for the comprehension of the human mind. Hence the name “Wonderful”.
When Manoah then brings his offering, something wonderful happens. His Visitor goes to heaven in the flame that ascends from the altar. This is a picture of what happened to the Lord Jesus on the cross. When He suffered there and died under the fire of God’s judgment over sin, at the same time a pleasant scent ascended from the cross to God. God was glorified by the work of His Son. On this basis God has given Him the place of glory in heaven to His right hand.
We may now know that there is a glorified Man in heaven. The church is inextricably connected with the glorified Man in heaven. God shows this “wonderful action” precisely in a time when decay is on the increase to encourage those who wish to serve Him faithfully as Nazirites. This will direct the eye upwards. To look upward “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1) is the necessary attitude to stand firm as a Nazirite.
After it has been indicated what does not belong in the house where the Nazirites are born and raised (wine and impurity), the positive is now coming forward. The house is as it were filled with the scent of the offering, in which the glory of Christ is represented. The Gospel according to Mark, in which the Lord Jesus is presented as the true Servant of God, ends with a look into heaven: “The Lord Jesus … was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). This look into heaven is an encouragement to anyone who wants to serve as a Nazirite to the Lord.
Reaction of Manoah and His Wife
When it has reached Manoah with Whom he has been dealing, he becomes afraid and fears that he and his wife will die. However, there is no reason for this, because the offering was accepted. His wife understands that well. Manoah reasons from himself towards God. His wife reasons from the offering. Her attitude shows the certainty of faith we find for the Christian: “If God [is] for us, who [is] against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-Jonah :).
Again we see how the relations of this couple are. Manoah is spiritually the lesser of his wife. As a real help next to him, she points out to him the value of the offering and the actions of God. It is nice when husband and wife can interact in this way and point out such things to each other.
Samson’s Birth and First Performance
God’s promise is fulfilled. The promised son is born and his mother gives him the name Samson. His name is formed from the word for ‘sun’. Maybe this is an indication that God wants to let new light shine for Israel in this dark time, the light of hope for deliverance. What Samson did in his youth is not mentioned. What is mentioned, however, is the place where he started his service, in Mahaneh-dan, which is in his immediate vicinity.
The service of anyone who wants to do something for the Lord always begins in the immediate surroundings: at home, in the neighborhood, at work, at school. It starts at home. Then the circle of the service grows. Sunday schoolwork and being unruly at home do not match. It is impossible to ‘enter into the mission’ without first testifying at home, in the surroundings. Nor can a brother serve other local churches if he never makes himself heard in his own local church. The influence of the Spirit and its effects are first perceived in the domestic sphere.
Samson grows up in the most ideal conditions, very different from, for example, Jephthah. He has parents who fear God, the LORD blesses him, has taken him apart for Himself, and the Spirit of the LORD guides him already in his younger years. Despite all these great privileges, Samson’s life has a tragic course. The following chapters show us that.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Judges 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany