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Bible Commentaries
Judges 13

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-7

Samson and the Philistines (13:1-16:31)

The Message of the Angel (13:1-7)

Once again the editor repeats his formula of sin and judgment, a turning to God and the raising of a deliverer. This time the oppressors were the Philistines, a seafaring people from the Mediterranean lands who, about this time, invaded the coastal strip of Palestine. We know that these "peoples of the sea" invaded Egypt in the time of Rameses III (about 1200 B.C.), and that shortly after being driven off they sought settlement on the Shephelah. They soon established themselves in walled cities, making armed raids into the Israelite territory and causing trouble down to the time of David.

Manoah is described as a Danite, living on the borders of Judah west of Jerusalem. This is an indication of the original southerly location of the tribe of Dan, before its northward migration (chs. 17 and 18). Like Sarah, the wife of Abraham, Manoah’s wife was barren. Like the patriarchal couple, Manoah and his wife were visited by an angel of the Lord. We have already, in the case of Gideon, discussed the significance of this visitation, pointing out that it was not an angel in the modern sense, but a divinely sent messenger who was regarded as an extension of the personality of God, and, in greater or lesser degree, was identified with God himself. The angel in the case of Abraham is described in more supernatural terms. In this story Manoah’s wife describes the messenger to her husband as a "man of God" who was as an "angel of God." The phrase "man of God" customarily described a prophet. Thus the angel may have been a divinely sent human visitant who, like the prophets, was for the time being identified with, and the mouthpiece of, the God of Israel (see the story of Gideon) . The promise of a son was accompanied by a description of him as a Nazirite. A Nazirite was a man set apart and dedicated to God, distinguished from his fellows by abstinence from strong drink, by letting his hair grow long, and by keeping out of contact with dead bodies. These rules are enumerated in Numbers 6. Such Nazirites might be so dedicated for a limited time or for life. This child was apparently to be subjected to a lifetime vow. The baby so born was to be the promised deliverer.

Verses 8-23

Manoah’s Request and the Sacrifice (13:8-23)

Manoah prayed for a return visit of the "man," the theophanic messenger, that the parents might learn how to rear the promised child. This is a reminder, incidentally, of what true piety should mean in a home and in the birth and nurture of a child. The messenger returned to the wife, but this time she summoned her husband to his presence. The instructions about diet indicate that the boy was to be a Nazirite.

At this point we again are impressed by the parallels between this story and the patriarchal narratives. Manoah’s behavior is similar to that of Abraham in Genesis 18. Manoah desired to honor his guest with a meal, still assuming him to be a man and unaware of the true nature of his visitant. At this point we encounter what may be called the supernatural element in the story. The visitor refused the proffered meal but suggested instead a burnt offering to the Lord. Manoah now requested the name of his messenger that he might do him proper honor when the promise was fulfilled and the child was born. To this request there came the reply "wonderful," which means in the Hebrew "beyond comprehension," "superhuman." Manoah began to realize that this was more than a human being and was rather a superhuman, so he offered a sacrifice to the God who worked wondrously, who was in essence superhuman. As the flame of the burnt offering flared up, the visitant mysteriously ascended in it and disappeared from sight. At this point Manoah came to a full realization of the nature of the visitation. He and his wife had seen God, and they could not live. We note at this point that the angel is identified with God and regarded as an extension of God himself. Manoah’s wife was more balanced than he, and declared logically that God’s acceptance of their sacrifice meant that they would be spared.

Verses 24-25

Samson’s Birth and Inspiration (13:24-25)

The child was duly born and named Samson, which means "little sun." The name need not associate Samson with some sun cult. It appears to have been a common proper name in early Canaan along with other combinations in which the word for "sun" occurs. There is every evidence that the Israelites borrowed many names from their Canaanite neighbors, and so here, in all probability.

We are told that the Lord blessed Samson, and that the Spirit of the Lord first took possession of him at Mahaneh-dan ("Camp of Dan"). He, like the other judges before him, was a charismatic personality whose feats of strength and prowess in war were ascribed to the presence in him of the windlike "Spirit of the Lord," which could endow its recipients with abnormal power and wisdom. This Spirit became an irresistible urge in Samson, moving him to extraordinary feats of strength. The child of promise thus received his full endowment.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Judges 13". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/judges-13.html.
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