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The Israelites are oppressed forty years by the Philistines: an angel appears to the wife of Manoah, and promises her a son: he appears again to the husband and wife, and ascends, in the midst of the flame of the burnt offering, towards heaven: Samson is born.
Before Christ 1175.
Judges 13:3. The angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman— The same angel as appeared to Gideon, Joshua, Moses, &c. See the observations on those appearances, Jdg 13:22 of this chapter: See also Vitringae Observat. Sacrae, tom. 1. It is observable, that some of the greatest men of the Jewish nation were born of women who had been barren; as Isaac, Samuel, and John the Baptist.
Judges 13:4. Now, therefore, beware, &c.— As Samson was to be a perfect Nazarite unto God, from the womb to the day of his death, Jdg 13:7 his mother is commanded to live as the Nazarites did, (Numbers 6:0.) while she carried him in her womb, and, most likely, while she nursed him; because a child in the womb, and its mother, live by the same nourishment.
Judges 13:6. His countenance—very terrible— The French version has it very well, fort venerable, a countenance full of majesty; such as was that of St. Stephen, when he appeared before the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, Acts 6:15. His Judges saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel. It does not appear, that either Manoah, or his wife, at first conceived this sacred messenger to be any other than some prophet commissioned by God to them.
REFLECTIONS.—There is no end of Israel's evil, or of God's mercy. Once more the heavy hand of the Philistines is upon them; and during forty years, more or less, they bear the punishment of their sins under these oppressors, till God, in the person of Samson, raises up a deliverer for them.
1. His tribe and parentage: of Dan, which bordered nearest on the Philistines, and of parents who had long been childless. Note; (1.) Where is the greatest danger, and the least prospect of relief, there God often chooses to display his power and glory. (2.) The fruit of the womb is a heritage and gift which cometh of the Lord.
2. An angel appears to Manoah's wife, even the glorious angel of the everlasting covenant, who now comes in the fashion of a man, as afterwards really partaking of the same nature.
3. The message that he brings her is most welcome and unexpected, and the charge that he delivers strict and solemn. He compassionately mentions her misfortune of barrenness; this shall be her grief no longer; she shall conceive and bear a son, who, being appointed for singular service, must be a Nazarite, not only from his birth, but also from his conception; for which, and during her pregnancy, she must not touch any thing that comes of the vine, nor eat any unclean thing; nor is a razor ever to come on his head, God intending by him to begin his people's deliverance. Note; (1.) God sees and compassionates our secret griefs. (2.) They who would preserve themselves in holiness for God, must deny themselves the indulgence of their appetites. (3.) The offspring usually partakes of the parents' bodily habit. Temperate parents have healthy children, while the curse of lewdness and luxury descends often on the fruit of the womb. (4.) The beginnings of salvation are glorious; how much more the completion of it. (5.) Samson is the type of him who foretold his birth; he was thus holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners, conceived of the Holy Ghost, a Nazarite purer than snow, raised up not only to begin, but to perfect the salvation of his people.
4. With a transport of joy, she flies to carry her husband an account of what had passed. Struck at the majestic and venerable appearance of the messenger, she describes his countenance as luminous, like Moses's face, or bright with divine irradiation as an angel. His words she repeats, but neither dared ask his name nor whence he came. Note; (1.) We should call those who are near and dear to us to partake in our joys. (2.) True yoke-fellows should communicate their experiences for their mutual comfort and edification.
Judges 13:10. The other day— There is nothing for other in the Hebrew. Houbigant renders it, on that day, following the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic.
Judges 13:12. And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass, &c.— Houbigant renders this, And Manoah said, when that shall come to pass which thou hast spoken, what shall be the method of educating the child? words plainly alluding to those in the 8th verse.
REFLECTIONS.—1. Manoah rejoices at the news, and staggers not at the promise; but, confidently depending on its fulfilment, prays for direction how to manage this child, when he should be born, agreeably to God's will; and for this purpose begs that God would send the same messenger, to give them farther information. Note; (1.) To improve God's blessings to his glory, is the prayer and labour of every gracious soul. (2.) When we have met with a refreshing visit from God, we cannot but cry, Return, O God of hosts, return. (3.) They who wish a messenger from God, a preacher of his word, to be sent among them, would do well to make it the matter of their fervent prayer.
2. God refused not his request. The same day probably, not another day, as our translation seems to make it, the angel of the covenant returns a second time to Manoah's wife, when alone, either in her business, or retired for converse with God. She entreats permission to call her husband: this granted, she runs to inform him; he gladly attends her, to wait on their celestial visitant, and there solicitously inquires about the management of the child, which, in faith, he believed should be given them. Note; (1.) They who seek God will find him to their comfort. (2.) When we are alone with God, he will manifest himself to us as he does not unto the world. (3.) They who have experienced the blessing of God's presence and love, would fain call those who are near and dear to them, to taste and see with them how good the Lord is. (4.) When we are called to approach God, our hearts should never be backward to the gracious invitation. (5.) The care of children is a great concern, and parents had need beg often of God, to direct them how to manage them so, as to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
3. The angel repeats the same instructions. Note; (1.) It is good to have line upon line, and precept on precept. (2.) When our treacherous memories would forget, or treacherous hearts neglect God's commands, it is good to have near us a loving and careful remembrancer. (3.) They who would be holy to the Lord, must watch with jealousy against the defilement of sin.
Judges 13:16. And if thou wilt offer a burnt-offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord— Manoah, as we observed, supposing this divine personage to be a prophet, was desirous to entertain him in a hospitable manner, and agreeably to his extraordinary commission; See Gen 18:3-4 and ch. Jdg 6:18 but the angel told him, that though he should comply with his request, and stay, yet he would not eat of his food; insinuating thereby who he was "But, continues he, (not and, as we render it,) if thou wilt offer a burnt-offering, if thou hast a mind to express thy thankfulness, thou mayest offer a burnt-offering unto the Lord." A prophet, as Manoah took this to be, might authorize men to sacrifice, though they were not priests, or at the tabernacle; as Elijah did at Mount Carmel. The next words of this verse might be more properly connected with the 17th, thus: Now Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord; therefore he said unto him, &c.
Judges 13:18. Seeing it is secret— More properly rendered in the margin, wonderful; compare Isa 9:6 where this same name of wonderful is applied to Christ, the wonderful Word incarnate for the redemption of mankind.
Judges 13:19. And the angel did wonderously— There is nothing for angel in the original, which might easily be construed thus: "So Manoah took a kid, with a meat-offering, and offered upon a rock unto the Lord; and he did wonderfully, Manoah and his wife looking on: for it came to pass," &c. ver.
20 in which verse we have an account of what this divine messenger did; most probably, bringing fire from the altar, as in the case of Gideon, chap. Jdg 6:21 out of the rock, to consume the burnt-offering, and then ascending in the midst of the flame to heaven. The celebrated Vitringa supposes, that it was the angel, who, upon this occasion, performed the principal functions of the priest; the most essential of which was to put the fire to the burnt-offering. Manoah, according to him, dared not to perform the offices of the priesthood in the presence of a personage whom he took for an extraordinary prophet commissioned from God. All that he did was done by the order of the angel, or as his minister; just as the Israelites obeyed Elijah afterwards, 1 Kings 18:34. See Vitringa, as quoted above.
Judges 13:22. Manoah said—we shall surely die— See ch. Jdg 6:22 and the places there referred to.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here a continuation of what passed at this interview.
1. Manoah entreats him to prolong his stay, and take some refreshment with him before he departs. Note; When God sends his messengers with glad tidings to us, the least we can do is, to afford them kind entertainment.
2. The angel declines accepting his offer, though he does not forbid him to prepare the kid for sacrifice, which he might offer to the Lord, the only true object of worship. Note; The services that we do or offer to God's ministers, are acceptable sacrifices to God.
3. He refuses to gratify Manoah's curiosity when the latter inquired who he was, and where he lived, that he might, after the event, do him honour, spread his fame, or send him a present on the birth of his son. His name is secret, not to be known; for who, by searching, can find out God? or wonderful, as Christ is called, whose person, incarnation, and office, deserve this title. Note; (1.) It is highly desirable to cultivate acquaintance with a good man. (2.) If we ask in prayer what is not good for us to receive, the best answer is a denial. (3.) In our inquiries in religion, vain curiosity is dangerous. There are secret things which belong only to God, where it is our highest wisdom to be contentedly ignorant.
4. Manoah having prepared the offering and sacrifice, and laid it on the rock, the angel did wonderously: either, as in Gideon's sacrifice, he brought forth fire from the rock to consume it; or, if Manoah kindled the flame, to his astonishment he sees him ascend in the midst of the fire, and disappear; hereby evidently intimating his acceptance of the oblation, and discovering himself to them, who now were convinced that he was more than man who talked with them. Note; (1.) When we bring our hearts to God in prayer, Jesus will kindle the holy fire, and lift up our souls to heaven as the flame ascends. (2.) The ascent of the angel betokened the acceptableness of the offering. Jesus, our ascended Lord, is thus gone up to heaven, to present our sacrifices to God, as, for his sake, a sweet smelling savour.
5. For a time in silent wonder and dread, Manoah and his wife, after this strange sight, remained on their faces: when, rising to reflect on this transaction, Manoah expresses his fearful apprehensions, lest (as was then the general opinion) this divine appearance portended his death certain and near. Note; (1.) So weak are we, that we are afraid sometimes of our very mercies. (2.) A good man may at particular seasons be afraid to die.
6. His wife appears not only the strongest believer, but the wisest reasoner. She suggests the groundlessness of his fears from two arguments, strongly evidencing the favor of God towards them; 1. The acceptance of their sacrifice; and, 2 the promise that he had made them; for the accomplishment of which, they must needs live. Note; (1.) It is a singular mercy to have such a help-mate as Manoah's. (2.) When the sinner is cast down, he should remember what Christ has done for him by his bloody sacrifice, a sure proof that he designs not his death. (3.) The faithful, in times of discouraging providences or sore temptations, should remember the past experience of God's goodness, as a ground of present support. He that has helped us hitherto wills not our destruction at the last.
Judges 13:23. If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meat-offering at our hands, &c.— Such was the argumentation of Manoah's wife against the fear and diffidence of her husband; and it might very well have become the most masculine understanding. God Almighty will be very well pleased, if we have so much confidence and faith in him, as in all our perplexities when our understandings are puzzled, and in all our distresses when our spirits are fainting, to use that kind of logick to support us. If he has at any time redeemed us from pressing or languishing wants and necessities, and supplied us beyond our hope, or at least beyond our expectation, by the charity of friends, compassion of strangers, or some such other seeming casualties as he usually transmits his favors by, in such a manner, as that we have found ourselves for a time at ease, and in a degree of plenty (and perhaps there are few men so miserable as not to have enjoyed such intervals); if he has at any time rescued us from a devouring danger, when our enemies were so near taking our lives from us, that we had death in our prospect, and by our sensible fear had even undergone some impressions of it (and God knows how many there are who have been instances of those articulate deliverances);—we may very well argue, that if he were resolved to destroy us, he could not have conferred those graces, and favours, and deliverances upon us. Nay, if he has given us grace to rely upon and put our trust in him, to pray heartily to him, and to preserve ourselves from the infection and contagion of prevailing and prosperous wickedness; if, in a time of powerful rebellion, we have, from a due sense of our duty to him, kept our allegiance to our king; if, when the sacrilegious and prophane have broken in upon the religion and worship of the most High, we have, for piety's sake, to our utmost power, and with our utmost hazards, opposed their desperate fury, and never consented to their wickedness, when we were no longer able to stop the progress of it; if, in a time of persecution, when men's lives and fortunes were with all imaginable rigour and severity taken from them, for not consenting to perjury and other violations of their consciences, and both lives and fortunes might be preserved by submitting to those impositions, we have passed through the fire of that persecution, and chosen imprisonment or banishment, or death, rather than comply with that power to the breach of our duty; we may very well expect some signal deliverance, upon this conclusion, that if God had meant we should be destroyed, he would not have received those burnt-offerings nor those meat-offerings at our hands; he would not have given us the grace and courage to have sacrificed our conveniencies, and property, and lives to his service.
Judges 13:24. Called his name Samson— It is not easy to determine the derivation of this word. That of those who derive it from שׁמשׁ Shemesh, the Sun, seems the most probable; Samson's birth being, as some say, the elevation of the Hebrews; so David is called a light of Israel. It cannot escape the notice of any reader, how remarkable a type Samson was of the Messiah; some particulars of which we shall mention at the close of his history.
Judges 13:25. The spirit of the Lord began to move him— The Chaldee renders it, the spirit of fortitude, or courage. Very early the Spirit of God gave marks of his presence with him, by some extraordinary things superior to human power, which it enabled him to do, as a kind of prelude to that heroic courage with which he was to be endowed. As there was no army of Danites encamped where Samson displayed his power, many follow the version of our Margins, and read this as the proper name of a place; Mahaneh Dan.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany