by Sam E. Stone
After Joshua died, the children of Israel were led by judges. These influential individuals kept the Hebrew people united until the time that Saul was selected as the nation’s first king. Joshua had been dead about 250 years when the person featured in today’s text—Samson—came onto the scene.
Israel had experienced prosperity and depression, liberty and slavery. The Philistines occupied the western part of the land and continually raided the people. They continued to be Israel’s perennial adversary until the time of David. The person studied last week—Jephthah—judged Israel for six years before he died (Judges 12:7). Three minor judges followed, leading the people for a total of 25 years (12:8-15).
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. This is the last time this familiar refrain is used in the book of Judges. Over and over the writer has told how the people were saved, but then lapsed back into Baal worship (2:11; 3:7; 10:6-10). Into this setting God chose to send a deliverer. The father would be Manoah. He lived in Zorah, a village some 15 miles west of Jerusalem. His wife (who is unnamed) was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the Lord told her, “You are going to conceive and have a son.”
God’s decision to intervene with this miraculous birth is reminiscent of the birth of other important leaders—the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah; Samuel to Hannah and Elkanah; and John to Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is especially significant in showing the long-suffering grace of God. In spite of Israel’s lack of response, God always remained faithful to his covenant with them.
A special requirement was given to the child’s mother. She was to drink no wine nor other fermented drink and eat nothing unclean. “No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth.” The word “Nazirite” comes from the Hebrew meaning “separated” or “dedicated.” This vow would apply for his entire life, as with Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). The requirements of the Nazirite vow are described in Numbers 6:1-21. Three basic prohibitions are involved: 1. Do not consume wine or other intoxicating drink; 2. Don’t cut your hair; 3. Avoid contact with a dead body. The angel then adds, “He will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
The woman went directly to her husband to tell him about the angel’s message. “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome.” Scripture explains that she saw “the angel of the Lord,” God himself. Sensing what her husband might ask, she went on, “I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name.”
Next she recounted the message received from the angel, noting the child’s conception and birth, and the requirements she must follow in keeping with the Nazirite vow. Manoah was understandably overwhelmed by this news. He turned immediately to God in prayer: “O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God . . . come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Like many parents, Manoah wished that the new baby came with an instruction manual! Today’s lesson theme—”Walk in God’s path”—suggests the responsibility of parents to raise their children in the Lord (see Ephesians 6:4).
Responsibility/Judges 13:24, 25
The angel of the Lord returned and revealed himself to Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:9-23). When Manoah prepared to offer a sacrifice to God, flame from Heaven came down and consumed it, and the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame.
The child was born and his mother named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him. Chapters 14-16 describe not only Samson’s strength, but also his weakness. When he dedicated his ability to the Lord and did his will, he was one of the most renowned of the Hebrew judges. Unlike other judges, he did not need an army to fight with him; Samson conquered the Philistines all by himself. He is cited in the “Hall of Fame” of Old Testament heroes (Hebrews 11:32). Samson stands as a reminder of the need to “walk in God’s path” all the days of our lives.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.