As we continue to discover, study, and learn from the women’s narratives of Scripture, it is amazing, as to the wonderment and glory of the lives of ancient women whose stories are waiting to be uncovered by us, their contemporary sisters.
It is likened to digging for buried treasure – you know the treasure is there. You know the treasure is beyond valuable. You know you must do the work to find it; but, what you never fully realize, until the treasure is found; the immense worth of what you will unearth. The story of Samson’s mother is a treasure, a magnificent jewel, nestled in the book of Judges, where there are more stories about women than any other book of the Bible.
So, again and again, we learn, as women who are intrigued and excited about the women’s narratives; we are on a life long journey, where Scripture unfolds in front of us to reveal the inspiring messages from the daughters of God to the daughters of God.
And Now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor…………………………………………………….
Judges 13: 2-24 (NCV)
“There was a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan, who lived in the city of Zorah. He had a wife, but she could not have children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “You have not been able to have children, but you will become pregnant and give birth to a son. ” Be careful not to drink wine or beer or eat anything that is unclean, because you will become pregnant with a son. You must never cut his hair, because he will be a Nazirite, given to God from birth. He will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.
Then Manoah’s wife went to him and told him what had happened. She said, “A man from God came to me. He looked like an angel from God; his appearance was frightening. I didn’t ask him where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name.” But he said to me, “You will become pregnant and have a son. Don’t drink wine or beer or eat anything that is unclean because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from his birth until the day of his death.”
Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, “Lord, I beg you to let the man of God come to us again. Let him teach us what we should do for the boy who will be born to us.”
God heard Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God came to Manoah’s wife again while she was sitting in the field. But her husband Manoah was not with her. So she ran to tell him, “He is here! The man who appeared to me the other day is here!”
Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?”
The man said, “I am.” So Manoah asked, “When what you say happens, what kind of life should the boy live? What should he do?
The angel of the Lord said, “Your wife must be careful to do everything I told her to do. She must not eat anything that grows on a grapevine, or drink any wine or beer, or eat anything that is unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”
Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay awhile so we can cook a young goat for you.”
The angel of the Lord answered, “Even if I stay awhile, I would not eat your food. But if you want to prepare something, offer a burnt offering to the Lord.” (Manoah did not understand that the man was really the angel of the Lord.)
Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? Then we will honor you when what you have said really happens.”
The angel of the Lord said, “Why do you ask my name? It is TOO AMAZING for you to understand.” So Manoah sacrificed a young goat on a rock and offered some grain as a gift to the Lord. Then an amazing thing happened as Manoah and his wife watched. The flames went up to the sky from the altar. As the fire burned, the angel of the Lord went up to heaven in the flame. When Manoah and his wife saw that, they bowed facedown on the ground. The angel of the Lord did not appear to them again. Then Manoah understood that the man was really the angel of the Lord. Manoah said, “We have seen God, so we will surely die.”
But his wife said to him, “If the Lord wanted to kill us, he would not have accepted the burnt offering or grain offering. He would have not shown us all these things or told us all this.”
So the woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson.
When we enter into the story of Samson’s mother (unnamed) and his father, Manoah, we find a couple who are living with a common challenge of their day: barrenness. Barrenness was a commonplace malady, as a lack of nutrition, unhealthy living spaces, unclean water, lack of prenatal care, and more, affected the ability for women to get pregnant and to have healthy babies. Like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah, Manoah’s wife, who is unnamed in her own story, is struggling with infertility. When the angel of the Lord engages her in theophany*, she is a wife and partner to her husband, who obviously loves, respects, and supports her. This is clear in the text. As the angel of the Lord engages her, she immediately takes the good news, a birth prophecy, to Manoah, who responds to his wife with positive enthusiasm and concern. Their parental partnership begins here, even before, or when Samson is conceived.
It is important to note that the angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife twice, without the engagement of Manoah. These appearances are called theophanies – face to face encounters with The Divine. As with Manoah’s wife, the angel of the Lord breaks through her/their reality and appears to them, as the divine manifestation of the Holy Other.
C.S Lewis, the great English theologian calls God, “The Transcendental Interferer.” Lewis presents a thesis whereby God barges into our lives to remind us: “You are not God, I am God.” This is why, when Manoah asks the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, attempting to sum up the divine messenger by understanding his title, the angel replies: “Why do you want to know my name? I am too wonderful for you to understand.” Here we note, as C.S. Lewis observes, “God sits high and looks low.” High enough to be the God which we can never comprehend; but reaching down low enough to care about EVERY detail of our lives.
The angel of the Lord first appears to Manoah’s wife and tells her, she will bear a son and he will be a Nazirite, and he will begin to save his people from the Philistines. Samson (whose name means “of the sun,” or “sunny”) was the last of the 12 judges of Israel. Like Mary, Jesus’ mother, God selected Manoah’s wife for a special assignment of motherhood to a child who would grow in the grace and become a “messiah” or “savior” to his people. Manoah’s wife literally becomes a vessel of the Lord, as the angel gives her a divine “recipe,” if you will, as to how she is to live and how she and her husband are to raise their child. As a Nazarite (meaning “separate or consecrated one”), Samson’s hair was never to be cut; he was never to imbibe in strong drink; and he was never to touch or eat unclean things. As we know, by Samson’s story, he broke all of the Nazarite laws.
We are all familiar with the phrase, “you are what you eat.” In the story of Manoah’s wife, God sends an angel to ensure, through a divine message, these holy instructions are to be followed. “Be careful,” the angel tells Manoah’s wife, with continued warnings against strong drink (wine/beer) and unclean foods.
While the current food trend in America is to “eat clean,” we find that there is nothing new under the sun, for God was instructing Manoah’s wife to eat clean thousand of years ago. This spiritual practice was imperative, not only to her pregnancy; but to her temple (her body), in which she carried her child.
In Numbers 6: 1-8, & Leviticus, chapter 11, we find the instructions for the Nazirite lifestyle. While Manoah’s wife was NOT a Nazirite (her son Samson would become one; but break with the Nazirite lifestyle), we can glean from God’s instructions that taking care of our bodies, as women, is a spiritual practice which comes from the Lord.
HOW CAN WE EAT CLEAN?
Oftentimes, we do not associate eating or preparing food, as a spiritual practice. In this story, we learn how important food is to the body, not just in contemporary living; but even in biblical times. Eating clean was and is a practice of obedience that has a spiritual outcome. Eating clean is pleasing to the body AND pleasing to the Lord. For contemporary sisters, who often eat first and think about it later, what does eating clean mean to us?
(1) – Avoiding/ not over indulging in consumption of alcohol & avoiding drugs. (2) Avoiding consumption of unnecessary salt, sugar, & white flour products. (3) Avoiding process foods such as snacks, TV dinners, potato chips, canned foods, cookies, candy, etc. (4) Eating/preparing fresh foods – fruits, vegetables & whole grains. (5) Eating lean meats and fish. (6) Drinking as much water as possible. (7) Avoiding/ not over indulging in caffeine.
Manoah’s wife was on divine assignment. She could NOT carry or finish her assignment from God, if she was not obedient to the Lord’s instructions to: EAT CLEAN!
The next thing that happens in the story is Manoah prays to the Lord. Note that Manoah’s prayer includes his wife. He prays not for himself; but for “we.”
“I beg you to let the man of God come to “us” again. Let him teach “us” what we should do for the boy who will be born to “us.” When the angel of the Lord comes to Manoah’s wife the second time, she runs to get her husband. They are partners in life, partners in parenthood, and partners in prayer. Prayer and devotion is an obvious pattern of their marriage and it also is a spiritual practice for both of them. While the practice of personal prayer is important and necessary, for those of us who are in partnerships and marriages, prayer is communal and is a necessary element of a healthy, godly relationship. When the angel of the Lord ascends through the burnt offering, which the couple offers to the Lord; both of them bow down to God, together in worship. The story is a wonderful example of how important prayer and worship is in partnership.
There is obvious love between Manoah and his wife. The demonstration of love between the two, figuratively jumps off the pages of their story. They have love for each other and they have love for God. Yet, these two are NOT joined at the hip. Each demonstrates their own level of faith and understanding in God.
Manoah, whose name means “rest,” had a different faith understanding than his wife. Manoah had a probing faith which asks questions of God: “Why, how, what, when, and who.” Manoah sought assurance from God which his wife did not require. When the angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife, she does not ask for a name, even though she encounters the angel two times without her husband. While the love she demonstrated for her husband was obvious, it was she who brought Manoah to the angel, underscoring a faith which believes without having to know the “why.” When Manoah questions the messenger, he never receives as much information about the child, as his wife does (“Women in Scripture” – page 246). Her perception and discernment is obviously stronger than Manoah’s from the very beginning of their encounter with the angel of the Lord until the end, when the angel leaves them.
Her sovereignty shows in her “take the lead” actions in their story. Manoah “follows his wife,” as she leads him to the angel. When the sacrifice is made and Manoah becomes unhinged at the idea their lives might be taken for “seeing God,” his wife assures him of God’s care and concern for the couple. Her revelations of God are deeper than his; yet, in their story, we sense nothing but mutual respect, admiration, and love. Manoah’s wife leads without the need to be seen as the leader, assuring her husband that God would never make a promise and then withdraw His word.
Ultimately, their partnership is an example for healthy relationship and marriage. Each one recognized and respected the strength of the other, while being obedient and loving to a God working on their behalf, and caring for every detail of their lives.
QUESTIONS FOR OUR CONSIDERATION
As women who are in partnership with men (marriage, love, etc.) do you think it is necessary to lead without being seen as the leader? Explain.
How and why did Manoah’s wife have a deeper and different level of relationship with God?
How has God been the “Transcendental Interferer” in your life? Explain.
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.” – Saint Augustine
“Mother is the name for God on the lips and the hearts of little children.” William Thackeray
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom
Our Sending Prayer
Jesus with me, Jesus before me.
Jesus behind me, Jesus in front of me.
Jesus beneath me and Jesus above me,
Jesus on my left, and Jesus on my right.
Jesus when I lie down, and Jesus as I rise.
Jesus in the hearts of everyone who thinks of me,
And Jesus in my heart, as I think of others.
Jesus in every eye who beholds me,
Jesus in every one I see.
Jesus who hears and answers every prayer,
Oh, how I love Jesus! Oh how Jesus loves me!
(Excerpted from “A Celtic Blessing.”)
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