Manoah and his Wife

On June 24th we celebrated the birth of St. John the Forerunner. One of the Old Testament readings that morning was from Judges 13, the story of Manoah and his barren wife. Now, the story of Manoah has always seemed very funny to me.

[Judges 13:2-24]
There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the
Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no
children. And the angel of the Lord
appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have
not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for
behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his
head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he
shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then
the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his
appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I
did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, but
he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then
drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child
shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord
and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again
to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” And
God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to
the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with
her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” And
Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to
him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. She
may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink
wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded
her let her observe.”
Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the Lord
had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a
grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now
announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him.

A few things here: First, I find it hilarious that Manoah panics when the angel flies up to Heaven in the flame of the offering: “We’ve seen God! We’re going to die!!” His wife (who is never named but is obviously of a practical bent) says something to the effect of: “Now look – why would He kill us right after he’s said we’re going to have a baby?” Very logical and a woman after my own heart.

Second, you notice that Manoah, when he finally sees the angel, asks, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” What does the angel say? He repeats (for what must seem like the hundredth time), “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. She
may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink
wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded
her let her observe.” I do like the very good medical advice but it is obvious that the angel is NOT going to tell them what all is to pass. They’re simply going to have to be obedient and take it on faith. It’s a good reminder that we need to cease to worry about the future, not feel like we have to be six chess moves ahead in order to know what to do today. All we are told is what to do today. If we are obedient to the commands of today, the future takes care of itself.

3 thoughts on “Manoah and his Wife

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s