Manoah and His Wife part 1

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The Sacrifice of Manoah, 1640–1650.
Manoah (Hebrew: Mānoaḥ) is a figure from the Book of Judges 13:1-23 and 14:2-4 of the Hebrew Bible. His name means "rest."
According to the Bible, Manoah was of the tribe of Dan and lived in the city of Zorah. He married a barren woman. Her name is not mentioned in the Bible, but according to tradition, she was called Hazzelelponi or Zelelponith. She was a daughter of Etam and sister of Ishma.
Manoah and his wife were the parents of the famous judge Samson. According to Rabbinic tradition, they also had a daughter called Nishyan or Nahyan.
Birth of Samson
Manoah and his wife were childless, but the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah's wife and told her that she would give birth to a son. The child was to be dedicated from the womb as a Nazirite, which entailed restrictions on his diet, which the angel spelled out. The woman (whose name is not mentioned in the Bible) told her husband, "A man of God came to me." Manoah prayed, and the angel returned to instruct the both of them. After the angel left, Manoah tells his wife, "We shall surely die because we have seen God."
Together with his wife, Manoah subsequently tried to dissuade Samson from marrying a Philistine woman but traveled with him to Timnah for the wedding ceremony when they were unable to do so.
Samson's birth has particular importance for some Christians (primarily Catholics) because of its similarity to the Announcement made to the Virgin Mary.
After Samson's death, his family recovers his body and buries him near the tomb of Manoah.
Next, we will read about "The Woman Who Mothered Earth's, Strongest Man."
Read Judges 13; 14:2-5; Hebrews 11:32
It would have added greater interest to the story of Samson if we had had the name of his mother. It must have been sweet and suggestive, for she was such a good woman. However, while her husband's name is preserved, she is nameless, although the Talmud says that she bore the name of Hazelelponi or Zelelponi (she was of the tribe of Judah. Zelelponi means "the shadow falls on me," and Manoah's wife was undoubtedly one who dwelt under the shadow of the Almighty and became the mother of the most muscular man who ever lived.
She Was a Disappointed Woman
Once again, we have the touching phrase "She was barren," with the redundant expression common in ancient literature, "and bare not." "Sarai was barren: she had no child." "Thou shalt live and not die," etc. As we have already seen, God made many barren wives rejoice over children's birth (SARAH, REBEKAH, HANNAH, ELISABETH). These godly women who felt the intense sorrow and disappointment of a childless home received divine announcement and accomplishment of maternal joy. Manoah's wife was a God-fearing Israelite whose faith taught her that heaven knew all about her cherished maternity and the vain waiting that saddened her life. Manoah and his wife had all the necessary material benefits. They seemed reasonably prosperous, but their greatest joy had been denied their home. Their child-longing and child-loving hearts had never been satisfied.
She Was a Privileged Woman
Heavenly beings brought revelations to individuals, but the prophets were the media of revelation to nations. The wife of Manoah of Zorah was greatly honored in that she experienced a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. By "the angel of the Lord" who visited her with the happy message that her barrenness would pass, and she would become the mother of a most unusual son, we are to understand not any human messenger but a supernatural being. The phrase constantly used in Judges implies, "The angel of His presence," and is equivalent to earlier references (Genesis 16:7; 22:11; Exodus 2:2, 6, 14, etc.). Speaking in the first person, the august visitor who came to Manoah's wife was "the captain of the LORD's host" (Joshua 5:13-15). The announcer of the good news, "thou shalt conceive and bear a son," assumed a human form; for reporting his appearance to her husband, she spoke of him as, "A man of God ... his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible."
Later on, when the heavenly visitant appeared to both Manoah and his wife and repeated his message that their prayer and desire for a child would be answered, his name was again asked. "Neither told me his name" (Judges 13:6). "What is thy name?" (13:17). However, the angel answered, "Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret," or "wonderful," as the messenger expresses it, where the same term is used for the promised Messiah. "His name shall be called Wonderful" (Isaiah 9:6). The same word is used in the phrase, "the angel did wondrously" (Judges 13:19). As angels do not receive worship, the supernatural person the over-awed couple saw was no ordinary angel, for they fell on their faces and said, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God" (Exodus 33:20). Therefore, it is evident that Manoah and his wife had witnessed one of those Old Testament theophanic ( a visible manifestation of a deity) appearances of Christ.
She Was a Godly Woman
Both of those humble Israelites must have walked with God to have been counted worthy to receive such a great interview with the heaven-sent messenger. Barren though the nameless wife was, she was yet believing. We have no record of complaint or impatience over her childless state as we have in the case of Hannah. Constantly, she prayed for a child, and her prayer lightened the burden of her loneliness and sustained her patience. As a God-fearing Israelite, she had faith that He would answer her prayer.
Further, the promised son was to be separated unto God from the womb to the day of his death, marks her out as the sanctified vessel.
The cause of God is holy,
And useth holy things.
This faithful, self-sacrificing, holy woman then must have had a life corresponding to the separated character of the son she was to bear, and grace was hers to dedicate him to the Lord before his birth. She was likewise a woman of sanctified common sense in her reply to her husband's cry, "We shall surely die because we have seen God." Calmly and sensibly, she said, "If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these." This woman of divine intuition knew that having seen God she was to live as never before. A divinely promised son would come to brighten the home.

part 2
She Was a Happy Woman
At last, the prayers of Manoah's wife were answered, and she became a joyous mother. "The woman bore a son and called his name Samson." How grateful to God she must have been as the promised son was now a reality and nestling on her breast! She understood God's overruling throughout her barren years and rejoiced in the knowledge that her long-awaited child would be the savior of Israel. In the first place, we note the significance of the name she gave him—Samson. His father's name, Manoah, meant "rest" or "consolation," while his son's name implied "strength of the sun"—prophetic of his prowess as a Hebrew Hercules. The association of the sun with strength was most natural (Judges 5:31; Psalm 19:5, 6). Ancient Jewish fathers said that "Samson was named after the name of God, who is called sun and shield of Israel" (Psalm 84:11). Another scholar affirms that the name the mother gave her son is from an Egyptian root and means "the servant of God," which relates to Samson's Nazarite vow. However, the name itself is a Hebrew one and meant to Manoah and his wife that the glory of their family would be sustained through the champion who would be without a rival in Israel.
The second thought is that the son God gave to wreak vengeance upon the enemies of His people was to be a Nazarite from his birth, and the angelic announcer gave to Manoah and his wife explicit instructions as to how they should live and rear their mighty son who was to "judge Israel twenty years." While pregnant, the mother was under a celebratory vow not to drink wine or eat anything of an unclean nature; thus, the son she conceived was in blood and bone a Nazarite. For Samson, his uncut hair was the sign that he was separated to God (Numbers 6). Despite his moral lapses, he never broke the sacred vow until a seductive woman discovered the secret of his power and left him the helpless victim of carnal passions.

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