Notes on Judges 13, verses 1-8
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 13:1, KJV: And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.
The text does not, here, specify when this took place. After Jephthah, whose time as a judge seemed to be centered in Gilead (see Judges 12), three other judges are listed in the last few verses of chapter 12. Ammon seems to have been subdued for the present, the Moabites are not mentioned, and there is no indication the Amalekites, Midianites, or other oppressors were in view here.
The Philistines settled in Gaza, Gath, Ekron, Ashdod, and Ashkelon (besides Joshua 13:3, all these are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament) but sometimes invaded Israel’s territory. Shamgar son of Anath, using no other weapon but an ox goad (Judges 3:31), killed 600 Philistines. The Philistines first oppressed Israel after another of Israel’s apostasies or turning away from God (Judges 10). The text does not indicate how long the Philistines oppressed Israel.
2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name (was) Manoah; and his wife (was) barren, and bare not.
Manoah was of the tribe of Dan and apparently was one of the Danites who stayed in the original territory given to them (Joshua 19). At an unspecified time, a number of the Danites migrated north to the city of Laish, conquered the city and renamed it Dan after the tribe’s father (Judges 18).
Barrenness, or not being able to have a child, was considered a sign of reproach in those days (see Rachel’s statement in Genesis 30:23). Several women, besides Rachel, were barren until God gave them the ability to conceive and bear a child. Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and Manoah’s wife are a few who are mentioned specifically.
3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou (art) barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
This was another of the few appearances by the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament. He had appeared to Hagar (Gen. 16:7), Moses (Exodus 3:2); Balaam (surprisingly, see Numbers 22:22-35); the Israelites at Bochim (Judges 2:1); and most recently Gideon in Judges 6, several years before this.
Note how this Angel knew that Manoah’s wife was barren but gave her a promise that she would conceive and bear a son. Unlike the promise to Sarah, the Angel gave no definite time (Gen. 17:21) when this would happen for Manoah’s wife.
4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean (thing):
Here the Angel gives Manoah’s wife some very clear instructions. It is not sure if “wine” meant only fermented grape juice or even any type of grape juice at all. Proverbs 23:29-35 describe the results of too much fermented wine. Strong drink is most likely a reference to other alcoholic beverages but the ingredients are nowhere specified in the Bible. She was also told never to eat any “unclean” thing.
5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
After the angel warned Manoah’s wife about what not to drink but also what to eat, He promises first in this verse that she would conceive and bear a son. Then He instructs her that her son, unnamed at this point, would be a lifelong Nazarite. The Nazarites and the vows they made are found in Numbers 6.
There was another promise: that her son would begin to deliver Israel “out of the hand (sic) of the Philistines”. Manoah’s son would indeed begin to bring deliverance, but Israel and the Philistines would have battles and wars for many years after this.
6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance (was) like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he (was), neither told he me his name:
This proves that Manoah’s wife did not think the Angel of the LORD was really an angel. She called Him “a man of God” and said “his countenance was like . . . an angel of God”.
7 But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean (thing): for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
She paraphrases the promise and the commands she had heard earlier from the Angel of the LORD.
8 Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.
Manoah’s prayer is brief, one of the shortest in the Bible. He asks the LORD to re-send “the man of God”—they didn’t realize this “man of God” was the Angel of the LORD Himself! Manoah and his wife had already heard some of the general restrictions, now they wanted to truly know what they should do once the promised child was born.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).