Judges 13
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - Did evil again. It by no means follows from this phrase that this chapter is in direct chronological sequence to the preceding The scene is shifted to the tribe of Dan, and to the Philistines on the west, and there is nothing to guide us as to the exact time when the things narrated occurred. But the end of the forty years probably coincided with the judgeship of Samuel; for there was no complete deliverance in the time of Samson, only occasional cheeks to the Philistine domination (see ver. 5). It was not till the days of Samuel that the Philistines were really smitten (see 1 Samuel 7:3-14). We may suppose the date of the ensuing narrative to be somewhere in the first decade of the Philistine oppression.
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.
Verse 2. - Zorah. Enumerated among the cities in the tribe of Dan in Joshua 19:41, but ascribed to Judah, ibid. 15:33 (there transliterated Zoreah) and in 2 Chronicles 11:10. Probably the boundary passed through the city, as that of Judah and Benjamin did through Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 11:29 it is transliterated Zareah, and also ascribed to Judah. It is almost always coupled with Eshtaol, as in ver. 25 of this chapter. It was situated in the Shephelah, or plain country, and was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:10). It is supposed to be represented by the modern Surah, at the entrance of the Wady Ghurab. The family of the Danites. It appears from Numbers 26:42, 43 that there was only one family in the tribe of Dan, so that in this case tribe and family were co-extensive.
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.
Verse 3. - Thou shalt... bear a son. It is obvious to compare the promise to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:19; Genesis 18:10, 14), to Hannah (1 Samuel 1:17), to Elizabeth (Luke 1:13), and to the blessed Virgin (Luke 1:31).
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no rasor 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.
Verse 5. - The child shall be a Nazarite, etc. So it was said, though not in the same words, concerning Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11) and concerning John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). A Nazarite (or, more correctly, a Nazi-rite) means one separated, and specially dedicated to God. The law of the Nazarites is contained in Numbers 6, where, however, only Nazarites of days, i.e. Nazarites for a definite time, arc spoken cf. Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were perpetual Nazarites, Nazarites of for ever, as the Mishna classifies them. Abstinence from strong drink, and from anything made of the grape; letting the locks of the head grow unchecked by the razor; and keeping quite clear of any pollution from a dead body, even in case of the death of his nearest relations, were the chief articles of a Nazarite's vow. St. Paul took the vow of a Nazarite of days, and offered the prescribed sacrifices, together with "the hair of the head of his separation," as we read in Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23-26. He shall begin, etc. This is an exact description of what Samson did. He did not "deliver Israel" as the other judges did; but he began to shake the Philistine power, and prepared the way for the deliverance of Israel in the time of his worthier successor Samuel.
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:
Verse 6. - A man of God, i.e. a prophet, applied to Moses, Samuel, David, Shemaiah, Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets, and to Timothy in the New Testament. Manoah's wife applies it to the angel, not being sure that he was not human. It would not be improper to apply to an angel, seeing that Gabriel means man of God. I asked him not, etc. No doubt from awe. Jacob, on the contrary, asked the angel with whom he had wrestled, "Tell me, I pray thee, thy name" (Genesis 32:29). See vers. 17, 18. In the Septuagint (Cod. Alex. ) and Vulgate the not is omitted. "I asked him, but he did not tell me."
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.
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.
And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her.
And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day.
Verse 10. - And the woman... ran, etc. Acting in the true spirit of a loving and trustful wife, and showing that she felt that neither angel nor man of God stood before her own husband in the claim to her confidence and obedience.
And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am.
And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?
Verse 12. - Let thy words come, etc. The verb is singular in the Hebrew here and in ver. 17. Possibly the true reading is word, as in the Septuagint. If the text is correct, words must be taken collectively, as making one promise. The saying marks Manoah's earnest desire for a son. Some, however, construe it, If thy words come. How shall we order, etc. - literally, What will be the manner of the child, and what will be his doing? i.e. either, What will be his manner (cf. 1 Samuel 8:11, and following verses), and what will be his action or work? or, What will be his proper treatment, and what shall be done to him? The former is the most natural rendering of the words, and though the latter seems at first more suitable to the angel's reply, yet if we take the angel's reply as referring Manoah to what he had said before in vers. 4 and 5, we have a distinct answer to the questions. His manner will be to live as a Nazarite, and his action or work will be to begin to deliver israel (cf. Genesis 16:12, where both the manner and the actione of Ishmael are foretold). In fact, Manoah's question refers directly to vers. 4 and 5, and is a request to have a confirmation of what was then said; just as David asked again and again, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine? (1 Samuel 17:26, 30).
And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware.
She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.
Verse 14. - She may not eat of anything, etc. Nearly the identical words of Numbers 6:4.
And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee.
Verse 15. - Let us detain thee, etc. He wishes to detain him as a guest till he has had time to cook a kid for him (cf. Genesis 18:7). For thee. The Hebrew is before thee. The phrase is elliptical. The full sentence would be, until we have dressed a kid and set it before thee, as in Genesis 18:8.
And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.
Verse 16. - I will not eat of thy bread, etc. The angel refuses to eat of his meat, but suggests that if he would offer the kid as a burnt offering, he must offer it to the Lord. The angel, perhaps perceiving that Manoah was in doubt as to who he might be, had a holy dread lest he might offer the kid to him, just as the angel whom St. John was about to worship said, "See thou do it not" (Revelation 22:9); and Barnabas and Paul ran in among the people of Lycaonia to restrain them from offering sacrifice to them (Acts 14:14-18). The order of the words, which is rightly given in the A.V., makes it a clear direction to offer the sacrifice to no one but the Lord.
And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
Verse 17. - What is thy name? See note to ver. 6. The phrase is very peculiar, literally, Who is thy name? as if he had been going to say, Who art thou? and then changed the form to is thy name. The Hebrews seem to have attached great importance to names, a circumstance due, in part, to every name being significant in the spoken language (see Genesis 4:1, 25; Genesis 5:29; Genesis 16:5, etc.; Genesis 17:19; 25:25, 26; 29 and Genesis 30; 1 Samuel 1:20 Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 62:4; Jeremiah 23:6; Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9, 10; Revelation 19:16, etc., and. many other passages). Compare also the phrase, the name of the Lord (Isaiah 30:27; Exodus 23:21; Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5, 6, 7). Manoah had certainly some suspicious as to the mysterious character of his visitor, and expected the name to reveal his true nature. We may do thee honour. Manoah seems throughout to use ambiguous language, suitable either to a man, if he was speaking to a man, or to a celestial visitant, should he be angel or God.
And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?
Verse 18. - It is secret. The Hebrew word does not mean secret, but wonderful, as it is rendered in Isaiah 9:6, and elsewhere. His name was one which, as St. Paul expresses it, it is not lawful, or possible, for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:4), it was so transcendently wonderful. The feeling of the Hebrews in abstaining from uttering the name יחוה was akin to this. Some take the angel to say that WONDERFUL is his name, but the A.V. is right in prefixing seeing - seeing it is wonderful.
So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.
Verse 19. - Offered it, etc. He had the angel's sanction for doing so in ver. 16. But we must not look for strict compliance with the Levitical law in the lawless days of the Judges, though we find many of its prescribed ordinances in use, as, for instance, the institution of Nazarites, and here the offering of the meat offering with the burnt offering (Leviticus 2:1, etc.). And the angel. These words are rightly inserted, to give the sense of the original, as more fully explained in the following verse. Did wonderously - literally, was wondrous in his doing. The verb here is the same root as the substantive or adjective wonder, or wonderful, in ver. 18. Compare the similar account in Judges 6:21.
For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
Verse 20. - Looked on it. There is no occasion for the italic it, the phrase is identical with that at the close of ver. 19; but the rendering would be better, And when Manoah and his wife saw it, they fell, etc.
But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.
Verse 21. - But. It is better rendered and, in close sequence to the preceding words. It follows, Then, i.e. when they saw him go up, they knew that he was an angel.
And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
Verse 22. - We shall surely die, etc. Similarly Gideon (Judges 6:22, 28) expressed his alarm because he had "seen an angel of the Lord face to face," but was assured, "Thou shalt not die." And so Isaiah said, "Woe is me! for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5). So again the Lord said to Moses, "There shall no man see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). The name of the well, Beer-lahai-roi, is also thought to mean the well of him that is alive after seeing God (Genesis 16:14). And Jacob called the name of the place where he wrestled with the angel Peniel, "for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 32:30). See too Exodus 20:19. The same belief also prevailed amongst the heathen, that seeing a god without his special permission was visited by death or some grave calamity, as Callimachus, quoted by Grotius, says-

"The laws of Saturn thus decree,
Who dares immortal gods to see
Shall suffer loss, whoe'er he be."
But his wife said unto him, 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 shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.
Verse 23. - But his wife said, etc. The woman's faith saw more clearly than the man's fear. With the acceptance of the sacrifice the conscience was cleared from guilt. The ascent of the angel in the flame of the altar was to her the same evidence of an accepted sacrifice as the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus are to us.
And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
Verse 24. - Called his name Samson. No doubt the name was significant of what the child should be (see note to ver. 17), but the etymology and meaning of the name are doubtful. Josephus ('Antiq.,' V. 8:4) says the name means "a strong one," but he does not say in what language, and it does not appear to have such a meaning in any Semitic dialect. It is commonly interpreted to mean like the sun, from shemesh, the common word for the sun; and so Jerome in his 'Onomasticon' expounds it as the sun's strength,' possibly with an allusion to Judges 5:31. Others make it equal shim-shorn, from the Pilpel conjugation of shamem, to devastate. Another possible derivation is from the Chaldee shemash, to minister, specially in sacred things, a root from which the Nestorian, Syriac, and Arabic names for a deacon are derived. If this were the derivation, it would be a reference to his dedication to God as a Nazarite from his mother's womb, the only thing his mother knew about him when she gave him the name.
And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Verse 25. - The Spirit of the Lord, etc. See Judges 3:10, note. To move him - to urge and impel him to strange actions by fits and starts. It is an uncommon expression. In Genesis 41:8 the passive of the verb means to be troubled or agitated, and the substantive is the common word for a time in the phrases time after time, twice, thrice (according to the number specified), other times, etc.; also a footstep; and its derivatives mean an anvil, a bell. The idea is that of sudden, single impulses, such as are described in the following chapters. In the camp of Dan, or, as in Judges 18:12, Mahaneh-Dan, where the reason of the name is explained. For Zorah see ver. 2, note. Eshtaol has not hitherto been identified with any existing place, but it ought to lie east or north of Mahaneh-Dan, since this last was between Zorah and Eshtaol (see note on Judges 18:12). Kustul, a conical hill one hour west of Jerusalem, has been suggested.

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