Today’s reading includes Judges 13:1-14:20, John 1:29:51, Psalm 102:1-28, Proverbs 14:15-16.
Today we read a familiar story. Most of us learned about Samson when we were children. We learned that he had long hair which gave him strength, he was tempted and betrayed by Delilah who cut his hair, and when his hair grew back he killed a bunch of Philistines. End of story.
But there is a lot more to the story which we can learn. First of all, as the story begins we see foreshadowing that this will be a big deal. The chapter begins with these words:
Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years.
Do you see the reflection of the process of God with His people repeated here? The people did evil in the Lord’s sight, so He allowed them a time of cleansing and preparation—for forty years—just like in the days of Noah, just like the 40 years of wandering in the desert. And then came a savior figure, just as Noah was, just as Moses and Joshua were. And these savior figures were a reflection of the Ultimate Savior to come—Jesus.
Next, we see more clues that the story of Samson is an important one, as it reflects other important stories in the Bible.
2 In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.
This process of longing for a child and being unable to produce one is a theme repeated in the lives of several important Biblical figures. Hannah wept with longing for a child and God intervened and gave her Samuel. She is famous for giving him back to the Lord in lifelong service. This story line is also repeated in the life of Elizabeth, who gave birth to John the Baptist.
Samson, as well as all of these other important Biblical characters were also Nazarites. What was a Nazarite? A Nazarite was a person who was especially devoted and consecrated and set apart for God’s purposes. A person could become a Nazarite in two ways: first, if the individual made a vow to become a Nazarite for a specified amount of time; and secondly, as a lifelong devotion following a vow made on their behalf by a parent before their birth.
A Nazarite would typically be recognized not only by their apparent devotion to God, but also physically, as they did not cut their hair, come into contact with the dead, nor partake of any alcoholic products. This type of vow made by the parent typically followed a revelation from God which announced the birth of the child. Obviously, this was the case in the life of Samson.
However, for all the build-up before his birth, Samson disappoints as a savior-like figure. You would think that he would be set apart as a holy, righteous judge, but instead seems immature at best. He loves riddles to tease his opponents, casually and foolishly interacts with pagans who worship other gods, and even marries Philistines, whom he is supposed to overcome. However, at the start of his story, we see a clue that his life will only be a beginning, an appetizer of greater things to come. Look at what the angel said to Samson’s mother in verse 5.
5 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.
He didn’t say that Samson would rescue Israel. He said he would begin to rescue Israel. There were other judges and kings to come who would build upon the work Samson started.
Tomorrow we will study more about this famous judge of the Israelites, but today let’s end with these thoughts. Before the birth of Samson, the dramatic declarations on his life were given by “the angel of the Lord”. Who was this angel? Throughout the Bible, we read about angels. Sometimes we read of “an angel”, sometimes we read of “a host of angels”, and sometimes we read of the angel of the Lord. When the word the is attached, we can assume it is not just any ole angel. It is a specific, important, holy being. Many scholars believe that in this case the angel was Jesus, God in human form. Manoah confirmed this thought when he exclaimed:
21 The angel did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Manoah finally realized it was the angel of the Lord, 22 and he said to his wife, “We will certainly die, for we have seen God!”
We see further confirmation of the possibility that this angel was indeed Jesus when we see this account:
15 Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please stay here until we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.”
16 “I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? For when all this comes true, we want to honor you.”
18 “Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the Lord replied. “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”
19 Then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it on a rock as a sacrifice to the Lord. And as Manoah and his wife watched, the Lord did an amazing thing. 20 As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell with their faces to the ground.
The angel of the Lord requested a sacrifice rather than a supper. This burnt sacrifice, as we have previously learned, would have been a sin offering. This is a foreshadowing of the sins of the imperfect son, Samson, to come. And as a reflection of what was to come, the angel of the Lord, Jesus, entered the flames of the sin offering and ascended into heaven. In the same way, when Jesus died on the cross, rose again, and ascended into heaven, he completed the work needed for the forgiveness of our future sins.
Yes, indeed, His Name was too wonderful to understand. At His Name every knee will one day bow and every tongue will one day confess that He is Lord and Savior.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.