Bible Commentary: Judges 13

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Judges 13

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Nazirite From Birth

At this point in the Judges narrative you may have noticed something interesting about Israel's periods of liberty—they approach about 40 years, or one generation. It seems that Israel would remain faithful to God only when a generation of Israelites experienced oppression. But the next generation would speedily go into idolatry, only to be oppressed. How true this remains! One generation seldom learns from the errors of its predecessor, and every generation feels it must "push the boundaries" set by the previous generation.

After about a generation of peace, Israel again sinned, so God delivered them into the hands of the Philistines, who dwelt on the lowland coasts of Israel's southwest. For 40 years the Philistines had oppressed Israel. Now God raised up a deliverer, Samson of the tribe of Dan.

Samson was the son of Manoah, whose wife had been barren. Throughout the Scriptures we see that God sometimes caused barren women to bear the one through whom He would work. This was done as a sign of God's involvement with the child from the start, and that any glory of accomplishment was to go to God. And it brought added respect to the chosen servant, which could help him accomplish the task God gave him to do. Manoah's wife was visited by the Angel of the Lord—whom they later understood to be God Himself, i.e., the preincarnate Christ, which this may have been (verse 22; compare Genesis 16:10-13). This divine messenger told her that she would conceive a child and instructed her to avoid all wine, products of the vine and unclean foods, for her son would be a Nazirite from birth, consecrated to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Manoah recognized the seriousness of the news and asked God how to raise the child. Manoah and his wife instinctively knew that if they were to raise a son who would do the works of God they would need divine assistance in their parenting. This is certainly the case of Christian parents today, because we live in a world that is largely lacking in godly values. Those who have children today need to ask God for wisdom in the process of rearing children. They also need to actively pursue knowledge of proper child rearing.

Again the Angel appeared and reiterated the need to avoid wine, products of the vine and anything unclean. Manoah and his wife then offered God a burnt offering and a grain offering. And as the offerings were consumed upon the altar, the Angel of the Lord ascended to heaven, whereupon they came to the conclusion regarding the Messenger's identity.

A major theme of this chapter is consecration to holiness. The child was to be a Nazirite from birth for the entirety of his life. The Nazirite (Numbers 6) was consecrated to God for a stipulated period, during which he was forbidden to cut his hair, to partake of wine or any other grape products, or to defile himself. Wine is often used as a symbol of spiritual stupefaction, and so the lesson is that separation to God requires absolute avoidance of anything that will dull one's spiritual senses. The dietary laws, moreover, are also explicitly connected with the requirement of holiness (Deuteronomy 14:1-3). Thus, the lesson is that the raising of holy children is only possible through holy parents doing all they reasonably can to remove sources of spiritual defilement from their children. Of course, even this will not guarantee the child's persistence in holiness—as it certainly did not in the case of Samson.

Surprisingly, however, for those readers interested in biblical typology, the story of Samson appears to offer, to a limited degree, a type of Christ. Samson, whose name means "Like the Sun," was Israel's deliverer and strong man. Christ, the "Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2), a "sun and shield" (Psalm 84:11), is Israel's Deliverer and Strong Man (compare Luke 11:21-22). Samson had miraculous physical strength; Christ had miraculous spiritual strength. Samson's conception was announced by a spirit messenger from God, as was Christ's. Both Manoah's wife and Mary conceived as a result of divine intervention. Samson was separated to God from conception and for the entirety of His life, as was Christ (though Christ was not a Nazirite as some argue). Moreover, as the story will unfold, Samson's greatest victory came at the hour of his death, as did Christ's. There are marked differences between them, of course. The type breaks down when we see Samson unwilling to submit to God for so much of his life, unlike Christ who obeyed His Father perfectly. Still, there are some parallels. And Samson's name was, in the end, recorded in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:32).