Judges 13: Samson Promised
Beth-shemesh, which means "house of the sun," was the name of a town in a beautiful sunny valley leading from the hills of Israel out into the Philistine plain. The Philistines were enemies of Israel. There was a little town called Zorah on a high hill above the valley. From their hill the people of Zorah looked down into the valley of Beth-shemesh and out over the Philistine plain.
Samson was very strong. The Lord made him strong, and he used his strength against the Philistines, who were enemies of Israel. Zorah, the little town which was his home, was near the edge of the Philistine country. But first an angel came and told the mother and father that Samson would be born. He told what kind of child he would be and what they must do for him. The first time that the angel came, only the mother was there, but he came again and both the mother and the father saw him. The father's name was Manoah.
The child should be a Nazarite to God all his life. The thing which you would have noticed first about a Nazarite was his long hair, for his hair must not be cut or shaved. There were other rules which the Nazarite must keep. He must drink neither wine nor strong drink, nor eat grapes or anything from the vine. He must not come near to things which were considered unclean. Samson should be a Nazarite. The angel said that no razor must come on his head, and he told his mother also that she must drink neither wine nor strong drink and eat nothing from the vine and no unclean thing.
What could Manoah do for the one who had brought them this good news? He wished to get ready a meal for him, but the angel told him instead to make an offering to the Lord. He did so, kindling the fire upon the rock and putting upon it his offering of a kid and meal or flour, and the angel ascended in the flame. Then Manoah knew that it was an angel of the Lord who had come to them. The angel's words came true, and Samson was born.
The scene of the story of Samson is in the hills bordering on the Philistine country, a little to the northwest of Jerusalem. The land assigned to Dan, Samson's tribe, reached to the sea, but the Philistines were strong and were never driven out. Samson's troubles were with the Philistine neighbors. Dan was so pressed for room that the tribe a little later moved and took a city for itself, at the springs of Jordan under Mount Hermon. (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18)
Find on your maps where the tribe of Dan was living when Samson was born. Find Zorah on a hilltop by the valley of Beth-shemesh, which runs up into the hills from the Philistine plain. Samson's parents were living in Zorah when the angels came to tell them that the child would be born.
Note the instructions which the angel gave them. The name Nazarite means "consecrated," "set apart." The Nazarites were said to be "separated unto the Lord," either for a certain time or for life. Samson was to be a Nazarite for life. There were strict rules which he must keep. You can read the law of the Nazarites in Num. 6, and you find nearly the same requirements in the angel's charge to Samson's mother for herself and for the child.
When Manoah asked the angel's name, he said that it was "secret," too wonderful for him to understand. Both Manoah and Gideon wished to prepare food for the angels who came to them, and both were told to present it as an offering to the Lord. (Judges 6:18-21) The "meat offering" or "food offering" which Manoah offered with the kid was an offering of meal and flour. The Revised Version translates it "meal offering."
Why were Manoah and his wife afraid when they knew that it was an angel of the Lord? Remember that it was the same with Gideon. You may think, also, of Moses when the Lord came to him at the burning bush, and of the shepherds when the angel came to tell them that the Lord was born. Moses feared to look upon God. The shepherds were sore afraid. No person can see the Lord in all the brightness of His Divine glory. As the Lord once said to Moses, "Thou canst not see My face, for there shall no man see Me and live." (Exod. 33:20) But the Lord veils His glory and comes to people in gentle ways. How wonderfully true this was in His coming into the world!
Samson was born in the tribe of Dan. "And the child grew, and the Lord blessed him." And Samson's strength began to be seen, for "the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan." Eshtaol, mentioned in the last verse in the chapter, was a little east of Zorah.
1. Where did the Philistines live? Where was the tribe of Dan given its home? What towns of Dan are mentioned in our lesson?
2. How was Samson's birth foretold? What other child do you remember whose birth was promised by an angel?
3. What was told by the angel about Samson? What must he do or not do? Of what other child does this remind you?
4. Why did Manoah think that he and his wife should die?
Many times in the Bible the birth of a child is foretold by an angel, and often to parents who had lost hope of having children. Recall the promise of the birth of Isaac, of Samuel, and of John the Baptist. In the light of the Lord's words to Nicodemus, in John 3:1-8, what do you think is represented by the birth of a child? It represents the birth of a new and heavenly life in us, or of some new development of heavenly life. Every such birth is from the Lord when we feel and confess our helplessness to gain the new life of ourselves. Angels are near and are loving helpers at every such birth. (E. 721)
What new and heavenly development of character is represented by the birth of Samson? You will all say that he stands for strength. Yes, especially for the strength that comes from the Lord's Word when it is received by a simple heart as a rule of life. This was represented by the fact that Samson's strength depended on his hair, for the hair represents the letter of the Word, its most external part which covers and protects the Divine truth and love within it. Samson also was of the tribe of Dan, the "judge," and this tribe represents a simple, literal knowledge of the Lord's Word. (A. 3923, 6396) See the last page of S. 49, where after speaking of Samson and his hair, it is said, "In brief, the power of Divine truth, or of the Word, is in the sense of the letter, for the reason that the Word is there in its fullness, and the angels of both of the Lord's kingdoms and men are together in that sense."
But strength is not found in the Word merely by intellectual understanding of it. This was represented by the law of the Nazarites, that they must drink no wine nor eat anything that comes from the vine, for the wine and the vine represent a spiritual intelligence which is a thing entirely apart from this strength of the Lord's Word, as it is received in its simple literal form and lived. This was a strength which the Lord had in Divine fullness in His life, and which we all may have in a wonderful degree. (A 3301, 5113, 5247, 6437, especially 3301)
Can we see why Samson was strong against the Philistines? Like their neighbors, the Phoenicians, the Philistines represent an intellectual power of knowing and understanding. The faculty may be helpful to spiritual life, as the king of Tyre helped Solomon, and as the Philistines were friendly to Abraham. (A. 2504, 9340) But as enemies of Israel the Philistines represent an understanding of truth which cares nothing for good life - faith alone. It is the opposite of the simple love for the Lord's Word and confidence in the Lord's Word which Samson represents. In this there is a strength which the other cannot resist nor understand. Do not argue with the tempter. He is probably better at argument than you. Answer him simply, "It is written, Thou shalt not." (A. 3412; E. 700)