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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JUDGES 13

XII. SAMSON (Judges 13--16)

THE CONCEPTION AND BIRTH OF SAMSON;

AN INTRODUCTION

{"And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah; and Jehovah delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years."}

This introduction for the story of Samson is very brief, because a much longer introduction had already been given for all of the judgeships from Gideon and afterward in Judg. 6:1-10. (See my comment on those ten verses.)

There is a missing note here. Whereas, in the introductory paragraph for each of the other judges, there is the record of Israel's distress leading to their cries unto God for deliverance. Nothing like that occurred here. The encroachment of the Philistines was benevolent enough in character that Israel seemingly consented to it, not realizing the awful danger of losing their identity by an amalgamation with the Philistines.

{"And God gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years"} (Judges 13:1). "This forty years lasted at least unto the second battle of Ebenezer (1 Sam. 7:10ff)."F1

THE HISTORY OF THE PHILISTINES

In the history of Israel, the Philistines appeared very early as an obstacle in the way of what Israel desired to do. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Philistines were spread out along the coastal strip between Egypt and Gaza, causing Moses to detour inland to "avoid the way of the Philistines" (Exodus 13:17), the date of the Exodus being 1441 B.C.

"Much earlier (circa 1600-1525 B.C.), the Philistines, a people descended from Mizraim, a son of Ham, had arrived on the seacoast of western Palestine from Crete (the Hebrew Caphtor) via Cyprus. By the year 1200 B.C. they were strong enough to attempt an invasion of Egypt, but were forced back, eventually entrenching themselves in their Big Five cities, each of which was ruled by a "lord."F2 These were Gaza, Gath, Ekron, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Even as early as the days of Abraham, the Philistines were in Palestine. Both Abraham and Isaac came in contact with Abimelech (a dynastic title) the king of Gerar and ruler of the Philistines, whose armed forces were commanded by a general named Phicol (Gen. 20; Gen. 21; and Gen. 26). The names Abimelech and Phicol were also the names of similar rulers in the times of Isaac, there being two incidents involved, not merely one.

It is amazing that the Philistines gave their name to the Holy Land, i.e., Palestine. In the times of the Judges, which we are studying, the Philistines were strong enough to be a continual threat to Israel. Shamgar had opposed them earlier, but the defeat of the powerful Ephraimites by Jephthah had effectively removed any significant opposition to the Philistines. And they dominated Israel for a long period of time reaching down through the judgeship of Samuel, the kingship of Saul, and until the times of David who completely subdued them.

However, not even the victories of David removed the Philistines from their five cities, which they retained until the times of Nebuchadnezzar who found them allied with Egypt in the battle of Carchemish. "Nebuchadnezzar stamped out any remaining sparks of Philistine independence, deporting both the rulers and the people in 604 B.C."F3 The religion of the Philistines was a constant threat to the Israelites. The Philistines, of course, had in a large measure adopted the Baalim cults of ancient Canaan. "There were temples of Dagon in Gaza and Ashdod, one of Ashtoreth in Ashkelon according to Herodotus and one to Baalzebub in Ekron. Some of these existed as late as the times of the Maccabees."F4 The tragedy was that Israel even adopted these gods of the Philistines (Judges 10:6-7).

No complete "salvation" of Israel from the Philistine influence would occur in the judgeship of Samson. As the Angel of Jehovah stated it, "He would `begin to save' Israel."

There is not sufficient data available to provide an exact date for the judgeship of Samson, but Boling placed it, "Somewhere between the space of 1160 and 1100 B.C."F5

REGARDING SAMSON'S JUDGESHIP

It is difficult indeed to provide any kind of an accurate estimate regarding the value of Samson's judgeship. He was a man of the most astounding physical ability, a man endowed with the special blessing of God in a most remarkable and wonderful manner, but his lustful and immoral behavior cast a sad shadow over his tragic life. We cannot avoid the feeling that his exploits, wonderful as they were, fell far short of what might have been expected of him. All of the scholars whose works we have consulted find this same difficulty.

"His actions not only bear the stamp of adventure, foolhardiness and willfulness, but they are almost all associated with love affairs, and it looks as if Samson dishonored and fooled away the gift entrusted to him, by making it subservient to his sensual lusts, and thus prepared the way for his ruin, without bringing any essential help to God's people."F6

Campbell stated that, "Along with his physical strength there was moral weakness ... Many a man, like Samson, has loved some woman in the Valley of Sorek, and the whole world is a valley of Sorek' to weak men ... His unbridled passion and overwhelming desires made him a child in morals ... He failed to live up to his potential and ended his life in disgrace."F7

In this light, we might ask, What was God's purpose in calling such a person as Samson to the judgeship? (1) God was not yet ready for the complete subjugation of the Philistines, for God would use them to destroy the corrupt kingdom of Saul. (2) Furthermore, Samson would be a constant and unanswerable testimony before the Israelites and the Philistines alike of the superiority of Jehovah over the pagan deities of the Philistines, and Israel desperately needed that witness. (3) Also, Samson's life would provide illustrated answers for many questions that arose among God's people.

"Samson's story teaches:

(1) the evils of mixed or foreign marriages,

(2) the folly of loose sexual relations and playing with temptation,

(3) that bodily strength, like all gifts, is of God, and

(4) that its retention is dependent upon one's obedience to God's laws."F8

Despite the multiple tragedies that marked the life of this ancient judge of Israel, his name, nevertheless, stands in the roster of the faithful, alongside the names of the most illustrious leaders of Israel's history (Hebrews 11:32).

"Because Samson's feats were so unusual, liberal scholars have suggested that Samson's story is only a Hebrew version of the legend of Hercules, the Greek strong man."F9 However, Boling assures us that there is no sufficient reason to doubt that, "A firm basis of fact underlies ... the Samson saga."F10

THE ANGEL OF JEHOVAH ANNOUNCES SAMSON'S BIRTH

{"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. And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not; but thou shalt conceive and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink no wine nor strong drink; and eat not any unclean thing: for, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come upon his head; for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to save Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. Then the woman came and told her husband, saying; A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; and I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink; and eat not any unclean thing; for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb to the day of his death."}

{"A man of Zorah"} (Judges 13:2). "This was a Danite city fifteen miles west of Jerusalem and fifteen miles east of the Philistine city of Ekron."F11

{"No wine nor strong drink ... nor any unclean thing"} (Judges 13:4). "The words `strong drink' must mean `beer,' because there were no distilled liquors in ancient times ... the Philistines used an awesome amount of beer."F12

{"Thou shalt conceive and bear a son"} (Judges 13:5). Boling rendered this as, "Actually, you are already pregnant and bearing a son."F13 However, no other writer whose works we have consulted agrees with this.

This annunciation to the wife of Manoah was similar to the annunciations to Hannah, Elizabeth, and the Virgin Mary, except that this annunciation was made by the Angel of Jehovah, whereas the annunciation to Mary was by the angel Gabriel. The author of this account is careful to let the reader know from the first the true identity of the Angel of Jehovah, although Manoah does not catch on to this until later in the narrative.

{"The child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb"} (Judges 13:5). The Mosaic Law concerning Nazarites is found in Num. 6, but the rules given there apply to persons taking the Nazarite vow for a limited number of days or weeks. These were called `Nazarites of days.' A Nazarite for life was called a perpetual Nazarite, of which class Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist are mentioned in the Bible. It is of interest that Paul became a Nazarite of days (Acts 21:26).

{"The woman came and told her husband"} (Judges 13:6). There is a great deal of repetition in this chapter; and Judg. 13:6,7, merely repeat for the benefit of Manoah what was said to the woman by the `man of God.' A very small variation is that Manoah's wife added the words that the promised son would be a Nazarite `until the day of his death,' a fact implied but not stated earlier.

GOD ANSWERED MANOAH'S PRAYER, AND THE ANGEL OF JEHOVAH REAPPEARS AND REPEATS THE MESSAGE

{"Then Manoah entreated Jehovah, and said, Oh Lord, I pray thee, let the man of God whom thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened unto 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 told her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. 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: what shall be the ordering of the child, and how shall we do unto him? And the Angel of Jehovah said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of anything 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."}

This paragraph is a repetition, for the sake of Manoah, of what was reported in the previous paragraph.

{"Now let thy words come to pass"} (Judges 13:12). This is an indication of Manoah's faith in the word of the messenger from God as previously reported to him by his wife.

It should be noted here that God did not elaborate the instructions already given, but merely repeated them, adding nothing whatever to what had already been commanded.

THE ANGEL OF JEHOVAH REVEALS HIS SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER

{"And Manoah said unto the angel of Jehovah, I pray thee, let us detain thee, that we may make ready a kid for thee. And the angel of Jehovah said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread; and if thou wilt make ready a burnt-offering thou must offer it unto Jehovah. And Manoah said unto the angel of Jehovah, What is thy name, that, when thy words come to pass, we may do thee honor? And the angel of Jehovah said unto him, Wherefore askest thou after my name, seeing it is wonderful? So Manoah took the kid, with the meal-offering and offered it upon the rock unto Jehovah: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of Jehovah ascended in the flame of the altar: and Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground."}

{"I will not eat of thy bread"} (Judges 13:16). "The angel perhaps perceived that Manoah was in doubt as to his identity,"F14 and at once moved to prevent Manoah's obvious intention of worshipping him `as an angel.' However, not even an angel may be rightfully worshipped, an honor that belongs only to God, as the apostle John learned in Rev. 22:9. As Hervey said, "The message is clear enough, `Offer sacrifices to no one except God.'"F15

This chapter appears as one of the most significant in the entire O.T., because of what is said here of the Angel of Jehovah. Back in Judg. 13:11, when Manoah asked if "the man" was the same one who had earlier appeared to his wife, the answer was, "I AM." These very words were often used by Jesus Christ himself as his identification, as in John 8:58; Mark 14:62; John 18:5, etc. This strongly supports the belief that the Angel of Jehovah was none other than the pre-incarnate Son of God.

{"Wherefore askest thou after my name seeing it is, Wonderful!"} (Judges 13:18). "The noun form of this word is rendered `Wonderful' in Isa. 9:6 as a prophecy of the Messiah."F16 It seems to us that the Angel of Jehovah in this chapter went a long way toward revealing his identity as, "God's pre-incarnate Son."F17 In these six verses, "the Angel of Jehovah" is mentioned in every verse except Judg. 13:19, and it is supplied even there.

Moore translated "wonderful" here as "ineffable," and gave the meaning as, "The name is incomprehensible; beyond your capacity to hear and understand it."F18

It is significant here that the Angel of Jehovah would not `eat bread' with Manoah. This contrasts with the fact that God Himself walked and talked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and that the Divine Messengers who visited Abraham (Gen. 18) actually ate with that patriarch. "God's intercourse (contact) with mankind was more intimate and natural in the remote past."F19 Moore cited this as a belief held both by Israel and other ancient peoples. The Bible proves that this belief was true, and therefore we are justified in accepting the Pentateuch as a far older book than Judges. We have honored this certainty by accepting a date for Judges as circa 1160-1100 B.C., and the date of Genesis as almost half a millennium earlier, that is, prior to 1400 B.C.

{"The Angel of Jehovah did wondrously"} (Judges 13:19). It is not so stated here, but the consumption of Manoah's offering by fire probably came about as it did when this same Angel of Jehovah touched Gideon's offering with the end of his staff, causing fire to come up out of the altar and devour the burnt-offering (Judges 6:21). "The angel did wondrously" is probably a reference to the same kind of phenomenon that occurred here.

{"When the flame went up from the altar, the angel of Jehovah ascended in the flame of the altar"} (Judges 13:20). The text mentions the fact twice that Manoah and his wife "looked on" (Judges 13:19-20), and we may be very sure that this final action of the Angel of Jehovah removed any doubts that they might have had concerning the heavenly identity of their visitor. What a wonderful day it had been for them!

Not only did they learn that they were to have a son born by God's miraculous intervention, but they also came to know that his birth was announced by God's pre-incarnate Son, the Angel of Jehovah.F20

{"They fell on their faces to the ground"} (Judges 13:20). No wonder this happened. Only a very few favored persons were ever permitted to see the Angel of Jehovah: Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Zechariah and Manoah and his wife were among those so blessed.

THE BIRTH OF SAMSON

{"But the angel of Jehovah did no more appear to Manoah or to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of Jehovah. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said unto him, If Jehovah were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meal-offering at our hand, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would at this time have told such things as these. And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and Jehovah blessed him. And the Spirit of Jehovah began to move him in Mahanehdan between Zorah and Eshtaol."}

{"We shall surely die"} (Judges 13:22). This appeared to Manoah as a very logical deduction, because God had stated through Moses that, "Thou shalt not see my face; for man shall not see me and live" (Exodus 32:20). Yes, he knew the Book of Moses, and it hardly needs mentioning that hundreds of examples of this same phenomenon utterly contradict and destroy the critical fairy tale about the Pentateuch's being a late production. Gideon was also familiar with the same teaching (Judges 6:22), as was Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5).

{"If Jehovah were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meal-offering at our hand"} (Judges 13:23). The good sense of Manoah's wife prevailed here and removed their fears.

{"And the woman bare a son"} (Judges 13:24). It would have been wonderful if the Lord had revealed the name of this great woman, but for reasons unknown to us she was continually mentioned as "the woman." God had promised "a son"; and "a son" was born.

{"She called his name Samson"} (Judges 13:24). "This name means `strong man' or `sun-man'"F21 or "Sunny."F22

These final two verses make six assertions about Samson, giving, "His birth, his sex, his name, his growth, his divine blessing, and the fact of God's Spirit moving within him."F23


Footnotes for Judges 13
1: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 269.
2: Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 1335.
3: Ibid.
4: Ibid.
5: The Anchor Bible Commentary, Judges, p. 224.
6: C. F. Keil in the Keil-Delitzsch Commentaries, Vol. 2-A, p. 399.
7: D. K. Campbell, p. 110.
8: All the Men of the Bible, Lockyer, p. 292.
9: D. K. Campbell, p. 111.
10: The Anchor Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 223.
11: Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, 440.
12: The Anchor Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 219.
13: Ibid., p. 220.
14: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 30C, p. 138.
15: Ibid., p. 239.
16: D. K. Campbell, op. cit., p. 116.
17: Ibid.
18: The International Critical Commentary, Judges, p. 321.
19: Ibid., p. 320.
20: D. K. Campbell, p. 226.
21: All the Men of the Bible, Lockyer, p. 291.
22: Broadman Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 442.
23: Ibid.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Judges 13". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=jud&chapter=013>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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