Samson’s Birth1 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight, ▼
▼ Heb “in the eyes of.”so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.
2 There was a man named Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe. His wife was infertile and childless. ▼
▼ Heb “and had not given birth.”3 The Lord’s angelic ▼ messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “You ▼
▼ Heb “Look, you.”are infertile and childless, ▼
▼ Heb “and have not given birth.”but you will conceive and have a son. 4 Now be careful! Do not drink wine or beer, and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. ▼ 5 Look, you will conceive and have a son. ▼
▼ Another option is to translate, “you are already pregnant and will have a son.” The earlier reference to her being infertile (v. 3) suggests that her conception is still future, but it is possible that the earlier statement only reflects her perspective (as far as she is concerned, she is infertile). According to this interpretation, in v. 5 the angel reveals the truth to her – actually she has recently conceived and is now pregnant (see the translation in R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 217). Usage favors this interpretation. The predicate adjective הָרָה (harah, “[be/become] pregnant”) elsewhere has a past (1 Sam 4:19) or present (Gen 16:11; 38:25; 2 Sam 11:5) translation value. (The usage in Isa 7:14 is debated, but a present translation is definitely possible there.) A final, but less likely possibility, is that she miraculously conceived during the angel’s speech, sometime between his statements recorded in vv. 3 and 5.You must never cut his hair, ▼
▼ Heb “a razor should not go up on his head.”for the child will be dedicated to God ▼
▼ Or “set apart to God.” Traditionally the Hebrew term נָזִיר (nazir) has been translated “Nazirite.” The word is derived from the verb נָזַר (nazar, “to dedicate; to consecrate; to set apart”).from birth. He will begin to deliver Israel from the power ▼
▼ Heb “hand.”of the Philistines.”
6 The woman went and said to her husband, “A man sent from God ▼
▼ Heb “The man of God.”came to me! He looked like God’s angelic messenger – he was very awesome. ▼
▼ Heb “His appearance was like the appearance of the messenger of God, very awesome.”I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name. 7 He said to me, ‘Look, you will conceive and have a son. ▼ So now, do not drink wine or beer and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. ▼ For the child will be dedicated ▼
▼ Traditionally “a Nazirite.”to God from birth till the day he dies.’”
8 Manoah prayed to the Lord, ▼
▼ The Hebrew text adds “and said.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.“Please, Lord, allow the man sent from God ▼
▼ Heb “the man of God.”to visit ▼
▼ Heb “come to.”us again, so he can teach ▼
▼ The LXX has “enlighten,” understanding the Hebrew to read וִיאִירֵנוּ (vi’irenu, “to give light”) rather than the reading of the MT, וְיוֹרֵנוּ (veyorenu, “to teach”).us how we should raise ▼
▼ Heb “what we should do for.”the child who will be born.” 9 God answered Manoah’s prayer. ▼
▼ Heb “God listened to the voice of Manoah.”God’s angelic messenger visited ▼ the woman again while she was sitting in the field. But her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman ran at once and told her husband, ▼
▼ Heb “and said to him.” This phrase has not been translated for stylistic reasons.“Come quickly, ▼
▼ Heb “Look.”the man who visited ▼ me the other day has appeared to me!” 11 So Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he met ▼ the man, he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?” ▼
▼ Heb “the woman.”He said, “Yes.” ▼
▼ Heb “I [am].”12 Manoah said, “Now, when your announcement comes true, ▼
▼ Heb “Now, [when] your word comes [to pass].”how should the child be raised and what should he do?” ▼
▼ Heb “what will be the child’s rule [i.e., way of life] and his work?”13 The Lord’s messenger told ▼
▼ Or “said to.”Manoah, “Your wife should pay attention to everything I told her. ▼
▼ Heb “To everything I said to the woman she should pay attention.” The Hebrew word order emphasizes “to everything,” probably because Manoah’s wife did not tell her husband everything the angel had said to her (cf. vv. 3–5 with v. 7). If she had, Manoah probably would not have been so confused about the child’s mission.14 She should not drink ▼
▼ Heb “eat.”anything that the grapevine produces. She must not drink wine or beer, and she must not eat any food that will make her ritually unclean. ▼ She should obey everything I commanded her to do.” 15 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Please stay here awhile, ▼
▼ Heb “Please allow us to detain you.”so we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.” ▼
▼ Heb “so we can prepare before you a young goat of the goats.”16 The Lord’s messenger said to Manoah, “If I stay, ▼
▼ Heb “If you detain me.”I will not eat your food. But if you want to make a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, you should offer it.” (He said this because Manoah did not know that he was the Lord’s messenger.) ▼
▼ The words “he said this” are supplied in the translation for clarification. Manoah should have known from these words that the messenger represented the Lord. In the preceding narrative the narrator has informed the reader that the visitor is the Lord’s messenger, but Manoah and his wife did not perceive this. In vv. 5 and 7 the angel refers to “God” (אֱלֹהִים, ’elohim), not the Lord (יְהוַה, yehvah). Manoah’s wife calls the visitor “a man sent from God” and “God’s messenger” (v. 6), while Manoah prays to the “Lord” (אֲדוֹנָי, ’adonay) and calls the visitor “a man sent from God” (v. 8).17 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Tell us your name, so we can honor you when your announcement comes true.” ▼
▼ Heb “Who your name? For [when] your word comes [to pass], we will honor you.” Manoah apparently gets tongue-tied and uses the wrong pronoun (“who” instead of “what”). He starts to say, “Who are you?” But then he switches to “your name” as if he began the sentence with “what.” See R. G. Boling, Judges (AB), 222.18 The Lord’s messenger said to him, “You should not ask me my name, because you cannot comprehend it.” ▼
▼ Heb “Why do you ask for my name, for it is incomprehensible?” The Hebrew adjective פִּלְאִי (pile’iy, “wonderful, incomprehensible”) refers to what is in a category of its own and is beyond full human understanding. Note the use of this word in Ps 139:6, where God’s knowledge is described as incomprehensible and unattainable.19 Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the Lord. The Lord’s messenger did an amazing thing as Manoah and his wife watched. ▼
▼ Heb “Doing an extraordinary deed while Manoah and his wife were watching.” The subject of the participle is missing. The translation assumes that the phrase “the Lord’s messenger” was lost by homoioteleuton. If the text originally read לַיהוָה מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה (layhavah mal’akh yehvah), the scribe’s eye could have jumped from the first יְהוָה to the second, accidentally omitting two of the three words. Later the conjunction וּ (shureq) would have been added to the following מַפְלִא (mafli’) for syntactical reasons. Another possibility is that a pronominal subject (הוּא, hu’) has been lost in the MT due to haplography.20 As the flame went up from the altar toward the sky, the Lord’s messenger went up in it ▼
▼ Heb “in the flame from the altar.”while Manoah and his wife watched. They fell facedown ▼
▼ Heb “on their faces.”to the ground.
21 The Lord’s messenger did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. After all this happened Manoah realized that the visitor had been the Lord’s messenger. ▼
▼ Heb “Then Manoah knew that he was the Lord’s messenger.”22 Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” ▼
▼ Or “seen God.” Some take the Hebrew term אֱלֹהִים (’elohim) as the divine name (“God”) here, but this seems unlikely since v. 21 informs us that Manoah realized this was the Lord’s messenger, not God himself. Of course, he may be exaggerating for the sake of emphasis. Another option, the one followed in the translation, understands Manoah to be referring to a lesser deity. The term אֱלֹהִים (’elohim) is sometimes used of an individual deity other than the Lord (see BDB 43 s.v. 2.a). One cannot assume that Manoah was a theologically sophisticated monotheist.23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord wanted to kill us, he would not have accepted the burnt offering and the grain offering from us. ▼
▼ Heb “our hand.”He would not have shown us all these things, or have spoken to us like this just now.”
24 Manoah’s wife ▼
▼ Heb “the woman.” For clarity this has been specified in the translation as “Manoah’s wife.”gave birth to a son and named him Samson. ▼
▼ The name appears to mean “sun-like” or “solar.”The child grew and the Lord empowered ▼
▼ Traditionally, “blessed.”him. 25 The Lord’s spirit began to control him ▼
▼ Or “move him to action”; or “stir him.”in Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
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