The Offer of Manoah by Rembrandt
The mother of Sampson, the wife of the Danite Manoah, was another woman who struggled with the trial of infertility. We don't know how long she was barren but in Judges 13:3 we read that an angel of the Lord appeared to her and told her that she was barren but that, "thou shalt conceive, and bear a son." The angel also told her,
"...drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines." (Judges 13: 4-5)A Nazarite was a man or woman who was consecrated, or separated, unto God. The vow could be for their whole lives or for a limited amount of time. A person who made a Nazarite vow could not drink wine, vinegar or any other strong drink. They couldn't eat grapes or anything that came from a vine tree. They also could not cut their hair or touch a dead body or else their vow with God would be broken (Numbers 6: 1-9) It appears that Sampson had been foreordained and set apart as Nazarite before he was even born. Samson's mother needed to know about the divine mission of her son so that she could avoid all the things that would make her baby unclean and cause him to break his vow, even though he wasn't born yet. I think it is incredible that she received a revelation about how to mother her son while he was in the womb. I also find it fascinating that she was taught by the angel that her son would be influenced by what his mother took into her body during her pregnancy. Thanks to modern science we now understand a great deal about how a fetus develops and how it interacts with their mother's body. We know that what a mother eats, feels, thinks and does can and does affect the baby, for better and for worse. Yet back in biblical times women didn't have this sort of scientific knowledge and so it probably would have been a great revelation to her to learn from the angel that what she did during her pregnancy would influence her son's future and determine his divine mission.
After her visit with the angel she ran and told her husband, Manoah, about what she had learned. Her husband must have been a remarkable man because he didn't doubt what she told him for a second. In fact, we read that he started to intreat the Lord that he would, "... teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born." (Judges 13: 8) Manoah had faith that his wife had received divine revelation concerning her pregnancy and her baby and he was supportive of what she had told him. He also realized that they would be the parents of a remarkable and important child and that they would need to be unified in their parenting. I think it is a great tribute to them that they turned to the Lord and together, the prayer Manoah says is plural, they asked for revelation from the Lord about how to be parents to their unborn son.
Still, even though it was Manoah who intreated the Lord for revelation, when the angel appeared again he came first to the wife while she is sitting alone in the field. Immediately she ran and got her husband and Manoah asked the angel how they should raise the child. The angel told him that they should do what he had told Manoah's wife; she was not to eat any product of the grapevine, drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing (Judges 13: 9-14). Manoah believed what he was taught but didn't recognize the angel as being from God and tried to offer him food. The angel refused the food and told him to offer a burnt offering to the Lord. Manoah and his wife offered the sacrifice and watched the Angel ascend into heaven (Judges 13:15-23) The woman eventually bore a son, we don't know how much longer it was after this event, who they named Sampson and we read that, "... the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times..." (Judges 13: 25).
What we can learn from her story:
- What a woman eats, feels, thinks, does, and takes into her body during pregnancy affects not only her baby's body but its spirit as well;
- Children are aware and able to be influenced while they are in the womb;
- Sometimes God gives women personal revelation about their bodies and pregnancies. These revelations usually come to women first and if husbands want to understand and be supportive about them they should "intreat" the Lord for knowledge and confirmation;
- Children have foreordained missions in this life and how they are treated in the womb can influence their future mission;
- Husbands and wives should be unified and ask the Lord for direction about how to raise their children.
- There is a big trend in modern medicine to give laboring women strong drugs during childbirth. How does the story of Samson's mother influence your perceptions and understanding of this practice?
- How do you think knowing their son would start to deliver the Israelites from bondage would have influenced the way Sampson's parents raised him? How would your parenting be different if you knew what your children's foreordained missions were on this earth?
- Why, even though it was Manoah who prayed to the Lord for revelation, did the Angel appear to Samson's mother both times and give her the commandments about what needed to be done for this baby? Why didn't Manoah recognize him as an Angel of the Lord but his wife did?