Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prelude to Samson: Judges 13

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

We've almost made it to the story of Samson, which I've been looking forward to for a while. To balance out the ridiculously chauvinist elements of that story, however, the author of Judges begins with a few anecdotes about his mother and father.

God appears to Samson's mother, who, as is typical in this book, actually has no name. This is unfortunate, but the fact that God has appeared to her is unusual and worth noting. On the other hand, virtually the only time women get to see an angel is when it involves some element of conception and pregnancy.

The angel tells Manoah's wife that she's going to have a kid who God wants to be a Nazirite. To ensure his Nazirite purity, the mother must also take a Nazirite vow: she must not drink any alcohol or eat any unclean food during pregnancy. I think the former is a rule that people still follow today, though for slightly different reasons.

Predictably, Manoah doesn't believe his wife when she comes to tell him of the encounter. So Manoah asks the angel to come back and talk to both of them. The angel comes back, but once again only to the wife. She rushes to get Manoah and initially Manoah doesn't believe it's an angel. Instead he seems to think that the man is some sort of prophet, and he offers to prepare a meal for him. Instead, the angel demands a burnt offering, and once Manoah has got the fire going, the angel "ascends in the flame" and disappears.

Manoah reaches the strange and somewhat inexplicable conclusion that this means they are going to die. His wife, rather more sensible, tells him to stop being an idiot: if God were going to kill them, he wouldn't have appeared to them and told them about the boy.