10 November 2011

"If God had wanted to kill us, do you think He would have made such an effort?

Did you know that the Bible never gives the mother of Samson a name?

In Judges 13, a messenger of God appears to Samson's mother and tells her that she will have a son - a Nazirite (so he should not cut his hair and she should refrain from alcohol and unclean food). Samson's mother relays the appearance to her husband and mentions that she did not know the messenger's name - but that he clearly looked like an angel. The angel had told her that she would bear a son, who would be a Nazirite (and she should not drink alcohol or eat anything unclean).

Her husband (Manoah) asks God to send the messenger again so that they can ask him what to do when the child is actually born. The messenger returns, once again appearing to his wife. His wife runs and gets him, and Manoah asks how their son should live - once the messenger's words come true. The angel simply repeats that his wife should do all that he had already told her.

Manoah then graciously invites the angel to stay so that they can prepare a young goat for him. The angel turns down their offer of food; instead, he suggests that they give it as an offering to the LORD. Manoah then asks the angel for his name so that they can honour him when his words become true. And the angel responds: "“Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding." (Judges 3:18 NIV).

Manoah sacrifices a goat and a grain offering. The angel returns to heaven via the flames of the offering.

And Manoah's response? "Ahh!!! We're going to die!! We have seen God!"

Manoah has not, up to this point in time, come across as being significantly intelligent. Earlier in the text (after the angel suggests an offering), the reader is even told that Manoah doesn't realize that this is an angel. This is, of course, despite his prayer to God to send the messenger again, the actual message of the angel, and his wife's description of the messenger as being that of an angel. But Manoah's final response makes it blatantly obvious that he simply doesn't understand. It also prompts my favourite line in the story.

His wife's response to her husband was to point out that if God had wanted them dead, He wouldn't have made such an effort. He wouldn't have accepted their offering nor would he have bothered to appear to them and tell them everything He did.

Whereas sometimes not being named in a story points to the person's insignificance, this story seems to work in the opposite. It is the one who is named that is the fool, and the one who is not named (like the messenger) who understands. After all, if it really was a messenger from God, then what he said would come true. It's not like they could have a son if they were dead...

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