Samson’s Birth, 1-25

13:1 The Israelites again did evil in the LORD’s sight, so the LORD handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.
13:2 There was a man named Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe. His wife was infertile and childless. 13:3 The LORD’s angelic messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “You are infertile and childless, but you will conceive and have a son. 13:4 Now be careful! Do not drink wine or beer, and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. 13:5 Look, you will conceive and have a son. You must never cut his hair, for the child will be dedicated to God from birth. He will begin to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
13:6 The woman went and said to her husband, “A man sent from God came to me! He looked like God’s angelic messenger—he was very awesome. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name. 13:7 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 to God from birth till the day he dies.’ ”
13:8 Manoah prayed to the LORD, “Please, Lord, allow the man sent from God to visit us again, so he can teach us how we should raise the child who will be born.” 13:9 God answered Manoah’s prayer. God’s angelic messenger visited the woman again while she was sitting in the field. But her husband Manoah was not with her. 13:10 The woman ran at once and told her husband, “Come quickly, the man who visited me the other day has appeared to me!” 13:11 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?” He said, “Yes.” 13:12 Manoah said, “Now, when your announcement comes true, how should the child be raised and what should he do?” 13:13 The LORD’s messenger told Manoah, “Your wife should pay attention to everything I told her. 13:14 She should not drink 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.” 13:15 Manoah said to the LORD’s messenger, “Please stay here awhile, so we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.” 13:16 The LORD’s messenger said to Manoah, “If I stay, 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.) 13:17 Manoah said to the LORD’s messenger, “Tell us your name, so we can honor you when your announcement comes true.” 13:18 The LORD’s messenger said to him, “You should not ask me my name, because you cannot comprehend it.” 13:19 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. 13:20 As the flame went up from the altar toward the sky, the LORD’s messenger went up in it while Manoah and his wife watched. They fell facedown to the ground.
13:21 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. 13:22 Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” 13:23 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. He would not have shown us all these things, or have spoken to us like this just now.”
13:24 Manoah’s wife gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew and the LORD empowered him. 13:25 The LORD’s spirit began to control him in Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Mary J. Evans writes that, read through ‘male’ spectacles, this passage merely confirms the assumption that, in the ancient world, the testimony of a woman was not trusted.  But, says Evans, that was clearly not the view of the Lord or of his angel!  The angel appears to the woman, on her own.  And when her husband is brought into the conversation, and asks the angel for confirmation and clarification, the reply is, ‘But I’ve already told your wife!’

Evans finds more examples of respect for women in the OT in the stories of Ruth and Esther.  Even in the account of Hagar, this concubine is never referred to by name by either Abraham or Sarah; but as soon as the Lord speaks to her, he does so using her name.

In the account of the awful rape of Tamar, the significant thing for Evans is that the narrative itself recognises it as awful.  ‘The light in that story for me is the fact that the text clearly presents the awfulness of it. And that the writer presents Tamar as an individual; a person. She is presented as generous, hopeful, the most eligible person in the country. And then as desperate, devastated, destroyed.’

The bottom line, for Evans, is that when the OT tells stories of awful things being done to women (as in the book of Judges), it is precisely with the aim of saying to its readers, ‘This is not how it is meant to be.  This is not God’s will.  This is awful.’