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Published Date: October 31, 1996

Published Date: October 31, 1996

Featured Articles

Featured Articles

The Strong Character of Samson’s Mother

Few women of history show the strength of character and “spunk” of this Hebrew wife and mother from the twelfth century B.C. She was called like Sarah, Hannah and the Virgin Mary, to give birth to one of the great men of ancient times. But she models fir modern women more than just the courage of motherhood: Her spiritual qualities are a challenge to all who read the sacred Scriptures, men as well as women.

She worked with her husband “in the field” (13:9). This fact will not surprise those women who share in the daily labors of farming and food gathering, showing strength and skill equal to the men. They are found in the Europe of today as well as in Palestine and in most parts of the “third world.” When we visited our family in Germany in their farming community near Bad Hersfeld, we often joined our cousin and his wife in the “felden” to stack oats or cut the ripened grain. Few American mothers today could find time to plant, hoe and raise the products needed to feed their families, as so many of their counterparts in other lands are expected to do.

She believed the message of God’s envoy (13:3,4). God did not give his notice of a child to Manoah, who would become the father of Samson, but to his wife, possibly because Manoah’s faith in God’s word was weaker than hers. It seems that Manoah found it harder to accept the idea that a son was finally coming to them after waiting so long. However, his wife did not dispute or raise any objections to the angel’s announcement. That she told her husband all that had happened and all the angel had said is proof of the intensity of her faith in the Lord.

She accepted the (Nazirite) vows of holiness (13:4, 5, 13). The Nazirites consecrated themselves to serve God, usually for a short period of time (Num. 6:5), because it was not easy to fulfill the restrictions demanded: drink neither wine nor beer; eat only kosher (clean) foods; never approach a dead body; do not cut your hair. Samson’s mother agreed to keep these vows of a clean and dedicated life, even if her famous son should fail to do so. Thus she was able to share in his calling and campaign against the Philistines, and also set a good example for him to follow. Modern medicine supports this biblical standard for a mother to maintain a clean body, free of all drugs, during the nine months of gestation.

She interpreted God’s will for her husband (13:22, 23). Manoah had wrongly assumed that the Lord himself had appeared before them, when it had actually been one of the angels sent from God to speak with them. So he said, “We are doomed to die, we have seen God!” (v. 23). His fear had deep roots in the history of Israel. For example, when the Hebrews heard the voice of God thundering from the mountain, they thought they would all die (Deut. 5:25-27). Nevertheless, Manoah’s wife quickly saw the lack of logic in her husband’s hasty conclusion. She reasoned, “If God plans to use us to produce for him a son, he would not, could not, destroy us.” Her perception of the divine purpose and plan must have brought Manoah’s fears to an end.

She obeyed God’s call to be a mother (13:24,25). From the uncertainties of conception to the pains of childbirth, motherhood can be a dangerous prospect. Childbearing was even more fearful in olden times before present-day medical knowledge and maternal and prenatal care. Rachel’s tragic death at the birth of Benjamin, for example, was never forgotten by the Israelites (Gen. 35:18). But Samson was born just as the angel of the Lord had promised, and God gave him both a strong, healthy body and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, when the text says “he grew” it is clear that he reached full manhood due to his mother’s care and guidance. He would “begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines, “a work that armies under Samuel and David would someday complete.

His parents named him Samson, formed of a diminutive (on) added to the word Shemesh meaning “sun.” Samson was probably a name like “Sunny boy,” literally, “Little Sun.” The time of the christening usually coincided with the rite of circumcision on the eighth day, a rite which was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14) and of the “Chosen People.” Samson’s call to fight against the “un-circumcised Philistines” (14:3) made this tradition a most important mark of his identity.

She was loyal to her religious faith (14:1-3). Samson’s choice of a Philistine wife in Timnah may not have been as shocking to his parents as it sounds to us today. The Torah records many mixed marriages: Moses himself had two foreign wives; Judah had a Canaanite wife, Tamar; Joseph married an Egyptian, mother of the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. But there was always the danger of the wife’s pagan faith entering into the life of Israel. Thus Solomon was warned that foreign wives might “turn your hearts after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2).

However, neither Manoah nor his wife were pleased with Samson’s choice of a Philistine for his wife, so they pleaded with him to marry one of the daughters of “our people” (14:3). His mother would show special concern in this matter, for mothers in Israel have always been held responsible for the faith of their children. Israelite boys spent their first seven years with the women of the household, learning many things from their mothers. Afterward they were allowed to go out and work with the men. Perhaps it would surprise some to hear that in modern Israel a true Jew is defined as “the son of a Jewish mother.”

Samson’s wonderful mother, more than most women in the Scriptures, fits the picture of the ideal wife drawn by the wiseman at the close of his book (Proverbs 31:10-31). She was a mutual bread-winner with her husband. She was known for her goodness in heart and deeds. She was wise in the knowledge of God, obedient- to his call, and, like Mary, strong in her faith. May our land be blessed with many others like the mother of Samson!