Tag Archives: Manoah

The Strongest Judge… An Answer to the Riddle

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Image Credit:
christianselfstudy.com

In those days, a man continued to live at home, with his parents, until he married, unless the Lord called him to go elsewhere, and so it was with Samson. As they raised this son the Lord had blessed them with, Samson’s mother and father were very careful to follow YHWH’s instructions, and train him in the way that he should go. And as Samson reached manhood, while still living with his parents, the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him. 

Samson was a virile young man, full of vim and vigor, and though his parents loved him dearly, and considered themselves very blessed to have him, the fact is that raising him according to the instructions laid out by the Lord, had proven to be quite challenging. For Samson was very headstrong, and often very belligerent as well, when he didn’t get his own way. And now, though he was no longer a child, he still worried his parents, who knew that God had created Samson for greatness. For although he was older now, and though the Spirit of the Lord had begun to stir in him, Samson was still very rebellious.

The couple had just finished praying for their beloved son, when the door opened with a crash, and Samson entered, kissing first his father, and then his mother on the cheek, before grabbing a hand full of figs from the table. “You seem very cheerful,” his mother said with a smile, as Samson joined his parents at the table. “Where did you go today?”

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Image Credit:
photogallery.indiatimes.com

Grinning broadly, Samson responded, “I was in Timnah today, Imah, and I saw the most beautiful girl there.” Turning to his father, Samson continued, “She’s a Philistine, and I want to marry her, Abba. Go and make the arrangements for me to marry her, ok?”

“Son, surely you jest!” His mother exclaimed, while Manoah pounded his fist on the table and shouted.

“A Philistine?!? Samson, have you lost your mind? Isn’t there one woman in our tribe, or even among all of Israel, that you could marry?”

“No, Abba,” he replied. “I want her. Get her for me.”

“Son, must you go to the pagan Philistines for a bride?” both his father and mother pleaded. Neither of them realized that the Lord was at work, even in this.

Finally, seeing that they couldn’t change his mind about marrying the Philistine girl, Samson’s parents went with him to Timnah, where the girl lived. As his parents slowly trudged along, Samson walked much more briskly, exuberantly pulling ahead of his parents in his eagerness to get there as quickly as possible. 

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Image Credit:
samsonthenazirite.wordpress.com

And so it was that as he was walking along, Samson heard the loud roar of a lion. His heart pounded loudly, as the lion lunged at him. Then, quickly, as the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him, without even thinking, Samson grabbed the open mouth of the lion before it closed on him, and ripped the beast in half. After killing the beast, he tossed the carcass into the vineyard by the roadside, and returned to hurry his parents along. Not wanting to trouble them, he kept the lion’s attack on him a secret.

When he saw the young Philistine woman again, Samson found her more desirable than ever, and so his father proceeded to arrange the marriage between his son and the Philistine. Finally, after nearly three months of negotiations, the marriage between the two was arranged. Samson was ecstatic, and when he was returning to Timnah for his wedding, he left the path and walked into the vineyard, where he had thrown the lion’s body. As he gazed at the dead animal’s body, he saw that a swarm of bees had made some honey within its cavity.

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Image Credit:
goodsalt.com

Grinning broadly, Samson scooped a handful of the honey, bringing its golden sweetness to his lips, tasting its syrupy goodness. After enjoying his fill of nature’s sweet nectarine, he carried some to his parents. “Oh Samson!” his mother exclaimed, “How wonderful! Where did you find it?”

Laughing joyfully, Samson ignored her question, instead urging his parents to hurry to Timnah, for his wedding. The Philistine girl was a beauty, and he was eager to make her his bride. Of course the truth is that he was looking forward to the party tonight, as well.

Once they got to town, while his father was making the final wedding arrangements, Samson threw a party for thirty young men, who were companions especially chosen for him by his bride’s parents. There was much fun and revelry at the party, as the young men all laughed and joked together. In the midst of all their merrymaking, Samson came up with a new game for his companions to play.

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Image Credit:
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“Friends, who wants to join me in a new game?” The young men looked at him expectantly, as he continued, “I have a riddle for you, and if any of you solve the riddle during these seven days of my marriage celebration, I’ll give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty  sets of festive clothing.” As the young men nodded eagerly, leaning closer to hear what he had to say, Samson lifted his right hand up to them, “But,” he said, “if no one can solve the riddle, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” the young men shouted eagerly. “Now tell us the riddle!”

“Very well then,” Samson replied. “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” After sharing his riddle with them, he burst out laughing. There was no way any of them would ever guess the answer to his riddle — not even if they had a million years to figure it out, for no one knew about the lion he had killed or the honey he had scooped up and eaten from it. He hadn’t even told his parents about it.

The men thought and thought about Samson’s riddle, only to become more and more frustrated with each wrong answer. As one day passed into another, and they were no closer to knowing the answer to the riddle, the young men began to get angry, and Samson’s laughter at their expense didn’t help their mood. For three days, they tried to guess the answer to Samson’s riddle with no luck, and finally, on the fourth day, they had enough.

While some of the young men distracted Samson, several others approached his wife, telling her, “You’d better coax your husband into telling you the answer to that stupid riddle for us. Otherwise, we’ll burn your father’s house down, with you in it! Did you all invite us to this party just to rob us and make us poor?”

With her life and the lives of her family at stake, Samson’s bride quickly approached him and tried to get him to tell her the answer to his riddle, but Samson laughingly brushed her aside, refusing to answer her, even when she burst into tears. “You don’t even love me, do you?” she cried. “You hate me, don’t you? How could you give my people a riddle and not even tell me the answer?” she desperately wept.

“Oh come on, honey,” Samson consoled her, as she lay in his arms later on that night, crying inconsolably. “I haven’t even told my parents the answer to my riddle, so why should I tell you?” At this answer, she just cried even harder. 

During what should have been one of the most joyful occasions of their life, both Samson and the girl were miserable. She was despairing for fear that the men would murder her and her family, while Samson was tormented by her constant nagging and crying. Finally, on the seventh day of the celebration, unable to bear her weeping and whining any longer, Samson told her the answer to the riddle.

His young wife was both relieved and elated, and as soon as she was able to get away from Samson, she ran to explain the riddle’s answer to the young men. She knew that she was risking Samson’s wrath by doing so, but that seemed a minor thing in comparison to losing her life and the lives of her family members. The young men roared with raucous laughter when she told them. For now, the joke was on Samson, and not them.

They waited until just before sunset to approach Samson, bowing mockingly before him. Samson, certain that they couldn’t possibly know the answer to his riddle, looked down upon them, condescendingly saying, “So you think you can answer my riddle, do you?”

Then, altogether, as though they had rehearsed it, the thirty young men answered in unison, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”

At their response, Samson’s face turned beet red, as he realized that his wife had betrayed him after being married for less than a week. He was furious as he looked from one mocking face to another, and he bellowed, If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle!”

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon the enraged bridegroom, and Samson went down to the town of Ashkelon and killed thirty men. Then, taking their clothing and their belongings, he then threw their clothing at the feet of the thirty young men. This was their payment for answering his riddle.

Afterward, still furious at his wife’s betrayal, Samson returned to his parents’ house. 

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

The Strongest Judge… Good News!

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The following story was taken from Judges 13…

A long, long time ago in Israel, before they had kings to rule over them, God was Israel’s King. For more than 300 years, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, under Moses’ leadership, and after wandering in the desert for 40 years, God appointed judges to rule and lead the children of Israel. Now, during the time of these judges, the children of Israel were sometimes very faithful to the Lord, while other times, (often when one of the judges would die, and before another took over), the Israelites would do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, choosing to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than walking in obedience to God. During this time, the nation of Israel did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and so He handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for 40 years.

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Now, it was when the nation of Israel had chosen to go their own way, rather than walking in obedience to God, and were suffering under the oppression of the Philistines, that a woman received a very special visitor, who brought her good news. This woman was married to a man named Manoah, who was from the tribe of Dan, and though they had been married for many years, they had no children, for she was barren.

When she was younger, she suffered from deep depression, especially when her friends were having one baby after another, year after year, while she was unable to conceive even one. For many years, she had cried out to YHWH, the Creator of all life, pleading for Him to give her a child, but finally, she had accepted the fact that she would never know the joy of carrying a new life in her womb. Therefore, she made up her mind that she would make the best of the situation, and though she couldn’t give her husband a baby, she determined to be the best wife any man could want in every other way.

That’s not to say that she didn’t still have bad days, because sometimes, when she thought about what it would have been like to give Manoah the son they both longed for, it felt like her heart would be rent apart. On those days, it was hard to stop the tears from flowing, but she tried not to let her husband see her pain, because it broke his heart to see her so upset. He was a good man, who loved her deeply, and the only thing worse than her own pain was seeing pain in Manoah’s eyes.

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And so this precious woman resolved that she would love and serve the Lord with all her heart, and place all of her trust in Him. For though He had given her no children, He had blessed her in other ways. After all, she had a wonderful husband who loved her dearly, despite the fact that she could give him no heirs. She also had a lovely home to live in, plenty of food, clothes on her back and so much more. How could she not love the Lord her Provider?

Yet, as deep as this woman’s love for the Lord was, His love for her was even deeper. You see, long before He laid the foundations of the earth, Elohim had given her a very special place in history, and though no one remembers her name, they do remember her story…

One day, while she was drawing water from the well, a Stranger appeared before her, saying, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”

She was elated. So strong was her faith in God, that it never occurred to her to question or doubt the Stranger’s words. As soon as He finished speaking and left, she gathered the hem of her robe in hand and took off running, (Yes, running at her age!) to find Manoah as quickly as possible and share the good news with him. 

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“Manoah! Manoah!” she shouted. “A Man of God came to me; His face was fearsome, like that of the Angel of God. I didn’t ask Him where He came from, and He didn’t tell me His name. But He told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’”

Manoah was stunned as he gazed down into his wife’s glowing eyes. She was radiant with joy, reminding him of the girl she had once been, before the cares of life had doused her youthful luminescence. Manoah didn’t question his wife’s sanity, for he, too, was a man who loved the Lord, and like his wife, he had a deep and abiding faith in the Almighty One. Therefore, in response to her joyful announcement, he dropped to his knees, praying, “Lord, please let the Man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.”

In answer to Manoah’s earnest prayer, the Angel of the Lord appeared once again to the woman of God, this time, while she was sitting in the field. Hurriedly, she ran to find her husband, telling him, “The Man who appeared to me the other day is here again!”

Quickly, Manoah ran back to the field with his wife to find the Angel of the Lord and question Him. “Are you the One who spoke to my wife the other day?” When the Angel of the Lord responded that He was indeed the one who had spoken to Manoah’s wife, he began to question Him about what rules should govern the child’s life. He repeated to Manoah what He had spoken to his wife a few days prior.

After listening to the Angel of the Lord’s instructions, Manoah invited Him to stay, while he and his wife prepared a goat for Him to eat. The Angel of the Lord agreed to stay, but informed them that He would not be eating the goat. Instead, He instructed them to offer the goat as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Manoah, still unaware that this was the Angel of the Lord, agreed to do so, asking Him for His name. “Why do you ask for My name?” He responded, “since it is Wonderful?”

Manoah then offered the goat and a grain offering as well, on a rock. Then, what happened next, caused both Manoah and his wife to fall to the ground on their faces in worship, as a flame of fire shot up from the altar toward heaven, and the angel of the Lord soared up to heaven in the flame. It was then, that Manoah realized that this was the Angel of the Lord. As he grabbed his wife’s hand, and the two stood, looking up to heaven, he whispered fearfully, “Now, we shall surely die, for we have seen God!”

Tenderly, this woman of great faith looked up into her husband’s eyes, taking his face into her hands, as she responded softly, “No Manoah. If the Lord was going to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted our offering. And surely, He wouldn’t have appeared to us to give us such wonderful news and shown us such miraculous things!” Tears slid down both of their faces as they held one another in the field that day, and worshiped their Creator…

And so it was that before the year was over, the faithful woman truly did give birth to a son, as the Lord had promised, and she named him Samson, which means, “sun,” perhaps in homage to the brilliance of the Lord that flashed before her and her husband, the day they saw the Lord ascend into heaven in a flame…

© 2014
Cheryl Showers