Son of God?
The Suspicious Story of Samson’s Birth
The story of Samson’s birth in Judges 13 opens the Bible’s biography of Samson, which moves from his birth to his death, three chapters later, in Judges 16. Samson’s birth story represents one in a succession of biblical stories about barren women (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, the Shunammite woman), all of which end with the birth of a son.
In Judges 13 an angel of God appears to Samson’s mother (though she does not recognize him as such) and announces the approaching birth of her son, who will be a Nazirite from birth and who will deliver the Israelites from their Philistine enemies. After the woman’s husband, Manoah, asks to meet the messenger — who, the woman claims, is a man of God — the angel again appears to the woman when she is alone. She brings the angel and her husband together, and then she and her husband watch as the angel ascends heavenward amidst flames from the rock. When Manoah realizes that they have seen an angel of God, he fears for their lives, but the woman calms him. With the birth of her son, she gives the boy the name Samson.
A number of details in this story both awaken our wonder and demand our attention. The revelation of the messenger/angel to the woman (and not the man) is described with the words “an angel of the LORD appeared to the woman” (Judges 13:3), typical language for describing revelation (cf., e.g., Genesis 12:7; 1 Kings 9:12). In presenting the woman’s report of this meeting to her husband, however, the narrator writes: “The woman came and told her husband, ’A man of