The story of Manoah and his wife is a frontline argument that God speaks to women and through women. Their son, the Nazirite, Samson, is typically the star of Judges 13, but his parents had a rare righteousness in their relationship that is well worth exploring.
The story of Manoah and his wife has four special qualities to it that also equate to double-edged directives for Christian women now. These are the four plot points:
- Jesus appeared to Manoah’s wife to personally give her instructions on how to behave during pregnancy in preparation for Samson to be a Nazirite.
- When Manoah wanted to hear for himself confirmation of what his wife had been told, Jesus did not appear to him, but again to his wife, who then went and got Manoah so that he could hear personally from Jesus the instructions, which the instructions for Manoah were to: “Be sure your wife follows all the instructions I gave her.” (emphasis mine.)
- Manoah after a conversation with “the Angel of the Lord” finally realizes that he has been talking to God (pre-incarnate Jesus) and freaks out thinking they’ll be struck dead cause you can’t see God and live– it is his wife that assures Manoah that God would not have appeared to “us,” brought “us” good news, or have accepted “our” offerings just to kill us.
- In verses 24-25 of Judges 13, we are told that “When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan.” (emphasis mine.)
So let’s unpack these plot points a bit more to see how they cut both as a sword of victory for the war-faring woman, and a sword of truth that cuts to the quick.
God speaks to women specifically with specific assignments that are specifically for them. Women can have uniqueness in their calling– they are not merely attaches to their husbands’ callings; they have their own.
Judges 13:3-7: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘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 beverage 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.'”
It is a unique, solemn, lonely walk through pregnancy. No one can do it for you, and not even truly with you. Pregnancy is all on you, babe. And in just the same way, there are things that God will give a woman to do that are not tandem to her husband but solely her responsibility– both a show of God’s love for his daughters and a responsibility!
Only Manoah’s wife could control what she did and did not drink. Samson’s start as a Nazirite– not his conception, but his call to holiness– was on her only. Samson’s calling was riding on hers.
What God gives you is yours. When God gives something for you to do, He is not then going to turn around and give it to your husband.
Judges 13:8-9: “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘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.’ God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting in the field.”
Manoah wanted to hear for himself about his soon-to-be son. There had to be some level of excitement there; and men like to take a special ownership of their sons. But, the Angel of the Lord appeared again to his wife. And all He said to Manoah was “The instructions are what I already told her, so you can talk to her more if you want. If you want a job, just keep her accountable to do the job I gave her,” (loosest imaginable interpretation of Judges 13:13.)
I see in that a demonstration that the instructions were for Manoah’s wife because this assignment was specially hers, and He was not going to “give that away from her,” so to speak.
And! This is a directive: Her response to God’s gift to her is one of security and not insecurity; submission and not usurping.
This woman is not even named in the Bible. She is Manoah’s wife. She shows Christian submission by going and getting Manoah to talk with the Angel upon His second appearance to her. She shows no jealousy over her calling, no fear of her husband bearing over her, nor of him taking her favor. This unnamed woman, who has a special calling for her life, is not afraid of her husband, and can share her blessing with him.
If we’re really honest, how many of us dynamic women– women of calling, gifting, and zeal– get worried that our husbands will outshine us in ministry, be preferred in public, and elbow us out of our assignments? Manoah’s wife was not. And nor should we be.
Wives will sometimes be called to have faith for the “both of us.”
Manoah had a weak heart. He needed to hear straight from the Angel. He then needed to make a sacrifice. Then he realized the Angel was God and thought he was going to die. His wife meanwhile is cool as a cucumber.
Judges 13:23: “But his wife said, ‘If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.'”
Not only did Manoah’s wife encourage him in faith, she was inclusive when speaking of the appearances of the Angel of the Lord. She did not speak of “me” and “you” and “us,” even though that would have been warranted in describing the sequence of events. She focuses on unity: “we.”
She could have hoarded her assignment/blessing/instructions/calling as specially hers, but she doesn’t. She chooses to be unified with her husband in what is uniquely hers.
Without that kind of confidence she could not have had the faith she needed for both she and her husband.
Insecurity is not isolated. Misgivings in one area will diminish your faith in another. Disunity in one area will cause division in other areas as well.
Another directive: Even what God gives specifically to you must be free from fear of your husband’s spiritual authority– as figurative or literal as that may be in your house.
You will be rewarded.
Credit is important to all of us. We want to be acknowledged for what we have done, the amount of effort or sacrifice involved, and for the success and beauty of the fruit of our labor.
Again, Judges 13:24-25: “When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol.”
Manoah’s wife gets the credit, and she gets her reward. Samson is referred to as her son. She named him. But more importantly, the highest reward for any mother is for her children to be blessed and to have the Spirit of the Lord stir in them.
I would think that the apex of any ministry would be for it to be called “yours” and for it to be described as “blessed” and marked by the move of the Holy Spirit! And it’s a little scary for a Christian woman to pour into a calling she was personally given, knowing that when this apex of favor comes to fruition that many people will just assume it was her husband’s calling/assignment/blessing/instructions/obedience.
Manoah’s wife did not covet what God had given her to do, did not lord it over her husband, did not peel off in independent pursuit; she shared mutually with her husband, she remained submitted to his leadership, and they walked humbly forward in faith.
Her hope was in the Lord who had spoken to her personally. Whenever you trust another person to share with you, whenever you trust your husband to share with you, it is that you are trusting in the One who gave to you, the One who made a promise to you, and that you are certain He does not waver or fail.