Manoah’s Wife


I am going to let my reader take in these words without commentary.


Manoah and his wife were childless, but an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her that she would give birth to a son. The child was to be dedicated from the womb as a Nazirite, which entailed restrictions on his diet, which the angel spelled out in detail. The woman (whose name is not mentioned in the Bible) told her husband, “A man of God came to me”. Manoah prayed and the angel returned to instruct the both of them. After the angel left, Manoah tells his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.”[6]

Together with his wife, Manoah subsequently tried to dissuade Samson from marrying a Philistine woman, but traveled with him to Timnah for the wedding ceremony when they were unable to do so.

Samson’s birth has special importance for some Christians (primarily Catholics), because of its similarity to the Annunciation to Mary, mother of Jesus.

After Samson’s death, his family recovers his body and buries him near the tomb of Manoah.

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
6They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. 8Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division,…


The Woman Who Mothered Earth’s Strongest Man

Judges 13; 14:2-5; Hebrews 11:32

It would have added greater interest to the story of Samson if we had had the name of his mother. It must have been a sweet and suggestive one for she was such a good woman. But while her husband’s name is preserved, she herself is nameless although the Talmud says that she bore the name of Hazelelponi or Zelelponi (see 1 Chronicles 4:3), and that she was of the tribe of Judah. Zelelponi means “the shadow falls on me,” and Manoah’s wife was certainly one who dwelt under the shadow of the Almighty and became the mother of the strongest man who ever lived.

She Was a Disappointed Woman

Once again we have the poignant phrase “She was barren,” with the redundant expression common in ancient literature, “and bare not.” “Sarai was barren: she had no child.” “Thou shalt live and not die,” etc. As we have already seen, God made many barren wives to rejoice over the birth of children (see href=”/id/36333831-4538-3044-2D42-3136362D3332″>Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth). These godly women who felt the intense sorrow and disappointment of a childless home received divine announcement and accomplishment of maternal joy. Manoah’s wife was a God-fearing Israelite whose faith taught her that heaven knew all about the maternity she cherished, and of the vain waiting that saddened her life. Evidently Manoah and his wife had all necessary material benefits. They seemed to have been fairly prosperous, but their greatest joy had been denied their home. Their child-longing and child-loving hearts had never been satisfied. Swinburne expressed the sentiment—

Where children are not, Heaven is not.

She Was a Privileged Woman

The wife of Manoah of Zorah was greatly honored in that she experienced a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. By “the angel of the Lord” who visited her with the happy message that her barrenness would pass, and she would become the mother of a most unusual son, we are to understand not any human messenger, but a supernatural being. The phrase constantly used in Judges implies, “The angel of His presence,” and is equivalent to earlier references (Genesis 16:7; 22:11; Exodus 2:2, 6, 14, etc.). Speaking in the first person, the august visitor who came to Manoah’s wife was “the captain of the Lord’s host” (Joshua 5:13-15). Heavenly beings brought revelations to individuals, but the prophets were the media of revelation to nations. The announcer of the good news, “thou shalt conceive and bear a son,” assumed a human form, for reporting his appearance to her husband, she spoke of him as, “A man of God … his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible.”

Later on, when the heavenly visitant appeared to both Manoah and his wife and repeated his message that their prayer and desire for a child would be answered, again his name was asked for. “Neither told me his name” (Judges 13:6). “What is thy name?” (13:17). But the angel answered, “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret,” or “wonderful,” as the margin expresses it, where the same term is used of the promised Messiah. “His name shall be called Wonderful” (Isaiah 9:6). The same word is used in the phrase, “the angel did wonderously” (Judges 13:19). As angels do not receive worship, the supernatural person the over-awed couple saw was no ordinary angel, for they fell on their faces and said, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (Exodus 33:20). It is clearly evident, therefore, that Manoah and his wife had witnessed one of those Old Testament theophanic appearances of Christ.

She Was a Godly Woman

Both of those humble Israelites must have walked with God to have been counted worthy to receive such a marvelous interview with the heaven-sent messenger. Barren though the nameless wife was, she was yet believing. We have no record of complaint or impatience over her childless state as we have in the case of Hannah. Constantly, she prayed for a child, and her prayer lightened the burden of her loneliness and sustained her patience. As a God-fearing Israelite, she had faith that He would answer her prayer.

Further, the fact that her promised son was to be separated unto God from the womb to the day of his death, marks her out as the sanctified vessel.

In the biblical narrative, Hannah is one of two wives of Elkanah; the other, Peninnah, bore children to Elkanah, but Hannah remained childless. Nevertheless, Elkanah preferred Hannah. The use of chiasmus underscores the standing of the women: Hannah is the primary wife, yet Peninnah has succeeded in bearing children. Hannah’s status as primary wife and her barrenness recall Sarah and Rebecca.[2]

Every year Elkanah would offer a sacrifice at the Shiloh sanctuary, and give Penninah and her children a portion but he gave Hannah a double portion “because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb” (NIV). One day Hannah went up to the temple, and prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10), while Eli the High Priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost. In her prayer she asked God for a son and in return she vowed to give the son back to God for the service of the Shiloh priests. She promised he would remain a Nazarite all the days of his life. According to Lillian Klein, the value of women is demonstrably enhanced by their child-bearing capacities. The narrative takes her pain and places it in her personal failure and then draws it out in a communal context. The desperation of Hannah’s vow indicates that merely bearing a male child would establish her in the community.[2]

Eli thought she was drunk and questioned her. When she explained herself, he blessed her and sent her home. Hannah conceived and bore a son, and named him Samuel, “since she had asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20 NAB). The role of women giving names in premonarchic Israel suggests an authoritative social role, at least within the family.[3] She raised him until he was weaned and brought him to the temple along with a sacrifice.

Hannah is also considered to be a prophetess, because in this Biblical passage she foretells history in advance. Eli announced another blessing on Hannah, and she conceived 3 more sons and 2 daughters, making six in total.

In contemporary biblical criticism[edit]

Hannah’s conflict with her rival, her barrenness, and her longing for a son are stereotypical motifs. According to Michelle Osherow, Hannah represents the character of the earnest petitioner and grateful celebrant of divine glory. Hannah was an important figure for early English Protestantism, which emphasized the importance of private prayer.[4] The Jerusalem Talmud took Hannah as an exemplar of prayer. The story of Hannah is part of the readings for Rosh Hashanah.

Samuel or Saul[edit]

It has been suggested among biblical critical commentaries that the name “Samuel” is a better etymological reference to the name Saul, and because of this it has been posited that the stories may have been displaced at one time in the narrative’s transmission history.

Peake’s Commentary on the Bible explains: Hannah named her son Samuel. The name, in the narrative, is interpreted as meaning “I have asked him of the Lord,” but this interpretation belongs, etymologically, to the name Saul. It has therefore been suggested that the etymology, and probably the whole birth story with it, has been displaced from Saul to Samuel in the course of compilation or transmission.[5]

The name Samuel in Hebrew is Shmuel which is translated to mean Shema -El God Heard, not that she asked for him but rather that God heard her prayers. Saul in Hebrew is Shaul which is derived from Shehaylah – to question or to ask for something…. although it is written that she named him Shmuel for from God she asked, Saul & Samuel are two different people and cannot be displaced or interchanged.

The editors of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia presented but disputed this view, arguing that interpreting Hannah’s “asked of God” answer as referring to the etymology of Samuel’s name, the basis of the displacement theory, is “not tenable”. “The fact that ‘alef’ and ‘ayin’ are confounded in this interpretation does not constitute an objection; for assonance and not etymology is the decisive factor in the biblical name-legends, … The first of the two elements represents the Hebrew term ‘shem’ (= ‘name’); but in this connection it as often means ‘son’. ‘Shemu’el’, or ‘Samuel’, thus signifies ‘son of God’.[6]


Numbers 30:11-13 allows a husband to nullify a vow made by his wife, if he registers his objection when he learns of it. However, if he says nothing, the vow is allowed as valid. The next time Elkanah goes to Shiloh, Hannah remains home to care for her child, but tells him that she will present the boy to the Lord when he is weaned. Elkanah responds, “Do what you think best.” By the time “the child was weaned” – there is some debate as to what age Samuel was dedicated to the Temple. It is unlikely that it meant weaned from the breast, and more likely when Hannah felt he was weaned from her as a mother – somewhere between the age of 6-12 years. Hannah serves the soundness of her promise by bringing a viable child to serve in the sanctuary, already educated in the ways of the Lord. The quality of one’s sacrifice reflected the quality of one’s faith.

In Leviticus, provisions were made for redeeming vows or pledges in money that would go to the support of the priests and the sanctuary.[7] So Hannah could have chosen that option to fulfill her vow, if on calm reflection, once she had her son, she felt unable to part with him.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Manoah’s Wife

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    Why I became a Nazarite is key to my claims that are based upon years of Biblical study, and are not random claims of a hallucinator.

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