No, not that child, that’s much later.
Yes, I know I promised Arthur, and I’m getting there, but I have to talk about Samson after talking about Herc. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it—well, okay, it probably won’t for a while, but it’s still really interesting.
So Samson’s birth is actually foretold by an angel. This is a big deal. First, it’s kind of a revisit of the Abraham and Sarah thing. This woman (who is sadly never given a name) has no children and is barren. But the angel tells her she’s going to be pregnant. He also tells that the boy will be a Nazirite, which we don’t get any explanation of in Judges 13, but will be a big deal.
For now we’re focused on the delivery of the message itself. What should be a straightforward chapter drags on and on about this whole thing. The angel is sent to the wife, she tells her husband, he prays for the messenger to come back. The angel returns (again only to the wife), she gets her husband, and the message is repeated; they do the nice thing and offer a nice meal.
The angel politely declines, and then there’s an aside by the editors of the story to come straight out and tell us “Manoah did not know that it was the angel of the Lord” (Judges 13:16 NRSV). This is put in parentheses to tell us it’s an aside, as well.
And this is the crux of the entire chapter. Manoah even freaks out when he realizes that this was an angel, but why would he? The aside and Manoah’s reaction tell us something about the time period we’re in. The story of Samson is in the Book of Judges which is after the death of Joshua, Moses’s successor, but we’re not told exactly how much time has gone by. It’s a while, actually, because the land of Israel is occupied by the Philistines, and has been for 40 years (Judges 13:1). How much time between Joshua and Samson isn’t immediately, though. However, we know that, symbolically, it’s a long time simply because of Manoah’s reaction.
He’s freaking out! He doesn’t just accept his wife’s word that someone appeared, he asks for the angel again (thinking it just a simple messenger). This level of freakout means that God hasn’t been sending angels to deliver messages to people. The tone is also one of fear. Visitations by God are to be dreaded, not celebrated. We’ve come a long ways since the days of Abraham, which is the closest comparison we have to this story.
So not only has time passed, but the feelings towards God have changed in a big way. This is a people that is no longer used to getting messengers from God, a people who don’t expect a benevolent presence from God.
Manoah’s wife is the calming presence in this, keeping her man from having a total meltdown, proving once again that women are better at handling stressful situations (particularly childbirth).