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[a] = summary lessons
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Judges 13:1-5 by Robert Dean
Series:Judges (2000)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 29 secs

A Different Deliverer; Barren Women; Judges chapter 13


We continue with the deterioration and decline of Israel during the period of the judges. They continually go through this cycle of disobedience and divine discipline, then they cry out to God and God sends a deliverer. That needs to be emphasized because in Judges 13 we don't see that. For the first time the nation doesn't cry out to God, there is no confession. Without confession there is no recognition of sin and there is no deliverance. Once you confess your sin the discipline is either ceased or it ot diminishes, or God transfers it over into the category of suffering for blessing. But in the case of Israel there is no deliverance at this point. Samson is not designed to be a deliverer. One of the interesting things about this character is that he does not deliver the nation. Unlike the other judges there is no deliverance. Samson is like the burr under the Israelites' saddle at this point. The tendency we are going to see in our study is to assimilate to the Philistines. They want peaceful co-existence. They just don't want to fight with the Philistines. They are adopting their culture, they are adopting their religious system, and so God is going to send Samson, though not to deliver them but to just be a trouble-maker. Everywhere Samson goes, even though most of the time he is out of fellowship and in carnality, doing just whatever he wants to do, we see the marvelous working of the sovereignty of God using him to just stir up trouble. He is just constantly going to stir up friction between the Jews and the Philistines, and that is the last thing the Jews want. They just want peaceful co-existence.


There has been through this gradual deterioration in Israel through each successive judge—Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, and starting with Gideon things really got bad. The last two major judges, Jephthah and Samson, basically overlap one another. Samson's birth is about the time Jephthah begins to deliver the nation from the Ammonite oppression from the east. The Philistines come in from the west. Jephthah solves the Ammonite problem, Samson is going to be dealing with the western threat. 


When we read through the Scriptures it sounds as if with these judges one is born and dies, another born and dies, as though it is successive. The with the distinction between Judges and Samuel as distinct books we lose sight of the fact that the beginning chapters of Samuel actually overlap the period of the judges. Beyond that the book of Ruth takes place somewhere in the midst of this period of judges, and that is the positive thing. Ruth is the optimism of God's grace, whereas Judges is the pessimism of human depravity. Judges has very little positive to say other than God's grace is always there no matter how much we mess up in life, and no matter how we fail God is always faithful to us.


Jephthah is born in approximately 1150 BC and dies in approximately 1100 BC. When he is about 25 years of age and still out in the land of Tob with his band of brigands, before he is approached by the Gileadites to deliver them, Samson is born. So when we start with Judges 13:1 we have to realize that this isn't a verse that follows chronologically in 12:15 but goes back in time about 25 years. So in 1123 Samson is born, and at that time we are also told that there is a forty-year oppression. Samson is there from 1123 to 1084, he does not live to see the deliverance from the Philistines. Samuel was born just a few years after Samson, while Samson was just a young boy, and Samuel is the one who will bring the nation deliverance. He is the last judge and the first prophet, and he is the first one to anoint a king, so Samuel becomes the transition point from judges to kings (the period of the judges to the period of the monarchy). The Philistine oppression does not end until the battle of Mizpah.


13:1—"And the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord." The evil is always defined in context. This isn't just any sin, it isn't immorality or lawlessness, it is idolatry. It is thee worship of false gods, making something else than God the source of happiness and meaning in life. Idolatry doesn't have to be in the form of worshipping idols of stone and wood. Idolatry can be mental, more abstract. We can worship our jobs, we can worship status, we can make any detail of life a higher priority than God and at that point it becomes an idol. We as a nation have succumbed to the same problem that Israel succumbed to. Throughout this period we see "evil" used this way over and over again, even in the period of the divided monarchy. When we get into those chapters in Kings and Chronicles and read about the northern kings, and not one northern king was a good king. Each king "did evil in the sight of the Lord" and often we find the statement that they followed the sins of Jereboam, the son of Nebat, who lead them into idolatry. So think in terms of evil as religious evil. It is not necessarily involving sin, although the idolatry they practiced was often associated with the phallic cult, fertility worship and prostitution, and many other sexual perversions. But sometimes it wasn't, or not every person was involved in the fertility cult. Some were involved in other aspects of idolatry. However, evil is always defined here as a religious decision against God, so it involves morality, religious activity, but it is still defined as evil.


Again and again and again Israel went through this same cycle that once again they do evil, they get involved in idolatry, and always the evil is not just some abstract concept of evil, not a concept of evil that is based on relativism, but the writer of Judges always says it is evil in the sight of the Lord. It must be kept in mind that the evil in the sight of the Lord is in contrast to the theme of this book, and that is that everyone did that which was right in their own eyes. So the nation has succumbed to relativism just as our nation has succumbed to relativisim and has lost sight of the fact that norms and standards come from God, from outside of creation, outside of nature, that values are not based on a majority vote, not based on what works, values are based on what God has said. God is the one who decrees what is right and what is wrong and we don't look to something within the created order. Values, morals and ethics do not derive from rationalism and empiricism. We walk by faith and not by sight, and that is not faith in faith, it is faith in the Scriptures, and when the Scriptures are more real to us than any experience, any feeling, any circumstance, any popular opinion or popular notion, that is when we are walking by means of faith. We have to learn to start with the Scriptures and not start with experiences. There are some things that rationalism and empiricism can never tell us and will never tells us, and the only way we can know the answers to some questions is by going to the Word of God. So once again Israel succumbs to idolatry and God disciplines them. "The Lord" is the subject of the active verb, He gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. Samson will not survive that forty-year period and he will not bring them deliverance.


There is a lot of talk about who the Philistines were and to understand that we are going to have to go back and look at a couple of passages of Scripture. Normally the Philistines are referred to as the Greek sea peoples, but that is almost a misrepresentation because that implies that they were Greek and they were not Greek. Genesis 10, the table of nations: verse 14, "And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistine,) and Caphtorim." Caphtorim is an ancient name for Crete that the Philistines and the Caphtorim have their geneological root not in Japheth, not in the Greeks up in the north, but they are related  to the Eguptians—Mizraim, v. 13. Therefore they are not Greeks, though often that misidentification is made. Later on in the Scriptures in Ezekiel 25:15, 16; Zephaniah 2:4, 5; Jeremiah 47:4 they are all mentioned as having come from either Caphtor or Chereth, alternative names for Crete. So that identification stands. Then, in Amos 9:7 God makes a comparison statement: "Just as I brought Israel out of Egypt, I brought the Philistines out of Caphtor." This seems to suggest that just as Egypt was not the original home of the Jews, Caphtor is not the original home of the Philistines. That means they came from somewhere else, probably Egypt, and then they went up Caphtor where there is an intermingling with the Greeks, and then they come over to the shore of the Mediterranean and establish colonies along the coast and establish a beachhead in the land of Canaan. Then as time went by there is this merger. There is more people that come down from either Greece or the Carthaginians and they intermingle with the people who originally established the colonies along the coast of Canaan. The first major mention of the Philistines is in Genesis 20 where Abraham has some dealings with the king of the Philistines whose name is Abimelech. Right there we see that Abimelech is not just a personal name but was a Philistine title for king. So there was more going on when Gideon named his son Abimelech than we met on the surface. He is giving his son a Philistine title of monarchy. In Genesis 20 Abraham is trying to solve the famine problem by going to the Philistines and then lying, using deception. He is using all the human viewpoint problem-solving devices and, of course, whenever we do that and arrogance is in control of the soul--always related to trying to solve problems on our own terms--eventually it is going to cause problems. It did, especially for Abimelech. In v. 4 he calls God, not Yahweh, a title related to the Abrahamic covenant, but he calls Him Elohim which indicates that Abilmelech has a knowledge of God. His response in this section and his response also when Isaac does the same thing and goes to the Philistines in a time of famine. What we see here is that the Philistines at this time seem to be positive, seem to understand something about the Abrahamic covenant, something about God, but by the time we see them in Exodus chapter thirteen they are antagonistic. So negative volition sets in between Genesis 20 and 26 and Exodus. At this point in Genesis they are not anti-Semitic, they are not against Israel, they are not hostile to Israel, in fact they play a protective role and are reponsive to God's mandates. By Exodus we see the national character has been hardened. During that 550-year period the ethnic Philistines that began with Abimelech changed. They are infiltrated by a number of Greek peoples, the decendants of Japheth, and so the Philistine culture becomes a melting pot--"multicultural"! As they become multicultural they begin to absorb everybody's religious systems. In fact, the three main God's that we see the Philistines have by the time we get into Samuel are Dagon, Baalzebul, and Ashterah. Those three names are all Semitic names, so they've got Semitic gods. They just assimilated everybody's religious system and that is how they keep peace, they blend the cultures together. Goliath was not a native Philistine, he was one of the Anakim. The Philistines had their purity wiped out through assimilation with other groups. There was an amalgamation of people and that affects their religious views. The point to be made about that is that this is exactly the kind of attitude that had taken over in Israel. It is a relativism; it is that any god works. Let's not offend anybody by talking about the fact that there is only one God. And remember that all religious systems that worship something other than God are based on idolatry which is based on demonism. Deuteronomy 32:16,17; Psalm 96:5.


Assimilation is always based on relativism: there is nothing worth dying for, everybody's right, any religion works, they are all basically the same. So let us note some principles:


a) If anything can be true then nothing is true. That is, if any system is true and they mutually contradict each other then nothing is true. That is one of the problems with multiculturalism and postmodernism, they want to make everybody's value system equally true.


b) If you won't fight for the truth then you won't live for the truth. If you don't believe in something strongly enough to fight and die for it, then you don't believe in something strongly enough to really live for it.


c) If you have nothing that you will die for then you don't have anything that you will live for. This leads to a passive attitude that is self-serving. All you want to do is to be left alone to have personal peace and a sense of security, and to do whatever you want to do. Eventually that house of cards will collapse, and that is where we are as a nation. We don't have anything worth fighting for, we have given up truth, we have given up any concept of truth, and we don't want to fight for that. So all we want to do is to be left alone to do what is right in our own eyes.


Israel had come to that same type of relativisim, so they just wanted to peacefully co-exist with the Philistines. They did not want to get involved in a conflict. They had adopted their gods, and we are going to see that Samson is a perfect illustration of the kind of attitude that characterized the nation as a whole. One principle to note is: Often a nation has leaders that reflect the strengths and weaknesses of that nation itself.  We have to remember that in this kind of environment, the environment of relativism, that the relativist is always hostile to the person who believes in absolutes. It is always a battle. If you believe in absolutes your very presence on the planet is an affront to the person who believes that everything is relative. They make it their personal agenda and personal objective to either change your mind or to get rid of you because you are viewed as a hindrance to everything that they want to establish. Prior to this we have seen that the subjugation of Israel was through military conquest, but this time through the Philistines they are following a policy of alliance, a policy of friendly dialogue, peaceful co-existence, and so it is a much more subtle way to try to destroy Israel. Remember that behind all of this lies the strategy of Satan to destroy God's people so that God is not able to bring about that which He has promised, and therefore to win in the angelic conflict. 


In verse 2 we are told, "And there was a certain man." So we are going to go from the problem--something is missing between verse one and verse two which we found in other statements about Israel. Since then there is no mention of their cry out for deliverance. So we see God's grace here in providing a solution despite the fact that the people have not cried out. This is tantamount in the Christian life to the fact that when you or I get in sin and extended carnality God does not stop working, He just has to get our attention through divine discipline to get us back into fellowship. This man is of the family of the Danites, he is a descendant of Dan. His name is Manoah and his wife was barren. We know the man's name but we don't know the wife's name. This takes away the attention from her and puts the attention completely on the son that is going to be born.


Dan's original tribal allotment is to the west of the central highlands with a border along the Mediterranean. But along the coastline was where the Philistines had carved out their territory by this time under five major cities. They don't have a king any more like they did in Genesis so obviously some major cultural changes had taken place over the last 800 or so years. The tribe of Dan had suffered so much territorial loss to the Philistines and cultural loss from assimilation of their religion that Dan eventually migrated to the north by Naphtali and took over as part of their inheritance land to the north side of Israel, and Dan suffered spiritually during this time so that through the remainder of thr history of Israel Dan is always in apostasy. Dan is never a tribe that is known for their devotion to Yahweh. 


In verse 3 the angel of the Lord [the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ] appears to the woman. We need to ask this question: If the man is the head of the house why is He appearing to the woman? Throughout this whole chapter the angel does not appear to the man at all; always to the woman. It is obvious that the woman is more spiritually astute than the man is but that is not the reason. The reason the angel of the Lord is dealing directly with the woman and not with the head of the house is because He is dealing with the woman in the arena of her specific God-delegated responsibility, i.e. having children and propagating the species. That takes us over into 1 Timothy chapter two where Paul states that women are not to teach or have authority over men, but they are saved through child-bearing. That is the role that God has given to women in terms of being mothers, in terms of raising the next generation, and all of that. So the angel deals directly with the woman because it is in her arena of ministry and life responsibility.


"Behold, now [he arrests her attention], you are barren and bear no children; but you shall conceive"— and that is an incorrect translation, it is not a Hebrew imperfect continuing the narrative style, it is a perfect tense of the verb and should be translated "you have conceived." It is not a future tense, it is a past tense. He is announcing that she is now pregnant. There are two verbs here, first the verb harah which means to conceive, then the second verb yalad which means to give birth. There is a noun form of harah and it is hareyon, and it should be translated "conception" or "pregnant." However, there is no noun form of the verb yalad. That is really important to understand some crucial distinctions about the origin of life.


Verse 4 –- "wine" is yayin which is the normal word for alcoholic, fermented beverage deriving from grapes. "Strong drink" is the Hebrew word shekar, referring to barley beer or ale. It did not refer to what we would call strong drink because they did not have distillation in the ancient world. "Nor eat any unclean thing"—they were so apostate in Israel now that they were eating all of the dietary prohibitions.


Verse 5 – we need to look at Numbers chapter six to understand what is meant to be a Nazirite. Nazirite derives from the Hebrew word which means to make a vow. Vows were part of the Mosaic law, they were voluntary and they were temporary. That means it was up to the individual's volition as to whether they made a vow and it was not a permanent situation. It was temporary and when it was over with they had to make certain sacrifices to God to signify the end of that vow period. There were all kinds of vows but Numbers chapter six describes the vow of the Nazirite, a very special vow and a vow that had a very visible presence so that people would know you were a Nazirite. Because of the visibility of it, with the long hair, people would know that you were living a special kind of life. There is an expansion in Numbers to what we read in Judges, they were not to touch anything associated with the grape. Why? We read in the Psalms that wine was given to man for the joy of his soul. What this symbolizes is that this person who has taken a Nazirite vow is demonstrating that by his abstinence from wine his joy comes from God and not from anything else. So just to make sure there is no confusion over the issue he has to stay away from anything produced by the grape vine. Then in the second part of the vow, verse 5, "no razor shall pass over his head."  He doesn't cut his hair and he is to let it grow long and flowing; "and he shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord." So it is temporary. Verse 6 – he shall not go near a dead body. The long hair is to tell everybody he is a Nazirite, a visual expression. But death is always a reminder of spiritual death and uncleanness in the Old Testament. The whole point that God is making through this visual training aid is that death comes from sin and I can't have anything to do with sin or its effects in my presence. I am a holy God and you cannot come into my presence at all if there is the least taint of sin in your life. Verse 7 –  that is the most extreme situation. The most personal situation is when someone very close to you in your immediate family dies. The normal thing is to grieve and go to the funeral.


So Samson is going to be a Nazirite, not voluntarily and not temporarily. His Nazirite vow is imposed by God and he is set apart from conception. This is an interesting idea here because his physical life that has started in his mother's womb is going to be separate to the Lord. Now that brings up a lot of interesting questions about when life begins. Note: Science cannot, has not, and never will be able to tell us when a human soul is present in the fetus. What we do know from science is a lot about fetal movement, the neurological response to external stimuli and to pain, but that does not tell us that there is a soul present. A soul is immaterial and there is no physical, material process or test that can ever tell us when the soul is present. It should be noted that there is no law of Scripture that God expects of the unbeliever that is not discernable on the basis of rationalism and empiricism. In other words, when you look at the civil law in the Mosaic law all of those laws were present in almost all of the law codes of the ancient world. It is obvious to most people on the basis of experience and reason that murder is wrong, theft is wrong, lying is wrong, adultery is wrong, all of these things. But nowhere in the Mosaic law or anywhere in the Scripture does God ever expect unbelievers to be accountable for something that they can't learn. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 makes it clear that the unbeliever, the natural man, cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. Now if science cannot tell us when life actually begins, i.e. when the soul is present in the fetus, then it is a fact that can only be discerned from revelation. Unbelievers cannot discern anything from revelation. Therefore to make a national law based on something that is discerned only from revelation, and is questioned by many throughout church history, that full life is present in the womb is wrong! Because unbelievers can't learn that, they can't see that, they can't know that, they can't understand it from Scripture. And nowhere does God expect unbelievers to be accountable for something they can't understand.


We see in verse 5 that Samson is going to be a Nazirite to God from the womb. This is a prepositional phrase, the preposition men plus a definite article ha plus the word for "womb," beten. Sometimes the definite article is dropped out and the preposition men assimilates to the noun and it is just me beten. This is crucial. Men is a preposition. In any preposition clause you have two elements, a preposition and a noun. Some would say that when you have the phrase me beten that that means "in the womb" and that relates to something going on inside the womb during pregnancy. But that preposition is represented by the Greek letter B, and you don't have a B beten here, you have me beten—"from the womb." It is a local use of men and it refers to that which comes out of the womb, outside the womb. There are some that try to argue that this phrase, me beten, is the Hebrew idiom for "in the womb." One reason you have an idiom in a language is because there is no literal way to express the thought. What they try to make me beten mean is "from conception." They would argue here that Samson was to be a Nazirite to God from conception.


But note a couple of things. She is told not to drink wine, not to touch a dead person. Why? Because she has conceived and will give to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head for he shall becoime a Nazirite from the womb. In other words, from birth his volition is activated. Being a Nazirite is related to volition and you can't be volitionally active in the womb. So that is obviously from outside the womb.


Note again the verb harah which means to conceive, and the verb yalad which means to give birth. In Hebrew you have a noun, hareyon, which means "conception" or "pregnant." So there is a linguistic tool available in Hebrew to say "from conception." That is, men plus the noun hareyon. But if you want to say "from birth," there is no noun in the Hebrew for the word "birth." You have the verb yalad but there is no noun form of yalad. There is no way to literally say "from birth" in the Hebrew. Therefore a Jew must resort to an idiom to express the concept of "from birth." The idiomatic expression is me beten, and it should be translated "from birth." The translators of the NIV consistently translate me beten "from birth." Even when you get into the Greek of the New Testament in Luke chapter one where it says John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit EK KOILIA [e)k koilia], they translate it "from birth." One of the biggest problems that people have who want to say that there is full soul life in the womb, and they always want to go to the Luke one passage to argue that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception, is that even if it is true that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from the instant birth you have a major theological problem of having somebody filled with the Spirit who has never accepted Christ as saviour. That is, you have an unregenerate person filled with the Spirit! That is a major theological flaw in that entire argument.


The main point here is, there is a strong case that the soul is not present in the womb. It is the position called creationism and it has been around since the early church, i.e. that God creates each individual soul and instantaneously and simultaneously imparts it with the first breath of a newborn infant. It is called creationism and is a position held by such renowned Roman Catholic theologians as Jerome and Thomas Aquinas. Also, among Protestants, Luther, Calvin, Louis Berkhof, and Charles Hodge. It has been a standard position of theologians for centuries, since the early church. The reason for emphasizing that (it doesn't make it right or wrong) is that in today's environment most evangelicals thionk that life begins at conception and they have never heard this position. Yet, 100 years ago, a Presbyterian theologian by the name of William G. T. Schedde in his dogmatic theology wrote (and he did not believe in creationism) in his discussion that up to his point in time the majority of theologians were creationists. Now to say that the soul is not imparted until birth does not mean that abortion is automatically justified. That is where everybody goes, and it doesn't follow. All it means is that abortion isn't murder. It doesn't mean you can just go out and frivolously have abortions. But that doesn't have anything to do with the theological position.


Where are we going with this?

If you are going to make a law, and this is what so many conservatives want to do by making abortion illegal, what that says is that it is obvious on the basis of science that there is a soul there. But science can't measure anything immaterial. God never makes unbelievers accountable for that which is knowable only through Scripture. No matter what position you take only Scripture, only God, can tell us when the soul is present.


The other position is Treducianism, and that is that the soul is passed on through physical procreation. That view was first promoted by Tertullian who lived late second-early third century AD. But one little-known fact about Tertullian is that he thought that the soul was material. So he had the soul materially generated through procreation.


The Scriptures always describe the parameters of life as being birth and death. Again and again when then Bible talks about the parameters of life it is always from birth to death, never ever from conception to death.