Judges 12-13 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine. And we want you to experience a life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is Expound.
Turn in your Bibles, please, to the Book of Judges 12. Judges 12, we continue the story of a character by the name of Jephthah. What a guy. The gangsta from Gilead, that's what I'll call him. The guy was a warrior. He was trained to fight people. And he had people gather around him to help fight the battles that were written about previously in this book.
Now he was an illegitimate child, we discovered. So his brothers gave him a hard time, dissed him most of his life. And all of the angst that he grew up with because of that, we can only imagine. Eventually, he left town and went way up north to a little town called Tob-- T-O-B.
Is it a little cold in here? Is it OK? Is the temp OK? OK.
So he went up north. Now when he fled-- and he had been marginalized by his brothers and by his countrymen-- eventually, they got a hold of him and said, look, Jephthah, we'd really love you to come back to town. We're really sorry for the way we treated you. And if you come back and fight against our enemies, we'll make you the guy in charge of all of us.
And he goes, wait a minute. You guys never liked me, wanted me gone. I left. Now you want me back. And he goes, yeah, we want you back because there is this group called the Ammonites. And they're too strong for us and we need somebody as just sort of a crazy warrior. And you fit the bill.
And so we see that he was able to defeat the enemy, the Ammonites, those on the eastern side of the Jordan River. In modern day Jordan, Amman, we said the city of Amman, Jordan, today hails back to the ancient area and place of the Ammonites. So he came back and did it.
But when he was about to go into the battle, he made this stupid vow. We saw that last week as well. He said, you know, Lord, I'm telling You now-- I'm making this vow to You now-- that when I come back from the battle, if You give me victory, whatever first comes out of my house I will give to You as a burnt offering. It's the stupidest thing a guy could ever say. But he said it.
And it is one of the mysteries of the Bible. We don't know why he said it. Except, as I explained last week, he was half Canaanite. And part of the pagan religions, often generals would do that. They would offer people as a burnt sacrifice to their pagan god.
And so we can automatically see that Jephthah had lowered the ideal God of the universe, Jahweh, the only true and living God, and brought Him down to the level of a Canaanite deity. So he doesn't have a healthy view of God. He's not really walking in the fellowship with the God of the Bible that we know. He is still working off of an ancient paradigm.
And again, we mentioned last week, we don't know what he was expecting when he made that vow, what he thought would come out of his house. Maybe a cat that he never liked and this is a good way to get rid of that cat or a calf that he didn't get care, an animal, or a mother-in-law, or his wife. We don't know. But his daughter came out. And there's dispute as to what happened to that, but probably he went through with that grisly vow just to show how low the country had sunk at that time. That was in the previous chapters.
Now, we're not done with Jephthah but we're about to be in this chapter. We discover that Jephthah has enemies in a lot of different places. Jephthah had enemies in his own home. His brothers marginalized him, wanted him gone, pushed him out. Then he had enemies in the nation next to him. The Ammonites were the national enemies.
Now we discover that there's a tribe of Israel that wants to kill him, called the Ephraimites. These are among the people of God. So he has enemies in the home. He has enemies abroad. And he has enemies in the fellowship, you might say, the fellowship of God's own people.
In the Book of Galatians, it talks about the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit. And Paul said the works of the flesh are evident. And he lists several things that are the works of the flesh.
See if you can relate to any of these-- contentions is one of them. That's divisions between people. People have something against somebody else. These are social sins. They can happen in churches. They can happen in families. They can happen in societies. Contentions, also jealousies, and outbursts of wrath. Contentions, jealousies, and outbursts of wrath.
There's an interesting story about a little boy who was driving down the street with his mother. And as they were driving, the little boy said, you know, mom, when I'm with dad and he's driving, we see way more idiots on the road than whenever I drive with you.
Now, that gave insight to that man's wife of what kind of a driver and what kind of an example that her husband is being to her son. Outbursts of wrath, contentions, maybe even jealousies because the guy in front got in and pulled in front of you.
Now I share that scripture because that is what we see happening in Chapter 12-- contentions, jealousies, and outbursts of wrath. The Ephraimites have been holding a grudge. And I mean for a long time. For like 50 years they've been holding grudges. Somebody once said the heaviest thing you can carry around is a pack of grudges. And they've been carrying this grudge for over 50 years.
You may remember that when Gideon fought the Midianites and the men of Ephraim heard that Gideon had done that and that he won the battle, the Ephraimites came and they were angry. And the reason they were angry is because Gideon went to battle against the enemy but did not inform the Ephraimites and the Ephraimites were unable to help in the battle. So they got in a tizzy, got all angry at Gideon. Why didn't you invite us, man? We're mad at you. We're going to get you.
And Gideon, far from Jephthah, Gideon was diplomatic. Gideon basically said, hey, man, you got to understand that the gleaning of Ephraim are much better and much more than the vintage of Abiezer. And what he meant by that is, yeah, I may have killed an army of only 135,000 people, but you killed two dudes. And what you did was way more than what I did because the two dudes that you killed were the leaders. So we have this whole harvest, this whole vintage, that we took care of but you managed to get the leaders. So in a very diplomatic way, he complimented the Ephraimites and it settled them down.
50 years later, the Ephraim arts Ephraimites are back and they're angry again. This time they're not angry Gideon. Gideon is long gone. But they're angry at Jephthah because Jephthah fought against one of the enemies and didn't ask the Ephraimites along. So they really want to fight, man. They want to Scrap
So 12:1-- "Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over towards Zaphon and said to Jephthah, 'Why did you cross over to fight the people of Ammon and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire.'" Wow. Would you say that's an overreaction? These guys really are troublemakers.
Now they're supposedly the people of God. They're one of the tribes of Israel. And they're coming to another fellow brother Israelite saying, You didn't bring us in on this. We're jealous. We're angry. We're contentious. Here's our outburst of wrath. We're going to burn your house and your family down. Now that's a trial.
Some of you are upset because you've gone through a trial lately. You're mad at your boss because he fired you. This guy is facing real fire. Like we're going to burn your house down. This is a real trial.
So now he's going to respond. But he does not respond like the diplomat that Gideon was. This guy's a scrapper, too. He's a fighter.
So Jephthah this said to them, "My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon. And when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands." I did ask for you guys. You must not have got the memo because you didn't respond, but I did invite you. "So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon and the Lord delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?"
Now please, again, get the picture of this. You have an Israelite fighting and other fellow Israelite. About to get into a civil war, and it will break out into that. The real enemy, the Ammonites, have been defeated. But there are other real enemies around them who want to destroy them as a nation. But they're busy fighting each other.
And I sometimes feel that Christians fight the wrong enemy. We fight each other rather than fighting Satan and his minions, and the ideologies, and the principalities, and the powers. But we get so myopic that we turn our swords on one another.
According to Jesus, unity in the church proves the veracity of the message of the church, proves the message of the gospel. When Jesus prayed for future believers in John 17, you remember how He prayed. He prayed for His disciples, but He said, I pray not only for these alone but all of those who will believe in Me through their word that they may be one as We are one, that the world may believe that You sent Me. So unity is a proof of the veracity of the message of the gospel.
The unity of the people of Israel is at stake here. It was the Puritan by the name of Thomas Manton who said division in the church breeds atheism in the world. When we are divided, when we take our swords out to fight each other and destroy each other and the world looks at that-- and by the way, they're looking. They're watching. We live before watchful eyes. When they see anger, and they see contentions, and jealousies, and outbursts of wrath, the thinking atheist, the thinking agnostic, the thinking unbeliever says, why would I ever want to join a group like that? They hate each other. They can't stand each other. They're fighting each other. If that's what it means to be the people of God, I'm all set. I don't need that.
"Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim." There it is. There is the civil war. "And the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim because they said, you Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim." You guys are just rejects, man. You're outcasts. You're good for nothing. You're losers, a bunch of losers. "You are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites and among the Mannassites."
So it got personal. And he took matters into his own hands, once again fought against them. The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan--" that is the Jordan River, the crossing areas of the Jordan up north-- "before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, let me cross over, the men of Gilead would say to him, 'Are you an Ephraimite?' And if he said, 'No," then they would say to him, "Then say 'Shibboleth' for he could not pronounce it right. And he would say 'Sibboleth' for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time 42,000 Ephraimites."
They were able to identify the men of Ephraim by a colloquial mispronunciation. They knew they couldn't say a certain word the way it should be pronounced in the Hebrew. In the Hebrew language, there is a letter called the Shin, the Shin or the Sheen, as they say. It looks to us like a W, but it's pronounced Sh. There is another letter in Hebrew that's called Samekh. And Samekh is the S pronunciation, not the Sh, sheen, pronunciation.
So they knew that the people of Ephraim couldn't quite say the Sh sound but they had their own way of saying it. And so they would just say, are you an Ephraimite? Oh, no, I'm not an Ephraimites. OK. Then say this word "Shibboleth." Now "shibboleth" is a word that means a flowing stream. Knowing that if they were an Ephraimite, they wouldn't be able to pronounce it, they would have more of a modern Arabic pronunciation and say "Sibboleth." They go, he's an Ephraimite, kill him.
That was their test. It was a verbal test. They were saved by one word or killed by one word, indicted by one word.
Shibboleth, as I mentioned-- I think I mentioned it-- it means a flowing stream in Hebrew, a creek, a rivulet. So we, in our culture, also have certain ways of enunciating and pronouncing words in different regions. The South sounds very different than the North. The East sounds very different than the West. New Mexico has its own phonetic grid as well. People that move here notice that.
So you can just tell. Oh, I can tell what part of the country you're from by the way you're talking. So we might have a test like this. And we would say, "Say creek." Right? That's shibboleth, creek, a flowing stream. Say "creek" and somebody would go "crick." No, you didn't say right. Kill him. So that's the way they could tell if they were an Ephraimite because they knew the way they pronounced things.
Now, here is a lesson I want to sort of use to get there. In a similar way, you and I are saved by one word. It says in the scriptures, it begins in the Book of Acts and the thread follows through to Romans, et cetera, that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, you shall be saved. We're saved by confessing that.
But Jesus said, not everyone who says, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will come to Me in that day Lord, we prophesied in Your name. Lord, we cast out demons in Your name. Lord, we did many wonderful deeds in Your name. And I will say to them, I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity.
Because it's not that you can just say "Jesus is Lord," you have to have the right accent. You have to mean it in the heart. It has to be authentic. It has to be real. And he can tell the accent. He can tell if it's real or not. He can tell if it's just lipping the words or if you're really one of His, if you really know Him. We are saved by one word-- the word of faith that comes by believing Jesus Christ is the Lord.
"There fell at that time 42,000 Ephraimites." That's a sad part of this story. And verse 7, "and Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah, the Gileadite--" that gangstah from Gilead-- "died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead."
Now we come to the 10th judge in this period, a guy by the name of Ibzan, Ibzan the Bethlehemite. "After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel." Now when you think of Bethlehem, you think of somebody else born there and that is--
Jesus. But now let me complicate things for you. There wasn't just one Bethlehem. There were at least two Bethlehems. And you go, oh, man, why did they have to do that? Well, we have Cuba, New Mexico. We have a Las Vegas over here. And when you say, I'm going to Las Vegas, most people in America don't think of the one just up I-25, they think of the one over in Nevada, Nevada.
So there was a Bethlehem down in Judah where Jesus was born but there was also a Bethlehem up north around Mount Tabor region up in the north where these things are taking place. Probably he was from that area, that Bethlehem. It simply means Bethlehem is a name that means "the House of bread" or "the place of bread," "the bread basket," "the place where you grow wheat," essentially. [HEBREW] the place of bread.
So "Ibzan of Bethlehem--" that is up north-- "judged Israel. He had 30 sons and he gave away 30 daughters in marriage and brought in 30 daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem"
It's an interesting bit of information that he had 30 sons, that he brought in 30 daughters, that he gave away other children. Now what is going on here was a diplomatic ploy. This is part of ancient diplomacy. And it happened, not just in ancient times in the Middle East, but over in Europe and in England where if you're a king or you're a ruler, you try to establish marriages between your children and other leaders to expand your influence and, hopefully, your control of land. So that's what the intermarriage-- obviously, he had many wives to produce this many children. I can't imagine one woman pumping out this many kids. So he probably had several wives and quite a large family and was bringing in diplomacy.
But it's beautiful that idea of expanding your influence by bringing in children from afar. And I do think that one of the things the church needs to think about, and address, and look at, and add help to-- especially those of us and hopefully it's all of us that strongly believe in a pro-life platform. That children are God's special creation. Life begins at conception. And we believe that. The Bible teaches that. There's no argument there.
However, there are an awful lot of mothers who bear those children who feel isolated and detached. And the idea of the church saying, you know, what? We'll help you. We'll even adopt your children. We'll bring in children from afar and make them a part of our family, because after all you and I are adopted into the family of God, into the royal family of God. We are here by adoption.
Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into a unique relationship. Paul the Apostle says, we are adopted children of God having all the privileges of natural born children, but it's by the new birth that we are adopted into the family of God. So the idea of Christians adopting children who are born, helping out those mothers. Or, if those mothers want to raise them, the church getting behind in helping those mothers to make that influence solid and Christlike I think is an important component. So I love the idea that you can expand your influence in that capacity.
This week I was on a Zoom call with a Christian leader in another city. He is a son of a very famous evangelist. And he's been a leader in our country for years. And I know of his father and have served with his father in various ways. But he told me, he says, you know, I'm adopted by my parents. I'm not a natural born child. Now, here this guy has a national platform himself and is influencing people himself but it's because when he was born, he was adopted into this family.
And I just thought the power of Christian adoption be immense. So enough said on that. But I think that's a beautiful example here.
"Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem. After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. And he judged Israel 10 years. And Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun." So we have Ibzan and Elon. And after him comes Abdon.
Now I'm guessing that these are names that some of you may have known were there. But most of us really aren't familiar with these people because they're mentioned. No great accomplishment is described by any of them. Certainly not like Gideon or Jephthah or anything else. No other stories are attached. It just said they came on the scene. They judged Israel. They did their job. They died. They're just kind of giving us information of born, died, and then the next person, almost like a place holder.
So we are unfamiliar. When we talk about our favorite characters in the Bible, we probably don't bring up Ibzan. Oh, you know, Elon, that dude. Or Abdon, those were cool guys. We don't give them a second thought. Most of us don't know they're there.
There's a principle in that. Just because you are out there doing your job, doing what God called you to do, but nobody else recognizes that, don't think that that should diminish who you are before the Lord nor your importance in His scheme, and plan, and kingdom.
So there is a scripture I want to share with you. It's one of my favorites. But I like to bring it up whenever I bring up people like this who are in the Bible but nobody really knows about them. It says-- this is now the last chapter of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, in Chapter 3. Not the last chapter, second to the last chapter-- Malachi 3. It's tucked away is this little promise. "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another and the Lord listened and heard them. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name."
The Lord has a special place to record the names of people who love Him, who fear Him, and who speak to others about Him. Even if nobody knows who you are, even if you're Abdon or an Elon or an Ibzan, or a Zebulunite, or a Bethlehemite, or all these other -ites that nobody really knows or cares about, God knows. God cares. And God records it.
And what's important in life isn't that people know that you did great things for the Lord or recognize that you are a very important person in the church. What matters the most is that one day you will hear your Lord say to you, Well done, good and faithful servant. You've been faithful in little, I will reward you with much. Enter into the joy of your Lord. That's what's most important. Live for that. Live for the Lord saying, awesome, good job, because the Lord records it and the Lord will reward it eventually.
So these people are important otherwise they wouldn't be mentioned, even though we wouldn't necessarily give them much time beyond just this. Verse 13, "After him Abdon, the son of Hillel the Pirathonite." Now what is a Pirathonite? Oh, come on, it's a guy from Pirathon, wherever the heck that is. It's probably some little town up north, again around the Mount Tabor region we believe, right at the foot of the hill. Some have identified it.
But he was from that region and he judged Israel. "He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 young donkeys." OK. So let me just refresh your memory. You remember, it was last time or the time before when we looked at a guy by the name of Jair, or spelled with a J, Jair, Jair, J-A-I-R, Jair is his Hebrew name. And it says he had 30 sons who wrote on 30 donkeys. This guy at 30 sons and a whole bunch of grandkids, 70, and they all wrote on a donkey. So he out Jair-ed Jair. It's sort of like keeping up with the Joneses that almost looks like.
There's another thought though. Some believe that placing children and grandchildren on donkeys wasn't just the fact that they had money but that they had influence because they had the money to buy the donkeys. And in effect, by putting them on a donkey in his name is to deputize them. So that he's a judge and he did his thing in judging Israel, adjudicating cases in Israel, but he deputized sons and grandsons so that order, and peace, and rule of law could be seen throughout the land because of them.
That is an interesting thought. And I wouldn't be beyond interpreting that way. We just don't know. So "he judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon--" which he should be because that's where he's from-- "in the land of Ephraim in the mountains of the Amalekites."
Now look at verse 1 of chapter 13. You should be used to this song by now. You should know the tune. They keep singing this same old song over and over again. "And again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord." This is the seventh cycle of sin in the Book of Judges. Seventh time we read this. "And again they did evil in the sight of the Lord." It just keeps getting worse.
Now beginning in this chapter, Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, we read about one of the most famous people in all of the Old Testament, a guy by the name of Samson. One of the judges of Israel named Samson. A real he-man. A he-man with a she-weakness. Boy, was he weak in the area of the flesh, when it came to chicks, when it came to women, when it came to looking at a woman and being enticed by her lust. And it came to destroy him.
It seems like he had a pretty good home, a great upbringing. His parents hear from God. If they had one fault, I would say they were awfully indulgent of this kid, kind of giving them whatever he wants, letting him kind of be the boss and keeping up with his demands. But though he had a great upbringing, a good home, he becomes very promiscuous, very violent, and very arrogant. Promiscuous, violent, arrogant. And yet, the Spirit of God moved through him mightily.
It's one of the weird conundrums of scripture. And he shows up as one of the judges. Samson-- and you've heard of him since you were in Sunday School. I mean, he is the Superman of the OT, of the Old Testament. He is the Terminator of Israel, the Transformer.
I mean this guy can take a jaw bone of a donkey and kill a whole bunch of Philistines. He can take 300 foxes, tie their tails together and burn fields down. He can run 38 miles with doors on his back. He's astonishing. It is pretty amazing.
As bad as he is morally, Sampson's the guy you want as your big brother when you're in trouble, OK, frankly. I had a Samson in my life, my brother Bob. I don't know if you know this or not, but I'm one of four boys. I'm the baby of four boys. And I'm 6 foot 5. So people are, well, you're a big baby.
My brother Bob was 6 foot 8 inches. I looked up to him. Everybody looked up to him. And Bob was rough. Bob was wide shouldered, bushy blond hair, 6 foot 8, rode an old Harley Davidson. Kind of liked the biker look, the gang look. And whenever I was in trouble, all I had to do was give Bob a call and he was more than anxious to cause some trouble. And I will admit I took advantage of that. It was like, OK, you want to mess with me, you're going to have to answer to Sampson over here because he's coming after you.
"So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for--" notice this-- "40 years." This is important because it's the longest period recorded so far of them then being hassled by a foreign country-- 40 years. Now this is going to continue into their future. The Philistines become prominent from here all the way throughout the Book of Samuel, the reign of the first king, King Saul. Even King David will be hassling with the Philistines. So they're kind of in it to stay.
Now let me give you a little bit of background on the Philistines, because you've heard their name but it's about time that you kind of understand their history and where they fit in the Bible. The Philistines were not Canaanites originally. They were from the West. They were from the Aegean Sea region from the area of Greece and Caphtor. Caphtor is the old name for the island of Crete.
So they were in the islands around the Aegean Sea. They were a mighty seagoing people, sea warriors. At about 1200 BC, they decided to leave their region because it seemed they were being forced out by invaders. So they left the Aegean Islands and they moved to Egypt or they tried to attack Egypt. They lost. Because they lost in Egypt, they moved just up the coast from Egypt and settled on the sea coast of Israel.
And they settled in five cities, five cities that you know-- Ashkelon is one of them. Ashkelon is still a city today in Israel. Ashdod still a city in Israel. Gaza, you've heard of the Gaza Strip and Gaza City. It's still a place over there though it is under Palestinian-- they occupy it and live in it. So Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron, those were the five cities of the Philistines. Because the Philistines were really good at political organization, they maintained a relationship of those five cities for years, for years.
And they were skilled at metal making, metallurgy. And because they were skilled at metallurgy, they could make implements for plowing. They could make implements for war. So they had the edge literally and figuratively when it came to fighting battles. And so they were a force to be reckoned with. And they will be strong in that region up until the time of David when David will defeat Goliath the Philistine giant and put the Philistines at bay. But it will take a while.
They were not a Semitic people, by the way. History tells us that they were tall and Hellenic looking or fair skinned and kind of Greek looking but in a fairer skinned type of a way. But they didn't look like the people of Canaan.
So they come in. They settle in the land. And 10 times the whole region of southern Israel is called-- 10 times in the Bible it's called Philistia, Philistia. I want you to know that named Philistia because the Greek term for Philistia is Palestine. Now Palestine was never a word. It was a Greek word. So the Greeks would talk about Palestinians and they meant Philistines.
And after the Philistines were taken out of the country and it became Israel, nobody talked about the Philistines again. We don't know. I can't find a Philistine today. They don't exist that we know of in a pure way.
However, when the Romans came in and took over the land at the time of the New Testament, and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. At about 135 AD, an emperor, a Roman emperor, by the name of Hadrian-- because he knew a little bit about the history of Judea-- he decided, just sort of as a way to just rub their noses in it, he renamed southern Israel and Judah Palestine, which meant Philistia or Philistia the land of the Philistines.
So when you hear people say, well, there really is no Palestinian people today, it's correct. It's a correct statement. There are none because it hearkens back to the Philistines. And it was a name co-opted by a Roman dictator who wanted to call that region Palestine once again. But that's an older term. You'll never hear people that live in Israel call it Palestine, they call it Israel. Unless they live in Palestinian regions, then they don't like Israel and they want to call it Palestine. But that's a geopolitical debate. And we can talk about that at another time. Wanted to give you the background.
So the Philistines occupied it for 40 years. "Now there was a certain man from Zorah--" that's down south-- "of the family of the Danites whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children." Now the tribe of Dan-- I'm saying this for you bibliophiles, you Bible students, because if you're a Bible student, you think of the tribe of Dan as being up north. And you would be correct. But originally, the tribe of Dan was not up north. It was down south by Judah and Benjamin. That was its tribal allotment.
But eventually, by Judges 18, they will migrate. The Danites, because the Philistines were so strong, they couldn't settle the land. So they said bye-bye, see you later. And they moved way up north so that the tribe of Dan occupied the northern-- and it's a beautiful part of the country that they eventually ended up in. So we don't know if this was before that migration or after that migration, but they were still down south, these Danites.
And it says in verse 3, "The angel of the Lord appeared to the woman--" doesn't give her name-- "and said to her, "Indeed now you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son." So we have a couple from the tribe of Dan. His name is Manoah. We don't know her name. Let's just call her Mrs. Manoah. They're going to have a son by the name of Samson.
But she is unable to bear children. Now as you know, in ancient times to be childless was quite a stigma. It was seen as a curse. It was very difficult for infertile women in those days because their place in that culture almost demanded for them to have worth they had to produce children.
Sarah was barren and the Lord moved on her behalf. Elizabeth in the New Testament barren, but John the Baptist comes from her. Samuel has a mother by the name of Hannah. She is barren. She is at the Tabernacle pleading before the Lord. So there is a string of these interventions where God appears or an angel of the Lord appears and promises women who can't naturally conceive that they are going to conceive. And this was a natural conception, of course, but the angel of the Lord said you're barren, but you're going to conceive. You're going to bear a son.
"Now therefore please be careful not to drink wine or a similar drink--" a similar drink would be grape juice-- "not to eat any unclean thing, for behold you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head--" now we understand why in the next phrase-- "for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb. And he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."
God's hand is on this couple. God's hand is going to be on this corrupt, conniving guy by the name of Samson. He's called into a life of dedication. He's going to be a Nazarite.
Now you remember from our study in Numbers 6 the vow of a Nazarite. The word [HEBREW], in Hebrew [HEBREW] Nazarite means to be dedicated, to be consecrated. It was somebody who would consecrate themselves voluntarily to the Lord for a period of time. According to the Jewish Mishnah, it was 100 days. Typically as history went on, it was just for about a month, a month.
Do you remember in Acts 21, there were men in Jerusalem who had taken a Nazarite vow and they wanted Paul to go to the temple with them, pay the money because it was quite costly. To underwrite you had to bring-- so first of all, you abstain from wine. You abstain from grapes. You can't touch that corpse, a dead body, even your own relative, lest you get defiled. You are separated under God.
And it's purely voluntary, typically. If you just say, you know what? I want to give my life for the next 30 days, 100 days, totally to the Lord. So as a male, what you would do is first of all, you would shave your head and your beard and then you'd let it grow. And you would go through these rituals of not drinking anything, not touching a corpse, not going to a funeral, even if it's your dad or mom. You're dedicating yourself wholly to the Lord, voluntarily to the Lord.
At the end of that, you'd shave your head again, hair again, beard, and you would bring a year-old lamb. You would bring a ram as a peace offering. And your hair would also be burned on the altar. You would then pay the priest some money for this. That's what happened in Acts 21. That's what Paul was doing.
Every now and then-- and here's one of them-- the Lord would instruct somebody to be a Nazarite for life, for life, from birth. So it began with Mrs. Manoah. Mrs. Manoah, you can't have anything to drink. You can't defile yourself because when you have a son. He's going to have a lifelong Nazarite. He's going to be completely dedicated to Me. So that's the idea of growing the hair out.
So let me tell you the symbolism really quick. The reason they were not to drink wine is because it was sending a message. The idea of grapes or the fruit of the vine or wine was sort of natural joy. And so it's saying my joy is in the Lord alone. I don't derive my joy from anything false or anything that would inebriate me. I only am joyful in the Lord. It's a dedication to Him.
Number two, the idea of growing out your hair was, in one sense, to bear shame. There's that text even in Corinthians. Is it 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul says doesn't even nature itself say that it's a shame for a man to have long hair? Doesn't say it's a sin, by the way, it says, it's in one sense a shame. So the idea of I'm going to bear shame was the idea of a Nazarite.
And then not touching the dead, you can't defile yourself. Now, I'm giving you the background because Sampson's going to blow it in all these areas. He's going to go into a vineyard. He's going to touch a corpse. He's just going to kind of free wheel his Nazarite right thing kind of however he wants it, as you'll see in chapters ahead. But that's the idea of a Nazarite vow.
So angel of the Lord appeared to her, told her that. Verse 6, "So the woman came and told her husband saying, 'A man of God came to me. And his countenance was like, oh, he looked like an angel'" Now maybe her husband was getting a little jealous at this. A guy showed up and his wife's saying, man, he just looks so good, looking like an angel of God. Very awesome.
"But I did not ask him where he was from and he did not tell me his name. And he said to me, 'Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.' Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, 'O my Lord, O, Jahweh, please let the man of God whom You sent come--" notice this-- "to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born."
You know, the angel appeared to his wife. He wasn't even around. His wife says, You would not believe who showed up today. Angel of God came. Guy was awesome. Can't tell you his name. Don't know who he was, but he was awesome.
So he goes, What, oh, Lord, send him back. For us, I want to see him, too. So watch this. "And God listen to the voice of Manoah. And the angel of God came to the woman again--" again, he's not a part of it-- "for she was sitting in the field and Manoah her husband was not with her." So he prays, Lord, send him back to us. God sends him back to her.
Now I don't want to press this too far, but what is she doing out in the field? What does this say she is doing? She's sitting. We don't know what Manoah was doing. I'm guessing he was busy. He was working. But she is sitting.
You remember Mary of Bethany, Mary and Martha? Martha was working and working and Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. And Martha gets upset because Mary is just sitting around, soaking it all in. And she says, Jesus, tell Mary to get up and do a little bit of work. I'm doing it all myself. And Jesus said, I'm not going to tell her that. She has chosen the better part. It's not going to be taken away from her. You are worried and distracted with many things. Mary is sitting. She has chosen the better part.
This gal was sitting long enough to watch and to listen. Sometimes we are so busy doing things. And I feel women generally are better at this, at perceiving spiritual things, than men are. Sorry, guys. Not always the case, but generally I found that to be so. It's just sort of I'm painting with a broom, I know it. I might get in trouble, don't care. It's just something I've noticed.
"Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband." Angel, angel, stay right there. Don't go anywhere. I'm glad you came again. But, but, but, but hold that thought. "And said to him, 'Look, the man just now appeared to me, the one who came to me the other day.' So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said to him, 'Are you the man who spoke to this woman?' And he said, 'I am.'
And Manoah said, 'Now let your words come to pass. What will be the boy's rule of life and his work?'" Now his wife told him already, but he wants to hear directly from the angel of the Lord. What did you have in mind for this child that you promised we're going to have?
Now here's what I like-- most men, lots of men, kind of have in mind what they want for their son. This is how I picture my son growing up. He's going to play football like I played football or he's going to be really good on the golf course. My dad was a great golfer, made all of us learn golf, wanted all of us to be pro golfers. My brother actually became a PGA pro, not me. But a lot of times dads have in mind what they want for their kids.
Here's a dad who says, what do you want for my kid? You made the promise. You're going to bless us. Tell us what you have in mind. The Bible says train up a child in the way that he should go not in the way that you have pre-molded in your mind how you want him to turn out. Discover what the Lord put within him or her and let them fulfill God's plan.
So he asked, "'What is it that You have as the boy's rule of life and his work?' So the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, 'Of all that I said to the woman, let her be careful. She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her, let her observe.' Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, please, let us detain You. And we will prepare a young goat for You."
This is Middle East hospitality. You know what? Stay right there. It's lunchtime. Do you mind? We're going to shish kebab. We want you to come and be a part of this.
"So the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, 'Though you detain me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the Lord,' for Manoah did not know he was the angel of the Lord. Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, 'What is your name that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?' And the angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why do you ask My name seeing that it is Wonderful?'"
Now that should set up a little flag in your mind when you read that word, "My name is wonderful." It happens to be the exact same word as Isaiah 9:6. "And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government, there will be no end upon the throne of David to order and establish it." it's that word.
The angel of the Lord, as I've told you before, is a Christophany. It's an appearance, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. And as the Messiah is predicted in Isaiah 9:6 as being called "Wonderful," "'Why do you ask My name seeing it is Wonderful?' So Manoah took the young goat with a grain offering, offered it up on the rock to the Lord. And he did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on. As the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, it happened that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar." So there was an ascension that took place with this Mr. Wonderful.
"When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, Manoah knew that He was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, 'We're dead. We shall surely die because we have seen God.'"
And I like her answer. "His wife said to him, 'If the Lord desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time.'" We're dead. He's hysterical.
It's interesting that she is more logical. She goes, now wait a minute, sweetheart. If He wanted to kill us, why did He say we're going to have a son? If He kills us, we can't have a son. We can't have a son.
So He's told us we're going to have a son. He's told us all these things. And you saw what He did, so I think you're overreacting. I like it. She's just so logical.
"So the woman bore a son." Just a little bit of a note on something. You see Manoah's reaction. And Manoah is driven by feelings. He's superstitious. And he-- uh and uh-- overreacts. And he's very, very driven by how he feels at the moment. That's what it appears like to me.
Tuck that away, because his son is going to be like that in spades. Kids watch what their parents do and how they react to things. Those young eyes are watching. And young, little Sampson is going to bear many of these marks but in a very, very bad way.
"So the woman bore a son and called his name--" Sunny boy. [HEBREW] in Hebrew. Samson means "of the son," which really is probably of a pagan origin because the temple to the SUN was in Beit Shemesh which is next door to this. And "of the sun" probably hearkens to the worship of the sun god. So "of the son" is his name or "sunny boy" literally.
But don't let that throw you that they would name him that because a lot of times we name our children not Bible names, but we name them kind of familiar names that have all sorts of origins. We just like the sound of it. So don't get too hard on them for naming him Sampson. So named him Samson, Samson.
"And the child grew and the Lord blessed him." And here's the last verse of this chapter. And we'll close with this verse. "And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh-dan between Zorah and Eshtaol." You need to mark that verse because his long hair was not the secret of his strength. The secret of Samson's strength is that the Spirit of the Lord began to move on him. The long hair was simply a badge, an emblem, an outward sign of supposedly the inward vow that he had made, the vow of the Nazarite.
So the Lord will come upon him, like He does here, come upon him for key times of deliverance from the Philistines. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit comes upon certain people and they're weird people. These are not always great people. They are not always godly people.
Did you know that Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, is called the servant of the Lord? As is Cyrus, servant of the Lord, my servant Cyrus? Far from being God's servant, He was really God's pawn on God's chessboard. But because God moved him the way He wanted to, he is called a servant of the Lord. And the Spirit of God moved Cyrus. And the Spirit of God moved Nebuchadnezzar. And the spirit of God moved on this leader, this judge, Samson.
You're going to see in the next couple of chapters that Samson had incredible potential, spiritually speaking, but he ends up pitifully. And I'll tell you why more so next week. But we're out of time this week.
Think of his name, Samson, of the sun. He should have shown brightly. You know, the sun is a tremendous sense of energy. In the last several years, we have tapped into what's called solar energy. You can take a solar cell, point it the sun. There is an abundance of sunshine in the Southwest. You can charge up that solar cell. It can store energy. And it can be used.
Samson was like a solar cell on a cloudy day. He could have had so much more spiritual energy to conquer the flesh, to become a leader of Israel in a better, longer capacity than he did, but he used up all of that energy from the sun in the wrong direction. So he's like a solar cell on a cloudy day. He could have been so much more.
Now God used him. And he goes down in history as one of the most famous people ever. But you know how poorly he ends. He starts well. He ends very poorly. And next week we're going to see why as we cover the next two chapters.
Father, thank You for the ability to look at men like Jephthah, and Ibzan, and Elon, and Abdon, as well as Samson. And Father, whether we are known like Samson who is known more infamously than famously, or we're not really known because we're kind of tucked away like some of these others, how we thank You that You notice. You recognize and a written record is kept before You, so to speak, so You will reward openly, not those who achieve great things, but those who are faithful to You in whatever You've called them to do.
Lord, some here are professionals. Some are laborers. Some are called to full-time ministry. Some are called to part-time ministry. Some are called to ministry later in life, some early in life. Lord, we're Your people and we just want to discover who You've made us to be and faithfully serve You in that capacity.
But we pray, Lord, that we will take in all the energy from the S-O-N, from the Son of God, who is so wonderful that it would transform our lives inwardly, personally, as well as that we could be used of You in our community, in our state, and in our nation. May we be faithful to Your calling in our lives, we ask in Jesus' name. And God's people said Amen. Let's all stand.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us during this teaching in our Expound series.