Recently, I read through the book of Judges, which a very interesting book of the Bible, depicting when everyone does what is right in their own eyes. One of the common criticisms of the Bible is its depiction of women. According to some views, the Bible depicts women in two extremes, Jezebel or the Virgin Mary. There is not room for the “real woman.” Jezebel and Mary were both real, and there are many other depictions of real women facing life’s challenges as well.
I found one such depiction in the story of Samson. The story of Samson begins in Judges 13. Samson’s mother was not named. She was Manoah’s wife. They lived in a time when the people of Israel had sinned again and God had handed them over to be ruled by the Philistines. They had no children. Scripture says that she was barren. An angel appears to her, not to her husband, and tells her that she will have a child who will be a Nazirite.
And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
(Judges 13:3-5 ESV)
She tells her husband, Manoah, who asked the “man of the Lord” come back and explain what they are to do again. Apparently, he has to hear it for himself. The angel does so, but once again, he appeared to the wife, not the husband. She went to get him and when he returned, he asked the angel once again, what they are to do? The angel basically tells Manoah the same thing he said before, but twice, he emphasizes ‘let her.’ The bearing of the child is the wife’s mission, not Manoah’s, and he is to support her in it. The rest of the story is interesting, and it is where the wife stands our strongly as a woman of faith, and a faith based logically on whom God has revealed Himself to be.
Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him.
(Judges 13:15-24 ESV)
Notice Manoah’s reaction compared to her reaction. He was the one who overreacted. She was the one who spoke with the calm assurance of faith. It was because her faith was strong that God could use her for the task. Being Samson’s mother would be no small task.
Sometimes being the husband means being man enough to admit at any given moment that my faith or understanding of God’s will is weak, and that I need to listen to my wife. It also means that I should be supportive of her as she seeks to fulfill God’s purposes for her life, just as she is supportive of me in my endeavors. I don’t see this view as opposed to complementarianism, which I think is the most Biblical understanding of the roles of men and women in the Bible. I see it as a realistic application of what the Bible demonstrates about those roles in different situations.