Unnamed Heroines of Scripture: Manoah’s Wife

This article commences a series by various writers on the subject of “Unnamed Heroines of Scripture.” We are, perhaps, more familiar with various unnamed servants as illustrating the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Yet there is also much of spiritual and practical benefit to be derived from a study of those that God, by His grace, takes from relative obscurity and weakness to use in His service. This month we consider the example of Manoah’s wife in Judges 13.

Atmosphere of Her Surroundings

Manoah and his wife lived at a time of great spiritual departure among the people of God. The nation of Israel had committed “evil again in the sight of the Lord” (Jdg 13:1).[1] The nation was idolatrous, having displaced the Lord in their affections, and thought nothing of intermarriage with the pagan Canaanites of the land. Their distinction as the people of God was lost. With each cycle of corruption (evil) and divine chastisement, there was a cry for deliverance and the raising up of a champion (saviour). But conditions were waxing worse.

On this occasion, having been delivered into the hands of the Philistines forty years, there was no cry to the Lord for deliverance. God’s people were comfortable in their servitude and accustomed to their spiritual fruitlessness, as illustrated in Manoah’s barren wife. But even in such conditions, there was a godly couple (remnant), not unlike Zacharias and Elisabeth, who were miraculously given a Nazarite son. In Manoah (meaning “rest”) and his wife there was a spirituality attuned to hear and receive divine communication. With such individuals God can work in sovereign grace. Being unnamed and barren, Manoah’s wife is the perfect expression of obscurity and weakness. This is often the way with God. We are reminded that His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Co 12:9).

Announcement of Salvation and Separation

Such were the conditions of the time that there was no ready-made Ehud or Gideon the Lord could use to effect the deliverance of His people. Instead, He supernaturally produced a man of separation in Samson. Hence, the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman. His announcement is a statement of truth, spoken in love: “Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not” (v3). This angel was acutely aware of her intimate personal circumstances that had no doubt caused much suffering and shame. He continued with a statement of grace in declaring the miracle of life: “Thou shalt conceive and bear a son.”

The only solution to Israel’s hopeless cycle of sin was a deliverer devoted to God. Thus, Samson would be a Nazarite from the womb (v7), a separation which must begin with his mother. For “she who would have a holy child, must herself be holy” (A.R. Fausset). The angel draws particular attention to the woman’s drinking and eating, for her diet had the potential to defile her unborn son (v4). This was a strong test of faith, as Zorah was famed for its choice vines. Raising children in this “present evil age” for the glory of God is no easy work, and yet it is essential for their spiritual and eternal well-being. We would do well to remember that parents can easily consume material in their homes that is detrimental to the spiritual health of their children. Though Samson did not maintain his Nazarite vow, he could not blame his failure on the lack of a godly example set by his parents. As far as her appetite was concerned, Manoah’s wife would not drink from this world’s pleasures (symbolised in the fruit of the vine) but rather would find her joy and set her affection on things above.

Angel Whose Name Was Secret

True separation comes from a greater appreciation of the perfect Nazarite of God’s beloved Son. Indeed, Christ has set Himself apart in heaven that we might find, in Him, an object to fill and satisfy the heart (Joh 17:19). Such spiritual truth is beautifully illustrated in the Angel of the present passage, who drew the gaze of Manoah and his wife heavenward, leaving them with the fragrance of His word and name.

In this passage, and indeed throughout the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord is a theophany (cf. v22; Exo 23:21), even a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus. In asking after his “name,” Manoah was concerned to learn the nature and essential character of this heavenly visitor. The response, “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (v18), is an admission that the person speaking to them was “supremely wonderful,” extraordinary in nature and beyond comprehension (cf. Psa 139:6). Indeed, the Person of the Lord Jesus is unsearchable. It will take eternity to unveil a mere drop of His glorious, unfathomable character. Much more could be said regarding the sacrifice (v19), its savour (v20) and satisfaction (v21), but neither space nor the subject of the article allows.

Answer of a Spiritual Woman

Manoah’s wife was undoubtedly a woman of high spiritual calibre. When her husband realised this angel was, in fact, “the Angel,” (i.e., Angel-Jehovah, v21), he said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (v22). While he was right in his instinct and reverence for the presence of God (cf. Exo 33:20), it was left to the spiritual wisdom of his wife to reassure him (v23). She reasoned that far from “killing” them, there was plenty of evidence that God’s hand of blessing was upon them. Had He not “received” an offering at their hand? Had He not “shown” and “told” them glorious things? Ah, yes indeed! God had been graciously disposed towards them. And of course, the people of God today enjoy the same blessings. First, He has accepted the work of Christ at Calvary on our behalf. The fire has been spent on the sacrifice and a sweet savour has ascended to God (Eph 5:2). Second, He has given us divine revelation of our sin and shown us the beauty and sufficiency of His Son to meet our need. Third, we have been told divine truth and rejoice in “great and precious promises” contained in the Word of God. Truly, we are blessed indeed.

May God grant that, in an evil age that waxes worse and worse, we might seek to live separate lives by fixing our affection on the Saviour at God’s right hand, and thus be men and women of high spiritual calibre for His glory.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.