Michael Boling – Literary Analysis of Judges 13


Judges 13 is arguably one of the more well known stories in the book of Judges. Its tales of “ribaldry, bloody action, and its lengendary coloration” have provided interpretative challenges for scholars and laymen alike as the exploits of Samson resemble that of Herculean legend. The Samson saga in its entirety is ultimately a story of promise noting God’s election of Samson to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression. Judges 13, though full of hope, contains no promise of deliverance thus providing insight into Israel’s depraved spiritual milieu and also serving as a reminder for believers to remain faithful to God’s commands as the ecclesia.

This pericope is the foundation for the plot outlined in subsequent chapters. The setting establishes Israel’s spiritual depravity and God’s continued faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. Against this literary backdrop, the author utilizes the literary technique of inter-textuality in verse 3. An angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife, declaring despite her barrenness, she will conceive and bear a son. This statement is strikingly similar to the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15 and served to remind Israel of God’s providence and commitment to them. Furthermore, this motif “was a formula of blessing used also in Isaiah 7:14” asserting the author’s utilization of inter-textuality to drive home his message.

Another literary technique is a vital development of plot found in the comment made by the angel of the Lord in verse 5 stating Samson will only begin the deliverance from the Philistines setting the stage for what ultimately became a protracted struggle that continued into the time of David. A vital link to the remainder of the Samson saga is the necessity expressed by the angel of the Lord for Samson to be dedicated to God as a Nazirite specifically the command for a razor never to touch Samson’s head. In Judges 13, the thematic element of the Nazirite vow in relation to Samson is first mentioned to Manoah who then relays the message to her husband. Additionally, Manoah’s wife is commanded to abstain from wine and unclean foods.

The concomitant themes of promise and fulfillment are woven throughout Judges 13. The author’s focus on Manoah and his wife display “the narrative is carefully constructed to suggest movement towards its conclusion, the fulfillment of the promise.” It is apparent the author is setting the stage for a point of comparison between the necessity of Samson to fulfill his Nazirite vow with the overt and repeated violations of this command of the Lord in his life. Grant Osborne saliently notes “one of the clues to the Samson story is the carnal, mistaken perspective of Samson contrasted to the omniscient comments of the narrator. As a result the reader experiences in a poignant way the tensions within the story.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Literary Analysis of Judges 13”

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