Samson’s Mother: Parental Disappointment and our Ultimate Ambition

Most parents dream great dreams for their children. It’s only natural I suppose. But what if your child comes through miraculous means? What if his birth is personally announced by God? What if that child is dedicated to the LORD from the womb and is declared a future savior of your people? What hopes does a mother cherish then? I don’t refer here to the Lord Jesus but to Samson, Israel’s Judge.

We come today to the book of Judges. In reading, we find the Israelites settled in Canaan, yet not fully at rest. God had preserved some Canaanites in the land as a means of testing Israel’s obedience to His law (Judges 3:1-6). Would His people remain faithful to Him or would they unite with their lawless neighbors in marriage and in idolatrous worship? Judges 3:6 reveals the answer: Israel forgets the LORD, remembering Him only in times of trouble.

This becomes a repetitive cycle in the Book of Judges. Israel abandons God, God allows the Canaanites to subdue them, they cry out for mercy and God enables a judge—often a military leader—to deliver them from their oppressors.

It’s in this context that we meet Manoah’s wife, Samson’s mother. Our initial encounter with her is like bumping into a stranger at a store. It’s sudden. There’s no formal introduction. We are given no name; no age, just a mention of her barrenness and then this astonishing scene: the woman is standing before the Angel of the LORD and His words to her are these: “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).

Astonishing! For one thing, a Nazirite was normally a man or woman who made a voluntary and temporary vow of devotion to the LORD (Numbers 6:1-21). Persons under this special oath separated themselves for a period of time during which they abstained from the grapevine, kept hair and beard uncut, and avoided ceremonial uncleanness.

But Samson’s call was neither voluntary nor temporary. The LORD was making the child a Nazirite for life. Indeed God’s choosing “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:10-16). Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3).  And it pleased Him to make this boy Israel’s Nazirite Judge.

And as Judges Chapter 13 concludes, one can almost taste the emerging fruit of Samson’s appointment. The chapter ends with this: “And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol” (Judges 13:24-25). This was it! Israel’s savior was of age. At last, the realization of hope.

Ideally, Samson’s story should have culminated here with a note of his military victories and wise leadership in Israel. Instead, the story turns drastically south. Far from wise, Samson becomes the proverbial foolish son of Proverbs 7:6-27 and Proverbs 17:25. He falls and breaks his Nazirite vows while chasing fast women. In all, Samson’s days end—not in anticipated glory but—in forced humility and shame (Judges 16:1-31).

Yet, “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5). Even in death, Samson is a hand of judgment against the Philistines (Judges 16:28-30); and we see some evidence of saving faith in the demise of a repentant and humbled man (Hebrews 11:32).

Surely, Samson’s mother experienced parental disappointment. And while we don’t know much else about the woman, two things we do know: one, she obeys God’s instructions to her concerning her pregnancy (Judges 16:17); and two, she reassures her husband of God’s faithfulness (Judges 13:15-23).

And here, I’m reminded of a simple truth: the goal of Christian parenting is not to create Christian children but to be just that…Christian parents. We obey the biblical mandate to train and admonish our children in righteousness while making God’s pleasure—and not the godliness of our children—our most cherished and ultimate ambition. In short, our job is to obey God—for His Spirit enables us to obey—and God’s work is to save (Psalm 37:39; Romans 8:7-9).

As a mother, I absolutely dream great dreams for my children. I earnestly desire their salvation. I want my daughters to be godly women whose fear of God is evidenced through their love and obedience of the Savior. I pray daily for this and would be overjoyed to behold God’s saving work in their hearts. Yet when I stand before my Maker on that day, His “well done” to me will not depend on their salvation but on my faithfulness to Him as a mother. Let’s pray then to hear that “well done,” mothers who love and obey God’s word (Matthew 25:21).

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!