A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Friday, July 13, 2018

Believing Women

Reading this blog post got me thinking about stories in the bible where men fail to believe women. I recently got called as a primary teacher for the 11-12 year old girls in my ward. Last week, I taught my first lesson, which was Lesson #25 in the Primary 6 manual about Samson. Reading Judges 13-16, there is a lot there which is probably not appropriate to share with young girls (the whole Samson-gets-his-wife-killed-in-an-ethnic-war thing is PROBLEMATIC to say the least). 

One aspect of the story was something I had forgotten about. In Judges Chapter 13, Manoah's wife (Note 1) gets a visit from an Angel, who tells her that she's going to have a son, despite the fact that she's barren (Note 2). The Angel tells Mrs. Manoah that (a) her son will be a Nazarite (one dedicated to the Lord) and (b) her son is going to deliver Israel from the Philistines. The Angel also communicates how to care for the child - telling her not to drink strong drink while she is pregnant, and not to cut the child's hair. This is a pretty remarkable experience - the Angel appears to her alone and gives her some Pretty Important News that will impact not only her life, but the course of her entire nation.

Naturally, Mrs. Manoah communicates this to Mr. Manoah (Judges 13:6). Now, the text is unclear, because it doesn't actually contain any of the words that Manoah spoke to his wife. But his immediate reaction to the news is to pray and ask God what they should do with the child (Judges 13:8). What is clear is that at least he believes his wife is going to have a child - so I guess he *partially* believes her. But he somehow doesn't believe what they should do with the child (which, remember, the Angel told Mrs. Manoah!). So Manoah prays to God and asks what they should do.

At this point God hearkens to Manoah and sends the same Angel to...Mrs. Manoah! So rather than appear to Manoah in answer to his prayer, the Angel appears again to Mrs. Manoah. This time, she goes and gets her husband. It's important to note that when Manoah asks the Angel what they should do, the Angel says the same thing in verses 13-14 that he did in verse 7 back when he was speaking to Mrs. Manoah alone. In fact, the Angel specifically says "Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware" - basically, "Dude, I already told your wife this, but if you need to hear it from me, here you go."

What's interesting annoying about the LDS Primary Manual is that it asks this question: "When Manoah heard what the angel told his wife, what did he do that showed he had spiritual strength?" I mean, sure, it is important to pray and receive our own testimony. But to me, that isn't the key takeaway from this part of the story. My takeaway is that Manoah didn't trust his wife to receive spiritual revelation impacting the life of their child. So, needless to say, I did not ask this question during my lesson.

Manoah and his wife named their baby boy Samson, and he...had some issues. But that's another post, the moral of this post is: Believe Women! They have amazing spiritual experiences. Mrs. Manoah's experience has echos in the stories of Jesus and John the Baptist. Zechariah didn't believe Elizabeth, but at least Joseph did believe Mary (although...come to think of it, he did have an Angel appear to him to help him out too...). Seems like maybe men need some repetition over this message for the past few thousand years!

Note 1: Samson's mom isn't given a name in the text, though Wikipedia suggests it was either Hazelelponi or Aselelphuni. We'll just call her Mrs. Manoah. Interesting how women are so often defined in relation to the men in the story - which is why I'm excited I get to teach about Ruth and Naomi this week!
Note 2: It's always the *woman* who is barren. In reality, it's possible her husband was the infertile one. This is just a symptom of the larger point.