The passage I chose for this post is Judges 13. It is the prelude to the life of Sampson in the form of a birth announcement to his parents. The birth account found here illustrates the point of style and meaning being inseparable. The promise and fulfillment frame the story. In verses 2 and 3 where the information is given that the woman is barren and childless form a ring composition with the information in verse 24 where a child was born. Within this ring are three major divisions; verses 3-10 where the messenger appears to the woman, verses 11-18 where Manoah asks four things of the messenger and gets four replies, and verses 19-23 where the identity of the messenger is revealed in between the sacrificial offering and acceptance. The focus in this specific chapter of Judges is on the child's parents and particularly on the messenger. The father is introduced in a straightforward way as a certain man from Zorah of the clan of Dan. The wife is not specifically named apart from being a woman who's married to Manoah, barren, childless, and the primary audience of the messenger. No age is given as with Sarah, no complaint of being childless like Rachel, no means of thrying other options to conceive as with Sarah and Rachel, nor any prayer for children as Hannah does. The messenger is revealed as an angel of God in the later portion of the chapter. Finally, the child is introduced as Sampson. The character of the woman, the man, and the messenger, while primary here, are all flat in their character development. The woman is barren and childless. The husband is deals with finding out the identity of the messenger. The messenger is from the Lord. Each in their own way help to keep the narrative going through various subplots until its ultimate conclusion. The child is the occasion for the story while God is the force behind the events. In verses 3-10, the woman is the major character the messenger deals with while the husband plays a secondary role. In the next section of verses, the husband plays the major role while the woman is out of the scene. For the third section, both the man and the woman participate together in equal measure until the disclosure of the messenger's divinity.
There is a hint of some intertextuality when the narrative gets to verse 7. Previous to this verse, the messenger had given instructions to the woman regarding the child to come. There are four elements the messenger is specific about, yet in the way she described the encounter, she left two of those elements out. It gives a notion to what transpired in the Genesis account with the serpent and Eve dialoging away from God's command with Eve adding to what God said. In this account, the woman removes the middle portion of what God's messenger gives in communicating with her husband. The addition and omission of the commands bears witness to mans inherent sinfulness. It is interesting to point out that in each instance the message recurs, it contains fewer of the original elements. It moves from four points of the messenger, to three points from the woman, to one point from the messenger in response to Manoah's question. The process of reduction appears to provide away of emphasizing the original message of verses 3-5.
Where the woman encounters the divine messenger early, the husband has a part that develops gradually, which peaks for his part in the questions. The four questions and responses determine the structure of the second section and provide thematic connections to the first and third section. The first and last questions are of identity. Each of them has its point of reference in the first section of verses 3-10 and specifically verse 6, and the third section where the messenger's identity is revealed. This beginning and ending if the husband's inquires indicates the importance of the messenger's identity to him. In spite of the hints the messenger gives, Manoah still doesn't know that the stranger is the messenger of God. As such, his final question is rather climactic asking for the name. The messenger responds to the question with another question, revealing his name while concealing it. Like the visitor himself, the answer is not to be fully perceived. In reaching the end of the chapter, the goal is reached, the birth of the child. From the beginning, the narrative has had a double focus, the messenger and the message. The first section dealt with his appearance and announcement. The second dealt with his identity and words. The third dealt with the revelation of his identity and the fulfillment of the promise. In this last section, the secondary theme of his identity being resolved prior to the primary theme of the birth holds off the audience until the last moment, describing the parents' response before bringing the audience to the point where the events have been leading. By delaying the resolution, the narrative keeps the audience in suspense until the very end of the story.
One specific issue gives rise to a more important pursuit within the text of the chapter. The narrative is completely intent on stressing the importance of the woman ion the events leading to the child's birth. In the society of the time being patriarchal, the expectation would be that the man be center stage. However, when Manoah is brought to the forefront, he only stays for a short time as he is soon taken back to the secondary role, giving way to the woman in a redirection of attention. Under this apparent spotlight of the woman and the messenger, there is a subtle shift in focus that frames those figures. The only two names given outside the scope of God embrace the movement and change. The names are the underlying current of the entire narrative. It began with the name of the father which gave way to the name of the son. In revealing the birth of the son, the transition is also set to bridge the focus of the parents to the focus of Sampson. The fact that the males are the only names given lend credence to the patriarchal system is still intact with the culture, allowing the woman to intercede when the occasion calls for it.
One particular principle in the narrative that stands out comes in the arrangement of the chapter itself. It teaches the audience a lesson in that in the events surrounding the birth of the child chosen by God, the father is not more important than the mother. The narrative's posture toward Sampson's parents resonates with the inclusive manner in which parents are treated in the ten commandments; "Honor your father and your mother."