The men of Ephraim mustered their troops, crossed to Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you go out to fight the Ammonites without letting us go with you? We’re going to burn your house down on you!”
Jephthah said, “I and my people had our hands full negotiating with the Ammonites. And I did call to you for help but you ignored me. When I saw that you weren’t coming, I took my life in my hands and confronted the Ammonites myself. And God gave them to me! So why did you show up here today? Are you spoiling for a fight with me?”
So Jephthah got his Gilead troops together and fought Ephraim. And the men of Gilead hit them hard because they were saying, “Gileadites are nothing but half breeds and rejects from Ephraim and Manasseh.”
Gilead captured the fords of the Jordan at the crossing to Ephraim. If an Ephraimite fugitive said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” and he would say, “No.” And they would say, “Say, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he would always say, “Sibboleth”—he couldn’t say it right. Then they would grab him and kill him there at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two Ephraimite divisions were killed on that occasion.
Jephthah judged Israel six years. Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city, Mizpah of Gilead.
After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters in marriage outside his clan and brought in thirty daughters-in-law from the outside for his sons.
He judged Israel seven years. Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.
After him, Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. He judged Israel ten years. Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
After him, Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys. He judged Israel eight years. Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim in the Amalekite hill country.
And then the People of Israel were back at it again, doing what was evil in God’s sight. God put them under the domination of the Philistines for forty years.
At that time there was a man named Manoah from Zorah from the tribe of Dan. His wife was barren and childless. The angel of God appeared to her and told her, “I know that you are barren and childless, but you’re going to become pregnant and bear a son. But take much care: Drink no wine or beer; eat nothing ritually unclean. You are, in fact, pregnant right now, carrying a son. No razor will touch his head—the boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression.”
The woman went to her husband and said, “A man of God came to me. He looked like the angel of God—terror laced with glory! I didn’t ask him where he was from and he didn’t tell me his name, but he told me, ‘You’re pregnant. You’re going to give birth to a son. Don’t drink any wine or beer and eat nothing ritually unclean. The boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of birth to the day of his death.’”
Manoah prayed to God: “Master, let the man of God you sent come to us again and teach us how to raise this boy who is to be born.”
God listened to Manoah. God’s angel came again to the woman. She was sitting in the field; her husband Manoah wasn’t there with her. She jumped to her feet and ran and told her husband: “He’s back! The man who came to me that day!”
Manoah got up and, following his wife, came to the man. He said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?”
He said, “I am.”
Manoah said, “So. When what you say comes true, what do you have to tell us about this boy and his work?”
The angel of God said to Manoah, “Keep in mind everything I told the woman. Eat nothing that comes from the vine: Drink no wine or beer; eat no ritually unclean foods. She’s to observe everything I commanded her.”
Manoah said to the angel of God, “Please, stay with us a little longer; we’ll prepare a meal for you—a young goat.”
God’s angel said to Manoah, “Even if I stay, I won’t eat your food. But if you want to prepare a Whole-Burnt-Offering for God, go ahead—offer it!” Manoah had no idea that he was talking to the angel of God.
Then Manoah asked the angel of God, “What’s your name? When your words come true, we’d like to honor you.”
The angel of God said, “What’s this? You ask for my name? You wouldn’t understand—it’s sheer wonder.”
So Manoah took the kid and the Grain-Offering and sacrificed them on a rock altar to God who works wonders. As the flames leapt up from the altar to heaven, God’s angel also ascended in the altar flames. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown to the ground. Manoah and his wife never saw the angel of God again.
Only then did Manoah realize that this was God’s angel. He said to his wife, “We’re as good as dead! We’ve looked on God!”
But his wife said, “If God were planning to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our Whole-Burnt-Offering and Grain-Offering, or revealed all these things to us—given us this birth announcement.”
The woman gave birth to a son. They named him Samson. The boy grew and God blessed him. The Spirit of God began working in him while he was staying at a Danite camp between Zorah and Eshtaol.