The Angel

South-westward of Canaan lay the territory that had been divided by Joshua between the tribes of Dan and of Judah. The country given to Judah was bounded on the east by the bitter waters of the Salt or Dead Sea. There, eastward of Jericho, lay the desert barren and desolate. Northward, with its high ridges and deep gorges, ran the border-line of Judah from the Jordan to the Great Sea, the cities of Gilgal, Jerusalem and Bethlehem lying a little beyond and northward of it, in the territory of Benjamin. This for the most part was a mountainous district, well watered and fruitful, its lowlands or foothills rich with cornfields, olive-yards and good pasturage. Furthermost to the south of Judah lay Beersheba, with its flat, grassy and well-watered plateau, and beyond its river that flowed into the Great Sea was the territory of Simeon.

But though in the days of Joshua the chief cities that lay in the great plain westward of Judah to the sand-duned shore of the Great Sea had been captured for Israel, they had been lost again. Here under the dominion of their princes dwelt the Philistines, a nation rich and powerful, skilled and fierce in war, lords of the islands, traders and seamen, who had come from afar, and after settling in Egypt, had made frequent raids on the southern coasts of Canaan, and had finally invaded and subdued it. They had established themselves between Mount Baalah in the north and the city of Gerar in the south; and in the course of time had advanced into the territory of Dan, and into central Canaan. And they held it in subjection for many years.

In face and feature they resembled the ancient Greeks, with straight noses, high narrow brows and thin- lipped mouths. The gods they worshipped with cruel rites were Baal and Dagon, and Ishtar or Ashtoreth also, the Moon Goddess. Their troops wore pleated caps upon their heads, strapped beneath the chin, with a cuirass of leather, and kilts to their knees. And they were armed with a small round two-handled shield, a spear, and a short broadsword of bronze.

For many years the territories of Dan and Judah and the southern parts of Canaan remained in subjection to the five fierce and crafty princes of Philistia, and paid tribute to them as their overlords. The Southern tribes were not only divided among themselves but again and again had proved faithless to the one true God, had forsaken his worship and followed after the gods of the heathen nations around them. They forgot Israel’s miraculous deliverance of old time, and the wonders that had been revealed to them in their long sojourning in the wilderness, and how the Lord had brought them at length into the land that he had promised for their inheritance to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.

Yet did he never forsake his chosen people, and when in their anguish they repented of the evil they had done, he again and again raised up deliverers, leaders able and far-sighted in action and enterprise. These men were called Judges in Israel; and of these judges none was more feared and hated by the Philistines than Samson. And this is his story.

There lived in Zorah, a shady village in the hills on the borders of Philistia, a man of the name of Manoah. He was a Danite, but unlike many of his fellow-tribesmen he had kept true to his faith and was a man of a devout heart. He was no longer young, and his one sorrow was that he was childless. This was a grief even more bitter to his wife whom he loved—that they had no son to live after them when they were gone, and to be brought up in the fear and love of God.

Now one day this woman was alone in her house, and though her fingers were busy with what she was doing, her mind fell into a reverie. So intent did she become on the gentle longing thoughts that haunted her daydream that when, as if at an inward call, she looked up and saw a stranger standing beside her, she had no knowledge of how he had come, nor even if he had spoken.

But at one swift upward glance into his countenance she knew him to be a prophet or messenger of God. Though, in truth, this was no man, but an angel.

And the angel said to the woman: ‘Take comfort and grieve no more because thou art childless. I am come hither to tell thee that a son shall be born to thee—a son who from the day of his birth shall be set apart in the service of the Lord.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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