The woman bowed herself before the angel. So great was her astonishment at his presence there, and her happiness at what he had said, that she could make no answer in words. And the angel revealed to her that for token that this son was not like other children but that he had been consecrated to the Lord, the hair of his head should not be shorn, as was the custom in Israel, but allowed to grow freely and naturally. ‘And be thou thyself,’ said the angel, ‘heedful in all that thou doest. Drink no wine, eat only food that is pure and wholesome, and remember well all that I have said unto thee. For thy son is the gift of God, and he shall begin the deliverance of Israel from its enemies the Philistines.’

The woman bowed herself again before him, but when she raised her head, behold, the angel had left her as he had come, and she was alone. Whereupon she rose up and went off in haste to find her husband, trembling and overjoyed, and she told him all that had happened.

‘As at this very hour I was sitting alone,’ she said, ‘my thoughts far away from all around me, I turned my head and looked, and lo, there stood before me a man of God, the like of whom I have never seen before. For his look was like the look of an angel. And it filled me with such awe and wonder that I could find no words even to enquire of him whence he had come, nor did he tell me his name.

‘But this he said, and my heart leapt within me to hear it—he did solemnly assure me that our prayers—your prayers and mine—have been answered, and that I shall have a son. And more than that even, for he is to be consecrated to God from the day of his birth. And he bade me also, Manoah, take great heed in all that I do and in what I drink and eat, since our son will not be as other children but is given to us of God and will do wonders for Israel.’

Manoah rejoiced with her, but was troubled within himself. And he prayed that night that this prophet or man of God should return and visit them again, so that he himself might see him and learn from him all they should do.

The Lord answered his prayer. And the angel came again to the woman. It was morning, and before the sun was high in the heavens. Seated beneath a solitary oak at a little distance from the house, she was working with her needle, and was alone. Her heart was filled with joy and expectation, and when she saw him she hastened out to meet him and entreated him to remain where he was until she could bring her husband. And she herself went in search of him.

She found Manoah with his workers in the fields.

‘Come instantly,’ she said, ‘for the man of God is here, and is even now waiting for thee in the shade of the oak.’

Without pausing, she ran on in front of her husband, and Manoah followed after her. When he came to where the angel was standing beneath the wide-spread branches of the tree, he enquired of him courteously, ‘Art thou the man who spoke with this woman?’ And the angel answered him, ‘Yes.’

Manoah questioned him concerning all that had been in his mind. ‘I pray thee, tell me,’ he said, ‘when thy words come true which thou hast spoken concerning the son that is to be born to this woman, what are the vows that he shall make? What shall I teach him? How is he to be trained and brought up so that in nothing I do amiss, but ensure that he shall remain faithful in the service of the Lord?’

The angel answered Manoah: ‘Let the woman give heed to what I have already told her. In everything that I have bidden her, let her obey.’

Then Manoah said to the angel: ‘Wilt thou not tarry with us a while, and rest thyself, until we have made ready a meal, to strengthen and refresh thee?’

But the angel answered: ‘Even though I remain here a little, urge me not to take food with thee, for that cannot be. If thou wouldst offer sacrifice, thou must offer it to the Lord.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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