Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text VIII
“And Manoach got up and walked behind his wife, and she came to the man and he said to him, Are you the man who spoke to the woman? And he said, I am.”
Why did Manoah ask him if he was the man if his wife had already said that he was?
Why does the verse say that he came to the man, instead of saying, “they” came?
Why is it important for us to know that he walked behind his wife? It seems to be important for us to know that she was there even though she seems to be ignored in this conversation.
The verse switches from referring to her as “the woman,” to calling her, “his wife.” Yet, Manoach asks if he was the one who spoke to, “the woman,” instead of saying to, “my wife.”
Let us postulate that the term “woman” speaks of her on her own merit, while the term “wife” speaks of her only as the wife of Manoach. We must examine the verses to see if this is consistent, and if it helps us. She is described as “the woman” in all verses except two, 11, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23, and reverts to referring to her as “the woman,” in verse 24 with the birth of Samson.
Verse two set Manoach as the main character of the story for whatever reason, so it is reasonable to refer to her as “his wife.” In verse 11 it says that Manoach followed “his wife,” which implies that he would not have followed a woman, only his wife. Perhaps he felt that the angel or messenger is reappearing only for the sake of his wife, to whom the messenger originally spoke. Therefore, it says that he followed “his wife.”
The problem is that the verse makes it clear that the angel reappeared because of Manoach’s prayers.
In verses 19 through 23 the verses are no longer dealing with the message of the angel. It is the story of how they realized that the messenger was an angel. It was at Manoach’s bidding that the Angel reveal his identity, therefore, it is logical for the verses to refer to her as “his wife.” When the child is born, she takes over, as we can see from the fact that she names him;t it was her decision, not Manoach’s. Therefore, the verse reverts to referring to her as “the woman,” on her own merit.
We have said that Manoach assumed that since the messenger had originally appeared to his wife, and even this time came to her so she had to go and get her husband, that the reappearance should be credited to his wife, on her own merit. Therefore the verse says that he followed “his wife,” as he considered himself secondary to her.
He asked the man if he was the one when spoken to “the woman,” again, Manoach is saying that the angel appeared to her when her own merit, not as “his wife.”
When Manoach asked if he was the same man, he was asking if this would simply be a reiteration of the original message, the same one given to his wife, or if Manoach’s question as to how to raise the child, would be answered.
Manoach assumed that his prayers had been effective, otherwise why would the messenger returned? Yet, the man came to the woman not Manoach which sent a contradictory message. That is why Manoach had to ask the man if the message would be the same as the original.