How many times a day are we on social media checking to see how much interaction there is on our posts and tweets? Are we becoming obsessed with trying to be an influence in the sphere of social media? In a world where we vie for likes and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms in order to make our name known, we can learn a lot from a nameless woman who was blessed and honored by God.
Unnamed women are not a rarity in the Bible. While there are many women who are named in both the Old and New Testaments such as Deborah, Eve, Mary Magdalene, Miriam, Elizabeth, and Mary, to name a few, one most often finds women solely identified as either the wife or daughter of a particular man, or by other cultural descriptions: the daughter of Pharoah, the Levite’s concubine, the daughter of Jairus, the adulterous woman, the Samaritan woman, and Manoah’s wife. While we bemoan this patriarchal practice, we also find in scripture that God’s blessing does not depend on the knowing of a person’s name. Further, God clearly demonstrates that a societal value of elevating men by knowing their names and excluding or diminishing the value of women by not identifying them by name is not God’s value system. In other words, our societal value of naming is simply that—a human-made value. The nameless women in the Bible hold as much value and are as blessed as any named person.
The story of Manoah’s wife in Judges 13 highlights God’s blessing on a nameless woman. We are told that Manoah’s wife is barren and an angel of the Lord appears to her and tells her that she will have a son and that he will be a Nazirite from the womb. This means that Manoah’s wife will also have to take a Nazirite vow while she is pregnant. She immediately goes and tells Manoah of the encounter and includes that the angel of the Lord did not give his name. Manoah prays to God for the man to return so that he may find out what he needs to do in rearing the child. God answers Manoah’s request, but the angel of the Lord appears again to Manoah’s wife alone. She goes and fetches her husband so that he can speak to the angel of the Lord.
Manoah then asks a series of questions. One of the questions Manoah asks is for the angel of the Lord to give his name. “Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?’ But the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful’” (Judg. 13:17-18 NASB). The angel of the Lord remains nameless. Manoah states that the angel of the Lord’s name is needed to honor the angel of the Lord, but this is not true. This exchange is significant especially since the main character—Manoah’s wife—also remains nameless. Even Manoah refers to his wife as “the woman” when he met the angel of the Lord (Judg. 13:9 NASB). The implication is that Manoah’s wife is not honored by her husband or in society; she is not a person of stature.
In this narrative of three characters, only one is named, Manoah, and he is not the prominent character. The angel of the Lord says that his name is “too wonderful” to be known. Could this also parallel the reason we are not given the name of Manoah’s wife? Could her faithfulness and blessedness not be contained in a name? One purpose of the story is to show that it is not a person’s name that makes it possible to be blessed, honored, and revered. Despite not knowing her name, Manoah’s wife is the person who is blessed and honored in the story.
- She is the one that the angel of the Lord appears to, not once, but twice.
- She is the one who recognizes who the angel of the Lord is.
- She is the one who understands that they will not die from their encounter with the angel of the Lord because they have been promised a son.
- She is the one who is being trusted to take a Nazirite vow while pregnant so that her son will be a Nazirite from the womb.
Just as God was able to be worshiped without knowing the name of the angel of the Lord (Judg. 13:18-20), blessing and honor are not limited to those who are ‘known’ in a community. One does not need social status, wealth, or clout to be important in God’s eyes. God honors and blesses us for who we are, not how well we are known. God is not concerned with the success of our social media presence; God is concerned with our faithfulness to God’s self. We may not know the name of Manoah’s wife, but it is not necessary. Scripture clearly demonstrates that this nameless woman was honored and blessed for who she was, not how well she was known.