This morning as I was preparing for class with my BBA students, I was reading the story of Samson’s birth in Judges 13 and discovered that the angel of the LORD tells Samson’s mother and Manoah (Samson’s father) that his name is ‘wonderful?’ Since I was reading in the ESV, I immediately went to the KJV to see why I had not seen this potential connection to Christ before. I knew that Christ’s name is called Wonderful in Isaiah 9:6.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
And then I discovered that the KJV renders the Hebrew word in this verse with the word ‘secret.’ At this point, I wanted to know why there was a difference between the KJV and the ESV. Wonderful and secret are not the same. So I went to www.blueletterbible.org to compare the Hebrews words from Judges 13:18 and Isaiah 9:6. (Use the interlinear navigation link to make this happen.) Here is what I found. Both Hebrew words derive themselves from the exact same Hebrew word. In Judges 13:18, the word is pil•ē' (an adjective) (H6383) and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is peh'•leh (a noun) (H6382), but both derive their origin from the same Hebrew verb (Strong’s H6381) which means ‘to be marvelous, be wonderful, be surpassing and extraordinary.’
I do not know why the KJV translators chose the word ‘secret’ in Judges 13:18 because the KJV uses the English word ‘wonderful’ to translate the same Hebrew word in Psalm 139:6. I do not know if the translation committee that translated Judges also translated Psalm 139, but every other English translation I could find also uses the word ‘wonderful’ in Judges 13:18. When I compared the two words in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible), the connection between the two verses is very clear. Let me show you. In Judges 13:8 the word is mirabile and in Isaiah 9:6 the word is Admirabilis.
Does all this prove that the Angel of the LORD that appeared to Manoah was in fact a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ—of course not—but it certainly gives further evidence that it is possible that these humans witnessed a Christophany. Moreover, the angel of the LORD in Judges 13 leaves the presence of the parents through the flame of fire created by a burnt offering to the LORD. In Exodus 3:2, the Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from a bush that was not consumed. Again, this does not prove that the Angel of the LORD was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, but Christ did tell us to search the Scriptures for they testify of me (John 5:29).
Finally, it is interesting to note that the Angel of the LORD ceases to manifest himself to humans after the birth of Christ. In fact, the final reference to ‘the Angel of the LORD’ is found in Zechariah 12:8 where we read ‘and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them.’ One verse later, we read about Israel looking upon ‘him whom they have pierced’ (v. 10). Again, this doesn’t prove anything; however, the fact that the Holy Spirit led Zechariah to include a particular reference to the Angel of the LORD in a chapter that prophetically points to Christ is not an accident.
As a final point, all this serves as just another example of the value in reading more than one English translation for all of us who do not read and write in Hebrew.