Numbers 5-6 The vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord

From Numbers 5-6

04 NumbersIn today’s post we look at the Nazirite vow. Some examples of people who took the Nazirite vow in the scriptures are Samson (Jdg 13.5), Samuel (1 Sam 1.11), and possibly Paul (Acts 18.18).

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, (Num 6.1-2)

“Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. Both men and women could take the vow.

Do you consider yourself separated for the LORD?

3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. (Num 6.3-4)

Special eating and drinking requirements were imposed on the Nazirite. No wine or strong drink allowed. They were not even allowed to eat grapes.

The text refers to ‘all the days of his separation’. In general there are three types of nazirites.

  • A nazirite for a set time
  • A permanent nazirite
  • A nazirite like Samson (see below)

5 “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long. (Num 6.5)

Presumably at the start of the vow, the person becoming a nazirite shaved off all their hair (e.g. Acts 18.18). The hair that grows from this point is considered holy.

Have you ever considered a part of your body holy?

Holy hair. Consecrated head.

6 “All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. 7 Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord. (Num 6.6-8)

Nazirites were to avoid dead people. However, Samson killed a lot of people without drawing the LORD’s displeasure. I assume he was exempt from regulations against touching dead bodies.

9 “And if any man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 On the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 11 and the priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned by reason of the dead body. And he shall consecrate his head that same day 12 and separate himself to the Lord for the days of his separation and bring a male lamb a year old for a guilt offering. But the previous period shall be void, because his separation was defiled. (Num 6.6-12)

Sometimes death is unavoidable. If this happens his hair becomes unclean. He has to shave it all off again and make a sin offering and burnt offering. As well as having to shave his / her hair off again, the length of time associated with the vow is also reset. They have to start again.

13 “And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 14 and he shall bring his gift to the Lord, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish pas a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 and a basket of unleavened bread, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their grain offering and their drink offerings. 16 And the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering, 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 And the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire that is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19 And the priest shall take the shoulder of the ram, when it is boiled, and one unleavened loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the hair of his consecration, 20 and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine. (Num 6.13-20)

When the duration of the vow is finished the nazirite has to;

  • bring burnt, sin, peace, grain and drink offerings to the LORD (thats a lot of offerings),
  • shave his consecrated head at the tent of meeting (very public),
  • take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire (special offering), and lastly
  • make a wave offering.

After this is all done his vow is finished and he may drink alcohol again.

21 “This is the law of the Nazirite. But if he vows an offering to the Lord above his Nazirite vow, as he can afford, in exact accordance with the vow that he takes, then he shall do in addition to the law of the Nazirite.” (Num 6.21)

The question remains why would anyone take this vow. I can offer a couple suggestions.

Some vows were an attempt to gain something from the LORD or a response to something he has done. If the LORD does this, then I will take the vow or put someone under it. There is a sense of obligation involved here. This is what happened with Samuel. Perhaps this is why Paul took his own vow.

Perhaps as well some people took the vow to show thanks to the LORD for what he has done without any sense of obligation.

Story of Israel

00 OT Story Israel Jesus
Click to enlarge

Remember that the noun “Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. Israel herself was meant to be separate from other nations as the LORD’s people. As Exodus states;

19 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Ex 19.1-8)

They were meant to be separate by being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. And the world was meant to profit from this vocation. Some of them were faithful to the LORD, but sadly many failed to live up to their calling.

Story of Jesus

Jesus is the faithful Israelite is separate from all others in that he remained untouched by sin. In his death and resurrection he brought together God’s people from all nations. They are called to be separate. Not all of God’s people are nazarites, but we are called to live differently.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:13–16)

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