Numbers 6 – Nazirite Vow
Before we peek into Numbers chapter six it might be nice to understand something about the previous five chapters. The sequence of events recorded in chapters one through five is not a random set of events that just happened to play out in a particular order. Everything that has happened from the start of chapter one, up to and including the start of chapter six were indeed orchestrated by the covenant God YHWH. How can we be sure? God does nothing “just because”. Everything He does is for a purpose and is an integral part of His plan. At the beginning of every chapter we find the words, “…the LORD [YHWH] spoke to Moses…”.
In every instance where we find YHWH (LORD) saying something to Moses, it was followed by an imperative or command from Him.
If we took the time to examine all of the previous chapters we would discover a progression of things that YHWH told Moses to do in order to prepare the baby nation to live in covenant with Himself.
We are not then surprised to discover a covenantal instruction at the top of chapter six.
Let’s look at the first two verses.
6:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD,
This section of the scriptures is talking about the vow of the Nazirite. The scripture does not tell us much about the Nazirite vow, but I will try to cover what it does reveal.
The word Nazirite is the Hebrew word נָזִיר (nazir) and means consecrated or devoted, sanctified or set apart. The text actually defines the word for us when it uses the word “separate”. The Nazirite vow was completely voluntary, could be taken by a man or a woman, and was for a duration of time set by the one taking the vow.
Notice the Nazarite vow is available to all men and women. We may have expected a vow of this type to only be available to the priesthood. But remember, the priesthood was already separated out and consecrated to God in the service of the temple simply because they were born a Levite.
We find that the first time (other than the name Nazirite itself) that the word separate is used it isn’t separating oneself from something, but rather to something, or rather someone, YHWH (the LORD). Even for us today, if we don’t separate ourselves “to” YHWH it doesn’t matter what we separate ourselves “from”. If we aren’t separating ourselves to YHWH, our separation from things becomes nothing more than an empty religious experience (works) not recognized by God.
The Nazarite vow found in chapter six is easily grouped into sections. What the vower must do and abstain from to start the vow (vs 1-8), what he must do if he accidentally breaks the vow (vs 9-12), and how to exit the vow when the time is fulfilled (vs 13-21).
Let’s consider the content in Numbers 6:1-8 I’ve identified as what the vower must do and abstain from to start the vow.
To start the vow He/she must:
- Consecrate an offering and separate oneself to YHWH
- Separate oneself from the fruit of the vine (any part of the grape)
- Wine (and any alcohol)
- Grape juice
- Grapes (fresh or dried)
- Avoid cutting one’s hair
- Avoid all contact with a dead body
The last thing I think we should consider this time is the reason for the Nazirite vow. Keep in mind the vow was not the same as a fast. It had none of the same components of the fast. It seems though the reason for the Nazirite vow is not explicitly stated, it was not designed to petition God for something. If my observations of these first few verses are correct, it seems the vow was for separating oneself to God in unmitigated service to Him.
Usually, the vow was for a specific timeframe. We know of three people in the Bible that were lifetime Nazirites (Samuel, Sampson, John the Baptist). Interestingly, all three were put under the vow by one or both parents. Hanah put Samuel under the vow to satisfy her own vow to God. YHWH instructed Sampson’s parents to put him under the vow because he planned to use their son to judge the Philistines. And John the Baptist, as the last of the Old Testament prophet’s (found in the pages of the New Testament) was to be Christ’s Herald.
If these three lifetime Nazirites are any indication, they seem to support the idea that the vow was one of consecrated and concentrated service to YHWH.
Let’s continue our study of the Nazirite vow next time.
All Scripture Quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.