The Nazarite

(Num 6:1) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
(Num 6:2) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
(Num 6:3) He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
(Num 6:4) All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
(Num 6:5) All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
(Num 6:6) All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
(Num 6:7) He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
(Num 6:8) All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.

Our text is part of the Law of the Nazarite further related in the same chapter. Some Nazarites were so by divine appointment, like Samson (JDG 13:5) or John the Baptist (LUK 1:15; LUK 7:33). Samuel was a Nazarite according to his mother’s vow (1SAM 1:11). The Law of the Nazarite here focused on the one who volunteered to be a Nazarite. The Nazarite was an especially dedicated and separated person, distinguished by holiness while abstaining from things that otherwise were lawful. They were ranked with prophets for importance in Israel (AMOS 2:11) and their reducing at the hands of Babylon was particularly noted as how far the nation had fallen (LAM 4:6-8). Christians are a kind of Nazarite in principle, called to be separate from “...an untoward generation” (ACT 2:40), “...not conformed to this world...” (ROM 12:2), regulating or even abstaining from lawful things when such things are not expedient (1CO 6:12; 1CO 8:13; 1CO 9:27), and to be holy (1PE 1:15-16). But unlike Nazarites, Christians do not terminate their “vow of separation” without grave consequences (HEB 10:26-31).

Unlike other directives, privileges and offices of the O.T. which were for men only, this vow could be observed by man or woman (NUM 6:2), intimating that separation unto holiness is not the province of only one sex and that in Christ (in Whom saints are presented holy, EPH 1:4; COL 1:21-22) there is neither male nor female (GAL 3:28).

Our text shows us that drinking wine or strong drink was otherwise lawful (DEUT 14:26) or the abstaining from such while under the Nazarite vow would be meaningless. The same observation would apply to being in the presence of a dead body (NUM 6:6-7), an otherwise lawful thing. Our text also shows that long hair on a man was obviously not the norm and it is indeed a shame for man to have long hair (1CO 11:14). Jesus did not have long hair or His Spirit which directed Paul’s writing would condemn Him as a hypocrite. The Nazarite’s refraining from haircuts was an appointed neglecting of the body for holy purposes, unlike the sham wilful neglecting of the body for will-worship by men’s traditions (COL 2:20-23). Long hair is also a token of subjection to authority (1CO 11:1-6).

Of the things from which the Nazarite must abstain during his vow, marriage and conjugal relations are not listed. Samson was married (JDG 14:20); Samuel likewise, with children (1SAM 8:1). The notion of attaining unto a superior holiness by separating oneself to celibacy in a convent or monastery under a vow has little accord with Scripture and it is an evil, seducing spirit which forbids lawful marriage (1TI 4:1-3). Celibacy is a gift only to some (1CO 7:7) and history has shown that too many boasted of a false gift (PRO 25:14). The Nazarite could also engage life as other men (except for the specific restrictions). Samson and Samuel were publicly involved judges. John the Baptist challenged sinners from all of life’s layers.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not a literal Nazarite as envisioned in our text. He turned water into wine (JOH 2:7-11) and, unlike John the Baptist, drank wine (LUK 7:33-34). He had contact with dead bodies (LUK 8:52-55; JOH 11:43-44). But as Christ was the fulfillment of all the other elements of the Law which testified of Him (JOH 5:39), so He also answers to the essentials of the law of the Nazarite. Was there ever a man so holy?

The Nazarite was a separated man: by a vow he separated himself unto God as holy. Christ was a separated man under vow to God. He separated Himself from the heavenly Jerusalem (HEB 12:22-23) to be made flesh as one of us (JOH 1:14; 1TI 3:16). He volunteered for the task of redemption, binding Himself with a commitment, saying, “...Lo, I come...to do thy will, O God” (HEB 10:7). As a Man, He lived a unique, unsullied life of dedication to God in the midst of a corrupt world: He was “...the Holy One...” (ACT 3:14). He was by His purity separate from sinners while He lived here, and, having borne our sins in His body to Calvary and discharging them, He rose to return to heaven as our High Priest, “...holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners...” (HEB 7:26). Unlike the Nazarite, Christ is no less of these after the completion of His “vow” than during it (or before it).

The Nazarite abstained from the normal pleasures of wine and strong drink for the period of his vow. Christ left the ivory palaces of glory (PSA 45:8) where at the Father’s “...right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (PSA 16:11) to enter a world of woe, live a fully engaged life in it and experience temptation (HEB 4:15). Wine and strong drink are associated with rejoicing (DEUT 14:26; JOH 2:1-11) but Christ’s mission was that of “...a man of sorrows...” (ISA 53:3), “...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross...” (HEB 12:2). His joy would come after His vow was completed.

The Nazarite had to keep death at a distance during his vow. Christ could not die before His work was complete, until He could say, “...I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (JOH 17:4). At various times they desired to kill Him but were restrained (LUK 4:29-30; JOH 7:30; JOH 8:20; JOH 8:59; JOH 10:39). Only when His “vow” was done He laid down His life of Himself (JOH 10:17-18).

The Nazarite’s long hair was a shame he bore for his vow. So Christ endured shame for us: “...I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (ISA 50:6 c/w MAT 26:67). They stripped Him at Calvary (JOH 19:23-24) that the shame of nakedness might appear (c/w REV 3:18). He endured but despised the shame (HEB 12:2). As long hair is token of subjection to authority, so Christ always did the things which pleased the Father (JOH 8:29). As the Nazarite’s long hair was an appointed neglect of bodily care, so Christ was appointed to bodily sufferings and whereas He could have prayed for twelve legions of angels to deliver Him, He would not (MAT 26:53-54).

When the Nazarite’s vow was complete, he was to make a series of offerings by fire, including a peace offering (NUM 6:13-17), “And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings” (NUM 6:18). His body was not burned, only the emblem of shame. So, when Christ “...made peace by the blood of his cross...,” it was only the shame of suffering that was consumed. His spirit ascended to paradise (LUK 23:43), His body saw not corruption (ACT 2:30-31), and His holiness continued. When the Nazarite had completed his vow’s purification ceremony, “...after that the Nazarite may drink wine” (NUM 6:20) – the previous joys and delights were reinstated. So, once Christ was made “...perfect through sufferings” (HEB 2:10), the joy and presence of the Father and heaven were His again, and He opened the door of the heavenly tabernacle for us to “...come boldly unto the throne of grace...” (HEB 4:16) and in Him “...rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1PE 1:8).