Numbers 6 – The Vow of a Nazirite
A. The vow of a Nazirite.
1. (1-2) The purpose for the vow of a Nazirite.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “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,'”
a. To separate himself to the Lord: The vow of the Nazirite was to express one’s special desire to draw close to God and to separate one’s self from the comforts and pleasures of this world.
i. “The English word Nazirite transliterates Hebrew nazir, meaning “set apart.” (Wenham)
b. To take the vow of a Nazirite: There were several remarkable Nazirites in the Bible: Samson (Judges 13:5), John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), and Paul (Acts 18:18); the vow was certainly open to women, but we have no Biblical example of a woman taking the vow, except for Manoah’s wife during her pregnancy with Samson (Judges 13:4).
2. (3-8) Requirements for fulfilling the vow of a Nazirite.
He shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord.
a. He shall separate himself from wine and similar drink: The Nazirite was forbidden to eat or drink anything from the grape vine; this was a form of self-denial connected with the idea of a special consecration to God. Generally speaking, wine and grape products were thought to be a blessing (Proverbs 3:10), something to be gratefully received from God (Psalms 104:15).
b. No razor shall come upon his head: The hair was to be allowed to grow all during the period of the vow, and then cut at the conclusion of the vow. This was a way of outwardly demonstrating to the world that this man or woman was under a special vow.
i. In the case of Samson, his strength came from his Nazirite’s vow of consecration and separation to God – so when Delilah cut his hair (the most public, visible example of the vow), his strength was lost.
ii. Samson had broken the vow before – both at drinking parties (Judges 14:10), and at touching a dead carcass (Judges 14:8-9). But not in the most obviously public way of allowing his hair to be cut. There is a sense in which public sins do matter more, because they bring more reproach to the name of God.
c. He shall not go near a dead body: Dead bodies – even those of a close relative – were not to be approached during the vow of a Nazirite. Separation from death – the effect of sin – was essential during the period of the vow.
3. (9-12) Consequences of breaking the vow.
And if anyone 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. Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day. He shall consecrate to the Lord the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
a. If anyone dies very suddenly beside him: If one’s vow was broken – perhaps by someone dropping dead next to the Nazirite! Then the Nazirite’s hair was to be shaved off, sacrifice made, and the vow would begin all over again.
b. But the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled: “The Mishna relates how Queen Helena had almost completed seven years of a Nazirite vow when she was defiled and therefore had to keep it for another seven years.” (Wenham)
B. Concluding the vow of a Nazirite.
1. (13-15) Items needed for sacrifice.
Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
a. He shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting: The vow of a Nazirite ended with a public ceremony, with extensive sacrifice: One male lamb . . . one ewe lamb . . . one ram . . . a basket of unleavened bread . . . drink offerings.
b. He shall present his offering to the Lord: No wonder when Paul visited Jerusalem, he was invited to pay the expenses of some Christians who had taken a Nazirite vow and were ready to conclude it with this sacrifice (Acts 21:23-24). The Nazirite vow was not something that could be entered into lightly.
2. (16-21) The sacrifice offered.
Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine. “This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the Lord the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he takes, so he must do according to the law of his separation.”
a. Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord: The priest and the Nazirite would sacrifice each item, and at the conclusion of the sacrifice, the vow would be completed.
C. The priestly blessing.
1. (22-23) The command to bless the people.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:’ ”
a. This is the way you shall bless: Moses, Aaron, and their spiritual descendants were commanded to bless the people, and they were to do it according to the formula detailed in the following verses.
i. “The priests were always there pronouncing this blessing at the close of the daily morning service in the temple and later in the synagogues.” (Wenham)
b. Say to them: It is unusual to have a wrote prayer given in the Scriptures. “Free prayer is most useful, and it will ordinarily consort best with the movements of the free Spirit; but in the case of a benediction, it is well that it was dictated to the man of God. The children of Israel might miss blessing through the ignorance, or forgetfulness, or unbelief of Aaron; and therefore it was not left to him; but he had to learn by heart each word and sentence. In this wise, and in no other, was he to bless the people. I like this; for if God himself puts the very words into the mouth of his priest, then they are God’s words.” (Spurgeon)
2. (24-26) The Aaronic blessing.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”
a. The Lord bless you: This simple desire prefaces everything. God loves to bless His people, and He loves to have leaders long that the people be blessed. This also recognizes that all blessing really comes from God; and without His blessing, all is futile.
i. We remember also that God’s blessing has always in mind our greatest and highest good; we often expect God’s blessing in our life to mean a world of comfort and ease – but that certainly isn’t for our greatest and highest good. God knows how you need to be blessed, even if you don’t!
ii. We have often settled for happiness or comfort or wealth when God wanted us to be blessed. True blessing from God is higher than happiness or wealth or comfort.
b. And keep you: To be kept by the Lord is blessing indeed. Some are kept by their own sin and desire, some are kept by idolatry and greed, and others are kept by their own bitterness and anger. But to be kept by the Lord insures life, peace, and success.
c. The Lord make His face to shine upon you: To have the glorious, happy face of God shining upon man is the greatest gift one could have. To know that as God looks upon you, He is well pleased – not because of who you are, or what you have done, but because you are in Jesus Christ – there is no greater source of peace and power in life.
i. We can imagine a father disciplining his son and putting the son out of his presence – and then receiving the son back to see his face again. This is how God receives sinners who come to Jesus by faith.
ii. “Why should he fret when God smiles? What matters though all the world should censure, if Jehovah countenances his servant. A look of approval from God creates a deep, delightful calm within the soul.” (Spurgeon)
d. And be gracious to you: The idea is that God shows tender mercy and care for His people.
e. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you: The priest prays God would look upon His people; when God blesses, keeps, shines, and is gracious towards His people, any look He casts towards His people is filled with nothing but blessing. His loving attention is on the believer!
To lift up one’s eyes or face means to pay attention
f. And give you peace: The Hebrew word is shalom, which is more than the cessation of hostility – it is God’s word for wholeness and goodness and total satisfaction in life. This is the abundant life Jesus promised! (John 10:10)
g. The Lord . . . the Lord . . . the Lord: The three-fold repetition of Lord does not prove the Trinity, but it certainly illustrates it.
· God the Father blesses and keeps His children
· God the Son makes God’s face to shine on us and brings us grace
· God the Holy Spirit communicates God’s attention to us, and gives us peace
i. “I will not say that this teaches the doctrine of the Trinity; but I must say that, believing the doctrine of the Trinity, I understand the passage all the better. The shadow of the Triune God is on the sacred benediction in the name thrice repeated.” (Spurgeon)
h. You . . . you . . . you . . . you . . . you . . . you: It is repeated six times for emphasis – God wants to bless you. We often feel as if God really wanted to bless someone else. He wants to bless us.
i. “So long as you are resting upon Christ—Jesus, the great High Priest, speaks from the eternal glory, and he says, ‘The Lord bless thee.’ ‘Oh! but I do not deserve it.’ Just so; but ‘the Lord Bless thee.’ ‘I am so unworthy, I am so backsliding.’ Yes, but the Lord Jesus Christ knows all, covers all. We will read it, then: ‘The Lord Bless thee – thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.’ Oh! have you got that wrought into your very hearts?” (Spurgeon)
ii. As God bestows His blessing on us, we must receive it by faith. We must be like Jacob – who would not let go of God until God blessed him.
3. (27) The fruit of the blessing.
So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
a. So they shall put My name on the children of Israel: To be blessed by God is to have His name on you – to be identified with who He is and all His nature. What a gift, to have God’s name on you!
i. Aaron was commanded to pronounce this blessing over the people of Israel – not over the other nations. Though God blesses all mankind, there is a definite and strong sense in which He has blessing only for His people. We have to join ourselves to Him to gain that blessing.
b. And I will bless them: God promises to bless in response to this blessing! How appropriate for pastors to pronounce these words over their people! How much more appropriate for every believer to remember that we have a High Priest in heaven who ever lives to intercede for us and to bless us!
i. “When God saith, ‘I will,’ all the devils in hell cannot turn aside the blessing, and all the ages of eternity cannot change the King’s word.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The Lord has blessed his people, and he would have them know it. He has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and it is his wish that they should experience the fullness of this blessedness. Are any of the Lord’s people without a sense of this blessing? It is not the will of God that you should continue in this low condition.” (Spurgeon)
© 2004 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission