Numbers 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:
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(2) When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow . . . —Better, When a man or woman shall make a special (or singular) vow (as in Leviticus 27:2)—the vow of a Nazirite. The verb which is here used denotes the doing something wonderful or extraordinary, and the spiritual lesson seems to be that Christ’s servants are expected and required to do something more than others (Matthew 5:46-47). The vows here referred to were made for a specific period. At a later time, however, some were consecrated or set apart as Nazirites during the entire period of their lives, as in the case of Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. This consecration, however, appears to have been made rather as the result of Divine revelation than of arbitrary appointment on the part of their parents. The meaning of the word Nazirite (Hebrew nazir) is contained in the concluding words of the verse—to separate (i.e., himself) unto Jehovah—where the cognate verb is used.

Numbers 6:2. Man or woman — For both sexes might make this vow, if they were free and at their own disposal: otherwise their parents or husbands could disannul the vow. A vow of a Nazarite — Whereby they sequestered themselves from worldly employments and enjoyments, that they might entirely consecrate themselves to God’s service, and this either for their whole life-time, or for a less and limited space of time.

6:1-21 The word Nazarite signifies separation. Some were appointed of God, before their birth, to be Nazarites all their days, as Samson and John the Baptist. But, in general, it was a vow of separation from the world and devotedness to the services of religion, for a limited time, and under certain rules, which any person might make if they pleased. A Nazarite is spoken of as well known; but his obligation is brought to a greater certainty than before. That the fancies of superstitious men might not multiply the restraints endlessly, God gives them rules. They must not drink wine or strong drink, nor eat grapes. Those who separate themselves to God, must not gratify the desires of the body, but keep it under. Let all Christians be very moderate in the use of wine and strong drink; for if the love of these once gets the mastery of a man, he becomes an easy prey to Satan. The Nazarites were to eat nothing that came of the vine; this may teach the utmost care to avoid sin, and all that borders upon it, and leads to it, or may be a temptation to us. They must not cut their hair. They must neither poll their heads, nor shave their beards; this was the mark of Samson being a Nazarite. This signified neglect of the body, and of the ease and ornament of it. Those who separate themselves to God, must keep their consciences pure from dead works, and not touch unclean things. All the days of their separation they must be holy to the Lord. This was the meaning of those outward observances, and without this they were of no account. No penalty or sacrifice was appointed for those who wilfully broke their vow of being Nazarites; they must answer another day for such profane trifling with the Lord their God; but those were to be relieved who did not sin wilfully. There is nothing in Scripture that bears the least resemblance to the religious orders of the church of Rome, except these Nazarites. But mark the difference, or rather how completely opposed! The religious of that church are forbidden to marry; but no such restriction is laid upon the Nazarites. They are commanded to abstain from meats; but the Nazarites might eat any food allowed other Israelites. They are not generally forbidden wine, not even on their fasting days; but the Nazarites might not have wine at any time. Their vow is lasting, even to the end of their lives; the Nazarites' vow was only for a limited time, at their own will; and in certain cases not unless allowed by husbands or parents. Such a thorough difference there is between rules of man's invention and those directed in Scripture, Let us not forget that the Lord Jesus is not only our Surety, but also our example. For his sake we must renounce worldly pleasures, abstain from fleshy lusts, be separate from sinners, make open profession of our faith, moderate natural affections, be spiritually-minded, and devoted to God's service, and desirous to be an example all around us.A Nazarite - Strictly, Nazirite. This term signifies "separated" i. e., as the words following show, "unto God." It became a technical term at an early date; compare Judges 13:5, Judges 13:7; Judges 16:17.2-8. When either man or woman … shall vow a vow of a Nazarite—that is, "a separated one," from a Hebrew word, "to separate." It was used to designate a class of persons who, under the impulse of extraordinary piety and with a view to higher degrees of religious improvement, voluntarily renounced the occupations and pleasures of the world to dedicate themselves unreservedly to the divine service. The vow might be taken by either sex, provided they had the disposal of themselves (Nu 30:4), and for a limited period—usually a month or a lifetime (Jud 13:5; 16:17). We do not know, perhaps, the whole extent of abstinence they practised. But they separated themselves from three things in particular—namely, from wine, and all the varieties of vinous produce; from the application of a razor to their head, allowing their hair to grow; and from pollution by a dead body. The reasons of the self-restrictions are obvious. The use of wine tended to inflame the passions, intoxicate the brain, and create a taste for luxurious indulgence. The cutting off the hair being a recognized sign of uncleanness (Le 14:8, 9), its unpolled luxuriance was a symbol of the purity he professed. Besides, its extraordinary length kept him in constant remembrance of his vow, as well as stimulated others to imitate his pious example. Moreover, contact with a dead body, disqualifying for the divine service, the Nazarite carefully avoided such a cause of unfitness, and, like the high priest, did not assist at the funeral rites of his nearest relatives, preferring his duty to God to the indulgence of his strongest natural affections. Either man or woman; for both sexes might make this vow, if they were free and at their own dispose, for otherwise their parents or husbands could disannul the vow, Numbers 30:5, and in that case they sinned in taking God’s name in vain, and vowing what they could not perform.

A vow of a Nazarite; whereby they did sequester themselves in a great part from worldly employments and enjoyments, that they might entirely consecrate themselves to God’s service; and this either for their whole lifetime, of which see Judges 13:5 16:17 1 Samuel 1:11 Luke 1:15; or for a less and limited space of time, of which in this chapter.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them,.... Whom the following law only concerned, and not Gentiles; so runs the Jewish canon,"the Gentiles have no Nazariteship, though they may bring their vows and freewill offerings as an Israelite, yet if they vow the vow of a Nazarite, the law of the Nazarite is not obliging on them, or they bound by it; but it is free for them to drink wine, and defile themselves for the dead; for it is written, "speak unto the children of Israel" (q):"

when either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite; or "do a wonderful thing" (r); something unusual and uncommon, and what is out of the way of the men of the world, who give themselves up to pleasure, and have little regard to the worship and service of God; wherefore for a person, a man or woman, to vow abstinence from wine and dress, and from the company of others, and to oblige themselves to strict and close devotion to God, was something singular and surprising. This is to be understood of such persons who were at their own disposal; for such that were in their minority, and under the power of parents, or were married women, if they vowed, their vows did not stand, and their parents or husbands could disannul them, unless they had consented to them by their silence, when they heard them made, Numbers 30:3. There were various sorts of Nazarites; some were appointed by God, as Samson; some were devoted by their parents, as Samuel; and some by themselves, concerning whom is this law more especially; some were perpetual Nazarites, a Nazarite for life, as the two persons just mentioned; though the Jews distinguish between a Samsonian Nazarite, and a perpetual one (s); and some were only for a certain time, according as they vowed:

to separate themselves unto the Lord; the Targum of Jonathan is, "to the name of the Lord"; to the honour of his name. Such persons devoted themselves, and set apart their time to serve the Lord in a stricter and purer manner than others, and therefore were had in great account, Lamentations 4:7; they were types of Christ, who, though he was not strictly a Nazarite, but a Nazarene, yet answered to the Nazarites in his being set apart in divine predestination by his Father to the office of Mediator; in the sanctification of himself, and devoting himself, his time and service, to his Father's glory; and in his being holy and harmless in his life and conversation, and separate from sinners: and they were also emblems of the special people of God, who are a separate people in election, redemption, and calling, and in the intercession of Christ; and as they will be at the last judgment, and to all eternity, and should be now separate from others in their lives and conversations.

(q) Misn. Nazir, c. 9. sect. 1. Maimon & Bartenora in ib. (r) "mirificaverit", Montanus; "si mirandum aliquid fecerit", Munster; and some in Fagius and Vatablus; so Aben Ezra. (s) Misn. Nazir, c. 1. sect. 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 {a} Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:

(a) Who separated themselves from the world, and dedicated themselves to God: a figure which was accomplished in Christ.

2. shall make a special vow] as in Numbers 15:3; Numbers 15:8, Leviticus 22:21; Leviticus 27:2. The exact force of the term is not clear, but it does not seem to differ from ‘make a vow.’

a Nazirite1 [Note: The spelling Nazarite, of the A.V., is erroneous.] ] Heb. Nâzîr, denotes ‘one separated’ (as R.V. marg.). The full form is ‘a Nazir of God’ (Jdg 13:5; Jdg 13:7), i.e. a religious devotee. Two kinds of Nazirites are mentioned in the O.T.2 [Note: See art. Nazirite in Hastings’ DB. iii.] , (1) those who were bound for life, (2) those who took the vow for a specified time. There is no evidence that the latter class existed before the exile. Of life-long Nazirites Samson is the clearest instance; and see Amos 2:11 f., and perhaps 1 Samuel 1:11, Luke 1:15. The Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:6-10) may have been devotees of a somewhat similar type. Temporary Nazirites were very numerous in later Jewish history. They are probably referred to in Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23 f. ‘The Nazirites who had accomplished their days’ are spoken of in 1Ma 3:49. And in the Mishna, the authoritative compendium of rabbinic regulations, one section or ‘tract’ is called Nazir, and deals exclusively with the subject. The temporary vow was frequently taken for purely private and personal reasons, such as thanksgiving for recovery from illness, for the birth of a child, and so on. The present passage deals with an already established custom, and is written chiefly with the object of prescribing the offerings to be made at the conclusion of the vow.

Verse 2. - Either man or woman. It was not a little remarkable that women could be Nazirites, because, generally speaking, the religious condition of women under the law was so markedly inferior and so little considered. But this is altogether consistent with the true view of the Nazirite vow, viz., that it was an exceptional thing, outside the narrow pale of the law, giving scope and allowance to the free movements of the Spirit in individuals. In this too it stood on the same plane as the prophetic office, for which room was left in the religious system of Moses, and which was designed to correct and supplement in its spiritual freedom the artificial routine of that system. As the prophetic office might be exercised by women, so the Nazirite vow might be taken by women. In either case we find a tribute to and a recognition of the Divine liberty of the Holy Ghost, and an anticipation of the time when the spirit of self-devotion should be poured out without distinction upon men and women. Shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord. Rather, "shall make a solemn vow, a Nazirite vow, to live consecrated unto the Lord." The two words translated "separate" are not the same. The first (from pala, to sever, to consecrate, to distinguish as exceptional) is of somewhat doubtful use here. In Judges 13:19 it appears to be used as an intensitive, "did wonderously," and the Septuagint has here μεγάλως εὔξηται εὐχὴν. The other word (from נזר, to separate) is used in a general sense in Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16, or with the addition, "unto the Lord," as in Judges 13:5. It had, however, acquired a technical sense before this, as appears from Leviticus 25:5, 11, where the undressed vines are called "Nazirites," as recalling the unshorn locks of those who had taken the vow. It is evident indeed, from the way in which the Nazirite vow is here spoken of, that it had been, perhaps long, familiar among the people. All that this commandment did was to recognize the practice, to regulate it minutely, and to adopt it into the religious code of Israel. Whence the custom was derived is wholly uncertain, for although the separate elements existed in many different quarters, yet the peculiar combination of them which made the law of the Nazirite is entirely peculiar. Vows of abstinence have, of course, been common among all religions. Mingled with much of superstition, self-will, and pride, they have sprung in the main from noble impulses and yearnings after a higher life, prompted by the Holy Spirit of God; and it may be said with some confidence, that in spite of all reproaches (deserved or undeserved), such voluntary vows of abstinence have done more than anything else to save religion from becoming an unreal profession. Hair offerings, on the other hand, springing from a simple and natural sentiment, have been common enough amongst the heathen. Compare the sacred locks of Achilles ('Iliad,' 23:142, sqq.), and the various use of the tonsure in pursuance of vows among the ancient Egyptians (Herod., 2:65) and amongst modern Mahomedans and Christians. The physical fact on which all these hair offerings rest is that the hair is the only portion of oneself which can be conveniently detached and presented. Numbers 6:2The words, "if a man or woman make a separate vow, a Nazarite vow, to live consecrated to the Lord," with which the law is introduced, show not only that the vow of the Nazarite was a matter of free choice, but that it was a mode of practising godliness and piety already customary among the people. Nazir, from נזר to separate, lit., the separated, is applied to the man who vowed that he would make a separation to (for) Jehovah, i.e., lead a separate life for the Lord and His service. The origin of this custom is involved in obscurity. There is no certain clue to indicate that it was derived from Egypt, for the so-called hair-offering vows are met with among several ancient tribes (see the proofs in Spencer, de legg. Hebr. rit. iv. 16, and Knobel in loc.), and have no special relationship to the Nazarite, whilst vows of abstinence were common to all the religions of antiquity. The Nazarite vow was taken at first for a particular time, at the close of which the separation terminated with release from the vow. This is the only form in which it is taken into consideration, or rules are laid down for it in the law before us. In after times, however, we find life-long Nazarites among the Israelites, e.g., Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, who were vowed or dedicated to the Lord by their parents even before they were born (Judges 13:5, Judges 13:14; 1 Samuel 1:11; Luke 1:15).

(Note: This is also related by Hegesippus (in Euseb. hist. eccl. ii. 23) of James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem. On other cases of this kind in the Talmud, and particularly on the later form of the Nazarite vow, - for example, that of the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:18), - see Winer, bibl. R. W. ii. pp. 138-9, and Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.)

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