The Nazarite Vow - Part 3

M. A. Rudge, U.K.

"Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire: Their visage is blacker than coal; they are not known in the streets,' (Lamentations 4:7, 9).

There are four aspects to the third requirement of the Nazarite vow. The first is negative, general and comprehensive, "he shall come at no dead body" (v. 6); the second is negative but more specific, and is in relation to when a death occurred within the family circle, "He shall not make himself unclean for his father or his mother..." (v. 7); the third is positive and all-inclusive, "All the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord." (v. 8) and the fourth aspect deals with the possibility of sudden defilement and the procedure to be followed, "if any man die very suddenly by him..." (v. 9). The fact that the family circle is mentioned specifically and that a man dying "very suddenly by him", is the only situation in which it is envisaged that the Nazarite would become unclean, gives these two aspects a special character. The first three aspects called for a special commitment, which continued throughout the whole period of Nazariteship and the fourth called for special watchfulness.

'He shall not come near to a dead body." (v. 6 RV). This prohibition required a special commitment on the part of the Nazarite, to ensure that he did not come near the dead, with its obvious potential for ceremonial defilement through association. A parallel passage in the New Testament, can be seen in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, where the apostle issues a command against unholy associations with unbelievers and a call to come out from any association already formed, "and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing..." (2 Cor 6:14,17).

Paul uses the figure of 'temple of God" to describe the sanctity of the local assembly and the truth of God's dwelling in the midst of His redeemed people (v. l6), as the basis of his insistence upon separation and practical holiness. This was essential if the promises conditional upon His dwelling among them were to be fulfilled and if He was to receive them as His sons and daughters (vv. 17,18). It is not now a matter of their reception as a redeemed people but the practical implication of His dwelling among them and their reception as sons and daughters, by the Father, with the realization and practical enjoyment of His presence in their midst.

Paul's command and call cover in principle a wide-ranging number of inconsistent and unholy associations. The unequal yoke is applicable to marriage, fellowship in service, social ties, business partnerships, and political and religious affiliation. Our response and the enjoyment of the precious promises which are made, conditional upon our obedience, are more than a matter of outward separation - "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (7:1). This language goes to the heart of the commitment required in the Nazarite vow.

"He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother ... when they die: " (v. 7). These I words undoubtedly provided the most severe test of the Nazarite’s commitment. The principle of separation from association with deadening and defiling influences, was a reasonable claim but when a death occurred within the family circle, it was an entirely different situation. There is little doubt that maintaining divine principles, within the family circle and in family relationships, provides the believer with a test of the severest kind. The Lord Jesus left His would be disciples in no doubt that this is where His claims must be paramount. We remember His words to one who said, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. [But] Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59,60). This does not imply that family responsibilities should be relinquished but it does mean that family relationships take a secondary place. To speak of them as something to be done 'first' and without the Lord's specific direction, was to start off with an altogether wrong idea of what was involved. Cp "let me first go and bid them farewell, ... " (Luke 9:61,62). See also, "...first (v. 28) ... first... (v. 31)...' (Luke 14:25-35). In practice, this means that we cannot relinquish our responsibility to the Lord and relax the requirements of Divine principles, when a member of the family circle is involved.

"And if any man die very suddenly by him and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall..." (v. 9). It is instructive that these are the only circumstances, where it was anticipated that the conditions of the Nazarite vow would be broken. We might have felt that this was a situation where the exceptional circumstances of a man dying 'very suddenly", 'unexpectedly by him suddenly' (JND), called for special consideration. It is a measure of the commitment and vigilance required by the Nazarite, that it was not made an exception.

It is noticeable that, even in these circumstances, the Nazarite's failure in watchfulness was considered to be a sin, and in the procedure which followed, after he had shaved his head, one of the turtle-doves or pigeons, which were brought, was offered for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, in order to "make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dea"' (vv. 9-11). It was a sin which required a sin offering and a failure in devotion, which only what was typified by the burnt offering could answer for. The "lamb of the first year for a trespass offering" (v. 12), was an indication that there was a loss to God, which must be made up. It seems that the truth recognized in these offerings would have taken place in the exercises of the seven days, before they were offered on the eighth day (vv. 9,10). 'We have to make up in moral time, which is not reckoned in days, and months, and years, but in exercise of soul' (C.A.Coates).

"...but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled." (v. 12). It has been suggested that the loss of the days which had already been fulfilled, indicates that there was a needful lesson, arising from the incident, which had not been fully learned during "the days that were before" and until that moment. The offerings required on "the eighth day", suggest that this recognised that no confidence could be placed in the flesh, and that, in the language of the New Testament, the conditions of the vow could only be fulfilled in the energy and power of the life of the new creation (Phil. 3:3-16). This is not only the lesson that no confidence can be placed in the flesh but that there is a need for constant watchfulness and that our confidence must be only, in the resources which are available "in Christ Jesus".

The need to begin again at the point of departure, is in line with what the word of God teaches elsewhere (Gen. 12:8,9; 13:3,4; Rev. 2:5). There does not seem to be any indication that the Nazarite would not renew his vow or that there would be a reoccurence of this breakdown. We cannot afford to allow failure to weaken our resolve or the time wasted in 'by-path meadows', without it affecting the whole course of our spiritual life.

"And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and he shall offer his offering unto the Lord...... (vv. 13-21). The offerings which were offered when the Nazarite has fulfilled the days of his separation (vv. 14,15), are markedly different to those which were offered when he "defiled the head of his consecration." It is evident that he has been greatly enriched by his commitment and also that he was greatly recompensed for it. This is suggested by the addition of the peace offering and "after that", when he could drink wine, which would taste much different to any wine that he had deliberately refrained from during the period of the vow. The Nazarite's offerings are identified and the priest's role becomes prominent and is described in vv. 16,17,19,20.

Verse 18 holds a unique place in verses 13-21, as the Nazarite's offering of his hair, interrupts the description of the priestly offerings. The shaving of "the head of his separation" (v. 1.8) is also different to the previous occasion (v. 9) and the taking of his hair and personally, putting it "in the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offering" is unique in Scripture. In yet another way, he rises to the standard of the priesthood, with a unique ability to offer at the altar.

The offering of "the hair of the head of his consecration" (v. 18), may point to another sense in which the requirement to let his hair grow, is to be understood 'The free growth of the hair, unhindered by the hand of man, was rather "the symbol of strength and abundant vitality' (2 Sam 14:25,26) ... an ornament, in which the whole strength and fullness of vitality were exhibited and which the Nazarite wore in honour of the Lord, as a sign that he 'belonged to the Lord and dedicated himself to his service," with all his vital powers' (Keil and Delitzsch).

In Matthew 26:29, the words of the Lord Jesus point on to the day when wine will be drunk in the presence of God and in the kingdom of God, without the fear or possibility that anything can come in which is of nature to spoil it (I Kings 20: 11). On that occasion, we shall be presented before God in the full value of all that Christ is and all that He has accomplished.

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel..." (vv. 22-27). The priestly blessing (vv. 22-27) is a fitting conclusion to the chapter and possibly, to the whole of the ordering of the camp and the arrangements in chapters 1-6. It anticipates the future day of blessing and joy in the kingdom of God. The blessing is arranged in three pairs of blessings, the second in each case contained a special application of the first to the people, and the three gradations unfolded the substance of blessing step by step with ever increasing emphasis. The climax is reached in verse 27, where all that God is revealed to be in blessing for His people, is conferred upon them, "And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. "

As we close our consideration of the Nazarite Vow, our earnest prayer might well be that God will continue to do what He did in a past day, "And I raised up of your sons for prophets and of your young men for Nazarites" (Amos 2:11).