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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Nazarite Vow

Similarities between Nazarites and priests (cf. esp. Numbers 6 and Leviticus 21)

Nazarite Similarity Priest
Num. 6:2 Separated unto God Lev. 22:2, Num. 8:14, Deut. 10:8
Num. 6:3-4 Restrictions on their drink Lev. 10:9
Num. 6:5 Restrictions on their head Lev. 10:6, 21:5,10
Num. 6:6-9 Restrictions on their touch Lev. 21:1-4, 11
Num. 6:8 Holy unto the Lord Lev. 21:6


These similarities gave me these thoughts -- not exegesis of scripture, but meditations. The first thought that came to me was priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers as we know it is a New Testament revelation, as First Peter 2:9 and other passages. Obviously the Nazarites were not priests, but persons under a vow to the Lord. But in their vow and separation they had a little taste of the priestly separation to the Lord. Perhaps that foreshadows a priesthood of all believers?

The Nazarite separated from all products of the grapevine, whereas the priests separated only from wine and strong drink while serving as priests. But both would experience the separation from wine and strong drink. The separation of the Nazarite has strong connections to the previous nomadic lifestyle of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as their wandering in the wilderness (note Jer. 35 for another connection of the nomadic lifestyle and abstinence from wine). The wandering in the wilderness calls to mind the sustaining power of God when He provided for them through those years though they had "not eaten bread, neither have you drunk wine or strong drink." (Deut. 29:6) Israel's existence and prosperity was intimately associated with the grapevine, where every man would dwell "under his vine and under his fig tree" (cf. Micah 4:4 and I Kings 4:25). It was "a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards" (II Kings 18:32). Figuratively the Nazarite gave up his identity, existence and sustenance to God. Projecting forward we might see that New Testament identity, existence and sustenance in our behavior under the power of the Holy Spirit: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).

For the period of his vow and separation, the Nazarite could put no razor to the hair of his head, but rather had to allow it to grow. This separated him from the public norm, long hair on women and cut hair on men. The priest did not bear the same restriction as the Nazarite, but had some restrictions regarding his hair and bread. The high priest was to cover his head (Lev. 21:10). The lack of attention to the hair (and especially the beard) could be a sign of trouble or affliction (II Sam. 19:24). The Nazarite bore the reproach of God, as he separated himself from customary grooming. If "a man have long hair" and "it is a shame unto him" (I Cor. 11:14), then there is a sense of bearing shame. May we likewise "go forth" bearing our Lord's reproach.

Both the priests and the Nazarites were restricted in touching the dead. Touching the dead resulted in ceremonial uncleanness. The priests in service could only become unclean for their very closely kin (father, mother, etc.). The high priest could not at all, neither could the Nazarite during the time of the separation of his vow. This reminds us of putting God first -- above father, mother, sister, brother -- letting the dead bury the dead and taking up our cross and following Him.

Praise God, our high priest Jesus Christ has touched the dead and made us spiritually alive!

Both the priest and the Nazarite was separated unto God. They were called unto holiness. As spiritual "Nazarites" and a priesthood of believers, let us "come out from among them" and be separate. Let us not touch the unclean thing. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 20:7).

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy... I Peter 1:15

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