Under the ancient Hebrew law, a man or woman engaged by a vow to abstain from wine and all intoxicating liquors, and from the fruit of the vine in any form; to let the hair grow; not to enter any house polluted by having a dead body in it, nor to be present at any funeral. If by accident any one died in their presence, they recommenced the whole of their consecration and Nazariteship. This vow generally lasted eight days, sometimes only a month, and sometimes during their whole lives. When the time of Nazariteship expired, the person brought a umber of sacrifices and offerings to the temple; the priest then cut off his hair and burnt it; after which he was free from his vow, Nu 6; Am 2:11-12. Perpetual Nazarites were consecrated as such by their parents from their birth, as was proposed by the mother of Samuel, 1Sa 1:11, and continued all their lives in this state, neither drinking wine, nor cutting their hair. Such were Samson and John the Baptist, Jg 13:4-5; Lu 1:15; 7:33.
As the cost of the offerings required at the expiration of the term of Nazariteship was very considerable for the poor, they were often relieved by persons not Nazarites, who assumed these charges for them for the sake of performing an act of piety and charity. Paul availed himself of this custom to disarm the jealousy of those who represented him as hostile to the faith of their fathers. He took four Christian Jews whose vow of Nazariteship was accomplished, assumed the expense of their offerings, and with them went through the customary services and purification's at the temple, Ac 21:20-26. There is also in Ac 18:18 an unexplained allusion to some similar vow made by Paul himself, or perhaps by Aquila, probably in view of some danger escaped or some blessing received.
(Heb form Nazirite), the name of such Israelites as took on them the vow prescribed in Nu 6:2-21. The word denotes generally one who is separated from others and consecrated to God. Although there is no mention of any Nazarite before Samson, yet it is evident that they existed before the time of Moses. The vow of a Nazarite involved these three things, (1) abstinence from wine and strong drink, (2) refraining from cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the continuance of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with the dead.
When the period of the continuance of the vow came to an end, the Nazarite had to present himself at the door of the sanctuary with (1) a he lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, (2) a ewe lamb of the first year for a sin-offering, and (3) a ram for a peace-offering. After these sacrifices were offered by the priest, the Nazarite cut off his hair at the door and threw it into the fire under the peace-offering.
For some reason, probably in the midst of his work at Corinth, Paul took on himself the Nazarite vow. This could only be terminated by his going up to Jerusalem to offer up the hair which till then was to be left uncut. But it seems to have been allowable for persons at a distance to cut the hair, which was to be brought up to Jerusalem, where the ceremony was completed. This Paul did at Cenchrea just before setting out on his voyage into Syria (Ac 18:18).
On another occasion (Ac 21:23-26), at the feast of Pentecost, Paul took on himself again the Nazarite vow. "The ceremonies involved took a longer time than Paul had at his disposal, but the law permitted a man to share the vow if he could find companions who had gone through the prescribed ceremonies, and who permitted him to join their company. This permission was commonly granted if the new comer paid all the fees required from the whole company (fee to the Levite for cutting the hair and fees for sacrifices), and finished the vow along with the others. Four Jewish Christians were performing the vow, and would admit Paul to their company, provided he paid their expenses. Paul consented, paid the charges, and when the last seven days of the vow began he went with them to live in the temple, giving the usual notice to the priests that he had joined in regular fashion, was a sharer with the four men, and that his vow would end with theirs. Nazarites retired to the temple during the last period of seven days, because they could be secure there against any accidental defilement" (Lindsay's Acts).
As to the duration of a Nazarite's vow, every one was left at liberty to fix his own time. There is mention made in Scripture of only three who were Nazarites for life, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist (Jg 13:4-5; 1Sa 1:11; Lu 1:15). In its ordinary form, however, the Nazarite's vow lasted only thirty, and at most one hundred, days. (See Rechabites.)
This institution was a symbol of a life devoted to God and separated from all sin, a holy life.
NAZARITE, properly, NAZIRITE; Hebrew nazir Elohim, "one separated to God," Greek, naziraios). (See NAZARENE.) Nezer is also "a crown or diadem on the head"; and the hair, the natural crown (Jer 7:29). Joseph in Ge 49:26; De 33:16, is nezir, one "separated" from his brethren, at the same time "separated" to God and to be lord of Egypt, typifying the two sides of Jesus' realizing the designation given Him, "Nazarene," in accordance with general prophecy (Mt 2:23). In Le 25:5,11, "neither gather the grapes of thy 'Nazarite' (undressed) vine," the figure is taken from the "unshorn" locks of the Nazarite, "separated" (by being unpruned) from common use in the sabbatical and the Jubilee years. In Le 15:31 nazar expresses separation" from uncleanness. The rule of the Nazarite is given Nu 6:2; "when either man or woman shall separate themselves to ... vow of a Nazarite" implies, it was no new institution, but one now regulated by divinely given rules.
Voluntary vows accorded with legalism. Noah's excess in wine, Joseph's untrimmed hair separating him from the closely polled Egyptians, the distinction of clean and unclean, and the connection of death with sin known long before, suggested voluntary vows prompted by religious zeal, to which now was afforded legal sanction. Man or woman might ordinarily of their own free will take the vow. In special cases God imposed the vow through the parent. The Pentateuch lays down the rule only for a "Nazarite of days" as the Mishna terms it; "the Nazarite for perpetuity" appears only in the Scripture history. Samson ordained to be a Nazarite from the womb (Jg 13:5-6; 16:17). Samuel in a great degree (but not as to abstinence from wine) was the same (1Sa 1:11), by Hannah before his birth "given unto the Lord all the days of his life ... no razor coming upon his head."
Also John the Baptist, "drinking neither wine nor strong drink ... filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb," but not letting the hair grow (Lu 1:15). The three were called of God to be instruments of a revival in great crises of Israel and the church. The seeming violation of the Nazarite law in Samson's contact with the dead shows that the spirit of the law herein rises above the letter; the object of his mission justified the deviation from rule even without ceremonial purification. In three things the Nazarite separated himself from ordinary men, though otherwise freely mixing with them:
1. Abstinence from wine, strong drink (including date and palm wine), and the grape in whatever form; so the high priest and priests when performing official functions (Le 10:9).
2. Not cutting the hair during the vow; it symbolized physical strength and youthful manhood, and thus the man's whole powers dedicated to the service of God; answering to the high priest's" 'crown' (neetser) of the anointing oil of his God" (Le 21:12).
3. Noncontact with a corpse even of a nearest relative; so the high priest (Le 21:11-12).
Samuel's Nazarite prerogative, with God's extraordinary call, seem to have given him a sacerdotal character. The Nazarites did not form an ascetic fraternity, but followed observances typifying restraint of self will and fleshly appetite and separation unto God; Ro 12:1-2, expresses the corresponding obligation of our Christian life to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," etc. Accidental defilement entailed loss of the previous time and recommencing the days of his dedication, shaving the head and the ordinary purification enjoined for others Nu 6:9-12; 19:11-12), besides a trespass offering peculiar to his case. In concluding his term of days he offered a sin offering, a burnt offering (implying whole self dedication), and a peace offering (thanksgiving) with unleavened bread. That the three offerings might represent the one reality, namely, his realizing in himself penitent faith in God's atoning mercy covering sin, whole self-surrender to God, and thankfulness to Him, the three animals were of one species, a lamb of the first year, an ewe, a ram.
His shorn hair was put on the fire of the altar, in order that, although human blood must not be offered, something of the Nazarite's body, and that representing his manly strength, should be offered. "Separation unto Jehovah (Nu 6:2) is the radical idea. Whereas the Nazarite marked this by abstaining from wine, the Christian seals his consecration by obeying Christ's invitation, "drink ye all of this." Lightfoot (Exercit. Lu 1:15) leans to the Jews' identification of the vine with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the N. vow with Adam's state before he fell.(?) Paul's shaving his head at Cenchreae was not a strict Nazarite's vow, otherwise he would have offered his hair with the sacrifices at the temple door; but a modified Nazarite vow, usual then in respect to deliverances from sickness or other calamity (Ac 18:18). In Ac 21:24-27 a strict Nazarite vow is referred to on the part of four poor men. Paul as a charity defrayed the charges of their offerings to show his respect for the law.
God by Amos (Am 2:11-12) complains, "I raised up of your young men for Nazarites." It was part of Israel's high privilege that there were, of the class most addicted to self-indulgence, youths who by solemn vow abstained from wine and all defilements. God left nothing undone to lead Israel to holiness. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow ... whiter than milk ... more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphires" (La 4:7). God made their body not less, but more, fair by abstinence. Similarly, Daniel (Da 1:8-15); David (1Sa 16:12; 17:42), type of Messiah (Song 5:10). But Israel so despised God's favors to tempt the Nazarite to break the vow; "ye gave the Nazarite wine to drink." Though not cut off from the social world, the Nazarite would feel in spirit reminded by his peculiar dedication, which was a virtual protest against the self indulgence and self seeking of the world, that he was not of the world. Our rule is similar (Joh 17:15-16).
This term implies 'separation'; it was applied to either man or woman that vowed to separate themselves unto the Lord. Three things especially were enjoined upon the Nazarite.
1. He must not touch strong drink or anything that came of the vine: typical of turning away from sources of earthly energy and joy.
3. He must not touch any dead body: typical of avoiding contact with moral defilement, the sphere of death and alienation from God brought about through sin. The point of the Nazarite was to live to God.
If any one died suddenly near to a Nazarite, he was defiled: he had to shave his head, offer sacrifices, and commence all again. When the period of his separation was fulfilled, he was to offer a burnt offering, a sin offering, a peace offering, a meat offering, and a drink offering, with the addition of the offerings made at the consecration of the priests. He was to shave his head and burn the hair in the fire which was under the peace offering: type of the full communion, which is the result of the sacrifice of Christ. Nu 6:1-21.
The Nazarite was specially raised up of God as the vessel of His power on behalf of the people when the pressure under which they were suffering was from enemies within their own border (as the Philistines), and when owing to the moral condition of the people it was not possible for God to interfere in ordinary ways of deliverance. The Nazarite was marked on the one hand by a special energy of the Spirit of God, but on the other by rigid separation from the natural sources of excitement, the proprieties and the moral corruption which were connected with the life of the people. We see this in John the Baptist.
Samson was a Nazarite from his birth. Before he was born it was declared that no razor must come on his head. His mission was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. Samson betrayed his secret, but sealed his mission by his own death. Jg 13:1-5.
Christ was morally the true Nazarite; He was the holy one, and instead of having earthly joy He was emphatically 'the man of sorrows' when here, but also He has died to sin and lives to God. He answered to all the sacrifices, but the day is approaching when He will drink wine anew in the kingdom, as He said in Mt 26:29; and be able to say to others, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Christians also are Nazarites to God, not because of any vow, but as sanctified in Christ Jesus. He said, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Joh 17:19; 1Co 1:2.
more properly Naz'irite (one separated), one of either sex who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind to be set apart from others for the service of God. The obligation was either for life or for a defined time. There is no notice in the Pentateuch of Nazarites for life; but the regulations for the vow of a Nazarite of days are given.
The Nazarite, during-the term of has consecration, was bound to abstain from wine grapes, with every production of the vine and from every kind of intoxicating drink. He was forbidden to cut the hair of his head, or to approach any dead body, even that of his nearest relation. When the period of his vow was fulfilled he was brought to the door of the tabernacle, and was required to offer a he lamb for a burnt offering, a ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering, with the usual accompaniments of peace offerings,
and of the offering made at the consecration of priests.
He brought also a meat offering and a drink offering, which appear to have been presented by themselves as a distinct act of service. ver.
He was to cut off the hair of "the head of his separation "(that is, the hair which had grown during the period of his consecration) at the door of the tabernacle, and to put it into the fire under the sacrifice on the altar. Of the Nazarites for life three are mentioned in the Scriptures --Samson, Samuel and St. John the Baptist. The only one of these actually called a Nazarite is Samson. We do not know whether the vow for life was ever voluntarily taken by the individual. In all the cases mentioned in the sacred history, it was made by the parents before the birth of the Nazarite himself. The consecration of the Nazarite bore a striking resemblance to that of the nigh priest.
The meaning of the Nazarite vow has been regarded in different lights. It may be regarded as an act of self-sacrifice, That it was essentially a sacrifice of the person to the Lord is obviously in accordance with the terms of the law.
As the Nazarite was a witness for the straitness of the law, as distinguished from the freedom of the gospel, his sacrifice of himself was a submission to the letter of the rule. Its outward manifestations were restraints and eccentricities. The man was separated from his brethren that he might be peculiarly devoted to the Lord. This was consistent with the purpose of divine wisdom for the time for which it was ordained.