Numbers 6 – The Nazirite Vow

Any Israelite could specially devote him or herself to the Lord for a set period of time. Their devotion (“separated to the Lord,” v. 5; “holy to the Lord,” v. 6) involved abstaining from all alcohol, even the grapes themselves (vv. 3-4); not cutting their hair during the time of their vow (v. 5); and staying far from every dead body (vv. 6-7). Thus their diet, appearance, and even time of personal grief was set apart to the Lord.

This passage details those who took the Nazirite vow, but scripture relates to individuals who were Nazirites from birth, Samson (Judg 13:5) and Samuel (1 Sam 1:11). The prophet Amos told how the Lord raised up Nazirites from Israel’s young men (Amos 2:11). Outside of this not much else is known of these individuals.

Such devotion to the Lord could thus be a personal choice and a calling from God.

Whoever served the Lord in this manner would not join friends and family in the various seasons and experiences of life, whether mirth or death. They also stood out in public by their uncut hair. Such people were wholly given to the Lord, separated–denying–themselves from basic pleasures of life as well as final goodbyes to loved ones.

For believers today applying a passage like this could be challenging: Would this be a “Marine recon” or “special forces” Christian? That kind of application right away makes the error of equating Israel, the OT theocratic nation, with the church. All Christians are separated unto the Lord and such separation must be seen in the moral character of their lives, and even in how they appear before an unbelieving world.

It is so important to read a passage like Numbers 6 in its historical and theological context. Real problems happen when this is missed.

Thus in the OT theocratic nation–composed of Israel in the flesh, but largely unconverted–God blessed them with some who so loved the Lord that they publicly devoted themselves to him. Sadly, too often Israel did not take such men and women seriously and pressured them to compromise and break their vows (Amos 2:12).

Christian, you are not a Nazirite, but you are a Christian, a follower of Christ, and through your profession of faith and public testimony of baptism and addition to a church you have committed yourself to living for Christ alone, by his grace and for his glory. Be holy as he is holy (1 Pet 1:16-17) and don’t let the unbelieving world press you back into its mold (Rom 12:2)!

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