October 4th 2019 – Numbers 6:1-12

"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.

“All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.

“All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord.

“And if any man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 On the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 11 and the priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned by reason of the dead body. And he shall consecrate his head that same day 12 and separate himself to the Lord for the days of his separation and bring a male lamb a year old for a guilt offering. But the previous period shall be void, because his separation was defiled."

Numbers 6:1-12

Abstinence from wine and intoxicating drink was the first condition of the vow. The purpose of this prohibition was probably twofold. On the one hand, the abstinence would ensure full clarity of the mind when engaged in the service of the Lord, on the other, the extension of the prohibition to include the eating of grapes, whether fresh or dried, or from partaking of anything connected with the vine, seems to indicate that these were regarded as symbolising all sensual enjoyments by which holiness could be impaired. The commentator Delitzsch quotes a phrase from Hosea 3:1 (RSV) which speaks of 'cakes of raisins' as referring to 'dainties sought after by epicures and debauchees' and cited by the prophet 'as a symbol of the sensual attractions of idolatry, a luxurious kind of food, that was not in harmony with the solemnity of the worship of Jehovah'.

The second regulation, that no razor was to come upon the head of the Nazarite, is thought to have been originally the most important of the prohibitions. The free growth of the hair is called in 7, 'the diadem of his God upon his head' (Delitzsch), and as such would stand as a symbol of strength and abundant vitality (cf 2 Samuel 14:25, 26), signifying that all the natural gifts and growth of the body were the Lord's. Calvin is content with the explanation that 'God would constantly exercise them in the faithful performance of their vow by this visible sign'. The third prohibition is dealt with in greater detail than the others (68), and its meaning will be our theme next.