October 5th 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

Avoidance of defilement by contact with the dead brings us into the realm of ritual. The enactment is a very strict one, as may be seen from 6 (cf the regulation laid down for the high priest in Leviticus 21:11). Even accidental or unintentional contact with the dead (9) was regarded to have nullified the consecration, and a new beginning had to be made (12). Calvin distinguishes two points in the prohibition: as to why the touch of a dead body was a pollution, he says that 'because by death is represented God's curse, the wages of sin. The Israelites were thus admonished to beware of dead works'. As to the question of mourning, he adds that 'those who profess the special service of God should set an example to others of magnanimity and submission'. As the first regulation of the vow restrained the Nazarite from indulgence of the senses, so now a remedy is applied in the realm of sorrow. 'Although all ought to seek to indulge it moderately, yet something more is prescribed to the Nazarites, that, as if disentangled and stripped from earthly affections, they should go further than the rest of the people'. One wonders whether this may be what lies behind our Lord's seemingly stern and forbidding answer to the disciple who said, 'Suffer me first to go and bury my father', in the words 'Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead'. This is challenge to disciple- ship indeed, but it can hardly be controverted that our Lord's words breathe the spirit of the Nazarite vow, whether He had them in mind or not.