Under the Law of Moses, GOD gave guidelines for Israelites who took a Nazarite vow.
We previously established that certain individuals were set apart from the assembly of Israel in a preventative manner for maintaining the purity of the whole. Similarly, certain individuals were set apart in a unique sense within the congregation.
While the priests were set apart by physical lineage through the family of Aaron within the tribe of Levi, some individuals voluntarily set themselves apart temporarily for a particular devotion to GOD. This became known as the Nazarite vow.
(The Septuagint, which I quoted from below, does not use the word for “Nazarite” but instead the word for “purity.”)
Here are the guidelines GOD gave for the fulfillment of this Nazarite vow:
No Grapes or Wine
1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘When either a man or woman vows an extraordinary vow to sanctify himself as one of purity to the Lord, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and intoxicants, and shall not drink any wine and vinegar made from wine, and any vinegar made from intoxicants; neither shall he drink anything made from grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.Numbers 6:1-4 OSB
5 All the days of his vow of purification no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he vowed to the Lord; he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.Numbers 6:5 OSB
No Funerals or Contact with the Dead
6 All the days of his vow to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not defile himself even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because the vow of his God is on his head. 8 All the days of his vow he shall be holy to the Lord. 9 But if anyone dies very suddenly near him on the spot, the head of his vow shall be defiled; and he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of testimony. 11 Then the priest shall make one a sin offering and the other a whole burnt offering and make atonement for him, concerning which he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that day. 12 He shall sanctify to the Lord the days of his vow, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be null and void, because the head of his vow was defiled.Numbers 6:6-12 OSB
Upon Completion of the Nazarite Vow
13 ‘Now this is the law of vowing: When the days of his vow are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the doors of the tabernacle of testimony. 14 Then he shall offer his gift to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a whole burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread of fine flour, prepared with oil, and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offering. 16 Then the priest shall bring these things before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his whole burnt offering; 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer his grain offering and his drink offering. 18 Then the one vowing shall shave the head of his vow at the doors of the tabernacle of testimony; and he shall put his hair on the fire, which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19 Then the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened loaf from the basket, and one unleavened cake, and put these upon the hands of the one vowing after he has shaved the head of his vow; 20 and the priest shall bring these things as a deposit offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the deposit offering and the thigh of the choice portion. After that, the one vowing may drink wine.’ 21 This is the law of the one vowing, who vows to the Lord his gift to the Lord concerning his vow; and the force of his vow is not limited to what he could afford regarding his vow, which he vows according to the law of purity.”Numbers 6:13-21 OSB
At least three famous Israelites were dedicated lifelong Nazarites by their parents or by GOD directly:
- Samson (see Judges 16:17)
- Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1:11)
- John the Baptist (see Luke 1:15)