New European Commentary

 

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Num 6:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
Any Israelite could vow him or herself to special service to God; we too shouldn’t see our service to God in terms of doing the minimum. Realizing the wonder of His grace and the certainty of our eternal life in His Kingdom, we should be moved to special devotions. In this vow, the ordinary Israelite willingly submitted to some of the regulations specific to the priests on duty. The growing of long hair could be seen as an imitation of the High Priest’s mitre. They were not to see the priesthood as something reserved just for specialists, those born into it; nor were they to see the High Priest as so distant from themselves that he could never be imitated, in spirit at least. We likewise can take to ourselves some aspects of the personal work of the Lord Jesus; for all that is true of Him becomes true of us who are baptized into Him. As He was the light of the world, so are we to be.



Num 6:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them: ‘When either man or woman shall make a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to Yahweh,-
 
- see on Dt. 6:23 . The vow of Naziriteship was voluntary, and yet Am. 2:11 says that God raised up young men to be Nazirites. Here we see the profound interplay between human freewill and Divine intervention, setting up possibilities for our freewill response which are effectively a calling to specific acts of freewill obedience. And the most well known Nazirites, Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11) and Samson (Jud. 13) were chosen to be Nazirites before their birth.

Or woman- For a woman to shave her head was otherwise understood as an act of shame (cp. Num. 5:18; 1 Cor. 11:6). But making this freewill commitment involved them doing something which in the eyes of society was shameful and foolish. The essence of that is seen to this day- to give your savings to another is seen as foolish, to fellowship with the despised and rejected is seen as shameful.

 

Num 6:3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of fermented drink, neither shall he drink any juice of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried-
 Separate himself from wine and strong drink
- This was the requirement for priests on duty (Lev. 10:9). Through Naziriteship, the ordinary Israelite, including women, could act as the priests. And further, the long hair recalled the High Priestly mitre- the invitation was to act in the spirit of the High Priest, just as we are asked to replicate the essence of the saving, mediatorial work of Jesus in our lives and service. The word for the "crown" of the High Priest is from the same root, nzr, as the word 'Nazirite'.

 

Fresh grapes or dried- They had no alcohol content. The same is true of the seeds or skins (:4). But here is the classic fence around the law, forbidding something which is not wrong of itself in order to prevent developing even the mental association with the sinful / forbidden, or the suggestion of it. And here we see a bridge across the centuries to our age- in seeking to avoid temptation or disobedience, we are to carefully avoid those things which may suggest the temptation to us. What we watch or read therefore becomes no innocent choice for any of us. The same fence around the law is seen in the command to Samson's mother not to drink wine because her son was to be a Nazirite and bound by the same law. The behaviour of the mother in pregnancy was therefore seen as a possible influence upon the behaviour of the as yet unborn child (Jud. 13:7).

To view these regulations are irritating fences around a law is however somewhat negative, true enough as it is. Making vows was part of most of the surrounding religions, many of which involved extreme asceticism, with those making the vows seeking to outdo each other with the extremity of their self-denial. It has never been God's intention that serving Him should mutate into religous extremism and fanatic asceticism. The regulations upon the Nazirite could therefore be seen as a wise limitation upon the human tendency towards religious extremism. In comparing with other religious vows of the time, they nearly all involved abstinence from sex and time spent daily in religious devotions and rituals. It's significant that the Nazirite vow contrasts sharply with this- for there is a notable absence of any such regulations or demands. God intended that the spirit of special devotion to Him should be lived out within the course of normal, daily human life- rather than some special hived-off existence with a focus upon ritual and externalities.

 

Num 6:4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is made of the grapevine, from the seeds even to the skins-
 Seeds... skins
- See on :3.


Num 6:5 All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall come on his head, until the days are fulfilled, in which he separates himself to Yahweh. He shall be holy. He shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.
Num 6:6 All the days that he separates himself to Yahweh he shall not go near a dead body-
The Nazirite was not only to not touch a corpse, but not to go near one; likewise they were not only to not drink wine, but to not drink grape juice nor eat seeds or skins of grapes, from which wine is made. This is the classic ‘hedge around the law’- forbidding something not because it is unlawful of itself but because the associations may lead to breaking an actual law. We in Christ are freed from all legalism and casuistry; and yet in our daily struggle against temptation, it’s no bad idea to remove far from us those things, associations, images etc. which may stimulate temptation and the power of sin.



Num 6:7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head.
Num 6:8 All the days of his separation he is holy to Yahweh-
Paul was called to be a preacher of the Gospel, and yet he speaks of his work as a preacher as if it were a Nazarite vow- which was a totally voluntary commitment. Consider not only the reference to him shaving his head because of his vow (Acts 18:18; 21:24 cp. Num. 6:9-18), but also the many descriptions of his preaching work in terms of Nazariteship: Separated unto the Gospel’s work (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15; Acts 13:2); “I am not yet consecrated / perfected” (Phil. 3:12)- he’d not yet finished his ‘course’, i.e. his preaching commission. He speaks of it here as if it were a Nazarite vow not yet ended. Note the reference to Paul’s ‘consecration’ in Acts 20:24. His undertaking not to drink wine lest he offend others (Rom. 14:21) is framed in the very words of Num. 6:3 LXX about the Nazarite. Likewise his being ‘joined unto the Lord’ (1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 14:6,8) is the language of Num. 6:6 about the Nazarite being separated unto the Lord. The reference to having power / authority on the head (1 Cor. 11:10) is definitely some reference back to the LXX of Num. 6:7 about the Nazarite. What are we to make of all this? The point is perhaps that commitment to active missionary work is indeed a voluntary matter, as was the Nazarite vow. And that even although Paul was called to this, yet he responded to it by voluntarily binding himself to ‘get the job done’. And the same is in essence true for us today in our various callings in the Lord’s service. 
Num 6:9 If any man dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles the head of his separation, then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing. On the seventh day he shall shave it.
Num 6:10 On the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the Tent of Meeting.
Num 6:11 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, and shall make his head holy that same day-
It hardly sounds sinful for a person who has made a special dedication to God to be made unclean by a person unexpectedly falling dead next to him or her. But in this legislation God is seeking to teach us how sensitive He is to uncleanness. This principle can carry over into our lives today; if we love to view, read and talk about unclean things, even if we don’t do them, then we are not respecting the distance which God seeks to set between the clean and unclean, right and wrong, good and evil.


Num 6:12 He shall consecrate to Yahweh the days of his separation, and shall bring a male lamb a year old for a trespass offering; but the former days shall be void, because his separation was defiled-
This was to remind them that the Passover deliverance through the lamb was effectively ongoing. The Passover lamb was likewise to be a year old (Ex. 12:5). We too are to live constantly under the impression of the Lord's sacrifice and redemption of us. Israel were asked to use a lamb of the first year to record various times when they should be thankful for God's redemption of them in the events which comprise life (Lev. 9:3; 12:6; 23:12,18,19; Num. 6:12,14; 7:15,17,21; 28:3,9,11,19; 29:2,8,13). This was to continually recall to them the events of their great redemption through the Red Sea. And the essence of our redemption, our baptism and salvation through the blood of the lamb, must likewise be brought ever before us.


Num 6:13 This is the law of the Nazirite: when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the Tent of Meeting,-
 
The laws concerning breaking the Nazirite vow are detailed, and the sacrifices required were expensive with no legislation allowing a cheaper offering if the Nazirite was poor. The lesson can simply be that the fact we make what appears to be an 'extra' commitment to God's service doesn't thereby free us from being obedient to His principles in other areas. Our commitments are all the same to be governed by His principles. The costly sacrifice required at the end of the Nazarite vow was perhaps to teach that the person wishing to take the vow must take this into account to begin with when considering making the vow- hence the teaching that a vow should not be made rashly (Prov. 20:25). The sin offering (:14) suggests the principle of Lk. 17:10 was being taught here- "When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants". There was to be no spiritual pride in commitment made apparently over and above God's minimal requirements. The language of "have done all those things which are commanded" recalls the language of the priests and Moses doing all things were were commanded them under the old covenant (Ex. 29:35; Lev. 8:36; Dt. 1:18). Lk. 17:10 would therefore be hinting that even complete obedience to God's law was not of itself enough to make a man profitable unto God, which was something Job likewise concluded (Job 22:2). And the legislation about concluding the Nazarite vow was teaching the same. Over Israel's extra-Biblical history, the Nazirite vow became abused into part of a bargain with God. Josephus records: "It is customary for those suffering from illness or other affliction to make a vow to abstain from wine and to shave their head during the thirty days preceding that on which they must offer their sacrifices" (Wars 2.15.1). And our mentality can be the same- we do freewill work or commitment to the Lord but with the unspoken understanding that if we do this, then He is somehow bound to help us in our need. But the spirit of the vow is of voluntary devotion to the Lord from a pure motive of gratitude.


Num 6:14 and he shall offer his offering to Yahweh, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings-

No animal actually is without blemish. God recognizes that we will not attain perfection in this life, but we are to do our best towards it; and His love imputes righteousness to us, counting us as unblemished because of our status in Christ. For only Christ was the sacrifice totally without moral blemish (1 Pet. 1:19).

This looked ahead to the unblemished character of the Lord Jesus. The offering of sacrifices "without blemish" uses a word which is used about Abraham and Noah being "without blemish" (AV "perfect") before God (Gen. 6:9; 17:1). Although the word is used about the sacrifices, it is really more appropriate to persons- "you shall be perfect with Yahweh your God" (Dt. 18:13), "serve Him in sincerity (s.w. "without blemish")" (Josh. 24:14). The idea, therefore, was that the offerer was invited to see the animal as representative of himself. Our lives too are to be as "living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1). And yet in practical terms, no animal is without blemish. They were to give the best they could, and God would count it as without blemish; as He does with us. David frequently uses the term in the Psalms about himself and the "upright", even though he was far from unblemished in moral terms.


Num 6:15 and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering, and their drink offerings.
Num 6:16 The priest shall present them before Yahweh, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering-
The need for a sin offering at the end of his period of dedication was maybe to remind him that his extra special devotion didn’t take away his sin and need for grace; for relationship with God depends upon this rather than upon our works and special efforts. Again, we can take that principle to ourselves in our age.


Num 6:17 He shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings to Yahweh, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering, and its drink offering.
Num 6:18 The Nazirite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the Tent of Meeting, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings.
Num 6:19 The priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the head of his separation;
Num 6:20 and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before Yahweh. This is holy for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is offered. After that the Nazirite may drink wine-

The portion to be waved was placed on the priests hands (Ex. 29:25), and then 'waved' or 'swung' towards the altar and then back- not from right to left. The idea was that the offerings were first given to God, recognizing they should be consumed on the altar to God; but then given back to the priest by God. So they ate them having first recognized that their food was really God's, all was of Him, and He had given it back to them to eat. This should be our spirit in partaking of any food, as we are the new priesthood. Our prayers of thanks for daily food should include this feature. All things are God's and anything we 'offer' to Him is only giving Him what He has given to us (1 Chron. 29:14,16).


Num 6:21 This is the law of the Nazirite who vows, and of his offering to Yahweh for his separation, besides that which he is able to put his hand on. According to his vow which he vows, so he must do after the law of his separation’.

Num 6:22 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 6:23 Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is how you shall bless the children of Israel’. You shall tell them,
Num 6:24 ‘Yahweh bless you, and keep you.
Num 6:25 Yahweh make His face to shine on you, and be gracious to you.
Num 6:26 Yahweh lift up His face toward you, and give you peace’.
Num 6:27 So they shall put My name on the children of Israel; and I will bless them-

The vulnerability and sensitivity of God is reflected in the way that He is concerned that His covenant people, His wife, who bears His Name, might profane His Name (Lev. 19:12; Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). His repeated concern that His Name be taken in vain doesn't simply refer to the casual use of the word "God" as an expression of exasperation. God is concerned about His people taking His Name upon themselves (Num. 6:27) in vain- i.e., marrying Him, entering covenant relationship with Him, taking on His Name- but not being serious about that relationship, taking it on as a vain thing, like a woman who casually marries a man who loves her at the very core of his being, when for her, it's just a casual thing and she lives a profligate and adulterous life as his wife. When God revealed His Name to His people, opening up the very essence of His character to them, He was making Himself vulnerable. We reveal ourselves intimately to another because we wish for them to make a response to us, to love us for what we revealed to them. God revealed Himself to Israel, He sought for intimacy in the covenant relationship, and therefore was and is all the more hurt when His people turn away from Him, after having revealed to them all the wonders of His word (Hos. 8:12).