2When either man, or woman shall separate themselves. God recently appointed a tribute for every soul, whereby the Israelites were to acknowledge that they were His children. By that profession, then, he bound them all to Himself from the least to the greatest. A closer tie of obligation is now treated of, when any should voluntarily devote himself to God for a season. These were called Nazarites, which is equivalent to separate or select, because there was greater dignity or excellence in them than in the common people. For they were as ornaments to the Church, and God willed that His peculiar glory should shine brightly in them. When, therefore, Amos expostulates with them (Amo_2:11) because they had prevented the prophets from exercising their office, and had corrupted the Nazarites with wine, he says, in amplification of their crime, that they bad been honored with a special blessing, when God had created of their sons Nazarites and prophets. And when Jeremiah deplores the desolation of the Church, he insists on this corruption, that their Nazarites no longer appeared as of old, “purer than snow,” etc. (Lam_4:7.) Nor is it to be doubted, that when Jacob distinguished Joseph his son by the title of a Nazarite among his brethren, (Gen_49:26,) he alluded in the spirit of prophecy to that degree of honor in which afterwards, under the Law, they stood who separated themselves unto God, as the lights of the Church. Therefore, although this consecration pertained not to the whole people, yet it should be deservedly reckoned amongst the exercises of piety, because the Nazarites were like standard-bearers to shew others the way; and though they did not attract all to follow their example, yet the ardor of their zeal was of no little advantage to the weak and inexperienced, exciting them forwards according to their capacity.
Now, because God abominates all fictitious worship, he put a restraint on their licentiousness, by giving them a clear and certain rule. And, from the testimony of Amos which I have just quoted, it is gathered that God alone was the appointer of the Nazarite vow. We must remember, then, that the Nazarites shone among the people of God like precious jewels, and although few imitated them, yet that they were as standard-bearers and leaders to awaken zeal amongst the multitude for the service of God. We must observe, by the way, that Samson was a Nazarite of another kind, because he did not take the vow upon him only for a season, but was sanctified from the womb for his whole life, and separated from the rest of the people; in which respect, too, he was a type of Christ, and represented Him, as it were. And surely whatever is here taught should be referred to the sole Fountain of sanctity, as if the image of Christ had been set before the eyes of the Jews in a mirror. For the nearer any one under the Law approached to God, the more did Christ shine forth in him. We know that the whole priesthood of the Law was nothing but His image. The same may be said of the Nazarites, whose purity and abstinence ornamented them with peculiar dignity.
Keil and Delitzsch
The words, “if a man or woman make a separate vow, a Nazarite vow, to live consecrated to the Lord,” with which the law is introduced, show not only that the vow of the Nazarite was a matter of free choice, but that it was a mode of practising godliness and piety already customary among the people. Nazir, from נזר to separate, lit., the separated, is applied to the man who vowed that he would make a separation to (for) Jehovah, i.e., lead a separate life for the Lord and His service. The origin of this custom is involved in obscurity. There is no certain clue to indicate that it was derived from Egypt, for the so-called hair-offering vows are met with among several ancient tribes (see the proofs in Spencer, de legg. Hebr. rit. iv. 16, and Knobel in loc.), and have no special relationship to the Nazarite, whilst vows of abstinence were common to all the religions of antiquity. The Nazarite vow was taken at first for a particular time, at the close of which the separation terminated with release from the vow. This is the only form in which it is taken into consideration, or rules are laid down for it in the law before us. In after times, however, we find life-long Nazarites among the Israelites, e.g., Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, who were vowed or dedicated to the Lord by their parents even before they were born (Jdg_13:5, Jdg_13:14; 1Sa_1:11; Luk_1:15).
Either man or woman. It was not a little remarkable that women could be Nazirites, because, generally speaking, the religious condition of women under the law was so markedly inferior and so little considered. But this is altogether consistent with the true view of the Nazirite vow, viz., that it was an exceptional thing, outside the narrow pale of the law, giving scope and allowance to the free movements of the Spirit in individuals. In this too it stood on the same plane as the prophetic office, for which room was left in the religious system of Moses, and which was designed to correct and supplement in its spiritual freedom the artificial routine of that system. As the prophetic office might be exercised by women, so the Nazirite vow might be taken by women. In either case we find a tribute to and a recognition of the Divine liberty of the Holy Ghost, and an anticipation of the time when the spirit of self-devotion should be poured out without distinction upon men and women. Shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord. Rather, “shall make a solemn vow, a Nazirite vow, to live consecrated unto the Lord.” The two words translated “separate” are not the same. The first (from pala, to sever, to consecrate, to distinguish as exceptional) is of somewhat doubtful use here. In Jud_1:13:19 it appears to be used as an intensitive, “did wonderously,” and the Septuagint has here megalwv euxhtai euchn . The other word (from rzn, to separate) is used in a general sense in Gen_49:26 Deu_33:16, or with the addition, “unto the Lord,” as in Jud_1:13:5. It had, however, acquired a technical sense before this, as appears from Lev_25:5, Lev_25:11, where the undressed vines are called “Nazirites,” as recalling the unshorn locks of those who had taken the vow. It is evident indeed, from the way in which the Nazirite vow is here spoken of, that it had been, perhaps long, familiar among the people. All that this commandment did was to recognize the practice, to regulate it minutely, and to adopt it into the religious code of Israel. Whence the custom was derived is wholly uncertain, for although the separate elements existed in many different quarters, yet the peculiar combination of them which made the law of the Nazirite is entirely peculiar. Vows of abstinence have, of course, been common among all religions. Mingled with much of superstition, self-will, and pride, they have sprung in the main from noble impulses and yearnings after a higher life, prompted by the Holy Spirit of God; and it may be said with some confidence, that in spite of all reproaches (deserved or undeserved), such voluntary vows of abstinence have done more than anything else to save religion from becoming an unreal profession. Hair offerings, on the other hand, springing from a simple and natural sentiment, have been common enough amongst the heathen. Compare the sacred locks of Achilles (“Iliad,” 23:142, sqq.), and the various use of the tonsure in pursuance of vows among the ancient Egyptians (Herod., 2:65) and amongst modern Mahomedans and Christians. The physical fact on which all these hair offerings rest is that the hair is the only portion of oneself which can be conveniently detached and presented.
3.He shall separate himself from wine. The first injunction is, that they should not only abstain from wine, but that they should not even taste grapes or anything connected with wine. The simple observance was, that they should not drink wine or anything inebriating; but, because men are crafty in inventing subterfuges, it was necessary to express specifically the means whereby the Law might be defrauded. Thus, in abstaining from wine, they would not have deprived themselves of luxuries, either by indulging in fresh or dried grapes, or by mixing water with grapes and expressing their juice, or by imitating the sweetness of wine by other delicate preparations. Hence it appears how many secret recesses and lurking-places are possessed by man’s hypocrisy, whilst it shamelessly imagines stupid means of deception for cheating God himself. But, at the same time, we must remark that this subtlety was intolerable to God, who is pleased by nothing so much as sincerity. We shall also see elsewhere that the priests, when they were executing their office by turns in the Temple, were forbidden the use of wine. This similarity proves what I have already said, that the Nazarites were thus separated from the multitude, that they might approach to the honor of the priesthood. But abstinence from wine was enjoined not only that they might avoid drunkenness, but that their whole mode of living might be more temperate and frugal; for the drinking of wine is well known to be among the chief pleasures of the table, and those who are not abstentious will rather content themselves with moderate and common food than bear to be deprived of wine. We may, then, learn from hence, that a sober use of wine is a most important part of temperate living; and in all gluttony and intemperance, this is most to be condemned, when men have too great a love of excess in wine-drinking. It is then astonishing that when the monks under the Papacy boast of their angelical perfection, they should with one accord refuse to abstain from wine. With many it is sinful to touch during their whole life a bit of beef or pork, and they would glory in being martyrs, if they obstinately preferred to die rather than to eat meat in a case of necessity; but their temperance is so inconsistent, that this austerity as to food acquires for them the greater license in drinking, as if they purposely avenged themselves in this way. Wherefore nothing can be more insufferable than their boasting, since this abstinence in eating alone is a mere mockery of God.
Keil and Delitzsch
The vow consisted of the three following points, Num_6:1-4 : In the first place, he was to abstain from wine and intoxicating drink (shecar, see Lev_10:9); and neither to drink vinegar of wine, strong drink, nor any juice of the grape (lit., dissolving of grapes, i.e., fresh must pressed out), nor to eat fresh grapes, or dried (raisins). In fact, during the whole period of his vow, he was not to eat of anything prepared from the vine, “from the kernels even to the husk,” i.e., not the smallest quantity of the fruit of the vine. The design of this prohibition can hardly have been, merely that, by abstaining from intoxicating drink, the Nazarite might preserve perfect clearness and temperance of mind, like the priests when engaged in their duties, and so conduct himself as one sanctified to the Lord (Bähr); but it goes much further, and embraces entire abstinence from all the deliciae carnis by which holiness could be impaired. Vinegar, fresh and dried grapes, and food prepared from grapes and raisins, e.g., raisin-cakes, are not intoxicating; but grape-cakes, as being the dainties sought after by epicures and debauchees, are cited in Hos_3:1 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 Nazarite was to avoid everything that proceeded from the vine, because its fruit was regarded as the sum and substance of all sensual enjoyments.
Strong drink. Hebrew, shekar; sikera . (Lev_10:9 Luk_1:15) Any intoxicating drink, other than wine including the beer of the Egyptians. Vinegar. Hebrew, chamets. It seems to have been freely used by the poorer people, (Rth_2:14) and was, perhaps, a thin, sour wine (“vile potet acctum,” Horat.). Liquor of grapes. A drink made by soaking grape-skins in water.
Vers. 3-21. The regulations for observance of the Nazarite”s vow.
As a vow of separation, it was to be observed in as significant a way as possible. It was not only a separation in heart and sympathy, but it had its signs, which plainly indicated the separation to others. These regulations were also helpful to the Nazarite himself as remembrancers. We may conclude that not only the details of them, but the very substance, was of God”s appointment. Thus security was taken that all should be in harmony with the great body of the law, and also give the greatest chance of profit to the Nazarite himself, and the greatest chance of instruction to the people.
I REGULATIONS DURING THE CONTINUANCE OF THE VOW.
1. Abstinence from the fruit of the vine. It was to be a rigorous abstinence. This we may take to signify a protest in the most comprehensive way against all seeking of mere pleasure and comfort. The grape was the symbol of sensual delights. The spies brought back grapes of Eshcol more than any other produce to testify the riches of Canaan: this shows how much the Israelites thought of the fruit. There was, of course, no peculiar merit and advantage in abstaining from the grape itself. The abstinence was simply a sign indicating a desire to rise above the common pleasures of men. The Nazarites were not ascetics. They did not refrain from a good creature of God by way of penance. But in the grape there was the possibility of wine and strong drink, and the wine and strong drink were the testimony of the worldly soul that he loved to gratify his sensual nature, and eared not that his body should be so disciplined and restrained as to be the effectual minister of God. The appropriate joys of human life are not to be found among the powers that link us to the lower creation. We are to look for them in communion with God and following Christ. Our joy is in the Holy Ghost. “Is any merry, let him sing Psalms.
2. The unshorn head. The Nazarite was not his own. Not even the least thing about his person was at his own disposal. He was not allowed to cast away even a thing so easily and painlessly separated as the hair, seemingly of so little consequence, and so quickly growing again. It was just because the hair seemed so little a thing that leaving it unshorn was so fit for a sign. (Mat_5:36 Mat_10:30) So when we become Christ”s we become his altogether. We must be faithful in that which is least. All of life is for him, though there are many things that, hastily considered, look as little important as the short light hairs clipped from the head. The unshorn head also made a manifest difference in the sight of men. Abstaining from the vine was only known at the social board; the unshorn head revealed the Nazarite to every one he met. It was an unostentatious challenge and rebuke to the more easy-going multitude. God had accepted the Nazarite, and stamped his acceptance by this simple, impressive regulation.
3. The avoidance of the dead. Death was uncleanness. (Num_5:2) The Nazarite as a consecrated one dare not touch the dead. “Separated for God, in whose presence death and corruption can have no place, the Nazarite must ever be found in the habitations and society of the living.” Not even dead kindred may the Nazarite man or woman touch. What a striking reminder in verse 7 of the requirements of Christi. (Luk_18:29, Luk_18:30) He that would please God and rise to higher attainments in Divine things must subordinate all human kinship to higher claims. Christ divides the family against itself, and makes a man”s foes those of his own household. The nearest kindred may be an obstacle to the regenerate, as still dead in trespasses and sins. “Let the dead bury their dead.” A Nazarite in the observance of his vow was ever on the watch against all occasion of uncleanness, for the very least defilement compelled a fresh start from the beginning.
II REGULATIONS FOR THE RETURN TO ORDINARY LIFE. This was to be done in a public, deliberate, and sacred way. Precisely ordained offerings had to be made before the Nazarite again put razor to his head or wine to his lips. These offerings doubtless had relation both to the period just expired and the freer life to be presently resumed. There was thanksgiving for the vow successfully observed, atonement for the sin that nevertheless had mingled in it, and something to express his purposes for the future. The freer life was still to find him a Nazarite in heart. To be nearer God for a time and then go away to a distance, to taste the pleasures of holiness for a season and then go back to pollution, such conduct would have made the vow a mockery and abomination. We must all be Nazarite in spirit, opposed to the world as resolutely as was the Baptist, but not, like him, fleeing to the wilderness. Our guide and example is Jesus himself, the holiest of all Nazarites, who kept himself unspotted even at the table of the glutton and wine-bibber. His prayer for us is not that we should be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil. Y.
From the kernels oven to the husk, or skin. Of grape-skins it is said that cakes were made which were considered a delicacy, (Hos_3:1, mistranslated “flagons of wine but this is doubtful. The Septuagint has oinon amo stemfolwn ewv gigartou , “wine of grape-skins (the liquor of grapes mentioned before) even to the kernel.” The expression is best understood as including anything and everything, however unlikely to be used, connected with the grape. It is clear that the abstinence of the Nazirite extended beyond what might possibly intoxicate to what was simply pleasant to the taste, like raisins, or refreshing, like charnels. The vine represented, by an easy parable, the tree of carnal delights, which yields to the appetite of men such a variety of satisfactions. So among the Romans the Flamen Dialis might not even touch a vine.
5.There shall no razor come upon his head. It cannot be certainly determined why God would have the Nazarites let their hair grow, except that by this present mark of their consecration, they might be more and more reminded of their vow. Some think that it was a mark of honor, as if they wore a crown on their heads. In this the Popish clergy are more than ridiculous, comparing themselves to the Nazarites by their circular tonsure. But this reason satisfies myself, that God would constantly exercise them in the faithful performance of their vow by this visible sign. It is a mark of manhood to cut the hair, and this, as Paul says, a natural feeling dictates. ( 1Co_11:14.) Therefore, the dedication of the Nazarites was shewn conspicuously by their heads, lest they should fail in their own vows through carelessness or forgetfulness. A question arises respecting the women, for whom this command appears superfluous; but this is easily answered, that they were thus bound to let their hair grow, so as to have it long not only from custom, but in accordance with their vow. Yet there will be nothing absurd in the synecdoche, whereby that is spoken of both the sexes which applies only to the males. Here also the devil formerly played his game, when he persuaded certain monks, as Augustine relates, to make a shew of sanctity by wearing long hair; for, in order that the celibacy which they had vowed might be more conspicuous, they would not allow themselves to be men, having “made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake;” ( Mat_19:12;) and, therefore, their long hair was a sign of their virginity. This example teaches us to beware of the wiles of Satan, lest our κακοζηλία make us rather the apes than the imitators of the ancients.
Keil and Delitzsch
Secondly, during the whole term of his vow of consecration, no razor was to come upon his head. Till the days were fulfilled which he had consecrated to the Lord, he was to be holy, “to make great the free growth (see Lev_10:6) of the hair of his head.” The free growth of the hair is called, in Num_6:7, “the diadem of his God upon his head,” like the golden diadem upon the turban of the high priest (Exo_29:6), and the anointing oil upon the high priest’s head (Lev_21:12). By this he sanctified his head (Num_6:11) to the Lord, so that the consecration of the Nazarite culminated in his uncut hair, and expressed in the most perfect way the meaning of his vow (Oehler). Letting the hair grow, therefore, was not a sign of separation, because it was the Israelitish custom to go about with the hair cut; nor a practical profession of a renunciation of the world, and separation from human society (Hengstenberg, pp. 190-1); nor a sign of abstinence from every appearance of self-gratification (Baur on Amo_2:11); nor even a kind of humiliation and self-denial (Lightfoot, Carpzov. appar. p. 154); still less a “sign of dependence upon some other present power” (M. Baumgarten), or “the symbol of a state of perfect liberty” (Vitringa, obss. ss. 1, c. 6, §9; cf. Num_6:22, Num_6:8). The free growth of the hair, unhindered by the hand of man, was rather “the symbol of strength and abundant vitality” (cf. 2Sa_14:25-26). It was not regarded by the Hebrews as a sign of sanctity, as Bähr supposes, but simply as an ornament, in which the whole strength and fulness of vitality were exhibited, and which the Nazarite wore in honour of the Lord, as a sign that he “belonged to the Lord, and dedicated himself to His service,” with all his vital powers.
(Note: In support of this explanation, Oehler calls to mind those heathen hair-offerings of the Athenian youths, for example (Plut. Thes. c. 5), which were founded upon the idea, that the hair in general was a symbol of vital power, and the hair of the beard a sign of virility; and also more especially the example of Samson, whose hair was not only the symbol, but the vehicle, of the power which fitted him to be the deliverer of his people.)
There shall no razor come upon his head. The meaning of this law is best understood from the case of Samson, whose strength was in his hair, and departed from him when his hair was cut. No doubt that strength was a more or less supernatural gift, and it went and came with his hair according to some supernatural law; but it is clear that the connection was not merely arbitrary, but was founded on some generally received idea. To the Jew, differing in this from the shaven Egyptian and the short-haired Greek, the hair represented the virile powers of the adult, growing with its growth, and failing again with its decay. To use a simple analogy from nature, the uncropped locks of the Nazirite were like the mane of the male lion, a symbol of the fullness of his proper strength and life. (cf. 2Sa_14:25, 2Sa_14:26, and, for the disgrace of baldness, 2Ki_2:23) In later ages Western and Greek feeling on the subject prevailed over Eastern and Jewish, and a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” was able to argue that “even nature itself” teaches us “that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him”. (1Co_11:14) No doubt “nature itself” taught the Greek of Corinth that lesson; but no doubt also “nature itself” taught the Jew of Palestine exactly the opposite lesson; and the Apostle himself did not quite discard the earlier sentiment, for he too made a Nazirite vow, and suffered his hair to grow while it lasted. (Act_21:24) The meaning, therefore, of the law was that the whole fullness of the man”s vitality was to be dedicated without any diminution to the Lord, as typified by the free growth of his hair. It has been conjectured that it was allowed to the Nazirite to “poll” (keirasyai ) his hair during his vow, although not to “shave” it (xurasyai ); and in this way the statement is explained that St. Paul “polled his head” (keiramenov thn , Act_18:18, compared with Act_21:24) in Cenchraea, because he had a vow. It is, however, quite evident that any permission to cut the hair is inconsistent with the whole intention of the commandment; for if a man might “poll his head” when he pleased, he would not be distinguished from other men. If it was allowed in the Apostle”s time, it is only another instance of the way in Which the commandments of God were made of none effect by the traditions of men.
6.He shall come at no dead body. This, too, they had in common with the high-priest, that they were not even to mourn for their relations. Although Moses enjoins two things, that the Nazarites should make themselves unclean neither by entering the house of mourning, nor by mourning themselves, it was indeed a duty of humanity to bury the dead; but if any of the people had touched a dead body, or had come near a death-bed or bier, they were polluted. But God demands more of the Nazarites, lest, they should contract uncleanness; for it was not sufficient for them (as will be seen again presently) to purify themselves according to the accustomed means, but it behoved them to be far removed from all things that would pollute them. But why the touch of a dead body was a pollution, we shall consider more at large in its proper place. Now it must be briefly concluded, 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 mourning, the reason of the prohibition was different, viz., that those who professed the special service of God, should set, an example to others of magnanimity and submission. If it were sinful to weep and lament when our friends are taken from us, Christ would not, have wept. at the tomb of Lazarus; but because perturbation is always associated with grief, and men in their mourning are too apt to give way to ambition and pomp, and voluntarily and purposely provoke themselves to excess, as though nature did not already carry them further than is right, the Nazarites could not give an example of moderation, if they had mixed themselves with mourners. Wherefore, as they were before restrained from daintiness, so now a remedy is applied to the opposite disease, viz., to sorrow. But, 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; as we shall see hereafter with respect to the priests.
He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother. The same injunction had been given to the priests (Lev_21:12) the crown of the anointing oil of his God is upon him.” A similar reason restrained the Nazirite. Because the consecration of his God is upon his head, i.e., because he wears the unshorn locks which are the outward sign of his separation unto God. The hair of the Nazirite was to him just what the diadem on the mitre was to the high priest, what the sacred chrism was to the sons of Aaron. Both of these are called by the word nezer, (Exo_29:6 Lev_21:12) from the same root as nazir. It was thought by some of the Jewish doctors that in these three particulars the untouched growth of the hair, the abstinence from the fruit of the vine, (cf. Gen_9:20) and the seclusion from the dead the separated life of the Nazirite reproduced the unfallen life of man in paradise. This may have had some foundation in fact, but the true explanation of the three rules is rather to be found in the spiritual truth they teach in a simple and forcible way. He who has a holy ambition to please God must
(1) devote to God the whole forces of his being, undiminished by any wont and use of the world;
(2) abstain not only from pleasures which are actually dangerous, but from such as have any savour of moral evil about them;
(3) subordinate his most sacred private feelings to the great purpose of his life.
9.And if any man die very suddenly. Here is prescribed what must be done, if a defilement should have been contracted which no precaution could have prevented. If a Nazarite should have willingly and knowingly entered a house of mourning, or should have come near a dead body, his consecration would have been violated not without, sin; but, in the case of a sudden death, the error was excusable, though God commands that it should be expiated; for whatever time of the vow had passed He counts for nothing, nor will it be taken into account. This was no light punishment, that he, who had been guilty of no fault, should begin to pay his vow altogether afresh. Besides the loss of the time, a sacrifice is also added, whereby he who was polluted should prepare himself for a new consecration. But, because this consecration was voluntary, none could complain of the immoderate rigor to which he had subjected himself of his own accord. Meanwhile, it was shewn how precious to God is the purity of His worship. Two Hebrew words from different roots, though they are of kindred signification, are used, by which mode of speaking Moses wished more fully to express the unexpected nature of the death. For, in my opinion, it is puerile of the Jews to understand the first of a bloody murder, the other of a sudden death.
Keil and Delitzsch
But if any one died suddenly in a moment “by him” (עָלָיו, in his neighbourhood), and he therefore involuntarily defiled his consecrated head, he was to shave his head on the day of his purification, i.e., on the seventh day (see Num_19:11, Num_19:14, Num_19:16, and Num_19:19), not “because such uncleanness was more especially caught and retained by the hair,” as Knobel fancies, but because it was the diadem of his God (Num_6:7), the ornament of his condition, which was sanctified to God. On the eighth day, that is to say, on the day after the legal purification, he was to bring to the priest at the tabernacle two turtle-doves or young pigeons, that he might make atonement for him (see at Lev_15:14-15, Lev_15:29., Num_14:30-31, and Num_12:8), on account of his having been defiled by a corpse, by preparing the one as a sin-offering, and the other as a burnt-offering; he was also “to sanctify his head that same day,” i.e., to consecrate it to God afresh, by the unimpeded growth of his hair.
If any man die very suddenly by him. wyl, in his presence, or neighbourhood, so that, having hastened to his assistance, lie found himself in contact with a corpse. This ease is mentioned particularly, because it was the only one in which simple humanity or mere accident would be likely to infringe upon the vow. In the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day. This appears to be an anticipation of the law given below; (Num_19:11) but that law may have only sanctioned the existing custom. Shall he shave it. Because “the consecration of his God upon his head” was desecrated by the pollution of death, it must, therefore, be made away with and begun over again.
Two turtles, or two young pigeons. The same offerings had been prescribed for those defiled by divers unclean-nesses in Le 15. (cf. Lev_12:8)
For that he sinned by the dead. This is one of the cases in which the law seemed to teach plainly that an outward, accidental, and involuntary defilement was sin, and had need to be atoned for. The opposite principle was declared by our Lord. (Mar_7:18-23) The Septuagint has here the strange reading peri wn hmarte peri thv quchv . Shall hallow his head. By dedicating again to God the free growth of his hair.
Keil and Delitzsch
He was then “to bring a yearling sheep as a trespass-offering;” and the days that were before were “to fall,” i.e., the days of consecration that had already elapsed were not to be reckoned on account of their having fallen, “because his consecration had become unclean.” He was therefore to commence the whole time of his consecration entirely afresh, and to observe it as required by the vow. To this end he was to bring a trespass-offering, as a payment or recompense for being reinstated in the former state of consecration, from which he had fallen through his defilement, but not as compensation “for having prolonged the days of separation through his carelessness with regard to the defilement; that is to say, for having extended the time during which he led a separate, retired, and inactive life, and suspended his duties to his own family and the congregation, thus doing an injury to them, and incurring a debt in relation to them through his neglect” (Knobel). For the time that the Nazarite vow lasted was not a lazy life, involving a withdrawal from the duties of citizenship, by which the congregation might be injured, but was perfectly reconcilable with the performance of all domestic and social duties, the burial of the dead alone excepted; and no harm could result from this, ether to his own relations or the community generally, of sufficient importance to require that the omission should be repaired by a trespass-offering, from which neither his relatives nor the congregation derived any actual advantage. Nor was it a species of fine, for having deprived Jehovah of the time dedicated to Him through the breach of the vow, or for withholding the payment of his vow for so much longer a time (Oehler in Herzog). For the position of a Nazarite was only assumed for a definite period, according to the vow; and after this had been interrupted, it had to be commenced again from the very beginning: so that the time dedicated to God was not shortened in any way by the interruption of the period of dedication, and nothing whatever was withheld from God of what had been vowed to Him, so as to need the presentation of a trespass-offering as a compensation or fine. And there is no more reason for saying that the payment of the vow was withheld, inasmuch as the vow was fulfilled or paid by the punctual observance of the three things of which it was composed; and the sacrifices to be presented after the time of consecration was over, had not in the least the character of a payment, but simply constituted a solemn conclusion, corresponding to the idea of the consecration itself, and were the means by which the Nazarite came out of his state of consecration, without involving the least allusion to satisfaction, or reparation for any wrong that had been done.
The position of the Nazarite, therefore, as Philo, Maimonides, and others clearly saw, was a condition of life consecrated to the Lord, resembling the sanctified relation in which the priests stood to Jehovah, and differing from the priesthood solely in the fact that it involved no official service at the sanctuary, and was not based upon a divine calling and institution, but was undertaken spontaneously for a certain time and through a special vow. The object was simply the realization of the idea of a priestly life, with its purity and freedom from all contamination from everything connected with death and corruption, a self-surrender to God stretching beyond the deepest earthly ties, “a spontaneous appropriation of what was imposed upon the priest by virtue of the calling connected with his descent, namely, the obligation to conduct himself as a person betrothed to God, and therefore to avoid everything that would be opposed to such surrender” (Oehler). In this respect the Nazarite’s sanctification of life was a step towards the realization of the priestly character, which had been set before the whole nation as its goal at the time of its first calling (Exo_19:5); and although it was simply the performance of a vow, and therefore a work of perfect spontaneity, it was also a work of the Spirit of God which dwelt in the congregation of Israel, so that Amos could describe the raising up of Nazarites along with prophets as a special manifestation of divine grace. The offerings, with which the vow was brought to a close after the time of consecration had expired, and the Nazarite was released from his consecration, also corresponded to the character we have described.
For a trespass offering. Rather, “for a guilt offering.” Hebrew, asham. (see Le 5) The asham always implied guilt, even though it might be purely legal, and it was to be offered in this case in acknowledgment of the offence involved in the involuntary breach of vow. In the education of conscience, on anything lower than the “perfect law of liberty,” it was only possible to secure thoroughness and consistency at the cost of introducing much that was arbitrary and destined to pass away. Something similar must always be tolerated in the moral education of children. The days that were before shall be lost. Literally, “shall fall.” Septuagint, alogoi esontai , “shall not be counted.”
13.And this is the law of the Nazarites. Moses now shews at last how, after the full period of the vow, the Nazarites must return to their common life. And, first, he commands them to place themselves at the door of the tabernacle; then, to offer there a lamb without spot for a burnt-offering, a ewe-lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for peace-offerings, with cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, wafers, and unleavened bread, and meat-offering, and drink-offerings. As to the peace-offering, because it was presented in thanksgiving, it was by no means inappropriate; nor the burnt-offering either, because they might justly congratulate themselves, and celebrate God’s goodness, when they had discharged their pious duty, since God had vouchsafed them no ordinary honor. But what was meant by the sin-offering may be questioned, since expiation was needless for the pure and holy. Here we clearly perceive, that however cheerfully and earnestly men endeavor to offer themselves altogether to God, yet they never attain to the goal of perfection, nor arrive at what they desire, but are always exposed to God’s judgment, unless He should pardon their sins. Whence it appears how base is the Papists’ folly, when they dream of appeasing God by works of supererogation. For, if ever any supererogation were pleasing to God, the holiness of the Nazarites, being testified to by the Law, was worthy of this honor; yet God, when the work is complete, commands them to confess their guilt, and suffers not this service to intrude into the place of merit, but requires of them a sacrifice, that they may borrow from elsewhere what belongs not to themselves, though they appear to be the most perfect of all men.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown
when the days of his separation are fulfilled, etc. — On the accomplishment of a limited vow of Nazaritism, Nazarites might cut their hair wherever they happened to be (Act_18:18); but the hair was to be carefully kept and brought to the door of the sanctuary. Then after the presentation of sin offerings and burnt offerings, it was put under the vessel in which the peace offerings were boiled; and the priest, taking the shoulder (Lev_7:32), when boiled, and a cake and wafer of the meat offering, put them on the hands of the Nazarites to wave before the Lord, as a token of thanksgiving, and thus released them from their vow.
Keil and Delitzsch
The directions as to the release from consecration are called “the law of the Nazarite” (Num_6:13), because the idea of the Nazarite’s vows culminated in the sacrificial festival which terminated the consecration, and it was in this that it attained to its fullest manifestation. “On the day of the completion of the days of his consecration,” i.e., on the day when the time of consecration expired, the Nazarite was to bring to the tabernacle, or offer as his gifts to the Lord, a sheep of a year old as a burnt-offering, and an ewe of a year old as a sin-offering; the latter as an expiation for the sins committed involuntarily during the period of consecration, the former as an embodiment of that surrender of himself, body and soul, to the Lord, upon which every act of worship should rest. In addition to this he was to bring a ram without blemish as a peace-offering, together with a basket of unleavened cakes and wafers baked, which were required, according to Lev_7:12, for every praise-offering, “and their meat and drink-offerings,” i.e., the gifts of meal, oil, and wine, which belonged, according to Num_15:3., to the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings.
The sin-offering (compare the marginal references), though named second, was in practice offered first, being intended to expiate involuntary sins committed during the period of separation. The burnt-offering (Lev_1:10 ff) denoted the self-surrender on which alone all acceptableness in the Nazarite before God must rest; the peace-offerings (Lev_3:12 ff) expressed thankfulness to God by whose grace the vow had been fulfilled. The offerings, both ordinary and additional, required on the completion of the Nazarite vow involved considerable expense, and it was regarded as a pious work to provide the poor with the means of making them (compare Act_21:23 ff; 1 Macc. 3:49).