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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 6

Verses 1-27

Numbers 6:2 . Man or woman vow a vow. A boy of thirteen, and a girl of eleven years of age might vow a vow unto the Lord, unless restrained by their father. A woman might also vow, unless restrained by her husband. The vow of becoming a Nazarite, that is, a person separated unto the Lord, was either for thirty days at least, or for life, as was the case with Samson, Judges 13:0.; with Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:11; and with John the baptist, Luke 1:0. Of the temporary class was St. Paul’s vow. Acts 21:23. The Nazarites for life were persons very much respected, and the order had strong marks of the divine approbation. “I have raised up your sons for prophets, and your young men for Nazarites; is it not even thus, saith the Lord?” Amos 2:11. The heathen also had persons who in this way consecrated themselves to religion. The vow of the Nazarite required, abstinence from wine the growth of his hair no defilement for the dead and offerings to the Lord. Every christian should in some sort, like the Saviour, be a Nazarite to God, and his body a temple of the Holy Ghost.

Numbers 6:18 . The hair and put it in the fire. The hair is said to be the glory or honour of the woman; and this token of honour the Nazarite burnt to the Lord. The pagan custom was to let their hair grow very long, and then offer it, the women to the nymphs, and the men to the gods; hence it was expressly forbidden to the Jews, that they should not “round the corners of their heads.” Leviticus 19:27. THESEUS went to offer to Apollo at Delphos the hair of his head, which he had long abstained from cutting: and ORESTES cut off the hair of his head at his father’s tomb.

REFLECTIONS.

To see men and women particularly devoting themselves to God in a wise and prudent way, is laudable in the highest degree, especially in making acknowledgments for some signal mercies, or in deprecating the punishments due to sin. But why should a whole order of christian priests, called fathers, have fallen into a most contemptible mimicry of the ancient Nazarites, in shaving their bald pates, while at the same time they make no scruple to drink wine? And why should a multitude of women have secluded themselves in convents, while the cause of religion had so much need of their aid in active life? Whatever pleas might have been urged for those customs near the times of pagan persecution, the arguments presently lost their force. God has peculiarly called his people to marry, to care for their families, and to struggle against the vices of their age and country in all the public walks of life; and they who do so, will acquire a perfection in every virtue much more pleasing to God, than they who cowardly affect in solitude a superior piety.

From the Nazarites who thus devoted themselves to God, christians may however learn, that they are called to peculiar purity of heart and rectitude of conduct. In particular, let us not defile ourselves by the slightest intemperate use of wine, or of strong drink. Indulgences of this nature will form a habit of voluptuousness, which may lead to every sensual indulgence. This also may be the reason why God has joined the laws of the Nazarite, with the test of adultery in the preseding chapter: and Solomon has joined the caution against wine, with the caution against strange women. Proverbs 23:31-33. Let us be careful not to defile ourselves with any undue intercourse with the world. The sacred person of the Nazarite was in close covenant with God, bound by the special oath of his vow. He could not therefore defile himself by mourning for his father or his mother; for the consecration of his God was on his head, and God must be honoured more than man. Would our unregenerate relatives draw us back to our old affections and habits! Let us remember, that every christian is a sort of Nazarite to his God; and he must not forfeit the divine approbation to please the nearest friend on earth.

In case of defilement during consecration, the Nazarite forfeited all the past days of his separation. He was obliged to shave anew, make atonement for his sin, and enter on the course of his vow as before. Thus every man devoted to God, who defiles himself with sin, must put it away, implore the divine mercy, and enter anew on the course of his pilgrimage. And let every backslider in heart, carefully abhor and renounce his folly, before he shall dare to approach the Lord.

The priests, before they dismissed the devout assembly from the sanctuary of the Lord, were enjoined to bless them in a most excellent form of words, and to pray that the Lord would make his face to shine upon them, and lift upon them the light of his countenance. How glorious, how pleasant to see a whole assembly leave the house of God, having humbled their souls in his presence, and obtained their requests, go away with a joyful countenance, and happy in the best fruits of real piety. Let ministers heartily bless and pray for a devout people; let them comfort the mourners with the strong consolations of the gospel, that they may go away anticipating the more glorious and everlasting assembly of all the saints at God’s right hand.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-6.html. 1835.