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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 6

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The law of the Nazarites: the form of blessing the people.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 2

Numbers 6:2. When either man or woman shall separate themselves, &c.— The word Nazarite signifies separated; because those who came under this vow separated themselves from the use of certain things specified in the following verses, and dedicated themselves peculiarly to the service of the Lord. Either man or woman might take this vow, provided the latter was at her own disposal; and not under the power of parent or husband, who might annul the vow. See chap. Numbers 30:4-5. From the mode of expression, whom either man or woman, it appears that this kind of vow had been in use before Moses's time, and was not now first instituted; which is another proof of an opinion that we have frequently advanced, that the greater part of the laws of Moses had been in use from the earliest ages, and were now only reduced to a regular and written digest.

Verse 3

Numbers 6:3. He shall separate himself from wine The first thing from which the Nazarite, engaged to a peculiar holiness of life, was to abstain, is wine and all vinous liquors, that so he might preserve an uninterrupted temperance, and be always fit for sacred services. Respecting the strong drink, see Lev 10:9 and Numbers 28:7. The word which we render vinegar חמצ chametz, signifies fermentation, and might have been so rendered; and shall drink no strong fermentation of wine.

Verse 4

Numbers 6:4. All the days of his separation It is not said how many days, for there was no stated number; every one devoted himself for as long time as he chose. But not for a less time, says Houbigant, than might be sufficient for the hair to grow, which, at the completion of the time, the Nazarite was to burn in the fire of the altar, (see Numbers 5:18.) whereby those Jews are refuted who assign the number of thirty days to Nazariteship. They should have assigned a year at least; for the hair can scarcely grow in a less interval from a shorn head. Some, however, were perpetual Nazarites, being peculiarly devoted to God from the womb; as Samson, and John the Baptist. It is considered as a happiness, and mark of God's favour to the Jewish nation, to have such persons raised up among them to be examples of a holy life. I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Amos 2:11. It appears from 1 Maccab. Num 3:49 that they were accustomed to make such vows, more especially in times of calamity; and in how high esteem they were on account of their sanctity, we learn from Lamentations 4:7. Her Nazarites were purer than snow.

Verse 5

Numbers 6:5. There shall no razor come upon his head The second rule which the Nazarite was to observe was, never to shave his head during the time of his vow, but to let his hair grow, in token of austerity. For the same reasons, such persons were accustomed, not only to let their beards and hair grow, but to wear a hairy garment: such a one John the Baptist wore, as did Elijah. Besides, the not shaving was a token that the Nazarite had kept himself pure from all legal defilements; for, if he had not, he must have shaved his head: compare Num 6:9 with Leviticus 14:8. This rite was common to other nations; and it appears from Hos 9:10 that the devil had his Nazarites as well as the true God: which is thought by some to be the reason why they are so often reminded in this chapter that they are separated and consecrated to the LORD. See Numbers 6:1; Num 6:5-8 and Archbishop Potter's Grecian Antiquities, vol. 2: p. 196, &c. The Attic laws are in general believed to have been derived from the Mosaic.

Verses 6-7

Numbers 6:6-7. He shall come at no dead body, &c.— A third rule of the Nazarite is, that he, like the priest, should have no concern with dead bodies, or funeral solemnities, which rendered a man unclean for seven days. See chap. Numbers 19:11, &c. Leviticus 21:1; Leviticus 21:24. The Nazarite was obliged to the same degree of legal purity with the high priest himself; that thus he might be always fit to attend upon the service of God, and taught to disengage his affections as much as possible from worldly objects, and to set them upon God. The consecration, or separation of his God upon his head, is a strong Hebraism, signifying that his hair upon his head is a sign of his being peculiarly consecrated to God. St. Paul imitates this Hebraism, when he says, 1Co 11:10 the woman ought to have power upon her head; i.e. she ought to wear her hair in sign of her subjection to the power of her husband. Le Clerc renders this passage, the crown of his God is upon his head; (see Proverbs 16:31.) and Houbigant, he bears upon his head the ensigns of his God.

Verse 9

Numbers 6:9. He shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing See chap. Numbers 8:7. Leviticus 14:8. Being rendered impure by touching the dead, he was to remain in that state for a week, and then shave off his polluted hair, that new and holy hair might grow instead of it. And, having presented such offerings as the law prescribes, (see chap. Numbers 19:11-12.Leviticus 15:14; Leviticus 15:14.) he was to begin his vow of purity anew, and the former days of his Nazariteship were to go for nothing; Numbers 6:12.

Verse 11

Numbers 6:11. For that he sinned by the dead i.e. Contracted a legal impurity, by touching or being near a dead body; which, though it was involuntary, yet was a breach of the ceremonial law, and therefore thus to be purged. The reason of this was, according to the most judicious rabbis, to make men more cautious how they contracted any defilement: whence that famous saying among them, Diligence begets caution, and caution purity, and purity holiness.

Verse 18

Numbers 6:18. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation The shaving off the hair, mentioned in the 9th verse, differed totally from this. The former was in consequence of legal uncleanness; this was to be done as a public thankful testimony that the Nazarite had ended his vow, and had no further obligation to let his hair grow. See Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23-24. The Nazarite, beside this, (see Numbers 6:14.) was to offer three principal sacrifices: a burnt-offering, in testimony of his entire and unreserved devotion; a sin-offering, to implore pardon for his defects; and an eucharistical or peace-offering, in gratitude to God, the giver of all good. Houbigant renders the last clause of this verse, shall put it upon the fire placed under the peace-offering. See Calmet.

Verse 21

Numbers 6:21. Besides that that his hand shall get Praeter id quod assequetur manus ejus. Houbigant. The French has it, outre ce qu'il aura encore moyen d'offrir. As if it had been said, unless he shall be able to offer a greater sacrifice: for, because it follows According to the vow which he vowed, so must he do, it is understood that he, who should vow a greater sacrifice, was not compelled to offer two turtles; which birds the law usually obliged no others than poor people to bring. The Nazarite, in each of the particulars mentioned in this chapter, was a type of Christ, whose extraordinary endowments, as man, were not from any natural causes, but from above, even from the Spirit of God; who was invested with all power and authority, of which hair was an emblem, (compare Jdg 20:22 with 1Co 11:7 in the Greek,) and who was entirely separate from dead works, from sin and sinners. See more on this subject in Parkhurst on the word נזר. Though this law is no longer observed, Christians may be admonished from hence, that they are separated from the world, and consecrated to God, after a more express and holy manner, and by vows more solemn and irreversible, than were the Nazarites themselves, and that these vows particularly oblige them to live in temperance and sobriety, and to distinguish themselves from other men by pure and examplary lives.

REFLECTIONS.—The law of the Nazarites is here appointed. This consisted in a solemn separation of themselves for God, in a more peculiar employment of their time in the exercises of devotion and communion with God. Note; There will be found among God's people some more eminent for their graces than others, peculiar ornaments of their profession, and Nazarites among their brethren. The persons who made the vow of separation were under particular obligations: 1. Not to taste wine, or any thing which came from the vine, that they might shew themselves patterns of temperance and sobriety, and be ever fit for the service of God. Note; Though the use of wine be not denied to us, the greatest moderation in strong drink is required of every christian. Intemperance must immediately disqualify for every act and exercise of devotion, and cut off all intercourse between God and the soul. 2. They might not shave their beards, or clip their hair: they who have a deep concern about their souls will have a noble neglect of the body, and without being slovenly will ever shew that they are indifferent about the niceness of their appearance, and careless of ornament before men, whilst their great attention is engaged about their appearing acceptable in the eyes of God. 3. They might approach no dead body, not even those of their nearest relations: they must keep their persons as free from ceremonial as their souls from moral uncleanness; and it became those, whose dedication to God distinguished them from others, and obliged them to the peculiar exercise of every holy temper, to shew the subdual of their affections upon earth, and universal resignation to the Divine will. Note; We expect from eminent saints eminent submission; the greater the profession, the more every appearance of evil is to be avoided.

In case of some unavoidable accident, as sudden death, (and death often strikes without warning,) then, 1. He was not only, as others, seven days unclean, but must bring particular sacrifices. Sins of surprise require an atonement; and though no eminence of grace secures from temptation, every false step in such requires double pains to retrieve it. 2. All the time past was lost; he must shave himself, and begin the days of his consecration again, Note; Every sin is mortal; and unless we were each day, each hour, to be renewing our application to the Blood of Sprinkling, all would be lost.

If the vow were fulfilled, at the expiration of the time he was discharged from it. 1. By sacrifices. We must not think, when we serve God, that he is our debtor; but, even after we have done what is commanded, must acknowledge ourselves unprofitable. We have to give him thanks for the strength and grace he has bestowed, and in our holiest duties own the need of an atonement; else our very righteousness would be our ruin; and we must still be offering the sacrifice of prayer, that the same supports which have been vouchsafed may be continued. 2. His head was shaved publicly at the door of the tabernacle, &c. Thus all men saw his vow fulfilled, and might not be offended at seeing him afterwards drink wine, or mourn for the dead. Note; We are not only to take care that we do right, but in various instances to let all men see that we do so, and thereby remove every occasion which might raise suspicion or censure.

Verses 23-26

Numbers 6:23-26. Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons The Lord here prescribes the form of blessing wherewith the congregation was to be dismissed by the priest in waiting; who, with loud voice and uplifted hands, used to say, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: "May God both bestow upon thee plenty of good things, and preserve thee in the happy use of them. May Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bestow on thee the blessings of his covenant of grace and peace; make thee partaker of the Father's love, of the Son's redeeming grace, of the Spirit's comforting and sanctifying influences; and keep thee from all those evils of sin and Satan, from which of thyself thou art utterly unable to escape." The Lord make his face to shine upon thee: "blessing thee with the sensible effects of his favour, like the sun, cheering and enlivening the face of nature; so may he enlighten thy darkness, warm thy heart with his enlivening rays, kindle thy fervent affections, and comfort thee with the smiles of his reconciled face:" and be gracious unto thee; "bestowing more abundant measures of his Divine strength and consolations." The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee: "looking upon thee with a fixed and tender regard, not with a downcast and averted look, but assuring thy conscience of thy part and interest in his favour:" and give thee peace, "such as nothing can interrupt, nothing take away, begun in time, to be perpetuated to eternity!" To such a blessing and prayer, well might the people with delight and joy reply, Amen! Amen! Dr. Beaumont observes, that, in this blessing, the name Jehovah is thrice repeated to shew the mystery of the Trinity in the Godhead, as the apostle has evangelically explained it to us; 2Co 13:14 and indeed the rabbis confess, that, as the name Jehovah is differently pointed each time in this blessing, some mystery unknown to them is couched under it. "A mystery," says Luther, "obscurely intimated in this place without being revealed: and, if there was occasion, it would not be difficult to shew, that it is God the Father who blesses and keeps us, God the Son who is gracious to us, and God the Holy Ghost who gives us peace."

Verse 27

Numbers 6:27. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel A very strong Hebraism: which seems, as Ainsworth observes, to be an allusion to the ancient custom of laying on or lifting up of hands in bestowing benedictions, to signify the imposing the name or blessing of God upon the Israelites. "They shall bless them by calling upon the name of Jehovah, and recommending them to his paternal goodness." Jonathan paraphrases the words of the text, "I will bless them in or by my word;" which is precisely the doctrine of St. Paul, who teaches us, that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in, or by Christ: who, with the Holy Spirit; is most high in the glory of the Father.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-6.html. 1801-1803.
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