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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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NAZARITE, properly, NAZIRITE; Hebrew nazir Εlohim , "one separated to God," Greek, naziraios) . (See NAZARENE.) Νezer is also "a crown or diadem on the head"; and the hair, the natural crown (Jeremiah 7:29). Joseph in Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16, is nezir , one "separated" from his brethren, at the same time "separated" to God and to be lord of Egypt, typifying the two sides of Jesus' realizing the designation given Him, "Nazarene," in accordance with general prophecy (Matthew 2:23). In Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11, "neither gather the grapes of thy 'Nazarite' (undressed) vine," the figure is taken from the "unshorn" locks of the Nazarite, "separated" (by being unpruned) from common use in the sabbatical and the Jubilee years. In Leviticus 15:31 nazar expresses separation" from uncleanness. The rule of the Nazarite is given Numbers 6:2; "when either man or woman shall separate themselves to ... vow of a Nazarite" implies, it was no new institution, but one now regulated by divinely given rules.

Voluntary vows accorded with legalism. Noah's excess in wine, Joseph's untrimmed hair separating him from the closely polled Egyptians, the distinction of clean and unclean, and the connection of death with sin known long before, suggested voluntary vows prompted by religious zeal, to which now was afforded legal sanction. Man or woman might ordinarily of their own free will take the vow. In special cases God imposed the vow through the parent. The Pentateuch lays down the rule only for a "Nazarite of days" as the Mishna terms it; "the Nazarite for perpetuity" appears only in the Scripture history. Samson ordained to be a Nazarite from the womb (Judges 13:5-6; Judges 16:17). Samuel in a great degree (but not as to abstinence from wine) was the same (1 Samuel 1:11), by Hannah before his birth "given unto the Lord all the days of his life ... no razor coming upon his head."

Also John the Baptist, "drinking neither wine nor strong drink ... filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb," but not letting the hair grow (Luke 1:15). The three were called of God to be instruments of a revival in great crises of Israel and the church. The seeming violation of the Nazarite law in Samson's contact with the dead shows that the spirit of the law herein rises above the letter; the object of his mission justified the deviation from rule even without ceremonial purification. In three things the Nazarite separated himself from ordinary men, though otherwise freely mixing with them:

1. Abstinence from wine, strong drink (including date and palm wine), and the grape in whatever form; so the high priest and priests when performing official functions (Leviticus 10:9).

2. Not cutting the hair during the vow; it symbolized physical strength and youthful manhood, and thus the man's whole powers dedicated to the service of God; answering to the high priest's" 'crown' (neetser ) of the anointing oil of his God" (Leviticus 21:12).

3. Noncontact with a corpse even of a nearest relative; so the high priest (Leviticus 21:11-12).

Samuel's Nazarite prerogative, with God's extraordinary call, seem to have given him a sacerdotal character. The Nazarites did not form an ascetic fraternity, but followed observances typifying restraint of self will and fleshly appetite and separation unto God; Romans 12:1-2, expresses the corresponding obligation of our Christian life to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," etc. Accidental defilement entailed loss of the previous time and recommencing the days of his dedication, shaving the head and the ordinary purification enjoined for others Numbers 6:9-12; Numbers 19:11-12), besides a trespass offering peculiar to his case. In concluding his term of days he offered a sin offering, a burnt offering (implying whole self dedication), and a peace offering (thanksgiving) with unleavened bread. That the three offerings might represent the one reality, namely, his realizing in himself penitent faith in God's atoning mercy covering sin, whole self-surrender to God, and thankfulness to Him, the three animals were of one species, a lamb of the first year, an ewe, a ram.

His shorn hair was put on the fire of the altar, in order that, although human blood must not be offered, something of the Nazarite's body, and that representing his manly strength, should be offered. "Separation unto Jehovah (Numbers 6:2) is the radical idea. Whereas the Nazarite marked this by abstaining from wine, the Christian seals his consecration by obeying Christ's invitation, "drink ye all of this." Lightfoot (Exercit. Luke 1:15) leans to the Jews' identification of the vine with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the N. vow with Adam's state before he fell.(?) Paul's shaving his head at Cenchreae was not a strict Nazarite's vow, otherwise he would have offered his hair with the sacrifices at the temple door; but a modified Nazarite vow, usual then in respect to deliverances from sickness or other calamity (Acts 18:18). In Acts 21:24-27 a strict Nazarite vow is referred to on the part of four poor men. Paul as a charity defrayed the charges of their offerings to show his respect for the law.

God by Amos (Amos 2:11-12) complains, "I raised up of your young men for Nazarites." It was part of Israel's high privilege that there were, of the class most addicted to self-indulgence, youths who by solemn vow abstained from wine and all defilements. God left nothing undone to lead Israel to holiness. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow ... whiter than milk ... more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphires" (Lamentations 4:7). God made their body not less, but more, fair by abstinence. Similarly, Daniel (Daniel 1:8-15); David (1 Samuel 16:12; 1 Samuel 17:42), type of Messiah (Song of Solomon 5:10). But Israel so despised God's favors to tempt the Nazarite to break the vow; "ye gave the Nazarite wine to drink." Though not cut off from the social world, the Nazarite would feel in spirit reminded by his peculiar dedication, which was a virtual protest against the self indulgence and self seeking of the world, that he was not of the world. Our rule is similar (John 17:15-16).

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Nazarite'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​n/nazarite.html. 1949.
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