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(MT versing)
Law of the Nazirites The Law of the Nazirite Various Instructions to the People
Rules for Nazirites The Nazirite
6:1-4 6:1-8 6:1-4 6:1-4 6:1-8
6:5 6:5 6:5-8
6:6-8 6:6-8
6:9-12 6:9-12 6:9-12 6:9-12 6:9-12
6:13-20 6:13-20 6:13-20 6:13-15 6:13-20
6:21 6:21 6:21 6:21 6:21
Aaron's Dedication The Priestly Blessing The Aaronic Benediction The Priestly Blessing The Form of Blessing
6:22-23 6:22-27 6:22-26 6:22-23 6:22-23
6:24 6:24 6:24
6:25 6:25 6:25
6:26-27 6:26 6:26
6:27 6:27 6:27

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Numbers 6 is the only place in the Pentateuch that discusses this special voluntary dedication vow (either for a lifetime or a period of time).

  2. There are several examples of parents dedicating their sons to YHWH in this fashion.
    1. Samson (i.e., Jdgs. 13:4-5)
    2. Samuel (i.e., 1 Sam. 1:11; not stated in the MT but in DSS)
    3. John the Baptist (i.e., Luke 1:15)

  3. This special vow was a way for Israeli people (women, slaves) to become special servants of YHWH.

    Remember, at the time of the last plague (i.e., death of the firstborn of cattle and humans in Egypt, cf. Exodus 12), YHWH announced through Moses that the firstborn uniquely belonged to Him (cf. Exodus 13). Later this service was taken over by the tribe of Levi (i.e., Num. 3:12,45). Israelis (not Levites or priests) had two ways for laymen and laywomen to show their love and thanksgiving to YHWH.

    1. voluntary sacrifices (i.e., the peace offering)
    2. Nazirite vows
      1. permanent (usually dedicated by parents before birth)
      2. temporary (Mishnah said 30 days was normal limit)

    The Nazirite vow cut the vower off from normal Israeli society

    1. by diet
    2. by social customs related to the dead

    These vows were difficult to maintain and to end (i.e., series of expensive sacrifices).

  4. The subject of "vows" is dealt with in several places.
    1. Lev. 5:4-6; 27:1-33
    2. Num. 6:1-21; 30
    3. Deut. 23:21-23

    They were important aspects of Mosaic worship.


1Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the Lord, 3he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. 4All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin.'"

6:2 "When a man or woman makes a special vow" It is significant that this special dedicatory vow was possible for both laymen and laywomen (see SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE). It was a way of laypeople giving their lives to God, either for a lifetime, like Samuel and John the Baptist, of for a limited period of time, like Paul in Acts 21.

The term "special" (BDB 810, KB 927, Hiphil IMPERFECT) has several connotations.

  1. be surpassing
  2. extraordinary
  3. wonderful act
  4. hard or difficult, here and Lev. 27:2


NASB, TEV, REB  "to dedicate"
NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta  "to separate"
NJB  "to vow"
JPSOA  "to set himself apart"
LXX  "a pure vow"

There are two uses of this NOUN.

  1. the NOUN, BDB 634, vv. 2,4,5,7,8,12, (twice),13 (twice), 18 (thrice), 19 (twice), 20,21 (thrice)
  2. the VERB, BDB 634, KB 684
    1. Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, vv. 2,6
    2. Hiphil IMPERFECT, vv. 3,5
    3. Hiphil PERFECT, v. 12

▣ "Nazirite" This term (BDB 634 I, KB 684) seems to be related to the word "separate" (BDB I), which is part of the concept of holiness. These people were especially dedicated to the Lord. This was a very special kind of vow and is not mentioned along with the other vows in Leviticus 27. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAZIRITE VOW.

6:3-6 There are basically three restrictions to keep a Nazirite vow:

  1. the abstinence from all products of the grape vine, Num. 6:3
  2. no razor shall pass over their head, Num. 6:5
  3. he shall be totally separated from any dead person, even if the death of a close relative occurred, Num. 6:6-8

There are several examples of this vow.

  1. permanent
    1. Samson ‒ Jdgs. 13:4-5
    2. Samuel ‒ 1 Sam. 1:11
    3. John the Baptist ‒ Luke 1:15
  2. temporary

    Paul and four others ‒ Acts 18:18; 21:23-26

  3. also note
    1. I Macc. 3:49-50
    2. Josephus, Antiq. 19.6.1

6:3 "wine and strong drink. . .vinegar" These were different types of fermented drink.

  1. wine ‒ BDB 406
  2. strong drink ‒ BDB 1016
  3. vinegar ‒ BDB 330; common bitter drink, cf. Ruth 2:14; Ps. 69:22; Pro. 10:26; 25:20

Also note that nothing from the grapevine may be eaten or drunk.

  1. grape juice ‒ BDB 1056
  2. grapes
    1. fresh (BDB 535)
    2. dried (BDB 386 II)
  3. seeds ‒ BDB 359, Num. 6:4 (only here in the OT, from Arabic root, possibly unripe grapes)
  4. skins ‒ BDB 260, Num. 6:4 (only here in the OT)

The implication of #3-4 is no part of the grape from inner seed to outer skin may be consumed. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WINE AND STRONG DRINK.

Why would a restriction be placed on wine?

  1. the experience of Nadab and Abihu (cf. Lev. 10:8-11)
  2. to make one separate from normal social life (i.e., model holiness)
  3. to restrict contact with Canaanite culture and worship
    1. drunkenness
    2. raisin cakes (i.e., Hos. 3:1)

5"'All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.'"

6"'All the days of his separation to the Lord he shall not go near to a dead person. 7He 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. 8All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord.'"

6:6 Defilement by touching a dead corpse is also mentioned in Lev. 21:1-4 and Num. 19:11-22. Why this caused someone to be unclean is not certain, except it represents the opposite of life and health. Once death occurs, a natural process of decomposition begins (cf. Gen. 3:19). It may also be directed toward ANE ancestor worship. See SPECIAL TOPIC: BURIAL PRACTICES.

6:8 "he is holy to the Lord" The Nazirite vow of separation to YHWH made a person uniquely "holy." See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY.

9"'But if a man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his dedicated head of hair, then he shall shave his head on the day when he becomes clean; he shall shave it on the seventh day. 10Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 11The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him concerning his sin because of the dead person. And that same day he shall consecrate his head, 12and shall dedicate to the Lord his days as a Nazirite, and shall bring a male lamb a year old for a guilt offering; but the former days will be void because his separation was defiled.'"

6:9-12 "if a man dies very suddenly beside him" These is a series of very significant sacrifices which are involved here, as well as a shaving of the head and a reinstating of a Nazirite vow. It is surprising that apparently only a violation of touching a dead corpse required an elaborate ritual. Nothing is mentioned about how to deal with eating/drinking grape products or trimming of the hair/beard.

6:11 "his sin" This is a good place to see that Israelites saw "ceremonial uncleanness" as a violation of God's law and, thereby, a "sin." Clean vs. unclean was a major theological category for Israel. Israel was to be very different from her surrounding pagan neighbors, in all areas. This was a way to protect them from social and religious contact. See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 477-485.

13"'Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall bring the offering to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 14He shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb a year old without defect for a burnt offering and one ewe-lamb a year old without defect for a sin offering and one ram without defect for a peace offering, 15and a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened wafers spread with oil, along with their grain offering and their drink offering. 16Then the priest shall present them before the Lord and shall offer his sin offering and his burnt offering. 17He shall also offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, together with the basket of unleavened cakes; the priest shall likewise offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings. 19The priest shall take the ram's shoulder when it has been boiled, 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 his dedicated hair. 20Then the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. It is holy for the priest, together with the breast offered by waving and the thigh offered by lifting up; and afterward the Nazirite may drink wine.'"

6:13-20 There is a series of extensive sacrifices which are required to exit the Nazirite vow. There was no provision for the poor regarding a lesser sacrifice (unless Num. 6:21b). This expensive vow of the Nazirite seems to be even more stringent in its rules than those for the priest.

Notice what offerings were required.

  1. one male lamb for a whole burnt offering, Leviticus 1
  2. one ewe lamb for a sin offering, Leviticus 4
  3. one ram for a peace offering, Num. 6:14,17; Leviticus 3
  4. a basket of unleavened cakes, Leviticus 2
  5. his/her long hair also offered on the altar of sacrifice, Num. 6:18

6:14 "without defect" (three times) See SPECIAL TOPIC: WITHOUT DEFECT.

6:15 "grain offering" See Leviticus 2.

▣ "libations" These could be of olive oil (i.e., Num. 15:4), wine (i.e., Num. 15:5), or both (Exod. 29:40-41; Num. 28:5-7; 29:3-6; Ezra 7:17).

6:19 "shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite" This physical gesture was a way of the offerer identifying with the sacrifice (cf. Num. 5:18).

6:20 The exact difference between a "wave offering" (BDB 632) and "lift up" offering (BDB 929) is uncertain. See notes at Num. 5:25 and Lev. 7:30.

▣ "and afterward the Nazirite may drink wine" This phrase shows that there was no cultural stigma to drinking fermented wine. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WINE AND STRONG DRINK.

21"This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to the Lord according to his separation, in addition to what else he can afford; according to his vow which he takes, so he shall do according to the law of his separation."

6:21 "in addition to what else he can afford" The idiom is literally "his hand can reach." This is surprising to me in light of the expensive offerings that were required. The Nazirite vow itself was an offering of one's life to YHWH.

Maybe the idiom should be understood as saying the text of Numbers 6 states only the minimum requirements; additional offerings were acceptable but not required.

22Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23"Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:'"

24'The Lord bless you, and keep you;'

25'The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;'

26'The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.'
27So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them."

6:24-26 This is often called the Aaronic blessing. It seems to be a threefold repetition of the covenant name for God (i.e., YHWH; see SPECIAL TOPIC: "THE NAME" OF YHWH) in a semi-poetic form. It emphasizes God's care, guidance, and special notice of the one blessed.

The term "peace" is the Hebrew term for "wholeness." See SPECIAL TOPIC: PEACE (OT). One wonders if the blessing (see SPECIAL TOPIC: BLESSING) was meant for the male and female Nazirites only or if it was a general blessing unrelated to Num. 6:2-21. The Scriptures that mention the priests' blessing in YHWH's name (cf. Lev. 9:22-23; Deut. 10:8; 21:5) imply that this is a general blessing to be given to all Israelites at times of worship. All Israel was to be a holy priesthood dedicated to YHWH (cf. Exod. 19:5-6). All the "you's" are SINGULAR (v. 27 is PLURAL).

Notice the VERBS related to YHWH's actions and attitude toward the ones receiving the priestly blessing.

  1. bless you ‒ BDB 138, KB 159, Piel IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  2. keep you ‒ BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  3. face shine on you ‒ BDB 21, KB 24, Hiphil JUSSIVE; see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN
  4. be gracious to you ‒ BDB 335, KB 334, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  5. lift up His countenance on you ‒ BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense
  6. give you peace ‒ BDB 963, KB 1321, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense; this VERB repeated in v. 27 referring "to putting" (NASB, "involving") YHWH's name (Piel PERFECT with waw)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What does the word "Nazirite" mean?
  2. Why did someone take this "special" vow?
  3. Why were products from the grapevine prohibited?
  4. Explain why there was no sacrifice available that would have allowed a poor person to be a Nazirite?
  5. How is the blessing of the Num. 6:22-27 related to Nazirites?
  6. How are the blessings of the Aaronic prayer related to YHWH's promise of Canaan to Abraham's seed?

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