The Prohibitions of a Nazarite
Most students of the Word know that a Nazarite was forbidden alcoholic beverage and haircuts, but little more. The hair was to be nazir; that is, untrimmed. In addition, the Nazarite (who could be male or female), was to avoid grapes and grape juice of any kind, vinegar, dead bodies, and possibly even the mourning process itself. Numbers 6 is the most definitive statement on the Nazarite vow found in the Bible, and it tells us that the Nazarite, “…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.” (Numbers 6:7, NASB95). This sounds much like the instruction of Jesus to the would-be disciple who said, “first, let me go bury my father.”
If Paul says that long hair is a disgrace to a man (1 Corinthians 11:14), why would the Nazirite do that which is disgraceful? I believe it was an act of humility. Paul’s teaching about hair and head coverings in 1 Corinthians is about authority. In it, he says that a woman’s head is to be covered (with the authority of her husband or father), but a man’s head is not to be covered since he is the representative of God in his family. For the Nazirite, however, he was to take the disgrace of submission upon his head.
It is unlikely that Nazirites ever came to the point of hippie style hair. Except for Samson, we have no clear examples of life-long Nazirite vows. While John the Baptist could have been under such a vow, we do not know for sure, and there are other reasons he could have been alcohol-free and seemingly “untrimmed.” The length of a Nazirite vow is not mentioned in the Bible, but Jewish literature tells us that the average length of such a vow was 30 days, and on rare occasions, a man would take a 60-day vow. In a 30-day timeframe, a man’s hair would begin to get long, but not Samson-like.
New Testament believers are free from the Law, but they may choose to take voluntary vows which, like the Nazarite vow, makes certain behaviors and actions off limits. When believers make such vows, they should do so with humility of spirit, for the glory of God.
In His Grace;
Dr. Randy White
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