Who Were the Nazarites?

First, Nazarites refrained from drinking alcohol. Secondly, they had to avoid getting near or touching anything that has perished, including family gravesites. Finally, for the duration of the vow, a Nazarite could not cut their hair.

Sep 29, 2020
Who Were the Nazarites?

You may have heard of Samson, one of the strongest men alive, and a judge of Israel (Judges 16). You may have also heard that Samson ran into trouble when he ate some honey from a lion’s carcass or got his hair trimmed.

But why? It seems awfully stringent that God would get mad at Samson when he would do these things, apart from the fact that eating honey from any type of carcass would not pass CDC guidelines.

Samson belonged to a group of Jews known as the Nazarites.

As we may have learned either at church or school, the Israelites had to follow a great deal of rules in the Old Testament, enough to span five different books in the Pentateuch. But the Nazarites had even more rules to follow.

In this article, we’ll cover Nazarites we meet in the Bible, the extra rules they had to follow, and why they had extra guidelines they abided by.

What Were the Names of Nazarites in the Bible?

As we mentioned before, Samson belonged to the Nazarites, the most famous of those listed in the Bible. But who else in Scripture also would align themselves with this group?

Samson’s parents, Zorah and his wife take a Nazarite vow in order to have Samson (Judges 13). Apart from Samson’s family line, do we see other Nazarites in the Bible?

Although Samson is the only explicit Nazarite in the Bible, Scripture does hint at some other famous figures who likely took this vow.

When Samuel’s, another judge of Israel, mother Hannah dedicates him, God instructs her that no blade is to come to his head (1 Samuel 1:11). This means he cannot cut his hair, one of the hallmarks of a Nazarite (more on this in a moment).

Another example, from the New Testament, is John the Baptist. John avoids drinking alcohol, another hallmark of the Nazarites, and lives a separate life. Paul briefly engages in a Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18). This shows, as touched on later, that Nazarite vows only last for a limited timeframe, not an entire lifetime.

We don’t find many other clear instances in the Bible, but we can know that many Israelites did take a Nazarite vow. Similar to the Essenes in the New Testament, they wanted to live separated lives and away from the pleasures of the world.

What Were the Extra Rules Nazarites Followed?

The Nazarites followed three rules, in addition to separating themselves (Numbers 6:1-21). The guidelines for this vow were: it was voluntary, open to men and women, and had a limited timeframe (so it didn’t last a lifetime).

First, Nazarites refrained from drinking alcohol. Secondly, they had to avoid getting near or touching anything that has perished, including family gravesites. Finally, for the duration of the vow, a Nazarite could not cut their hair.

they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

 “‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head (Numbers 6:3-7).

The example of Samson makes it clear that he broke many of the Nazarite vows. In fact, he broke every rule. And he later suffers the consequences at the hands of the Philistines.

Why Did They Follow These Extra Rules?

The Israelites already had enough rules to follow, so why add more to them? A Nazarite, as suggested by this article, wanted to dedicate themselves to the service of God for a period of time.

We could equate those in monastic lives, or perhaps more loosely, those who dedicate years of service to God, as similar to those who have taken a Nazarite vow.

For instance, many churches or Christian schools do not allow any of their staff to consume alcohol. Although some Christians may consume alcohol, those who dedicate themselves to the Lord in service may have to abide by extra rules.

Although the Bible has left much of the Nazarite expectations in secrecy, we can perhaps assume that those who engaged in the vow would want to know and grow closer to God in some way.

In the same way, some Christians may participate in social media hiatuses or may choose to give up something for Lent, the Nazarites took this to an extreme.

What we often find, when we give up worldly pleasures of sorts for a limited span of time is that we tend to hear God more clearly and experience fewer distractions. Perhaps the Nazarites had witnessed the same happenings, and that added to the appeal of partaking in the vow.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/AaronAmat

Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.

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