When Jesus and his family return to live in Nazareth (Matthew ch2 v23), Matthew claims this as a fulfilment of the prophecy “He shall be called a
This “fulfilment” is something of a stretch; the only cross-reference which can be found for those words is the angel’s instruction about
Samson, “He shall be a Nazirite” (Judges ch13 v5).
There was no connection between the Nazirites and the town of Nazareth.
Yet the Nazirites are worth considering in their own right, and their resemblance to the person of Jesus may be more than a mere play on words.
The law relating to Nazirites can be found in Numbers ch6.
They are men or women who make a special vow to “separate themselves to the Lord” for a chosen period of time.
It seems to be a voluntary devotion like the pilgrimage of the Middle Ages.
They “separate themselves” by following three rules.
1)They must drink no wine or strong drink. In fact they are obliged to avoid the grape to such a degree that they cannot even drink vinegar or grape
juice or eat any part of the grape.
2) They must not cut their hair.
3) They must not go near any dead body, not even in mourning for a member of their family.
These rules go beyond what is normally expected from Israelites.
In all the time of his separation the man is “holy to the Lord”; that is, he is to be considered as detached from the world and belonging to God
At the end of the time of separation, the Nazirite makes a full range of offerings (burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering, bread and cereal and
He also cuts off his hair and has it burnt along with the peace offering.
He is then released from the restrictions- “And after that the Nazirite may drink wine”.
The original vow cannot be fulfilled except by an uninterrupted period of “separation”.
“If any man dies very suddenly” beside the Nazirite (as might happen, I suppose), then the entire time of separation up to that point has been
He is obliged to go back to the beginning and start again.
Our best clue to the real meaning of the Nazirite vow is the fact that “going back to the beginning” involves shaving off the hair and starting
anew with a fresh growth.
In other words, the whole object of the exercise is to be able to present the Lord with a head of hair which has not been contaminated in the
specified period, by coming close to wine or death.
That’s why we read in this law that the Nazirite’s head
has been consecrated to the Lord.
He must not make himself unclean with mourning “because his separation to God is upon his head”.
And if he finds himself in close proximity to death, then “he defiles his consecrated head”,
Finally, when the vow has been completed, the climax
of the series of offerings is the act of shaving “his consecrated head” and adding the
cropped hair to the fire on the altar.
Logically, the hair should have been shaved at the beginning of the separation, as well, so that no part of the sacrifice would be tainted by previous
wine-drinking. There’s no suggestion of this in the laws (but perhaps they take it for granted).
What is the value of this offering?
Perhaps the significance of hair comes from the speed of its growth, which makes it one of the more visible symptoms of growing life.
When Absalom was the darling of the people, one of the marks of his beauty was the sheer weight of hair which he cut off at the end of the year (two
hundred shekels! What a man!) - 2 Samuel ch14 v26
Hair means growth and vitality, and in this case masculinity.
Hair means life.
So the offering of a man’s hair represents the offering of the man’s life.
The Nazirite is pledging himself to offer up an untainted head of hair.
And that’s an token of his willingness to offer up an untainted, obedient life.
This is in keeping with what I’ve suggested elsewhere, that all God really wants from his people is the full offering of themselves.
The institution of the Nazirite oath normally stays in the background of the Bible.
Samson is the only individual to be named as a Nazirite.
Amos complains that his own generation of Israel are forcing the Nazirites to drink wine, as well as silencing the prophets (Amos ch2 v11).
Yet the practice continues into the time of Acts.
When Paul was attacked by the mob in Jerusalem, the reason for his presence in the Temple was that he was sponsoring four men who were completing
their Nazirite vows (Acts ch21 vv23-4).
He himself once cut off his hair under a vow, though he wasn’t in Jerusalem at the time (ch18 v18).
John the Baptist is not named as a Nazirite, but God has pledged him to at least part of the same commitment;
“”He shall drink no wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb”- Luke ch1 v15
This echoes what was said about Samson, with one very suggestive difference; the phrase “shall be a Nazirite to God” has been replaced by the
phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit”.
As if they were equivalent, in offering a close relationship with God.
Jesus could be called a “winebibber”, so he evidently wasn’t a Nazirite in the formal sense.
But he was called a Nazarene.
And if the essence of being a Nazirite is the untainted, obedient life, then that is exactly what Jesus was offering, according to New Testament
In that sense, he was surely the ultimate Nazirite.
Perhaps we should see a moral in the fact that his early followers were also called Nazarenes.
We can see the Nazarite oath as a foreshadowing of Paul’s ideal;
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans ch12 v1).
In other words, “the full offering of ourselves”.
edit on 17-10-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)