God has separated a special tribe for Himself, that of Levi. But God does not act at will. In this chapter, He gives directions that allow every Israelite who wants to do so to commit himself to Him.
After the unfaithfulness of the people, represented in the unfaithful wife of the previous chapter, here comes the other side. Here is someone who personally wants to devote himself completely and voluntarily to the LORD. When the condition of God’s people has become like that of the unfaithful wife, in whom we may see a picture of the deviation of the whole people, God will speak about the individual in His people. This we also see in Revelation 2-3. After the deviation of each church, the word is addressed to the individual: “He who overcomes”.
What is presented in the Nazirite is a picture of what the whole people should have been before God, but what they unfortunately were not. Israel has not set itself apart for God. It has been fulfilled by a God-fearing remnant in the midst of the people. In Acts 2 we see something of that. In the midst of the people that the Lord Jesus rejected, a company is formed by the Holy Spirit, which speaks “of the mighty deeds of God” (Acts 2:11).
1 - 2 The Vow of a Nazirite
1 Again 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,
A Nazirite is someone separated. Separation is not negative, is not a goal in itself, but is a separation to the LORD. The Lord Jesus was the true Nazirite on earth, not literally, but in its true meaning. He did drink wine, we do not read that He had long hair, and He touched the dead. This shows that dedication is an inner matter. Its external characteristics must be visible signs. Where only are external characteristics, there is talk of hypocrisy, pharisaism.
Whoever makes the Nazirite vow (cf. 2Chr 17:16) does so for a certain time. There are also people who are Nazirite for their entire lives, such as Samson, Samuel and John the baptist. As such they are already labelled before birth (Jdg 13:5,14; 1Sam 1:11; Lk 1:15). They are it in the literal sense. In a way, the Rechabites are also Nazirites (Jer 35:1-19).
Whether there have been many who have dedicated themselves as Nazirites to the LORD is not clear. It is possible that in Numbers 30 there is a reference to the Nazirite vow (Num 30:3). They have been there (Amos 2:11-12), possibly even before the law of the Nazirite is given here. [See also Lamentations 4 where for ‘the consecrated ones’ also ‘Nazirites’ can be translated (Lam 4:7-8).] In any case, the case as such seems to have been known. Thus in Genesis 49 Joseph is called “the one distinguished [i.e. Nazirite] among his brothers” (Gen 49:26).
It seems that the conversation between James and Paul in Jerusalem also refers to the Nazirite vow (Acts 21:23-26; cf. Acts 18:18). Paul’s involvement in this is not in accord with his calling and service. The Christian is “not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14), and should therefore not place himself or himself be placed under law. Making vows does not belong to his position.
3 - 4 Abstain from Eating and Drinking from the Vine
3 he 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. 4 All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from [the] seeds even to [the] skin.
If anyone wants to be completely dedicated, God gives His precepts, His standards. Whoever makes the Nazirite vow separates
1. from the vine – that speaks of joy,
2. from his rights as a man – which is expressed in his long hair and
3. from what has to do with death.
Here it is not just a separation from what defiles, but also from what is best in nature, from what God has given in it.
Wine is the picture of the joy of the earth. Wine rejoices in the hearts of God and men (Jdg 9:13; Psa 104:15). Thus we also read of a drink offering of wine, which speaks of the joy that God has found in the offering of His Son. Wine speaks of what God has given in nature. The Nazirite voluntarily renounces it. Nature is not condemned, that would be wrong for the Christian. Everything that God has created “is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1Tim 4:4). But there is a way that is higher, and God gives to him who wants to go that way, both the conditions and the strength for it.
The Christian is not dead to nature. It is precisely in letters in which the Christian position is most emphasized (the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians), that the obligations of earthly relations are most extensively discussed.
The Lord Jesus is now in heaven, separated from everything on earth, even from the natural relationship He had with His disciples on earth. In view of this, He has said that He will not drink any more of the fruit of the vine. He will drink of it again when He returns to establish the kingdom where His disciples will reign with Him (Mt 26:29). He will not always be Nazirite. He will say: “Eat, friends; Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers” (Song 5:1b).
5 Let the Locks of Hair Grow Long
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.
“If a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her” (1Cor 11:14-15). This is the case at this time, the time of the church. The man represents the authority of God on earth. The sign of dependence and submission does not fit in with this. When God commands the Nazirite to let the locks of his hair grow long, it gives us the picture that the place of authority is given up to take a place of complete submission. In the eyes of men this is not a place of honor, but it is in the eyes of God.
Samson’s strength lies in the hair as a Nazirite (Jdg 13:4-7). The place of dependency and submission is always the place of strength. When he no longer behaves dependent on God, but makes himself dependent on a woman, he loses his strength with his hair (Jdg 16:17-21).
6 - 7 Not Go near to a Dead Person
6 ‘All the days of his separation to the LORD he shall not go near to a dead person. 7 He 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.
The Lord Jesus did not separate himself from the dead as the Pharisees (Pharisees means ‘separated one’). He hath not despised the unbelievers; He hath eaten with tax collector and harlots. But never has He been defiled by them. He has remained internally perfectly separated from them.
8 - 12 Void Days
8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD. 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. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the doorway of the tent of meeting. 11 The 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, 12 and 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.
Even if a Nazirite accidentally comes into contact with death, he is still defiled. We would say that he can’t do anything about it, but for God, even unforeseen circumstances are no excuse. Dedication to the Lord does not allow any interference from even the closest family ties (cf. Jn 2:4; Mt 10:37), which does not mean that we have no responsibilities to our parents (Eph 6:1-3; cf. Jn 19:26-27). Those who are sanctified to God must always be vigilant and attentive. The standard for the Nazirites is the same as for the High Priest (Lev 21:11).
Defilement can just happen to us by our dealings with the disbelievers in the world. For the Nazirites – and for all who have dedicated themselves to the Lord – the consequences of unforeseen defilement are serious. The previous days of his separation will be void in such a case. His hair must be shaved off and a sacrifice must be made.
The shaving of his hair is the sign that the place of submission has been abandoned (cf. Jer 7:29). This shaving happens on the seventh day. Seven is the number of fullness. A full period has passed, in which he has realized what he has done. He is truly humbled. Shaving the hair is the ultimate proof of this. At the same time, this is also the start of the restoration. There is talk of an eighth day. After the hair has been shaved off, it also starts to grow again (Jdg 16:22).
In the offering of the two birds, the Lord Jesus is depicted as the Man Who descended from heaven to earth. The first bird is prepared as a sin offering, the second as a burnt offering. The defiled Nazirite is first reminded, as it were, that the Lord Jesus had to die for his defilement. Then, in the burnt offering, he also sees Him as the perfect Man dedicated to God, who has glorified God in all things. By being so busy with the Lord Jesus, atonement takes place.
The offering must be brought “to the doorway of the tent of meeting”. The life of the Nazirite is individually dedicated to God, but his behavior influences the coming together of God with His people. Just as there is a blessing for the whole people in case of faithfulness, so this blessing is diminished in case of unfaithfulness. What believers do in their daily lives always influences the meetings of believers, whether for good or evil.
After offering both birds he may start again. There are believers who have started well, but fail later in life. This failure happens when they start working in their own strength and forget the true dependence on the Lord. They must come to confession and see what the Lord Jesus has done for them. Then they will dedicate themselves again, but now in the power of the offering, on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus. The guilt offering must be made.
It is a humbling thought that, in the event of defilement, all the good of the preceding period will be void. There is nothing left of what is of value to God (cf. Eze 33:13).
13 - 15 Offerings After the Days of Separation
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. 14 He 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, 15 and 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.
When the Nazirite has completed the time of his separation, he goes to the doorway of the tent of meeting to bring his offering there. The reason why he makes his offering there is that the whole people have to do with his dedication: the whole people benefit from it. We see this in the blessing at the end of this chapter.
Everything in the offering speaks of the Lord Jesus. With this he expresses the awareness that he has not been and remained committed in his own power. The Lord Jesus, the perfect Nazirite, gave him the strength to do so.
The offering he brings now is many times greater than in the previous part. There it is brought as a necessary offering because of its defilement. Here he brings an offering after his time as a Nazirite has ended. In his dedication he has seen more and more of the Lord Jesus. These offerings are the result of this. He brings
1. a burnt offering – that is the first thing here; with the birds the sin offering is the first thing;
2. a sin offering – he knows that he is a sinner in himself and
3. a peace offering – the offering that expresses the fellowship of God’s people with God, with Christ and with one another.
He also brings several grain offerings and the accompanying drink offerings. They also speak of the Lord Jesus. The grain offering represents His life on earth, in which He is perfectly guided by the Spirit (of which the oil is a picture) and all the works of the Spirit have become visible in Him. The drink offering speaks of the joy that He has meant to God in His life on earth. God has found in Him a perfect pleasure.
16 - 17 The Priest Brings the Offering
16 Then the priest shall present [them] before the LORD and shall offer his sin offering and his burnt offering. 17 He 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.
The Nazirite offers this extensive offering. The priest prepares everything before the LORD. In the church, the Nazirite and the priests are the same person. Dedicated believers, Nazirites, see much of the Lord Jesus and these same believers will offer what they see of the Lord Jesus as priests to God. In bringing the offerings the sin offering takes first place. If we are allowed to continue with anything of our service, the realization that this may happen because of the work of the Lord Jesus as the sin offering will still take first place.
Of our dedication we will say that it is all accomplished by His grace. His offering has given us the strength. The offering we will bring speaks of it. When we come to Him, after our service on earth, we will see Him as the Lamb. We will honor Him because He has enabled us to do everything that has been to the glory of God. We will honor Him as the perfect burnt offering and grain offering and peace offering. We will also honor Him for what He was as the sin offering, he who bore our sins.
18 The Hair Is Sacrificed
18 The 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.
After the priest has prepared everything to offer what the Nazirite has brought as an offering, the Nazirite shaves his hair off and puts it on the fire, under the sacrifice of peace offering. Because of this, together with the smell of the sacrifice of the peace offering, the smell of his hair rises to God. We see in this a beautiful picture that God is reminded forever of the dedication of every believer and that in direct connection with what His Son is as peace offering. Through the peace offering, fellowship has become possible between God and His people and between the members of God’s people. A special aspect in that fellowship is the role that dedicated believers have in it.
The hair is placed on the fire under the sacrifice of peace sacrifice. Nowhere do we read that anything of a human being is connected with a sacrifice, except with this hair of the Nazirite. That proves the enormous value God attaches to what is done in dedication to Him. It is as it says in a song: “Everything done out of love for Jesus keeps its value and will continue to exist.
19 - 21 The Offering Put on the Hands of the Nazirite
19 The 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]. 20 Then 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.’ 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.”
After shaving his hair, parts of the offering are put on the hands of the Nazirite. This shows that it was only through the power of the Lord Jesus – depicted in the shoulder of the ram – and the perfect example of His dedication that the Nazirite was able to bring the time of his separation to a successful conclusion.
There is also a part for the priest: the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. The consciousness of love, of which the breast speaks, and the power, of which the thigh speaks, of the Lord Jesus in accomplishing a time of dedication is spiritual food for the priest. It also gives him the love and strength to perform his priestly service.
After making the sacrifices the Nazirite may drink wine again. When our service on earth is over, true joy will be enjoyed by us. The Lord Jesus says to His faithful servants: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21,23).
22 - 27 The Israelites blessed
22 Then 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.’
27 So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I [then] will bless them.”
In the preceding chapters and the preceding section of this chapter, we see how God has
1. placed the people around Himself;
2. counted the people name by name;
3. organized the service;
4. cleansed the camp;
5. determined the true position of the dedicated servant.
Everything is now ready to bless the people and put His Name on them. The blessing places the people under the protection, the grace and peace of the LORD.
There are three pairs of blessings and one final blessing, seven blessings in total. We can connect the three pairs with the three Divine persons (cf. 2Cor 13:14):
1. The blessing and protection of the Father.
2. The grace of the Lord Jesus.
3. The inner peace through the Spirit.
We receive everything that characterizes God. With a people so blessed, God wants to bind Himself together. For such a people He “is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16).
1. “The LORD bless you,”: God’s blessing is wished for all spheres of our life; fertility and multiplication (Gen 1:22,28), above all in the spiritual life.
2. “And keep you;”: Protection against dangers and decline in order to receive the good.
3. “The LORD make His face shine on you,”: We need the light from his face (Psa 4:6; 44:3; 90:8).
4. “And be gracious to you;”: Showings of favor, mercy, goodness.
5. “The LORD lift up His countenance on you,”: By making us feel affection, that we are a pleasure for Him.
6. “And give you peace.”: Shalom: not only absence of war, but prosperity, justice and well-being.
7. “Invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I [then] will bless them.”: God connects His Name with His people and blesses them as a whole.
The whole people are blessed on the basis of what the Nazirite has done. On the basis of what the Lord Jesus did as the true Nazirite, this blessing will also come to all creation. The church is also involved in the distribution of this blessing (Rom 8:19), which we can see in “Aaron and his sons” to whom the order to bless is given.