And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The law of the Nazarite is appropriately added to other enactments which concern the sanctity of the holy nation. That sanctity found its highest expression in the Nazarite vow, which was the voluntary adoption for a time of obligations to high and strict modes of self-dedication resembling, and indeed in some particulars exceeding, those under which the priests were placed. The present enactments do not institute a new kind of observance, but only regulate one already familiar to the Israelites Numbers 6:2.
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
A Nazarite - Strictly, Nazirite. This term signifies "separated" i. e., as the words following show, "unto God." It became a technical term at an early date; compare Judges 13:5, Judges 13:7; Judges 16:17.
He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
Liquor of grapes - i. e. a drink made of grape-skins macerated in water.
All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
From the kernels even to the husk - A sour drink was made from the stones of unripe grapes; and cakes were also made of the husks Hosea 3:1. This interdict figures that separation from the general society of men to which the Nazarite for the time was consecrated.
All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no rasor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
Among the Jews the abundance of the hair was considered to betoken physical strength and perfection (compare 2 Samuel 14:25-26), and baldness was regarded as a grave blemish (compare Leviticus 21:20 note, Leviticus 13:40 ff; 2 Kings 2:23; Isaiah 3:24). Thus, the free growth of the hair on the head of the Nazarite represented the dedication of the man with all his strength and powers to the service of God.
All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
The consecration of his God - i. e. the unshorn locks: compare Leviticus 25:5 note, where the vine, left during the Sabbatical year untouched by the hand of man, either for pruning or for vintage, is called simply a "Nazarite."
The third rule of the Nazarite interdicted him from contracting any ceremonial defilement even under circumstances which excused such defilement in others: compare Leviticus 21:1-3.
All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.
And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.
Prescriptions to meet the case of a sudden death taking place "by him" (i. e. in his presence). The days of the dedication of the Nazarite had to be recommenced.
And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.
And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
When the days of his separation are fulfilled - Perpetual Nazariteship was probably unknown in the days of Moses; but the examples of Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist, show that it was in later times undertaken for life. Again, Moses does not expressly require that limits should be assigned to the vow; but a rule was afterward imposed that no Nazarite vow should be taken for less than thirty days. To permit the vow to be taken for very short periods would diminish its solemnity and estimation.
And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,
The sin-offering (compare the marginal references), though named second, was in practice offered first, being intended to expiate involuntary sins committed during the period of separation. The burnt-offering (Leviticus 1:10 ff) denoted the self-surrender on which alone all acceptableness in the Nazarite before God must rest; the peace-offerings (Leviticus 3:12 ff) expressed thankfulness to God by whose grace the vow had been fulfilled. The offerings, both ordinary and additional, required on the completion of the Nazarite vow involved considerable expense, and it was regarded as a pious work to provide the poor with the means of making them (compare Acts 21:23 ff; 1 Macc. 3:49).
And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.
And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering:
And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering.
And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.
Shave the head - As the Nazarite had during his vow worn his hair unshorn in honor of God, so when the time was complete it was natural that the hair, the symbol of his vow, should be cut off, and offered to God at the sanctuary. The burning of the hair "in the fire under the sacrifice of the peace offering "represented the eucharistic communion with God obtained by those who realised the ideal which the Nazarite set forth (compare the marginal reference).
And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven:
And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.
The priest shall wave them - i. e. by placing his hands under those of the Nazarite: compare Leviticus 7:30.
This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.
Beside that that his hand shall get - The Nazarite, in addition to the offerings prescribed above, was to present free-will offerings according to his possessions or means.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The priestly blessing (compare Ecclus. 36:17) is appointed as a solemn form to be used by the priests exclusively, and in this function their office as it were culminates (compare Leviticus 9:22 note). God Himself provides a formula, through which from time to time, as His people by obedience place themselves in true and right relationship to Him, the authorised mediators may pronounce and communicate His special blessing to them. It was a Jewish tradition that this blessing was given at the close of the daily sacrifice.
The structure of the blessing is remarkable. It is rhythmical, consists of three distinct parts, and mounts by gradual stages to that peace which forms the last and most consummate gift which God can give His people.
From a Christian point of view, and comparing the counterpart benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14, it is impossible not to see shadowed forth the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (compare Isaiah 6:3; Matthew 28:19). And the three several sets of terms correspond fittingly to the office of the Three Persons in Their gracious work for the redemption of man.
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee - The second clause here, as in the other three verses, defines more closely the general tenor of the preceding one. The singular number, which is observed throughout, indicates that the blessing is conferred on Israel "collectively."
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
Make his face shine - This is an enhancement of the preceding benediction. "The face of God" imports not merely God's good will in general, but His active and special regard. With the "face" or "eye of the Lord accordingly is connected alike the judicial visitation of the wicked. Psalm 34:16, and His mercies to the righteous Psalm 4:6.
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
Lift up his countenance upon thee - i. e. especially direct His thought and care toward thee: compare 2 Kings 9:32, and similar phrases in Genesis 43:29; Genesis 44:21. Through such loving providence alone could the peace of God in which the blessing closes be given.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
Put my name upon the children of Israel - i. e. pronounce My Sacred Name over them in blessing them. God will give effect to the benediction pronounced by the priests.