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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 6

Verses 1-12

Numbers 6:1-12 . Regulations for Nazirites.— A Nazirite was one, whether man or woman (2), who undertook either for life or for a shorter time a vow to observe certain rules, involving various abstinences. An instance of a lifelong vow is afforded by Samson ( Judges 13:7): examples of temporary vows occur only outside the OT ( 1Ma_3:49 , cf. perhaps Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23 f.), though it is to the latter kind alone that the regulations here prescribed relate. The three requirements insisted on are (1) abstinence from all intoxicants and all products of the vine ( cf. Amos 2:11 f.); (2) abstinence from cutting the hair; (3) precautions against incurring defilement through contact with the dead. Of these certainly the second ( Judges 13:5). and probably the first ( Judges 13:7; Judges 13:14), were observed by a lifelong Nazirite like Samson, but the third must have been impossible to such ( Judges 14:19; Judges 15:8; Judges 15:15). As the Nazirite was consecrated “ unto Yahweh” ( Numbers 6:2; Numbers 6:5; Numbers 6:8), it seems likely that the first of the specified requirements had its origin in certain religious associations attaching to intoxicants. Intoxication, like other abnormal conditions (such as madness, 1 Samuel 16:14), was doubtless at an early time ascribed to the entrance into the person affected of some Divine power ( cf. amongst the Greeks the connexion of Dionysus with the vine). To the Israelites, originally a pastoral people, the vine and its products were unfamiliar until Canaan was reached; and since the Canaanites ascribed the gift of wine to the Baalim ( cf Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:8), the use of it might be regarded by strict adherents of Yahweh as a secession from the cult of the God of Israel to that of another god (p. 85, cf. the attitude towards the vine displayed by the nomadic Rechabites, Jeremiah 35:6-10 *). The second requirement, that the man should not be shorn, goes back to the belief that the hair (inasmuch as it grows more quickly than any other part of the body) was in a special degree the seat of Divine energy ( cf. Judges 16:17); so that if a man cut his hair, the Divine virtue in him would be impaired. The third regulation, that the Nazirite should not come near a dead body, was only a special application of a principle which extended to ordinary persons. Contact with the dead always involved defilement ( Numbers 5:2 *); but in the case of one who was consecrated it was particularly to be avoided, and if incurred, it entailed the renewal of the whole period of the vow. To the prohibitions here named parallels are forthcoming from elsewhere: for instance, the Roman flamen dialis might not walk under a vine, touch a dead body, or enter a place where one was burned. Examples have also been adduced from the early Saxons and from modern savages, of men vowing to keep their hair unshorn until they should fulfil some desired act of vengeance, the primitive idea involved in such vows being that during periods of stress the Divine powers on which men’ s strength depends are manifestly estranged, so that it becomes desirable to propitiate them by cherishing what is a special seat of the virtue they impart (RS 2 , 323– 335, 481– 485).

2. Nazirite: the word means “ one separated” unto God ( cf. Judges 13:5).

Numbers 6:4 . kernels . . . husk: better, “ pips . . . skins,” but the real meaning is uncertain.

Numbers 6:10 . turtle doves: these were the least costly of animal sacrifices ( Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 12:8).

Numbers 6:12 . for a guilt offering: the guilt was incurred through the discharge of the vow being delayed in consequence of the accidental defilement.

Verses 13-21

Numbers 6:13-21 . The Offerings Required at the Termination of the Nazirite Vow.— The most distinctive feature of the concluding ritual was the shaving of the hair ( cf. Acts 18:18) and the burning of it in the fire on the altar. This was probably at first of the nature of an offering, the primitive idea being that, as the hair was the seat of vitality ana energy, to present it to the Deity was to present to Him the best of one’ s self. Offerings of hair have been common in many religions, and were made on various occasions, particularly by girls just before marriage, and by mourners for the dead (see Pausanias, Description of Greece, i. 43, ii. 32; Æ sch., Cho. 6; Hom. Il. xxiii. 141). Of the sacrifice offered by the Nazirite a larger share than ordinary fell to the priest; for of the ram of the peace offering, in addition to the usual perquisites ( Leviticus 7:34), he received also the shoulder.

Numbers 6:13 . shall be brought: this is inappropriate, and the text is probably in some disorder.

Numbers 6:15 . their meal offering and their drink offerings: see Numbers 15:4 f.

Numbers 6:20 . heave thigh: better, “ thigh of the contribution.”

Numbers 6:21 . beside that which he is able to get: i.e. besides that which his means shall allow. The sacrifices explicitly prescribed are the minimum, but they are not to exclude others, if the offerer can afford them.

Verses 22-27

Numbers 6:22-27 . The Priestly Blessing.— This blessing, though incorporated in P, has probably been derived from some earlier source (perhaps a psalm, cf. Psalms 4:6; Psalms 29:11; Psalms 31:16; Psalms 67:1; Psalms 67:6 f., Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:7; Psalms 80:19; Psalms 119:135, etc.). At the Temple the blessing is said to have been used every morning, the sacred name being pronounced in its real form, YAHWEH (instead of in the disguised form JEHOVAH, which has the vowels of the title Adonai, see Exodus 3:14 *).

Numbers 6:27 . put my name, etc.— An idea prevalent among primitive races was that between the name and the person there was a mysterious link (the name in a sense was the personality), so that to pronounce the Divine name was to set in motion the Divine activity: cf. Genesis 32:27 * Matthew 7:22, Mark 9:38, Acts 3:6.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Numbers 6". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/numbers-6.html. 1919.