The Nazarite, as the name that he bore denotes, was the separate one. The name is explained at Numbers 6:1, “When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord.” Let us see what is implied in this separation.
First, “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 or grapes, nor eat moist grapes or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husks.” It was a prohibition, we notice, not only of wine and of all spirituous, strong drink, not only of flat wine, wine or other vinegar, but even of grape juice. The prohibition is intensified by forbidding the enjoyment of fresh and even dried grapes.
Second, “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor 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.”
Finally, “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 God is upon his head.”
On the prohibition that the Nazarite drink no wine, Fairbairn delineates as follows: “A like abstinence was imposed upon the priests when engaged in sacred ministrations. Like the ministering priest, the Nazarite was peculiarly separated to the Lord; and in his drink, not less than other things, he was to be an embodied lesson regarding the manner in which the divine service was to be performed. This service—such was the import of that part of the Nazarite institution—requires a withdrawal and separation from whatever unfits for active spiritual employment—from everything which stupefies and benumbs the powers of divine life, and disposes the heart to carnal ease and pleasurable excitement rather than to sacred duty. Such withdrawal certainly involved a careful and becoming reserve in regard to the means and occasions of a literal intoxication. . . .”
The substance of this language is that because wine is the means of intoxication and thus, if not used with moderation, renders unfit for spiritual service, the Nazarite had to separate himself from it. In this delineation, wine and literal intoxication appear not as symbolical but as representative of all that is injurious to spiritual life such as “the love of money, the eager pursuit of worldly aggrandizement, or the delights of a soft, luxurious ease,” so that the prohibition that the Nazarite abstain from wine was, rightly considered, an admonition to the effect that he separate himself from the vice of indulging in intoxicating drink and from all these other unholy strivings.
Though this reasoning need not be set aside as incorrect, it nevertheless raises questions. It seems to proceed on the foundation that the reason the Lord had in placing the Nazarite under the obligation of separating himself from wine is not that He actually objected to a moderate use of this drink on the part of His servant, but to his disqualifying himself for the performance of his vow through excessive use of it. To make it easier for the Nazarite to escape this vice, the Lord commanded him to abstain from all strong drink. What the Lord really struck at is the sin of drunkenness and not the moderate use of wine as such.
What may be the truth about the prohibition in question. If this is to be seen, we should know that wine, according to Scripture is a creature of God with two symbolical meaning. Wine, in its power to stimulate the soul of man, or in the language of Scripture, to make glad the heart, is, on the one hand, the symbol of Christ and His Spirit, thus of the grace that He merited for His people and that He imparts unto them by His Spirit. To be more definite, wine is the symbol particularly of the heavenly gladness that floods the soul of the man in whose heart the Lord works the assurance that He is Christ’s. The foundation of the view here expressed is the very word of Christ, “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day I drink it new with you in my father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:28, 29).
But now on the other hand, it is plain from other passages in Holy Writ, that wine, in its power to stupefy, dull and denumb man’s senses, and even to paralyze all his faculties, which it does if indulged in to excess, is also the symbol of the principle of sin, as it operates in the essence of man’s being, vitiating all his members, and stupefying his spirit so completely that he is wholly incapable of discerning spiritually, not rationally, the things which are of the Spirit of God. There is this scripture at I Thess. 5:6-8: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation.” In this passage literal drunkenness is a plain symbol of the spiritual insensibility of the natural man. Like a person whose mind Is dulled by strong drink, the natural man, in a spiritual sense, is dead to God and to the heavenly. He therefore appears in the surroundings of the above-cited scripture as one for whom the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, that is, unexpectedly.
As a forbidden drink for the Nazarite, wine had this latter symbolical significance. In its power to intoxicate, it was the symbol of the principle of sin in man, thus of the belly of this death, of the members which are upon the earth, of the flesh and all its works, such as, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, covetousness, which is idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, “filthy communication out of the mouth”. Because wine had also this symbolical significance, the Nazarite was commanded to separate himself from it and all strong drink during the period of the performance of his vow. This is at least one of the two reasons of his being placed under this obligation. As faithful to his vow, he brought himself forward among his people, as the symbol, the living emblem of the true child of grace, pitted, by the mercy of God, against sin, as it riots in his flesh, crucifying, by this same mercy all the works of the flesh, laying off the old man and his deed, and positively, putting on the new man which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him.” The Nazarite, to be sure, had also to bring himself forward as the reality signified by his symbolic doing (his separating himself from wine.) And this reality was the Nazarite, so walking among his brethren as to be to them an example of true godliness.
However, there is more to say on this point. The Nazarite had to abstain even from the moderate use of wine. And he did so. He was and had to be wholly free from the slightest influence of strong drink. As such he was at once and firstly the type of Him who “is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens”—Christ Jesus.
The next thing demanded of the Nazarite was that he sees to it that no razor come upon his head all the days of his separation. If he defiled himself by accidentally contacting an unclean thing, his vow was broken. In this case all the days that already had been given to the pursuance of the course of service were lost and he had to consecrate himself anew. This he did by again shaving his head on the seventh day after his having defiled himself and further by his bringing one turtle dove for a sin-offering. Then, when the days of his separation were fulfilled, he shaved his head at the door of the tabernacle and burnt his hair as a sacred thing upon the altar.
This element in the Nazarite institution has been variously explained. According to one view, the lone hair was the symbol of the power of God under which the Nazarite stood, and thus a sign of his subjugation to the authority of God. There is seemingly some ground for this explanation at I Cor. 11:10. Here the apostle says of the woman that her long hair was given her by nature for a covering and as a sign of subjugation to her husband. But the man, having no earthly superior, should have his hair cropped. Hence, it was counted a shame for the man to grow long hair. But, it is said, “The Nazarite, who gave himself up by a solemn vow of consecration to God, and who should therefore ever feel the authority and the power of God upon him, most fitly wore his hair long, as the badge of his entire and willing subjection to the law of his God. By the wearing of this badge he taught the church then—and the church indeed of all times—that the natural power and authority of man, which in nature is so apt to run out into self-will, stubbornness and pride, must in grace yield itself up to the direction and supremacy of Jehovah” (Fairbairn). There are still other explanations, such as that, according to which the long hair was the symbol of strength and abundant vitality. It will be shown in a following article that these explanations are not the right ones.
(to be continued)