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Abstinence, Celibacy, and Nazirites

Numbers 6 gives us the instructions (Torah) of the Nazirite—one who is separated from normal daily life to serve Yahweh and His people.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:1-8
1 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Yisrael, and say to them, ‘When a man or woman does separate, by making a vow of a Nazirite, to be separate to Yahweh,
3 he separates himself from wine and strong drink – – he drinks neither vinegar of wine nor vinegar of strong drink (of grapes), neither does he drink any grape juice, nor eat grapes or raisins.
4 All the days of his separation he does not eat what is made of the grapevine, from seed to skin.
5 All the days of the vow of his separation a razor does not come upon his head. Until the days are completed for which he does separate himself to Yahweh, he is set-apart. He shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.
6 All the days of his separation to Yahweh he does not go near a dead body.
7 He does not make himself unclean (through mourning) for his father, or for his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to Elohim is on his head.
8 All the days of his separation he is set-apart to Yahweh.”

In Hebrew the term Nazirite is Nazir (נְזִיר). The first use of the term Nazir occurs in Genesis 49, where we are told that our forefather Joseph was Nazir (נְזִיר) (meaning “separated”) from his brothers in order to fulfill Yahweh’s divine purpose.

Genesis 49:26
26 The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,
up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separated from his brothers.
(26) בִּרְכֹת אָבִיךָ גָּבְרוּ עַל בִּרְכֹת הוֹרַי עַד תַּאֲוַת גִּבְעֹת עוֹלָם | תִּהְיֶיןָ לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:

What this passage shows us is that one can become Nazir (separated) even unintentionally. By the very act of being sent into Egypt, Joseph had become a Nazir (separated).

But why did Joseph receive such great blessings in light of the fact that his separation was involuntary? One reason is that humans are highly social creatures. It is difficult for human beings to be separated from their brothers and sisters, for Yahweh made man a social creature (and not an antisocial one).

Mishle (Proverbs) 18:1
1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.

Separation from our brothers is a real trial, and it forces us to seek Yahweh’s face in order to survive. Such isolation forces us to draw closer to Him; but this is a hidden blessing, for when we draw closer to Yahweh, He draws closer to us, and blesses us.

In Nazarene Israel we show how the prodigal son represents the lost ten tribes of Israel (Ephraim). Although the prodigal son voluntarily separated himself from his father’s house, one day he realized his error, turned, and decided to return home to his father.

Luqa (Luke) 15:11-19
11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.
12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’”

Having realized what he was missing, the prodigal son ultimately became more zealous for his father. In a certain sense, the Ephraimites have now begun to realize what they have been missing, and as a result, they are becoming more zealous for the Father as well.

However, while our forefather Joseph was separated from his family against his will, and while the prodigal son and the house of Ephraim both became separated from Israel as a result of their own poor choices, the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6 implies an active choice to become separated from the world and its pleasures, in order to serve Yahweh and His people.

OT:5139 naziyr (naw-zeer’); or nazir (naw-zeer’); from OT:5144; separate, i.e. consecrated (as prince, a Nazirite); hence (figuratively from the latter) an unpruned vine (like an unshorn Nazirite):

The reference at Strong’s OT:5144 also refers to someone who “abstains” or “holds aloof” from normal life, in order to fulfill some divine mission.

OT:5144 nazir (naw-zar’); a primitive root; to hold aloof, i.e. (intransitively) abstain (from food and drink, from impurity, and even from divine worship [i.e. apostatize]); specifically, to set apart (to sacred purposes), i.e. devote.

This shows us that the Nazirite vow is about holding aloof or abstaining from the normal things of the material world, so as to gain more time to serve Yahweh and His people. By turning away from the normal things of the world, a Nazirite turns away from all that is in the world, which is but the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 2:16-17
16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of Elohim abides forever.

Notice that Yeshua also asks us to turn away from the things of the world, in order to serve Him.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 10:38-39
38 “And he who does not take his stake [or cross] and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

It can be difficult to accept that Yahweh would approve of voluntary abstention from either sex or marriage, for it is clearly not good for most men to be alone.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:18
18 And Yahweh Elohim said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him.”

Further, Yahweh gave the first man and his wife the urge (and many say the commandment) to reproduce.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:28
28 Then Elohim [God] blessed them, and Elohim said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it….”

Scripture also shows us that it is a good thing for men and women to marry and raise families, for Psalm 127 tells us that children are a reward from Yahweh.

Tehillim (Psalms) 127:3-5
3 Behold, children are a heritage from Yahweh, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Most Israelites are called to get married and raise up children in the way they should go.

Mishle (Proverbs) 22:6
6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

For most, matrimony and parenthood are not just great and wonderful blessings, but they are also highly challenging paths of spiritual refinement.

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 16:44
44 “Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: ‘Like mother, like daughter!’”

By giving us children who are similar to us, Yahweh asks us to deal with our issues in an adult sort of a way.

Yet there are two other paths of refinement: the Nazirite vow and the abstinent/celibate vow. While Nazirites (such as Samson) commonly marry, others are additionally celibate (never marry, such as Yeshua and Shaul/Paul) or abstinent (marry, but restrain from indulging in sexual relations when they are to be set-apart, such as Moses). This takes their refinement to yet another level.

Again, the Nazirite vow and the abstinent/celibate vow are entirely separate vows. One can be abstinent/celibate without being a Nazirite, and one can be a Nazirite without being abstinent/celibate; it all depends on how Yahweh leads. However, because the abstinent/celibate vow and the Nazirite vow call for a departure from the usual pattern of daily life within a marriage, in order to serve Yahweh and His people, these vows often go together.

But if it is not good for the man to be alone, and if a wife and children are great blessings from Yahweh, then why would Yahweh bless anyone for abstaining from either sex or marriage?

We discuss matters of ritual purity in more detail in Nazarene Israel.  However, to recap the main points, no one who has a discharge of any kind is fit to stand before Elohim and serve, whether that discharge is a discharge of semen, a menstrual flow, a runny nose, or any other kind of discharge. For example, Leviticus 15:16-18 shows us that when a man has a seminal emission, he is ritually impure, or unclean.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 15:16-18
16 ‘If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening.
17 And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening.
18 Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.

As we show in other places, those who are ritually unclean are not able to stand before Elohim and serve Him; therefore they are not able to serve in a priestly capacity until after they are ritually cleansed. This is the basis of the Orthodox belief that Moshe (Moses) was abstinent with his wife.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 12:1-3
1 Then Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe because of the Kushite [Ethiopian] woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
2 So they said, “Has Yahweh indeed spoken only through Moshe? Has He not spoken through us also?” And Yahweh heard it.
3 Now the man Moshe was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.

We are told that Moshe’s wife was Tzipporah, the daughter of Yithro (Jethro), priest of the Midian. Tzipporah would therefore be identified as a Midianite woman, not as a Kushite (Ethiopian) woman.

Shemote (Exodus) 2:21
21 Then Moshe was content to live with the man, and he gave Tzipporah his daughter to Moshe.

There are two ways to interpret this. One is that Moshe had more than one wife. The other is the Orthodox belief that the word ”Kushite” here was really a term of endearment, in that Hebrews sometimes refer to those they love in a derogatory fashion, both as a term of endearment, and in an effort to keep them from becoming vain. This second interpretation makes sense in that the purpose of this otherwise mysterious passage may be to show us that Moshe was being abstinent with his wife. Since Moshe had to be ready to serve in the Tent of Meeting at all times, Moshe had to remain continuously ritually pure. Because of this, he had to refrain from marital relations with his wife (whether it was Tzipporah or another woman).

The Orthodox hypothesis is that however she may have learned about it, Miriam may have felt that it was unnecessary for Moshe to refrain from having marital relations with his wife, since both Miriam and Aharon (Aaron) were also prophets. Perhaps Miriam felt that she and Aharon could “stand in” for Moshe during those times that Moshe was unclean due to consorting with his wife. However, Yahweh then let Miriam and Aharon know that Moshe was chosen for his task; therefore he had to remain ritually pure at all times (which required him to abstain from seminal emission).

While the Orthodox hypothesis is just a hypothesis, we do know from our other studies that historically Yahweh has commanded His people to abstain from sex on His set apart days, when they are to draw closer to Him. For example, all males were to abstain from sex in order to be “prepared” (purified) at Mount Sinai.

Shemote (Exodus) 19:15
15 “And he said to the people, ‘Be prepared by the third day: do not come near a wife.’”

We also know that even though Yahweh gave men the desire (and some say the commandment) to procreate, and even though most people do get married and raise families, Yahweh promises a better reward to those eunuchs who guard the Torah. They are not to think of themselves as a “dry tree,” for Yahweh says He will give them a place and a name “better than that of sons and daughters.” He promises them an “everlasting name.”

Isaiah 56:3-5
3 “For thus said Yahweh, ‘And let not the son of the foreigner speak, saying, “Yahweh has certainly separated me from His people”; nor let the eunuch say, “Look, I am a dry tree.”
4 For thus said Yahweh, “To the eunuchs who guard My Sabbaths, and have chosen what pleases Me, and hold fast to My covenant:
5 to them I shall give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters – I give them an everlasting name that is not cut off.”’”
(3) וְאַל יֹאמַר בֶּן הַנֵּכָר הַנִּלְוָה אֶל יְהוָה לֵאמֹר הַבְדֵּל יַבְדִּילַנִי יְהוָה מֵעַל עַמּוֹ | וְאַל יֹאמַר הַסָּרִיס הֵן אֲנִי עֵץ יָבֵשׁ:
כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה לַסָּרִיסִים אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְרוּ אֶת שַׁבְּתוֹתַי וּבָחֲרוּ בַּאֲשֶׁר חָפָצְתִּי | וּמַחֲזִיקִים בִּבְרִיתִי:
וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי יָד וָשֵׁם טוֹב מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת | שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן לוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת

The word for “eunuch” here is sar-ees (סָּרִיס), and Strong’s Concordance tells us that it speaks of one who has been castrated.

OT:5631 cariyc (saw-reece’); or caric (saw-reece’); from an unused root meaning to castrate; a eunuch; by implication, valet (especially of the female apartments), and thus, a minister of state:
KJV – chamberlain, eunuch, officer.

However, this is confusing, for while Isaiah tells us that the eunuchs who guard Yahweh’s Torah will receive “a place and a name better than sons and daughters,” the Torah also tells us that no one who has a physical deformity or who has “broken his stones” (מְרוֹחַ אָשֶׁךְ) is allowed to serve in Yahweh’s temple. While he may eat of the priestly tithes, he is not to stand before Yahweh to make the offerings.

Leviticus 21:16-23
16 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
17 “Speak to Aharon, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his Elohim.
18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long,
19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand,
20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or has broken his stones.
21 No man of the descendants of Aharon the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to Yahweh. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his Elohim.
22 He may eat the bread of his Elohim, both the most set apart and the set apart;
23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I Yahweh set them apart.'”
(16) וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
(17) דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר | אִישׁ מִזַּרְעֲךָ לְדֹרֹתָם אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בוֹ מוּם לֹא יִקְרַב לְהַקְרִיב לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו:
(18) כִּי כָל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ מוּם לֹא יִקְרָב | אִישׁ עִוֵּר אוֹ פִסֵּחַ אוֹ חָרֻם אוֹ שָׂרוּעַ:
(19) אוֹ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בוֹ שֶׁבֶר רָגֶל | אוֹ שֶׁבֶר יָד:
(20) אוֹ גִבֵּן אוֹ דַק אוֹ תְּבַלֻּל בְּעֵינוֹ | אוֹ גָרָב אוֹ יַלֶּפֶת אוֹ מְרוֹחַ אָשֶׁךְ:
(21) כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ מוּם מִזֶּרַע אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב אֶת אִשֵּׁי יְהוָה | מוּם בּוֹ אֵת לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב:
(22) לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו מִקָּדְשֵׁי הַקֳּדָשִׁים | וּמִן הַקֳּדָשִׁים יֹאכֵל:
(23) אַךְ אֶל הַפָּרֹכֶת לֹא יָבֹא וְאֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא יִגַּשׁ כִּי מוּם בּוֹ | וְלֹא יְחַלֵּל אֶת מִקְדָּשַׁי כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדְּשָׁם

But if those who are physically deformed or whose “stones are broken” are not allowed to serve in the temple, then why would Yahweh promise a better place and a better name to eunuchs? Is Yahweh really promising a better place to those who are physically castrated? We can resolve this apparent contradiction if we understand that He is speaking euphemistically about those who are voluntarily abstinent or celibate. As we have already seen, Moshe was probably abstinent with his wife, and as we will see later, both Yeshua and Shaul were voluntarily celibate.

But why would voluntary abstinence or celibacy receive a greater reward from Yahweh? We might guess that there is no benefit in remaining abstinent or celibate for its sake alone. If one were to be abstinent or celibate, but not use one’s time to serve Yahweh’s people, then there is no benefit (and no reward).

The decision to abstain from sex inside of marriage must also be mutual, or else it violates the terms of the marriage. We will speak more about this a little later, but the main advantage in abstaining from marital relations (or from marriage) is that it gives one more time to do Yahweh’s work, and to serve one’s brothers and sisters. Instead of taking time to raise up one’s own family, one lays that time down (as Moshe, Yeshua, and Shaul did), thereby metaphorically “laying down one’s own life” in exchange for the privilege of serving the rest of Yahweh’s people Israel.

Yochanan (John) 15:13
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Again, while the Nazirite and the abstinent/celibate vows are not synonymous, they go together easily because they are based on the same principles. We might also note that when a Nazirite is abstinent or celibate we see a lifestyle that looks like the ministries of many of the most famous prophets of Scripture. While kings were often polygynous and priests were typically monogamous, prophets were often abstinent or celibate Nazirites. What we will see is a pattern of them giving their lives to the service of Yahweh and His people. The dedication is often taken to an extreme, such that an abstinent or celibate Nazirite

  1. Foregoes having sexual relations
  2. Learns not to care about what other people think of his (or her) looks
  3. Gives all of his (or her) worldly possessions and time over to Yahweh Elohim and His work, and then trusts solely in Yahweh for provision

Whether a Nazirite is abstinent or not, the vow is not easy. A Nazirite must learn to focus not on the things of this world, but only on the things of Yahweh. This is the attitude that any spiritual leader in Israel should have, thus it is not surprising that this is the attitude Shaul advocates to the believers in Rome.

Romim (Romans) 12:1-2
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, set-apart, acceptable to Elohim, which is (no more than) your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Elohim.

Yeshua tells us that those who worship Yahweh must worship Him both in Spirit and in truth.

Yochanan (John) 4:23
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

But if the Nazirite seeks to learn how to serve Yahweh in a spirit of total dedication, what are the specifics of the Nazirite vow? If we take a closer look at Numbers 6, we see that a Nazirite is

  1. To abstain from all alcohol
  2. To abstain from all grapes and grape products
  3. To abstain from cutting one’s hair
  4. To avoid contact with corpses
  5. Not to become unclean (i.e., grieve) at anyone’s death (not even for one’s father or mother)
  6. To dedicate all one can to Yahweh’s work, in terms of both time and money (verse 21)

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:1-8, 21
1 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Yisrael, and say to them, ‘When a man or woman does separate, by making a vow of a Nazirite, to be separate to Yahweh,
3 he (or she) separates himself from wine and strong drink – – he drinks neither vinegar of wine nor vinegar of strong drink (of grapes), neither does he drink any grape juice, nor eat grapes or raisins.
4 All the days of his separation he does not eat what is made of the grapevine, from seed to skin.
5 All the days of the vow of his separation a razor does not come upon his head. Until the days are completed for which he does separate himself to Yahweh, he is set-apart. He shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.
6 All the days of his separation to Yahweh he does not go near a dead body.
7 He does not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to Elohim is on his head.
8 All the days of his separation he is set-apart to Yahweh.

Then, in addition to set offerings, verse 21 tells us the Nazirite should dedicate all that he can to Yahweh.

21 This is the Torah of the Nazirite, who vows to Yahweh the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide. According to the vow [that] he takes, so he shall do according to the Torah of his separation.

Historically, the Nazirite vow has been taken to different degrees; it also manifests itself in different ways. A single man or woman might give to Yahweh all that he or she has, to such an extent that he or she has nothing left to provide for a spouse and children. Alternately, a married person might donate all of his time to Yahweh. While he might at least hypothetically spend a lot of time around his wife, he might no longer consort with her, so that he can remain ritually pure before Yahweh at all times.

But in order to understand the Nazirite vow a little better, and to understand why so many of the prophets have taken this vow, let us take a closer look at its precepts.

1. Abstain from all grape products and/or alcohol

We will look at the first two precepts together, which include abstention from alcohol and all grapes and grape products (including raisins and most vinegar). It is easy to understand why Yahweh might want someone who is supposed to be “separated” unto service to Him to abstain from alcohol and strong drink.

Luqa (Luke) 12:42-46
42 And the Master said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.
45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk,
46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

It is also logical that anyone who separates himself unto service to Yahweh should not waste time. He should spend all his time serving Yahweh and His people, or else his vow is really meaningless. Yet the idea of abstaining from all grapes and grape products goes far beyond the idea of simple abstinence from partying. Why should a Nazirite also abstain from raisins, and even most types of vinegar?

Scripture does not tell us why Yahweh wants Nazirites to abstain from grapes and grape products, but there is some evidence that grapes are Yahweh’s celebratory fruit. Israelites traditionally drink wine on the Sabbath, because the Sabbath is a time to relax among family, friends, and fellowship. However, while wine can be used in a legitimate way, grapes and grape products are often misused, particularly among Ephraimites.

Hoshea (Hosea) 3:1
1 Then Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman loved by a friend, and an adulteress, according to the love of Yahweh for the children of Israel, though they are turning to other mighty ones, and love their raisin cakes.”

Yahweh takes offense that the children of Ephraim would not seek to restore His kingdom, and do not bother to hear and obey His voice; yet they delight themselves in consuming His celebratory fruits. Yahweh calls these “the drunkards of Ephraim.”

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 28:1-3
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, Yahweh has a mighty and strong one, like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, who will bring them down to the earth with His hand.
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, will be trampled underfoot…

It can be a wonderful thing for Israelites to relax and celebrate Yahweh and His Son with a good glass of wine on the Sabbath and feast days. However, the focus needs to remain not on physical pleasure or the sensation of wine, but upon building one’s personal relationship with Yahweh, and with His Son.

While Scripture does not say so outright, there are a number of clues that Yeshua, Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Immerser), and Shaul were likely all celibate Nazirites. Luke tells us that Yochanan HaMatbil was to drink no wine or strong drink at all, from the day of his birth.

Luqa (Luke) 1:15
15 “For he shall be great before Yahweh, and shall drink no wine and strong drink at all.”

This is the same kind of language that Yahweh uses to describe the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:2-3
2 “Speak to the children of Yisrael, and say to them, ‘When a man or woman does separate, by making a vow of a Nazirite, to be separate to Yahweh,
3 he (or she) separates himself (or herself) from wine and strong drink – – he (or she) drinks neither vinegar of wine nor vinegar of strong drink (of grapes), neither does he drink any grape juice, nor eat grapes or raisins.

Scripture also tells us that Yochanan came wearing only a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt. In addition to this, his food was locusts and wild honey, which basically means he was living off the land.

Marqaus (Mark) 1:6
6 Now Yochanan [John] was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

That John wore only a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt, and that he trusted in Yahweh to provide for his nourishment, suggests that he may already have given all of his worldly belongings to Yahweh. Note the parallel to the language used in Numbers 6.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:21
21 This is the Torah of the Nazirite, who vows to Yahweh the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide. According to the vow [that] he [or she] takes, so he shall do according to the Torah of his separation.

And if it was good for Yochanan HaMatbil to be a Nazir, rejecting the things of this world in order to focus on the things of Yahweh, then how much more important would it be for Yeshua our Messiah to be a Nazir?

Although Scripture does not say that Yeshua was a Nazirite from birth, we are given some indications that Yeshua was likely a Nazirite before His ministry began, and that He chose to end His vow early.

Yochanan (John) 2:1-4
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galil [Galilee], and the mother of Yeshua was there.
2 Now both Yeshua and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Yeshua said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4 Yeshua said to her, “Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come [to separate my Nazirite vow].”

When Yeshua’s mother said they had no wine, at first He implied that He could have nothing to do with wine, since He was possibly still under a Nazirite vow.

Numbers 6 tells us that a Nazirite vow does not have to be lifelong. It can be taken for a certain length of time (for example, a certain number of days).

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:8
8 All the days of his separation he is set-apart to Yahweh.

This could be a set length of time (e.g., two years) or until a certain event took place. It could also be that even though Yeshua said that His time was not yet come, when His mother said there was no wine, He took compassion on the guests and ended His vow early, to serve those who were having the wedding.
Yahweh also tells us that if someone dies very suddenly beside a Nazirite (i.e., in an instant), he must shave his head and go up to Yahweh’s house, where he will make certain animal sacrifices.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:9-20
9 ‘And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it.
10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the Tabernacle of meeting;
11 and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day.
12 He shall consecrate to Yahweh the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.

Additionally, even when the Nazirite completes his vow normally, such that “the days of his separation are fulfilled,” he still must shave his head and go up to Yahweh’s house, where he will make animal sacrifices in purification.

13 ‘Now this is the Torah of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the Tabernacle of meeting.
14 And he shall present his offering to Yahweh: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering,
15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
16 ‘Then the priest shall bring them before Yahweh and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering;
17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to Yahweh, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering.
18 Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering.
19 ‘And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair,
20 and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before Yahweh; they are set apart for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.’

If Yeshua really did end a Nazirite vow early in order to make wine for the wedding guests, we would expect to see Him begin to make His way to Jerusalem shortly thereafter, in order to offer the sacrifices for purification. And this is precisely what Yeshua does.

Yochanan (John) 2:11-13
11 This beginning of signs Yeshua did in Qana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
12 After this He went down to Kephar Nahum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; but they did not stay there many days.
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem.

Since the Nazirite vow is essentially a vow to focus on the things of Yahweh, and the things of Yahweh are at odds with the things of the world, the one who “separates” himself sometimes needs to pull away from those who are not similarly dedicated. However, this would have been a problem for Yeshua, in that one of the missions Yahweh gave Him was to call the sinners to repentance. This called for being in and amongst them. Perhaps that is the reason Yeshua ended His vow.

Luqa (Luke) 5:31-32
31 Yeshua answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

In order to heal the sick, Yeshua needed to associate with those who needed Him the most. This drew great criticism from those around Him, but as the Peshitta rendering tells us, wisdom is justified by her works.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 11:18-19
18 For Yochanan came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.
19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her works.” (Peshitta)

Therefore it may also be that Yeshua ended His vow so that He could be where His help was needed the most.

2. Refrain from Cutting One’s Hair

In some Eastern traditions, those who dedicate their lives to spiritual pursuits shave their heads in order to show that they have “renounced the world.” In contrast to this, the Nazir does not bother to shave his head. Beyond the necessities of basic cleanliness and good general hygiene, the Nazirite does not spend any time seeking to please the face of man.

Galatim (Galatians) 1:10
10 For do I now persuade men, or Elohim? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Messiah.

The Nazirite only cares what Yahweh thinks, and does not allow the opinions of others to affect him. This may be the reason Yochanan HaMatbil was dressed only in a garment made from camel’s hair.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 11:7-8
7 As they departed, Yeshua began to say to the multitudes concerning Yochanan: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind [i.e., someone playing a beautiful tune on a flute, in order to tickle your fancy]?
8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? But rather, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

Nazirites do not spend any time impressing the face of man. Instead, Nazirites are to listen for Yahweh’s voice, and then seek to obey it, trusting in Yahweh to provide for all of their physical and spiritual needs.

3. Avoid Contact with Corpses

The Torah tells us that corpses are unclean.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 22:4-7
4 “’Whatever man of the descendants of Aharon, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the set apart offerings until he is clean. And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen,
5 or whoever touches any creeping thing by which he would be made unclean, or any person by whom he would become unclean, whatever his uncleanness may be —
6 the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the set apart offerings unless he washes his body with water.
7 And when the sun goes down he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat the set apart offerings, because it is his food.’”

While it can be a difficult concept for us to understand, there are contaminants in the material world; we become ritually unclean when we come into contact with them. Because Nazirites seek to remain ritually pure before Yahweh at all times, they try to avoid all ritual defilements, including corpses (and even mourning).

Funerals are not held for the benefit of the departed, but to console those who have suffered loss. While mourning for the loss of a loved one is Scriptural, and while the feelings of grief and uncertainty are certainly understandable, the Nazirite is supposed to put his faith in Yahweh, and trust that all things work together for good.

Romim (Romans) 8:28
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love Elohim, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

While an ordinary Israelite might be permitted to grieve and mourn for the loss of his mother or father, the Nazir is not supposed to. He is to learn not to waste any time at all on things which are beyond his control. Rather, he is to abstain from all of that, and just work for the betterment of Yahweh’s kingdom without interruption.

4. Give One’s All to His Work, and Trust in Him

The idea behind being separated from life is that the Nazirite is to give his all to Yahweh. Numbers 6 tells us that the Nazirite is supposed to give or do whatever his hand is able, in order to build Yahweh’s kingdom.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:21
21 This is the Torah of the Nazirite, who vows to Yahweh the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide. According to the vow [that] he [or she] takes, so he shall do according to the Torah of his separation.

Also notice that Yeshua had no place to stay.

Luqa (Luke) 9:58
58 And Yeshua said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

If Yeshua was a Nazirite, and a Nazirite is to give all he has to Yahweh at the time of his cleansing and then trust in Yahweh for support, and if Yeshua separated His Nazirite vow when He turned the water into wine, then Yeshua would have had no inheritance; and hence no place to stay.

In Hebrew, to “bury one’s father” is an idiom which means, “to collect an inheritance.” Even if Yeshua had separated His vow when He began His ministry, His advice to the young man who wanted to bury his father (i.e., collect an inheritance) was a very Nazirite thing for Him to say.

Luqa (Luke) 9:59-60
59 And He said to another, “Follow Me,” but he said, “Master, let me first go and bury my father.”
60 And Yeshua said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but you go and announce the reign of Elohim.”

If the Nazirite truly understands that Yahweh is completely and utterly sovereign, and if he has no cares for the things of the world, why should he delay preaching the Good News until such time as he collects an inheritance? So long as one pleases Yahweh, Yahweh will continue to provide for all of his needs.

Luqa (Luke) 9:61-62
61 And another also said, “Adon, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Yeshua said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of Elohim.”

The Nazirite is to be so focused on building Yahweh’s kingdom that he simply does not desire to do anything that is not related to that end. Rather, because Yahweh works, he also works.

Yochanan (John) 5:17
17 Yeshua said, “My Father works until now, and I [also] work.”

Even though Yeshua technically had no Nazirite vow during the time of His ministry, His attitude was still very Nazirite. While others were celebrating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage (all of which indicate a focus on the things of the material realm), Yeshua remained focused on the things of Yahweh, as did Shaul, and Moshe before them.

‘Samsonite’ and Dedicated Nazirites

The Orthodox rabbis consider that there are two types of Nazirites. Although these terms do not exist in Scripture, the Talmud refers to them as Samsonite Nazirites and Dedicated (Separated) Nazirites. The reason for the name “Samsonite” Nazirite is that Samson (Shimshon) did not really set the best example of what a Nazirite should be. For example, Shimshon was around thousands of corpses, and he also desired a Philistine wife.

Shophetim (Judges) 14:1-3
1 Now Shimshon went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines.
2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”
3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Shimshon said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

After his first wife was killed (by the Philistines, no less), Shimshon then consorted with another Philistine, a harlot by the name of Delilah.

Shophetim (Judges) 16:1
1 Now Shimshon went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.

While it is true that Shimshon did not cut his hair, he loved this Philistine harlot so much that he eventually gave in to her pestering and told her the secret of his strength, whereupon she betrayed him.

Shophetim (Judges) 16:16-17
16 And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,
17 that he told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to Elohim from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Historically, those who took a Nazirite vow for thirty to ninety days (in order to “dry out” from alcoholism) were called Samsonite Nazirites. These took the vow as a temporary measure, to break an addictive habit.

In contrast, many of our exemplars in Scripture may have been Dedicated Nazirites. For example, Eliyahu the Tishbite (Elijah the Prophet) was probably a dedicated Nazirite, because of all his hair.

Melachim Bet (2 Kings) 1:7-8
7 Then he said to them, “What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you these words?”
8 So they answered him, “A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.” And he said, “It is Eliyahu the Tishbite.”

Interestingly, Psalm 22 also tells us that Yeshua would pay a vow before those who fear Him.

Tehillim (Psalm) 22:25
25 From You is My praise in the great assembly, I pay My vows before those who fear Him.

While Scripture does not say this was a Nazirite vow, the idea that Yeshua was a Nazirite taking a separate path from what most Israelites are called to do, fits with the rest of His ministry.

While Yeshua separated His vow when he began His ministry, it seems likely that He took the vow again at the Last Supper, the evening before He was offered up as the Passover Lamb.

Luqa (Luke) 22:17-18
17 And taking the cup, giving thanks, He said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves,
18 For I say to you, I shall certainly not drink of the fruit of the vine until the reign of Elohim comes.”

Luke does not say Yeshua first drank of the cup and then passed it: He simply passed the cup, telling His disciples that He would not partake of the celebratory fruit again, until the reign of Elohim had come.

Luke also tells us that Yeshua greatly thirsted, yet He did not partake of the sour wine (vinegar) while He was upon the stake (cross).

Luqa (Luke) 23:36-37
36 And the soldiers were mocking Him too; coming and offering Him sour wine,
37 and saying, “If you are the Sovereign of the Yehudim, save yourself!”


Mattityahu (Matthew) 27:33-34
33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, “Place of a skull,”
34 they gave Him wine mixed with bile to drink. And after tasting, He would not drink it.

Perhaps it is the Nazirite vow that kept him from partaking of the wine, rather than the fact that it was mixed with gall. He was possibly fulfilling the vow mentioned in Psalm 22 (above), which He had taken again at the Last Supper.

While Scripture does not say so specifically, it makes sense that Shaul was also a celibate Nazirite. As we explain in Nazarene Israel (in the chapter entitled “About Animal Sacrifices for Sin”), Shaul separated a Nazirite vow during his second missionary voyage.

Ma’asei (Acts) 18:18
18 And having remained many days more, having taken leave of the brothers, Shaul sailed to Syria, having shaved his head; for he had [taken] a vow.

In context we understand that Shaul separated a Nazirite vow here, because the Nazirite vow is the only vow in Scripture in which one shaves one’s head. Shaul also separated a second Nazirite vow when he met with the apostles in Acts chapter 21, for Ya’akov (Jacob) urged him to pay the expenses for four other men who were being purified of their Nazirite vows.

Ma’asei (Acts) 21:23-24
23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.
24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah.

First Corinthians 9 also informs us that Shaul was not married, perhaps so he would have more time (and more flexibility) to travel and serve Yahweh’s people.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 9:3-5
3 My defense to those who examine me is this:
4 Do we have no right to eat and drink?
5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Master, and Kepha?

Not many people are called to the Nazirite vow, and likewise, not many are called to be abstinent or celibate. Clearly, those who are not called should not attempt it, for the main thing is not to be abstinent or celibate, but to hear and obey whatever Yahweh’s will is for us. However, in Matthew chapter 19 Yeshua tells us that all those to whom celibacy has been given should receive it. Because the meanings of the words are disputed, let us look at the source languages.

NKJV Matthew 19:10-12
10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given:
12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
TR Matthew 19:10-12
10 λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται αυτου ει ουτως εστιν η αιτια του ανθρωπου μετα της γυναικος ου συμφερει γαμησαι
11 ο δε ειπεν αυτοις ου παντες χωρουσιν τον λογον τουτον αλλ οις δεδοται
12 εισιν γαρ ευνουχοι οιτινες εκ κοιλιας μητρος εγεννηθησαν ουτως και εισιν ευνουχοι οιτινες ευνουχισθησαν υπο των ανθρωπων και εισιν ευνουχοι οιτινες ευνουχισαν εαυτους δια την βασιλειαν των ουρανων ο δυναμενος χωρειν χωρειτω

The Greek word for “eunuch” is eunachoi. The meaning is clearly the same as in English: one who is castrated (i.e., whose testicles are cut off).

NT:2135 eunouchos (yoo-noo’-khos); from eune (a bed) and NT:2192; a castrated person (such being employed in Oriental bed-chambers); by extension an impotent or unmarried man; by implication, a chamberlain (state-officer):
KJV – eunuch.

The word in the Peshitta is maheim-nah (מהימנה). It has a dual meaning, and can either mean “one who is castrated” or “a faithful one.” However, if we plug these two different word meanings into the passage, we see that the first meaning (“castrated one”) fits perfectly, and gives us an intelligent reading that fits with the context. However, in context, the alternate meaning (“faithful one”) makes no sense. Clearly then, the real meaning is “eunuch.”

MRD Matthew 19:10-12
10 His disciples say to him: If such is the case between man and wife, it is not expedient to take a wife.
11 But he said to them: Not every one is capable of that thing, but he only to whom it is given.
12 For there are some eunuchs, born so from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men; and there are some eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He that can be contented let him be contented.

In context, Yeshua’s disciples are saying that if a man is not able to divorce his wife for any reason, then really it is more spiritually advantageous not to take a wife. Yeshua then responds by saying that while not all men can receive this saying, yes, they are correct. If one can receive it, it is better to be a eunuch, which in this case means one who is celibate (or abstinent).

Parties to a marriage should not attempt abstinence unless both parties desire it, for to do otherwise would be to break their original covenant agreement.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 7:1-9
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, because of [the need to avoid] sexual immorality, let each man [who is not called to celibacy] have his own wife, and let each woman [who is not called to celibacy] have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 [So that the other party does not err,] Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
6 However I say this as a concession, [and] not as a commandment.
7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself [i.e., celibate]. However, [I am not better than anyone else, for] each one has his own gift from Elohim, one in this manner and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am [i.e., celibate];
9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.

Scholars differ as to whether Shaul’s meaning in verse 9 is that it is better to marry than to burn with passion, or whether it is better to marry than to burn in Gehenna for committing adultery, but both meanings work.

Verse 5 is clearly a reference to married couples who agree to abstain from sex for a time in order to draw closer to Yahweh in fasting and in prayer, yet not so long that either of the parties is tempted to stray. What Shaul is essentially encouraging, then, is a short form of the abstinent vow.

Interestingly, Shaul does not tell those who take an abstinent vow to go up to the temple to be cleansed. This could be because the Torah does not give us any instructions as to what to do when we separate a vow of abstinence (or, for another example, a vow of silence). Yet this is in contrast to the Nazirite vow, which as we have seen earlier, requires animal sacrifices in purification.

At the time of this writing, there is no tabernacle or temple, hence we are not able to separate a Nazirite vow in the manner that Yahweh commands. Because of this, some feel that the only way one can legitimately take a Nazirite vow at this time is to take it for life. Others feel that since Shaul tells us that our bodies are the temple at this time, we can separate a Nazirite vow without bringing the animal sacrifices for purification.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 3:16-17
16 Do you not know that you are the temple of Elohim and that the Spirit of Elohim dwells in you?
17 If anyone defiles the temple of Elohim, Elohim will destroy him. For the temple of Elohim is set apart, which temple you are.

Finally, we should close with some words of caution. Sometimes it happens that when people first learn of the Nazirite and the celibate vows, they take them for life. Young people can get excited and commit themselves to something that may seem easy at the time, but will later seem more difficult. However, as is the saying of our fathers, “A man is only as good as his word,” and Yahweh expects us to pay what we vow.

Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:4-5
4 When you make a vow to Elohim, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed —
5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

One should never take a lifetime celibate vow lightly, for if we think about it, a vow of lifetime celibacy is as radically life altering as marriage. In fact, a lifetime celibate vow is essentially a vow not to marry, and overcoming one’s biology is not easy to do. It probably should not even be attempted unless one genuinely feels called by Yahweh. Only when one is called to these vows will one be able to complete them in Him.

Yochanan (John) 15:4
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

It may be that the sex scandals of the Catholic Church take place because the Catholic Church requires celibacy as a dogma, regardless of whether or not the person entering the Catholic priesthood genuinely feels called to it by Yahweh. While Yeshua, Shaul, and Moshe were all undoubtedly abstinent or celibate in one form or another, this cannot be a requirement for priesthood, as the only apostles to be celibate were Shaul and Barnabas.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 9:5-6
5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Master, and Kepha?
6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?

While many of the prophets were either abstinent or celibate Nazirites, those among the priesthood were typically monogamous, and those in the kingship were often polygynous. While it may seem an outlandish thing to say, what is important to remember is not to follow any particular person’s example (except perhaps Yeshua’s), but to hear what Yahweh’s will for us is, and then to do that.

Also, if one should feel called to the path of the prophet or the celibate or abstinent Nazirite, one should first sit down and count the cost in all seriousness.

Luqa (Luke) 14:28-30
28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it
29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

The difficulties of taking the Nazirite, celibate, or abstinent vow should never be underestimated; however, Yahweh will reward those who are called to these paths of increased suffering by giving wonderful and mysterious blessings that cannot be described in words.

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