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When Yahweh made mankind, He gave us a powerful urge 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….”
Yahweh put this inclination right into our flesh, making the sex drive one of the most powerful of all our drives (second perhaps only to the will to live).
Yahweh also made us social animals, which is why it is not good (and not easy) for us 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.”
Yahweh also made women to be companions for their men. Women not only help their men in their work, but they also help them by raising children.
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.
In Scripture, many things are a double-edged sword. In practical terms, most men and women probably do need 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.
Just speaking in practical terms, if the Patriarchs had not married and raised families, there would likely be no Israel today. To be celibate seems to fly in the face of this common-sense approach. It is also clear that society functions best when human beings take part in society; and yet without taking anything away from the calling of the majority, Scripture does speak very highly of a different path that many (if not most) of Israel’s prophets are called to. This is the path of the celibate Nazirite.
The celibate vow and the Nazirite vow are two separate vows. One can be celibate without being a Nazirite, and one can be a Nazirite without being celibate. However, the two often go together because a Nazir (נְזִיר) is one who is separated from normal Israelite life in order to perform a special service unto Yahweh.
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 OT:5144 refers to someone who abstains from normal life in order to fulfill some divine mission (or some set-apart purpose).
OT:5144 nazar (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.
It is important to understand the principles at work behind the blessings. One can be separated either willingly or unwillingly. The first use of the term nazir occurs in Genesis 49, where it tells us that Joseph became nazir (נְזִיר) when he was separated from his brothers (in order to fulfill a special purpose for Yahweh).
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:|
Joseph’s separation also serves as a foreshadowing of how the lost ten tribes of Israel (Ephraim) would later be separated from their heritage in Israel, in order to fulfill a special mission. Yeshua alludes to Ephraim’s separation in the parable of the prodigal son.
Luqa (Luke) 15:11-24
11 Then He said: “A certain man [Yahweh] had two sons [Judah and Ephraim].
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, [i.e., was separated] 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.”’”
20 “And he arose and came to his Father. But when he was still a great way off, his Father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the Father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”
In Joseph’s case the separation came about because of his boastfulness, and in the prodigal son’s case the separation was self-inflicted. In Ephraim’s case the separation was also self-inflicted, and yet Yahweh is still faithful to bless us when we turn from our own lives in the world, and seek Him.
It is the turning away from the world in order to draw closer to Yahweh that is important. Whenever we are separated from our brothers and sisters in Israel (or from our lives in the world) a huge void is created, and we have to fill that void with something. If we fill the void with His Spirit, then we will receive blessings; but if we fill that void with something else, then it can actually be worse for us than before.
Luqa (Luke) 11:24-26
24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’
25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.
26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
We are even called to set ourselves emotionally apart from family members who do not walk according to His Spirit (whether or not they claim to believe).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 10:34-39
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;
36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’
37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
38 And he who does not take his 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.”
When we turn away from the things of the world and draw closer to Yahweh, Yahweh blesses us. In fact, the more we turn away from the world and the closer we draw to Him, the more He can bless us. This principle is very reliable, yet for most people there is probably a practical limit to the amount they can set themselves apart from the world. If the job of a family is to raise up children to serve Him, then they need to spend time with their children, and raise them the right way. At least to some practical extent this means taking part in the world (at least enough to provide for the mother and the children).
When one becomes a celibate Nazirite, one holds aloof from the world even to the point of not raising a family. One lays down one’s right to reproduce in order to have more time to serve Yahweh and His people. To see this, let us study the precepts of the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6. These are:
- To abstain from all alcohol
- To abstain from all grapes and grape products
- To refrain from cutting one’s hair
- To avoid contact with corpses
- Not to become unclean at anyone’s death (not even for one’s father or mother)
- To dedicate all one can to Yahweh and His work (both time and money)
At first it may not be apparent how these six precepts lead one to hold aloof from the world, but hopefully it will become more apparent as this study progresses. Let us analyze the chapter in segments.
Abstain From Alcohol and Grape Products
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.”
Israelites partake of grapes, wine and alcohol on the Shabbat and festivals because they celebrate Him. Yet Yeshua tells us not to be drunk when He comes, lest we be appointed our portion with the non-believers.
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.”
We can understand the word drunk both in literal and spiritual contexts, but it is in the spiritual context that Yahweh foretells woe for 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….
Hosea tells us that Ephraim is worshipping other mighty ones and is eating his celebratory raisin cakes when he should be turning back to Yahweh.
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.”
Scripture gives clues that Yeshua, Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Baptist/Immerser) and Shaul (Paul) were probably all celibate Nazirites. For example, Luke tells us that Yochanan HaMatbil was to drink no wine or strong drink at all.
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 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.’”
Also, we are told that John came wearing only a garment made of camel’s hair, and a leather belt. In addition to this, his food was locusts and wild honey.
Marqaus (Mark) 1:6
6 Now Yochanan 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 he may have already given his worldly belongings to Yahweh. Note the parallel to the language used in Numbers 6:21.
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 takes, so he shall do according to the Torah of his separation.
We are also given clues that Yeshua was a Nazirite before His ministry began because it seems He may have ended a Nazirite vow at the time He began His ministry (by turning water into wine).
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].”
While the Nazirite vow can last for life, it does not have to. It can last for a set length of time (i.e., a set number of days) or it can last until some event transpires (e.g., until Passover of next year).
Bemidbar (Numbers) 6:8
8 All the days of his separation he is set-apart to Yahweh.
It may be that although Yeshua was still under his Nazirite vow, when His mother said there was no wine, Yeshua decided to end His vow early in order to make some. If so, this would likely show that Yeshua had compassion on the people, and was focused upon serving their needs.
Yahweh tells us that if someone dies very suddenly beside a Nazirite (i.e., in an instant), he must shave his head, and then go up to the temple.
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, if the Nazirite ends his vow normally (such that “the days of his separation are fulfilled”) then he still must shave his head and go up to the temple, where he makes certain animal sacrifices for ritual 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 His Nazirite vow early in order to make wine for the wedding guests, then we would expect to see Him go to Jerusalem shortly after, to offer the sacrifices for purification. Notice, then, that this is exactly what Yeshua did in John 2:13.
Yochanan (John) 2:11-14
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 by definition a Nazirite is supposed to stand aloof from the things of the world, and since Yeshua’s ministry was to call sinners to repentance, it would be easier for Yeshua to reach the people after he had separated 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.”
It would be easier for Yeshua to call sinners to repentance if He could be in and amongst them. This drew a lot of criticism from those around Him, but wisdom is justified by her works.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 11:18-19 (Peshitta)
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.”
Refrain from Cutting One’s Hair
In some Eastern religions, those who dedicate their lives to spiritual pursuits show they have renounced the world by shaving their heads. In contrast to this, the Nazirite does not even bother to shave his head. Beyond the necessities of good personal general hygiene, the Nazirite does not care about pleasing 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.
This is not to say that the Nazirite must never care for his appearance; just that he does not allow the opinions of others to affect him.
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.”
There are contaminants in the material world, and we become ritually unclean because of them. However a Nazirite must do his best to avoid ritual defilements, including corpses, and even mourning.
Funerals are not really held for the benefit of the departed, but the living. While mourning for the loss of a loved one is scriptural, and while the feelings of grief and the uncertainty that death brings are certainly understandable, the Nazirite is supposed to put his faith in Yahweh, and trust that all things work together for good for those who love Elohim, and are called according to His purpose.
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 we are permitted to mourn the loss of our father or mother, the Nazirite is not supposed to do so. He is not supposed to waste any time on things that are beyond his control. Rather, he is just to trust that Yahweh is in charge, and work for the kingdom.
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 6:21 tells us that the Nazirite is supposed to give or do whatever his hand is able, in order to help build His 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.
Yeshua must have given whatever inheritance He had to the temple, for He had no place to stay.
Luqa (Luke) 9:58
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.”
In Hebrew, to bury one’s father is an idiom meaning “to collect an inheritance.” Yeshua’s advice to the young man who wanted to bury his father 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 knows that Yahweh is completely and totally sovereign, and if he truly has no cares for the things of the world, why should he delay preaching the Good News until after he collects an inheritance? Yahweh is faithful to provide all that we need to serve Him, so why delay starting one’s ministry?
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 must be so focused, and so intent upon building Yahweh’s kingdom here on earth that he simply does not desire to do anything that does not directly build Yahweh’s kingdom. His life is to do Yahweh’s work.
Yochanan (John) 5:17
17 Yeshua said, “My Father works until now, and I [also] work.”
Even though Yeshua had technically separated His Nazirite vow earlier, His attitude was still very Nazirite, so to speak. 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.
Samsonite and Dedicated Nazirites
The Orthodox rabbis consider that there are two types of Nazirites. The Talmud calls the first type Samsonite Nazirites, and the second it calls Dedicated (or Separated) Nazirites.
The reason for the name Samsonite Nazirite is that Shimson (Samson) did not set the best example of what a Nazirite should do. For example, Shimshon took both of his wives from the Philistines.
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–see Shophetim 15:6), 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 Delilah so much that he eventually gave in to her pestering, and revealed the secret of his great strength to her. That is when 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 or so (in order to dry out from alcoholism) were called Samsonite Nazirites. They took the vow as a temporary measure to break an addictive habit.
In contrast to this, Scripture gives us many examples of so-called Dedicated Nazirites. For example, the description of Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) as a “hairy man” likely indicates that he was likely a Dedicated Nazirite.
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.”
In Psalm 22, Yeshua pays a vow.
Tehillim (Psalm) 22
From You is My praise in the great assembly, I pay My vows before those who fear Him.
It also seems likely that Yeshua reinstated His vow at the Last Supper.
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.”
Notice that Yeshua did not drink of the cup and then pass 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. This is in keeping with the Nazirite attitude of laying down one’s opportunities in life, in favor of working for the Father.
Luke also tells us that Yeshua did not partake of the sour wine (vinegar) while He was upon the stake (cross), even though He thirsted greatly.
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.
The reason Yeshua would not drink it was that He had taken the Nazirite vow again at the Last Supper.
As we explain in Nazarene Israel, the Apostle Shaul also separated a Nazirite vow at Acts 18:18.
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.
The Nazirite vow is the only vow in Scripture that calls for shaving the head. We also know that Shaul separated a second Nazirite vow when he went up to Jerusalem in Acts 21, for Ya’akov (Jacob) commanded him to pay the expenses of four other men who were also 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.
Shaul also abstained from marriage.
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?
It makes sense that the reason Shaul abstained from marriage was in order to have more time and flexibility to serve Yahweh and His people.
So what are we to make of the calling of the celibate Nazirite? Like many other things in Scripture, it is a two-edged sword. While Scripture tells us that a righteous wife and children are a blessing from Yahweh, Yeshua also tells us that those who can receive the celibate vow should receive it.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 19:10-12
10 His taught ones said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is good not to marry.”
11 “Not all receive this word, but only those to whom it has been given.
12 For there are eunuchs [meaning deformed] who were born so from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs [meaning castrated] who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs [meaning celibate] who have made themselves eunuchs [meaning celibate] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
In addition to giving more time and flexibility to serve Yahweh’s people, celibacy is also desirable for the ironic reason that it is not good for men to be alone. Celibacy greatly increases our level of refinement, which causes us to have to draw much closer to Yahweh for support. It is this drawing close which pleases Him so much.
However, when people are called to the marital path, they should not attempt to be abstinent, unless both parties willingly agree to it beforehand.
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. However, [I am not superior, 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 [meaning celibate];
9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn [either with passion, or in Gehenna, as a result of disobedience].
It is desirable to take a celibate vow and/or a Nazirite vow, in that we are then separated from normal life. Affliction brings refinement, which brings us closer to Yahweh. However, some words of caution are in order.
Qoheleth (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.
Sometimes people learn about these vows and take them immediately, without thinking about the impact it will have on their life. It can happen that young people underestimate the impact of their biology. What may not seem so difficult in one’s twenties and thirties may become very difficult a decade or so later, yet Yahweh expects us to keep our words. A vow is a vow; and it is better not to vow, than to vow and not to pay.
(For more information, please see also the study “Abstinence, Celibacy, and Nazirites,” which is part of the Covenant Relationships study.)