My reading today was from Numbers 6 and the Nazirite vow (vv 1-21). When I think of the Nazirite vow, I think of Samson (Judges 13) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15-17) who were Nazirites for life (Samuel was also under the vow in 1 Samuel 1). I also think of Paul being temporarily under the Nazirite vow in Acts (vv 18:18; 21:17-26). I have heard people try to connect Nazirite with Nazarene and in the Hebrew it is very clear that Nazirite is not at all affiliated with the Nazarenes or the place of Nazareth.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD…” (Num 6:1-2). “The term Nazirite describes the person who has marked out a specific period for personal separation or consecration, a special time for unusual devotion to God. This text speaks of a restricted period of time for the Nazirite vow, though some persons took the vow for a lifetime” (R. Allen, Numbers REBC, 2012, p. 138).
I have read Numbers 6 NUMEROUS times and NEVER noticed that women were included in making this extraordinary vow to the Lord. “Though issues related to women are often subsumed under the heading of man (=humankind), the context explicitly emphasizes the potential of women entering into this consecration service to Yahweh. Women could not serve as priests in the Israelite cultus, but this manner of service was open to them and could fulfill their desire for holiness and special service to the Lord” (R.D. Cole, Numbers NAC, 2000, p. 121).
What were those under the Nazirite vow separating themselves from? “(1) absolute abstinence from all produce of the vine, (2) total forswearing of trimming of (and likely all caring for) the hair, and (3) utter separation from contamination by any contact with a dead body. Thus three areas of life were regulated for the Nazirite during the period of his vow: diet (ordinary pleasure), appearance (ordinary care), and associations (ordinary obligation). Every Israelite was under regulations in these general areas, but for the Nazirite each of these regulations was heightened” (Allen, pp. 138-139).
Numbers 30:1-16 does give fathers of young women and husbands permission to cancel/oppose a woman’s vow to the Lord. I am fascinated by the Bible resources that I have that do NOT mention that women are included in the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6; to not mention this is dishonest to the text.
This also has me wondering what would it look like for Israelite women to make a Nazirite vow?! Premenstral young women or postmenopausal women would be free to make this vow unless their fathers or husbands opposed it. Women of menstruating age would have to be VERY sensitive to the timing of this vow so as to not conflict with purity rituals, cleanness laws etc.
I need to do more research on this because, I am really curious to learn how often pregnant Israelite women would have made/put themselves under a Nazirite vow to the Lord?! Pregnant women would have months to devote themselves to the Lord without having to deal with their monthly period. Manoah’s wife (Samson’s mom) was put under the Nazirite vow by the angel of the Lord in which she was to be careful to not drink strong drink, to not eat anything unclean and to not eat anything that comes from the vine (see Judges 13:4, 7, 14).
I am so glad the Lord brought this to my attention today! I have often wondered about the vows Jewish women would have made in the Ancient Near East (ANE). While I am glad that women were able to partake in the Nazarite vow, I am SO glad and thankful that women TODAY have even more access to the Triune God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Lord God, thank You that the path to salvation is made clear in Your Word. Thank You Lord that what You began in the Old Testament (Covenant) is now completed in the New! Lord God, thank You and praise You for women! Thank You for the unique giftings and experiences that You have given women to glorify You and serve Your people, leading the lost to Christ. Lord God, thank You and praise You there will be NO sex and gender disputes in Heaven! Lord God, thank You for ALL the godly men in the world who are doing their best to live for You in this darkening world. Lord God, help Your men to lead well. Lord God, may Your people, males and females help each other to make You known in this lost and dying world. Thank You Lord for this reader! Thank You for their grace and patience with me as I share what You have put on my heart. Lord, lead this reader today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.