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A special vow called the vow of a Nazarite is mentioned in Numbers 6:2 and the conditions of the vow are spelled out as the chapter follows. Verse 8 says, "Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord." But it doesn't seem to specify a purpose for which they are consecrated.

From the description here in numbers, it reminds me of the desert monks, and I think of a holy hermit or some such. But the two characters in the Hebrew Bible that seem to be Nazarites—Samson and Samuel—don't exactly give off that picture. Indeed, if they have anything in common it is they seem to be holy warriors in their roles as judges: Samson known, of course, for slaying Philistines and Samuel too being victorious over Philistine armies (1 Samuel 7).

Of course Samson is a dubious model for probably anything, but especially here as a Nazarite given that he eats the honey out of the carcass of a lion and as he flirts with his hair being shaved. Further one wonders even with Samuel how you could refrain from contact with dead bodies while making war against Philistine armies.

So what was the Nazarite vow for? For what end did it consecrate you to?

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  • It may be a bit of an unfair statement to say that Samuel was well-known because of his victory over the Phillistines, as opposed to anything else. Although I do get your point. – user22655 Apr 13 '18 at 3:02
  • @רבותמחשבות Yes, I didn't mean to imply that, only to highlight the one similarity I could think of between them in terms of their "purpose" before God. – Soldarnal Apr 13 '18 at 12:09
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The consecration described in Numbers 6:8 is a source of debate among the commentaries, with two major stances:

  1. This is a consecration which comes to explain the conditions of the vow.

    • Rashi understands this as emphasizing the separation from the dead
    • Berlin understands this verse explains that when one accepts a Nazirite vow during their lifetime, he must stay away from dead bodies with no exceptions. This comes in contrast to 2:6 (where הזירו is used in place of נזרו), and states that in cases where one is a lifelong Nazirite, it is not necessary to refrain from contact with a dead body. The full text can be found in Hebrew here.
    • Barnes, noting the usage of נזר in Leviticus 25:5, suggests this refers to the hair of a Nazirite being untouched
  2. There is some sort of purpose for which they are consecrated.

    • Some sort of piousness or godliness (your understanding)
    • Set aside to be focused on the service of the Lord

Based on our first explanation, we can answer (based on Berlin) that the cases of Samson and Samuel were cases of a lifelong Nazirism, where there is no restriction on coming into contact with dead bodies. Therefore, their conduct would not conflict with this verse, as this verse refers to a limited-time Nazirite.

We can also answer (based on Barnes) that neither Samuel nor Samson shaved their hair (despite Samson's "flirting"), and again, their behavior would not be in violation of this verse.

Based on the second understanding, we can answer that the separation is to be focused on the service of the Lord, which both Samson and Samuel certainly were, albeit in what may have appeared to be less visibly pious ways.

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I'm not sure that Samuel engaged in direct combat except for the Agag episode.

As far as anyone knows, the Nazarite vow seems to have been for personal consecration and not for a specified purpose. It already existed before the Law; the Torah merely regulated it. Anyone, either man or woman, could dedicate themselves to God for a time, similar to how people in some religions will fast in order to seek God for more time and with greater intensity. There's also an obvious thrust towards personal/ritual purity, as we see in Numbers 6:

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. 5 ‘All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD. (Numbers 6:1-8, NKJV)

The text only has Moses stating that by this vow a person is separating himself to YHWH.

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  • This is the start of a great answer. Can you please document your sources.? Otherwise it really doesn't have the weight of a good answer. Primary sources or needed to make it solid and authoritative. Thanks. – Ruminator Apr 13 '18 at 2:39

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