Luke 1:11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

Numbers 6:1 The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, 3they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. 4As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

Was John the Baptist a Nazirite?

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    While the Gospels never directly say that John the Baptist was a Nazirite, he lived very much like a Nazirite. Also, Numbers 6:2 states "If a man or woman wants to make a special vow". John himself did not make the vow but Jehovah God selected him to this special commission.
    – agarza
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 1:18

2 Answers 2


The NT doesn't record him being a Nazarite and as John the Baptist was a descendant of Aaron, it would not be permitted for him. See Luke 1.5:

It happened that in the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest, Zechariah by name, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

On the other hand, one could argue that the prohibition only applied to those in active service as Priests and so would not apply to John the Baptist, but this is not the traditional interpretation of the prohibition on the sons of Aaron taking Nazarite vows.

UPDATE Why can't the Kohani leave the Holy place to hang out in the court of women with the Nazarites?

The ultimate answer is that for someone set aside at birth to be dedicated to the service of YHWH in his holy temple, to take on another vow, and a vow of a lay sect, would be viewed as a desecration and of violating the separate position the sons of Aaron have in the law and in the service of the temple.

That the Nazarites were a lay sect can be seen in Numbers 6.2 where it says "Speak to the sons/children of Israel" (women could take the vow) but it does not say "“Speak to Aaron and his sons," as in Num 6.23. The sons of Aaron were made separate from the Israel -- that is their defining characteristic -- and this split of speak to "sons of Israel" (sons, being interpreted as group membership of the house of Israel not biological sons) followed by the "speak to sons of Aaron" was interpreted as rules to two disjoint groups, similar to "speak to the laity" and "speak to the priests". When both groups were the intended audience, it said "Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all [the Israelites]".

Moreover thematically, the Nazarites were effectively a second priesthood, albeit a voluntary and limited time one, and were under a subset of the requirements that Priests were under, except that subset was stricter (Priests couldn't drink in the temple forever, whereas Nazarites couldn't drink anywhere, but in a limited time). Moreover the Nazarites had their own area of the temple (inside the women's court) whereas the Kohanim (sons of Aaron) served in the holy place, and the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on one day each year.

The nazarites could be viewed as a rival priesthood to the aronic one (most commentators believe the nazarite traditions preceeded those of the levitical priesthood -- see WBC commentary on Numbers), so you should read this passage in Numbers as also including a way to control and regulate the Nazarites by making them subject to and dependent on priests for all of the key ceremonies, thus cementing their subordinate role.

Note that not all Levites were of the sons of Aaron. It remains ambiguous whether Levites who weren't sons of Aaron could join, perhaps some of the talmudic scholars on here could clarify the traditions for non-priests, but the nazarite sect was viewed as something available to the laity, not to the sons of aaron, as these were left out in the address of Num 6.2

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    "was a descendant of Aaron, it would not be permitted for him" Could you give some scriptural citation for this?
    – agarza
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 2:09

Yes. John was a Nazirite. This was actually prophecied multiple times prior to his birth. Let’s look where ..

LUKE 1:15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’

This word from the angel references Malachi 4:5. So this was the original prophecy. Two points to note from this passage. The reference to ‘drink’, (part of the vow), and the reference to Elijah - Elijah also being a Nazirite. And, John the Baptist came ‘in the same spirit as Elijah. A Jew familiar with Torah would instantly recognise this passage in Luke as being a reference to being set aside as a Nazirite.

MAT 17:11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. [snip] 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist

Those who took the vow of the Nazirite were easily distinguishable. They lived separated, and via their ‘looks’. (A wild man). John lived in the wilderness, his wardrobe resembled Elijah’s. The Nazirite would, in effect, be taking on the sign of, as if living under the reproach (of God).

John was a Levite, Arguably John would have been in line to have even taken the role of High Priest. But (arguably, and using historical Jewish accounts) the Levitical priesthood had become so corrupted by this time that John turned his back on this ‘honour’, to dedicate his life to worshiping the [true] coming Messiah.

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