Numbers 6:9

"'If someone dies suddenly in the Nazirite's presence, thus defiling the hair that symbolizes their dedication, they must shave their head on the seventh day--the day of their cleansing.

Judges 15:16

Then Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men."

On this occasion, did Samson cleanse himself by shaving?

But Samson confessed to Delilah in Judges 16:17

So he told her everything. "No razor has ever been used on my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother's womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man."

Did Numbers 6:9 not apply to Samson the Nazirite?

  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How was Samson not in violation of his Nazirite Vow?
    – Robert
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 2:39
  • @Robert How could that even apply? What vow did Samson ever make? Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 23:12
  • @Tony Chan Please tell us which translation(s) you're using Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 23:13
  • @Tony Chan Sorry to queer your pitch and how could Numbers 6:9 - even in your chosen version - apply to Samson? Did Samson die in the Nazirite's presence? Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 23:19

5 Answers 5


Why did Samson | שִׁמְשׁוֹן Shimshon not observe the Vow of Naziriteship?

Nazir 4b [3]

A nazirite like Samson is permitted to become impure from a corpse ab initio, as we find with Samson that he became impure. Rabbi Shimon says: One who says he will be a nazirite like Samson has not said anything, since we do not find with Samson that an utterance of a vow of naziriteship left his mouth. Samson never took a vow to be a nazirite. He received his status from the angel’s instructions to his mother (see Judges 13:5). Consequently, Rabbi Shimon holds that one who vows to be a nazirite like Samson is not considered to have taken a nazirite vow.

Nazir 4b [17] states

וְשִׁמְשׁוֹן לָאו נָזִיר הֲוָה וְהָכְתִיב כִּי נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים יִהְיֶה הַנַּעַר מִן הַבֶּטֶן הָתָם מַלְאָךְ הוּא דְּקָאָמַר " The Gemara challenges the assumption that Samson’s naziriteship was not accepted through a vow: And was Samson not a nazirite whose naziriteship was accepted by a vow? Isn’t it written: “For the child shall be a nazirite of God from the womb” (Judges 13:5)? The Gemara answers: There it was the angel who spoke. Samson’s nazirite status did not stem from a vow uttered by a human being. "

Did Samon | שִׁמְשׁוֹן Shimshon become impure from battle at לֶ֔חִי Lechi?

"The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that Samson became impure from corpses? If we say it is from the fact that it is written: “And Samson said: With the jawbone of an ass, I smote a thousand men” (Judges 15:16), perhaps he thrust the jawbone at them but did not touch them, and he remained pure." - Nazir 4b [18] : https://www.sefaria.org/Nazir.4b.18?with=Commentary&lang=bi

In Shoftim (Judges) 13:3-7, we learn the Angel of YHVH (מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוַ֜ה) and the Wife (הָאִשָּׁ֗ה) of Manoah (מָנ֑וֹחַ) make the Nazirite vow for Manoah's son Samson (Shimshon , שִׁמְשׁוֹן) to hopefully become a Nazir. * Samson never makes a Nazir (נָּזִ֗יר) vow. Samson prays and makes a request after he is humbled, losing his hair and sight.

Shimshon's Prayer in [Shoftim (Judges) 16:28]: "And Samson called to the Lord and said, "God YHVH, remember me and strengthen me now, only this once my Lord YHVH, that I may be avenged the vengeance for one of my two eyes from the Philistines." ( וַיִּקְרָ֥א שִׁמְשׁ֛וֹן אֶל־יְהֹוָ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִֹ֡ה זָכְרֵ֣נִי נָא֩ וְחַזְּקֵ֨נִי נָ֜א אַ֣ךְ הַפַּ֚עַם הַזֶּה֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וְאִנָּקְמָ֧ה נְקַם־אַחַ֛ת מִשְּׁתֵ֥י עֵינַ֖י מִפְּלִשְׁתִּֽים)

Samson never vows to abstain from wine (Yayin, יַ֣יִן), but His mother is told to abstain from Yayin during her pregnancy. * Children do not always become what their parents want them to become. Regarding the Nazirite vow in Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:2-3, a mother cannot make a Nazirite vow for her son. The vow must be made by a Yisraelite man or woman who sets themself apart to become holy for God.

  • 1
    I find this answer unsatisfying. It is the attempt of second century rabbis to find obscure legal loopholes, relying on an angel or miracles, to explain an obvious difficulty in the text. If such wondrous things happened, why doesn't the text mention them? Why would a text be written in a way that requires such convolutions in order to be understood? Maybe there's a better answer?
    – user17080
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:30
  • Maybe Shimshon was not a Nazir, by his own choice. Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:37
  • Maybe you could stick with English? Did you just suggest that Samson was NOT a Nazirite? Was he lying when he claimed to be one? Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:43
  • 1
    @חִידָה Why would we have to make such a guess? The text clearly presents him as a nazir.
    – user17080
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:43
  • 1
    Just say it then: when Samson claimed to be a Nazirite, he was lying. That is your belief. Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 17:44

Samson's adherence to the Nazirite vow has always been a source of contention. Firstly, let's establish what the rules of the Nazirite vow are according to Numbers 6.

  1. No eating food made from grapes, dried or fresh.

he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.

  1. He cannot shave his hair.

all the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.

  1. He cannot have any contact with a corpse, not even family.

All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head

There's an example of Samson breaking almost all of these vows.

He drinks wine (Judges 14:10), he touches a corpse (Judges 14:8-9) and he has his hair cut off (Judges 16, not willfully, of course). There's not really a reasonable excuse for any of these clear violations of the Nazirite vow. I think it's safe to make the assumption that Samson is a bit of a rebel.

What is interesting is that in Judges 13, when Samson's mother is visited by an angel, the command for Samson not touching corpses is conspicuously left out.

but he said unto me: Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing; for the child shall be a Nazirite unto God from the womb to the day of his death.'

JPS 1917

It's possible that because the angel predicts Samson will "begin to save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines" (Judges 13:5) that he was somehow exempt from this provision of the Nazirite vow.


The regulations in Number 6 did not apply to Samson. It applied to a man or a woman who voluntary to become a Nazirite, and they could quit to be a Nazirite when the period of their dedication was over.

Samson as a Nazirite was mandatory (Judge 13:7). The Bible did not tell if Samson had to follow the same.

So when a voluntary Nazirite was defiled, the previous days did not count (Number 6:12), which meant their duty as a Nazirite was void. However, this would be difficult to apply on Samson, for he was picked by the Lord as a Nazirite until his death. If he followed the same rule, then the prophesy of the angel was broken.

  • I feel like this is a bit of a heavy assumption. Who's to say that because he is born a Nazirite, he somehow is exempt from the laws of the Nazirite? The angel still tells him not to drink, which he still does (Judges 14) and the rules about hair he still obeys, why specifically is he exempt from the provision against contact with corpses?
    – lebaptiste
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 2:39
  • @lebaptiste - it was "she", the mother to obey, not Samson. Nazirite had an exit condition. But Judge 13:7b (NIV) read "because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death". So Samson didn't have an exit term. There was no indication why God tolerated Samson violated the Nazirite rule, but the Lord was with him all the time when he didn't lose his hair. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 3:10
  • @lebaptiste - I apologize that I use the term "followed another set of regulations given by the angel" is indeed too heavy. All we know recorded in the Bible is Samson strength was from his hairs. There was no mention what rule he need to follow. I am willing to edit my answer. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 3:22

Source criticism may shed some light on this question. If the documentary hypothesis is correct, then Numbers was written long after the story of Samson occurred.

This begs the question as to whether Samson could have known the Nazirite rules as expressed in Numbers. Of course the Nazirite tradition probably predated the supposed late date for Numbers, but if so, we don't know much about what it entailed. From this perspective we might want to consider Samson's story as representing a developmental stage in the Nazirite tradition that eventually found expression in Numbers, centuries after the story takes place.

So no, the rules in Numbers don't necessarily apply to Samson, but Samson's story may have contributed to the rules in Numbers.

Let me add that if Samson was a formal Nazirite, he was a very poor one. Not only did he go near dead bodies and allow his hair to be cut, he committed violence, married a foreign woman, failed to honor his father and mother, and committed fornication. Did he redeem himself by causing the deaths of many Philistines in the temple? Or is the story in Judges meant to provide us with an object lesson in how not to be a true judge and Nazirite?


First of all, I apologize for my wobbly English. I hope the sense I want to transmit will arrive to you.

There were two kinds of nazirite status.

1 - One we may call it as standard, where people did can choose – voluntarily - to dedicate a period to live a nazirite life. In this case they had to observe all the regulations of God’s Law (given by Moses).

2 - Another kind of nazirite status we may call it as special, because was God Himself to appoint some people to became nazirites, even before their birth. As regards this kind of nazirite status it is appropriate to consider the clear God’s approval to the Samson war actions against the Philistines. Moreover, Samson did what he did only because God gave him an extraordinary strength and power to perform them. Samson himself admitted that he was able to perform those works only by the Lord’s power He gave him (Judges 15:18)

So, Samson did not violate a Nazirite norm (about touching dead bodies), because was God (on a case by case basis) to establish the rules of the special Nazirite status.

In the case 1 the yet expressed vote – by an Israelite woman – did can be cancel by men that had authority on her: her father (if she lived yet in the same roof with him), or her husband (Num 30:1-8).

Remark: If a father/husband have authority to cancel a nazirite vow (even without specificate a reason before God) even more so the individual who was a God’s appointed Nazirite (before his birth) had the possibility to cancel his committment he did not personally undertook.

Objection: ‘Do not Bible say that God ordered Samson did must be a Nazirite for life (Judges 13:7)’?

Answer: No. What God expressed in that occasion was not a peremptory order, but only what God desired Samson were doing and, simultaneously it was also a prophetic expression about the future of that man.

Why we may conclude so? Two factors help us to understand this, one linked to God’s personality, the other linked with the Hebrew text itself.

(a) God does not oblige anyone to serve Him, or to observe His regulations. That’s not God’s style to force Samson (or everyone else) to become (and to remain) Nazirite.

(b) the pivotal Hebrew verbal form that could lead to the (wrong) conclusion that God ordered a Nazirite life for Samson is יהיה. This term comes from the MT conceptual root (הוה > היה) with the meaning of ‘to became’, ‘to came to be’ (not simply ‘to be’, as many again claim, regrettably). Anyway, we may ask ourselves, Has this verbal form (in so-called Qal imperfect) an implied and unavoidable sense of an order, as when God said (for an example) “‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Gen 1:3; see also 1:6, 14), or in other instances?

To discover the right answer compare, please, this passage (Judges 13:7) with the phraseology of Exo 20:3-4. We read there: “You shall have [יהיה - in so-called Qal imperfect, again] no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (ESV)

Now, although this passage is included in what traditionally is called “the Ten Commandments story” we have there not a God’s peremptory order toward the Israelites. Or, if the order were enacted, God did not intervene all the instances the Israelites contravened this ‘order’ to assure that this command was performed (so His word had fulfilled). The Hebrew history is full of instances where the Israelites contravened this ‘command’. And God did not oblige the Israelites to observe this norm of Him. This is not His style. He gave them (and us) free will to observe his Law, or not. He did not say (in Genesis’ style wording): “‘Let there be an absence of other gods’ worship’ and there was an absence of other gods’ worship”.

So, it was not an order but a God’s desire. He hoped the Israelites obeyed His word and avoid idolatry. This was a basic requirement – on God’s viewpoint - if the Israelite wanted to remain in friendship with Him (Isa 41:8), but it cannot was a command, or an order (in Genesis’ style).

Consequently, and returning to Samson story, the passage of Judges 13:7 says us that God hoped Samson undertook the commitment of a Nazirite life and (with the use of his omniscience, but without put the screws on Samson) He did foreknowledge the decisions Samson had will take in his future, along with his decision to be Nazirite until the end of his life.

As regards a Samson’s bad boy behaviour (as an user claims he had, “I think it’s safe to make the assumption that Samson is a bit of a rebel”), I remember this guy that the final God’s moral judgment about Samson was reported yet in the Scriptures, about two millennia ago. Indeed, we read in Heb (11:32, 39, 40; 12:1) that Samson is considered by God as a person of faith, worhty to be a suitable model to copy (irrespective of his errors, as however we believers have to consider king David [cited in the same verse 32] and his errors, maybe grosser of Samson’s…).

Tony, I hope these notes will be useful to your research.

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