Very closely related: How did Numbers 6:9 apply to Samson?

In Judges 13:5, Samson's mother is told:

You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite,dedicated to God from the womb.

Numbers 6:6:

All the days that [the Nazerite] separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body.

However, Samson killed numerous Philistines. For example, in Judges 15:7-8A:

Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.

How was he able to do this without violating the prohibition against going near a dead body?

The linked Q&A suggests that, for example, perhaps Samson didn't actually touch the dead bodies due to him using weapons. However, this text seems to be making an even stronger prohibition than just not touching the body. (I actually found the answer to the linked Q&A rather unsatisfying and was hoping that this issue could be fully addressed in terms of this particular text).

So, even if we assume that Samson never actually touched the bodies of those he killed, how was Samson not in violation of the prohibition not to even go near a dead body?

  • Samson disobeyed many laws - morally, his life was a failure, but God used him anyway.
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 5:07
  • 3
    @Dottard - I think the point is that traditionally Samson is understood to have lost his strength as a consequence of breaking his Nazirite vow when his hair was cut, and Judges 16:22 seems to make a point of hinting that his hair was growing back before it was re-instated. Yet it seems at face value as if he breached this vow in other ways without consequence.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 8:04
  • 1
    Of course Samson was in violation of his Nazirite vow! How could anybody reading his life-story in the Old Testament not come to that conclusion? There are other Bible characters who broke other vows too. We can learn from that to be very careful about what we promise to God. Check out Ecclesiastes 5:2-6.
    – Anne
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 15:19
  • 2
    @Anne If that's the case, why did cutting his hair cause him to lose his strength when being near a dead body didn't? Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 15:31
  • @EJoshuaS Very simply because a particular 'clause' in Samson's vow expressly linked his physical strength with having uncut hair, not with avoiding proximity to bodies he had killed in the Lord's will. Judges 13:5 & 16:17 make both those points.
    – Anne
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 16:22

4 Answers 4


How was Samson not in violation of his Nazirite Vow?

Note the distinction made in the topic "Nazirite" in the Insight on the Scriptures:

There were two classes of Nazirites: those who volunteered and those who were such by divine appointment. The regulations governing volunteer Nazirites are found in the book of Numbers, chapter 6. Either men or women could take a special vow to Jehovah to live as Nazirites for a period of time. However, if a daughter’s father or a wife’s husband heard the vow and did not approve, he could cancel it.​—Nu 30:1-8.

So if an Israelite chose to take on the Nazirite Vow, they were under obligation to follow the three restrictions outlined in Numbers chapter 6.

The second type of Nazirite was a lifetime Nazirite chosen by Jehovah God himself:

In the case of those appointed as Nazirites by Jehovah for life, being singled out by him for special service, they took no vows and were not bound by a limited period of time (the days of which were recalculated from the beginning if the vow was broken before being completed). For these reasons Jehovah’s commandments for them differed somewhat from his requirements for voluntary Nazirites. Samson was such a God-appointed lifetime Nazirite, having been divinely appointed to be such before his conception. Even with his mother it was not a discretionary matter. Because her son would be a Nazirite, she was commanded by the angel to observe special regulations​—not to drink wine or intoxicating liquor or to eat anything unclean during her pregnancy.​—Jg 13:2-14; 16:17. [bold mine]

We see here that Samson was thus listed as a lifetime Nazirite. The entry also describes the difference in Samson's case:

Regarding Samson, the regulation was that “no razor should come upon his head.” (Jg 13:5) However, no prohibition was placed on his touching dead bodies. Hence, Samson’s killing a lion, or his slaying 30 Philistines and then stripping the corpses of their garments, did not profane his Naziriteship. On still another occasion, with God’s approval, he killed a thousand of the enemy “with the jawbone of a male ass​—one heap, two heaps!”​—Jg 14:6, 19; 15:14-16. [bold mine]

We can see that even though Samson was a Nazirite, his appointment was by Jehovah God, and with Jehovah's approval was able to touch a dead body. Had Samson taken the Nazirite Vow voluntarily, he would have been under the restrictions outlined in Numbers chapter 6.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


I never considered that killing someone might violate the clause of touching a dead body -- that's some real hair-splitting which would require debates as to the moment they are dead and whether you were still touching them, say if you killed them with a punch.

In either case, it's a tough call and not obvious either way.

As to whether Samson violated Nazarite vows in general, there are much better candidates, specifically prohibitions on marrying a non-virgin or a prostitute in Lev 21.7.

But I think the larger point is that Samson never took the Nazirite vow. He was just a Nazirite from birth by the Holy Spirit. And YHWH told his mother never to shave his head, so these were the instructions given to his parents and there was no mention of any other requirement. Moreover the scripture is clear that Samson's sexual desires came from the LORD in order to vex the Phillistines (Judges 14.4), because otherwise there would be no reason for Samson to interact with Phillistines at all -- the law was clear that he should not be eating or drinking with them or associating with them, so he had to break that law in order to enter Phillistine circles, and this was done by the power of his desires for Phillistine women. God gave him those desires as a way to throw a bomb into Philistia. A supernatural killing machine in the form of one very angry lover. Jeremiah talks a lot about how Israel is unfaithful to God and Samson marauding through the countryside should serve as a powerful warning.

In this way, Samson is also a type for Christ who sought a bride out of sinful man - one that would constantly betray him - and in his death he defeated the god of this world.


The question "How was Samson not in violation of his Nazirite Vow?" (while judging Israel for 20 years) disregards Samson's confession to Delilah in Judges 16:17 divulging the Naziriteship of his hair.

[Shoftim | Judges 16:17] "And he told her all his heart, and said to her, "A razor has not come upon my head, for ** I am a Nazirite of Elohim from my-mother's-womb **. If I will be shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any man." ( וַיַּגֶּד־לָ֣הּ אֶת־כָּל־לִבּ֗וֹ וַיֹּ֚אמֶר לָהּ֙ מוֹרָה֙ לֹֽא־עָלָ֣ה עַל־רֹאשִׁ֔י כִּֽי־נְזִ֧יר אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֲנִ֖י מִבֶּ֣טֶן אִמִּ֑י אִם־גֻּלַּ֙חְתִּי֙ וְסָ֣ר מִמֶּ֣נִּי כֹחִ֔י וְחָלִ֥יתִי וְהָיִ֖יתִי כְּכָל־הָאָדָֽם )

Did שִׁמְשׁ֑וֹן Shimshon tell דְּלִילָ֜ה Delilah that his strength was from a Nazirite vow [he made] to curl his hair? - No. | In Shoftim (Judges) Chapter 16 verse 17, Shimshon confesses to Delilah that the strength of his hair (Naziriteship) was from his mother's womb. - It was Manoah's Wife who made the Nazirite vow in Shoftim 13:3-7 never to drink wine or cut Shimshon's hair in dedication of her son to Elohim.

  • 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 - Shimshon שִׁמְשׁוֹן "Samson" to hopefully become a Nezir (נְזִיר) of God to save Israel from the hand of the "Philistines" פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים Phelishtim .
[Shoftim | Judges 13:5] "Because you shall conceive, and bear a son; and a razor shall not come upon his head, for a [Nazirite] of Elohim shall the lad be from the womb; and he will begin to save Yisrael from the hand of the Phelishtim" ( כִּי֩ הִנָּ֨ךְ הָרָ֜ה וְיֹלַ֣דְתְּ בֵּ֗ן וּמוֹרָה֙ לֹא־יַעֲלֶ֣ה עַל־רֹאשׁ֔וֹ כִּֽי־נְזִ֧יר אֱלֹהִ֛ים יִהְיֶ֥ה הַנַּ֖עַר מִן־הַבָּ֑טֶן וְה֗וּא יָחֵ֛ל לְהוֹשִׁ֥יעַ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִיַּ֥ד פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים )

Regarding the Nazirite vow in Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:2-9, 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.

Shimshon שִׁמְשׁוֹן never makes the Nazirite (נָּזִ֗יר) vow. - Shimshon prays only twice during his life to YHVH requesting a post-battle beverage in Judges 14:18 & later in Judges 16:28 for vengeance against the Phelishtim פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים "Philistines" after being humbled by the removal of his Einay עֵינַ֖י "Eyes".

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

Vengeance for one of your eyes?? -- What about vengeance for your Nazirite hair that was just cut off to dishonor your mother's vow to YHVH?

We are told in Judges 16:22 that the Naziriteship of his mother's womb could not lose its strength!

[Shoftim | Judges 16:22] "And the hair of his head began to grow after he was shaven." ( וַיָּ֧חֶל שְׂעַר־רֹאשׁ֛וֹ לְצַמֵּ֖חַ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר גֻּלָּֽח )

The strength of his Nazirite mother lived in Samson's hair. The vow of Manoah's Wife made Shimshon's hair curl. | The strength of Shimshon's arms came not from any Naziriteship but when the Ruach YHVH ר֣וּחַ יְהֹוָ֗ה "Spirit of [the Lord]" rested on him, as stated in Judges 14:6.


Looking up the Hebrew word in Bible Hub for Nazarite (Nazirite), I found that it is used elsewhere, such as Gen. 49:26KJV, for Joseph who was "separate from his brethren". I'm not convinced that Samson as a Nazarite, was meant to be under any of the regulations except his hair to be kept long. The story is so very similar to Hannah's vow regarding her son Samuel.

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