A separated people

The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reserve to God. (W. T. Richardson).


The counterpart to cleansing (chapter 5) is consecration (chapter 6). Priestly, Levitical service was the exclusive privilege of those who belonged to the tribe of Levi but the Lord here instituted a provision whereby any man or woman of Israel who wished could take a vow before the Lord to consecrate himself for a stated period of time to serve God (vv. 1-12). Occasionally such a vow would be made by parents on behalf of their children, as in the case of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), but ordinarily it was an act of devotion taken voluntarily by an adult.

A person who thus decided to consecrate himself was called a Nazarite. For the duration of his period of consecration, he had to abstain from fermented beverages and all other products of the vine (vv. 3-5); he could not shave his head (v. 5); and he could not come in contact with a dead body (vv. 6-8). To do so would violate the vow which was symbolized by his long hair (v. 7). If, however, he inadvertently came near a dead body he had to undertake a long ceremony of cleansing  (vv. 9-12; Lev. 5:7-10). Then he could resume his period of consecration.

When one’s time of consecration was over, the Nazarite was to take to the tabernacle a year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering (vv. 13-17). These, accompanied by grain offerings and drink offerings and a basket of unleavened bread, constituted the formal announcement of his termination of his Nazarite vow. The sin offering was to atone for any sins unknowingly committed during the period of consecration (Lev. 5:1-6). The burnt offering was to symbolize complete surrender to the Lord (Lev. 1:10-13). And the peace offering was to show the fact that the Nazarite and the Lord were in perfect harmony (Lev. 3:6-11; 7:11-14). After this, the Nazarite was to cut his hair and cast it on the altar upon which the fellowship offering had been made (vv. 18-27). This offering of hair symbolized to the devotee the blessing of God, from whom all blessings come.


“The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reservation to God.” May that be true of my life!

Numbers 6:1-27 (English Standard Version)

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, 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. "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. "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. All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD. "And if any man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. On the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and the priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned by reason of the dead body. And he shall consecrate his head that same day and separate himself to the LORD for the days of his separation and bring a male lamb a year old for a guilt offering. But the previous period shall be void, because his separation was defiled. "And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and he shall bring his gift to the LORD, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering, and a basket of unleavened bread, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their grain offering and their drink offerings. And the priest shall bring them before the LORD and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering, and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering and its drink offering. And the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire that is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. And the priest shall take the shoulder of the ram, when it is boiled, and one unleavened loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the hair of his consecration, and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine. "This is the law of the Nazirite. But if he vows an offering to the LORD above his Nazirite vow, as he can afford, in exact accordance with the vow that he takes, then he shall do in addition to the law of the Nazirite." The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."

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