Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
NAZARITE, properly, NAZIRITE; Hebrew Nazir Εlohim , "one separated to God," Greek, Naziraios) . (See Nazarene .) Νezer is also "a crown or diadem on the head"; and the hair, the natural crown ( Jeremiah 7:29). Joseph in Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16, is Nezir , one "separated" from his brethren, at the same time "separated" to God and to be lord of Egypt, typifying the two sides of Jesus' realizing the designation given Him, "Nazarene," in accordance with general prophecy ( Matthew 2:23). In Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11, "neither gather the grapes of thy 'Nazarite' (undressed) vine," the figure is taken from the "unshorn" locks of the Nazarite, "separated" (by being unpruned) from common use in the sabbatical and the Jubilee years. In Leviticus 15:31 Nazar expresses separation" from uncleanness. The rule of the Nazarite is given Numbers 6:2; "when either man or woman shall separate themselves to ... vow of a Nazarite" implies, it was no new institution, but one now regulated by divinely given rules.
Voluntary vows accorded with legalism. Noah's excess in wine, Joseph's untrimmed hair separating him from the closely polled Egyptians, the distinction of clean and unclean, and the connection of death with sin known long before, suggested voluntary vows prompted by religious zeal, to which now was afforded legal sanction. Man or woman might ordinarily of their own free will take the vow. In special cases God imposed the vow through the parent. The Pentateuch lays down the rule only for a "Nazarite of days" as the Mishna terms it; "the Nazarite for perpetuity" appears only in the Scripture history. Samson ordained to be a Nazarite from the womb ( Judges 13:5-6; Judges 16:17). Samuel in a great degree (But Not As To Abstinence From Wine) was the same ( 1 Samuel 1:11), by Hannah before his birth "given unto the Lord all the days of his life ... no razor coming upon his head."
Also John the Baptist, "drinking neither wine nor strong drink ... filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb," but not letting the hair grow ( Luke 1:15). The three were called of God to be instruments of a revival in great crises of Israel and the church. The seeming violation of the Nazarite law in Samson's contact with the dead shows that the spirit of the law herein rises above the letter; the object of his mission justified the deviation from rule even without ceremonial purification. In three things the Nazarite separated himself from ordinary men, though otherwise freely mixing with them:
1. Abstinence from wine, strong drink (including date and palm wine), and the grape in whatever form; so the high priest and priests when performing official functions ( Leviticus 10:9).
2. Not cutting the hair during the vow; it symbolized physical strength and youthful manhood, and thus the man's whole powers dedicated to the service of God; answering to the high priest's" 'crown' ( Neetser ) of the anointing oil of his God" ( Leviticus 21:12).
3. Noncontact with a corpse even of a nearest relative; so the high priest ( Leviticus 21:11-12).
Samuel's Nazarite prerogative, with God's extraordinary call, seem to have given him a sacerdotal character. The Nazarites did not form an ascetic fraternity, but followed observances typifying restraint of self will and fleshly appetite and separation unto God; Romans 12:1-2, expresses the corresponding obligation of our Christian life to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God," etc. Accidental defilement entailed loss of the previous time and recommencing the days of his dedication, shaving the head and the ordinary purification enjoined for others Numbers 6:9-12; Numbers 19:11-12), besides a trespass offering peculiar to his case. In concluding his term of days he offered a sin offering, a burnt offering (implying whole self dedication), and a peace offering (thanksgiving) with unleavened bread. That the three offerings might represent the one reality, namely, his realizing in himself penitent faith in God's atoning mercy covering sin, whole self-surrender to God, and thankfulness to Him, the three animals were of one species, a lamb of the first year, an ewe, a ram.
His shorn hair was put on the fire of the altar, in order that, although human blood must not be offered, something of the Nazarite's body, and that representing his manly strength, should be offered. "Separation unto Jehovah ( Numbers 6:2) is the radical idea. Whereas the Nazarite marked this by abstaining from wine, the Christian seals his consecration by obeying Christ's invitation, "drink ye all of this." Lightfoot (Exercit. Luke 1:15) leans to the Jews' identification of the vine with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the N. vow with Adam's state before he fell.(?) Paul's shaving his head at Cenchreae was not a strict Nazarite's vow, otherwise he would have offered his hair with the sacrifices at the temple door; but a modified Nazarite vow, usual then in respect to deliverances from sickness or other calamity ( Acts 18:18). In Acts 21:24-27 a strict Nazarite vow is referred to on the part of four poor men. Paul as a charity defrayed the charges of their offerings to show his respect for the law.
God by Amos ( Amos 2:11-12) complains, "I raised up of your young men for Nazarites." It was part of Israel's high privilege that there were, of the class most addicted to self-indulgence, youths who by solemn vow abstained from wine and all defilements. God left nothing undone to lead Israel to holiness. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow ... whiter than milk ... more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphires" ( Lamentations 4:7). God made their body not less, but more, fair by abstinence. Similarly, Daniel ( Daniel 1:8-15); David ( 1 Samuel 16:12; 1 Samuel 17:42), type of Messiah ( Song of Solomon 5:10). But Israel so despised God's favors to tempt the Nazarite to break the vow; "ye gave the Nazarite wine to drink." Though not cut off from the social world, the Nazarite would feel in spirit reminded by his peculiar dedication, which was a virtual protest against the self indulgence and self seeking of the world, that he was not of the world. Our rule is similar ( John 17:15-16).
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
This term implies 'separation'; it was applied to either man or woman that vowed to separate themselves unto the Lord. Three things especially were enjoined upon the Nazarite.
1. He must not touch strong drink or anything that came of the vine: typical of turning away from sources of earthly energy and joy.
2. No razor must come upon his head: suggestive of the renunciation of self, and the giving up of natural rights and proprieties as man: cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7,14 .
3. He must not touch any dead body: typical of avoiding contact with moral defilement, the sphere of death and alienation from God brought about through sin. The point of the Nazarite was to live to God.
If any one died suddenly near to a Nazarite, he was defiled: he had to shave his head, offer sacrifices, and commence all again. When the period of his separation was fulfilled, he was to offer a burnt offering, a sin offering, a peace offering, a meat offering, and a drink offering, with the addition of the offerings made at the consecration of the priests. He was to shave his head and burn the hair in the fire which was under the peace offering: type of the full communion, which is the result of the sacrifice of Christ. Numbers 6:1-21 .
The Nazarite was specially raised up of God as the vessel of His power on behalf of the people when the pressure under which they were suffering was from enemies within their own border (as the Philistines), and when owing to the moral condition of the people it was not possible for God to interfere in ordinary ways of deliverance. The Nazarite was marked on the one hand by a special energy of the Spirit of God, but on the other by rigid separation from the natural sources of excitement, the proprieties and the moral corruption which were connected with the life of the people. We see this in John the Baptist.
Samson was a Nazarite from his birth. Before he was born it was declared that no razor must come on his head. His mission was to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. Samson betrayed his secret, but sealed his mission by his own death. Judges 13:1-5 .
Christ was morally the true Nazarite; He was the holy one, and instead of having earthly joy He was emphatically 'the man of sorrows' when here, but also He has died to sin and lives to God. He answered to all the sacrifices, but the day is approaching when He will drink wine anew in the kingdom, as He said in Matthew 26:29; and be able to say to others, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Christians also are Nazarites to God, not because of any vow, but as sanctified in Christ Jesus. He said, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:2 .
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Naz'arite. More properly, Naz'irite. (One Separated). One of either , who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind, to be set apart from others for the service of God. The obligation was either for life or for a defined time. There is no notice in the Pentateuch of Nazarites for life; but the regulations for the vow of a Nazarite of days are given. Numbers 6:1-21.
The Nazarite, during the term of his consecration, was bound to abstain from wine grapes, with every production of the vine and from every kind of intoxicating drink. He was forbidden to cut the hair of his head, or to approach any dead body, even that of his nearest relation.
When the period of his vow was fulfilled, he was brought to the door of the Tabernacle, and was required to offer a he-lamb for a Burnt Offering, a ewe-lamb for a Sin Offering, and a ram for a Peace Offering, with the usual accompaniments of Peace Offerings, Leviticus 7:12-13, and of the offering made at the consecration of priests. Exodus 29:2; Numbers 6:15 He brought also a Meat [Meal] Offering and a drink offering, which appear to have been presented by themselves as a distinct act of service. Numbers 6:17. He was to cut off the hair of "the head of his separation," (that is, the hair which had grown during the period of his consecration), at the door of the Tabernacle, and to put it into the fire under the sacrifice on the altar.
Of the Nazarites for life, three are mentioned in the Scriptures - Samson, Samuel and St. John, the Baptist. The only one of these actually called a Nazarite is Samson. We do not know whether the vow for life was ever voluntarily taken by the individual. In all the cases mentioned in the sacred history, it was made by the parents before the birth of the Nazarite himself.
The consecration of the Nazarite bore a striking resemblance to that of the nigh priest. Leviticus 21:10-12. The meaning of the Nazarite vow has been regarded in different lights. It may be regarded as an act of self-sacrifice, That it was essentially a sacrifice of the person to the Lord is obviously in accordance with the terms of the law. Numbers 6:2. As the Nazarite was a witness for the straitness of the law, as distinguished from the freedom of the gospel, his sacrifice of himself was a submission to the letter of the rule. Its outward manifestations were restraints and eccentricities. The man was separated from his brethren, that he might be peculiarly devoted to the Lord. This was consistent with the purpose of divine wisdom, for the time for which it was ordained.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
When the period of the continuance of the vow came to an end, the Nazarite had to present himself at the door of the sanctuary with (1) a he lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, (2) a ewe lamb of the first year for a sin-offering, and (3) a ram for a peace-offering. After these sacrifices were offered by the priest, the Nazarite cut off his hair at the door and threw it into the fire under the peace-offering.
For some reason, probably in the midst of his work at Corinth, Paul took on himself the Nazarite vow. This could only be terminated by his going up to Jerusalem to offer up the hair which till then was to be left uncut. But it seems to have been allowable for persons at a distance to cut the hair, which was to be brought up to Jerusalem, where the ceremony was completed. This Paul did at Cenchrea just before setting out on his voyage into Syria ( Acts 18:18 ).
On another occasion ( Acts 21:23-26 ), at the feast of Pentecost, Paul took on himself again the Nazarite vow. "The ceremonies involved took a longer time than Paul had at his disposal, but the law permitted a man to share the vow if he could find companions who had gone through the prescribed ceremonies, and who permitted him to join their company. This permission was commonly granted if the new comer paid all the fees required from the whole company (fee to the Levite for cutting the hair and fees for sacrifices), and finished the vow along with the others. Four Jewish Christians were performing the vow, and would admit Paul to their company, provided he paid their expenses. Paul consented, paid the charges, and when the last seven days of the vow began he went with them to live in the temple, giving the usual notice to the priests that he had joined in regular fashion, was a sharer with the four men, and that his vow would end with theirs. Nazarites retired to the temple during the last period of seven days, because they could be secure there against any accidental defilement" (Lindsay's Acts).
As to the duration of a Nazarite's vow, every one was left at liberty to fix his own time. There is mention made in Scripture of only three who were Nazarites for life, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist ( Judges 13:4,5; 1 Samuel 1:11; Luke 1:15 ). In its ordinary form, however, the Nazarite's vow lasted only thirty, and at most one hundred, days. (See Rechabites .)
This institution was a symbol of a life devoted to God and separated from all sin, a holy life.
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
Under the ancient Hebrew law, a man or woman engaged by a vow to abstain from wine and all intoxicating liquors, and from the fruit of the vine in any form; to let the hair grow; not to enter any house polluted by having a dead body in it, nor to be present at any funeral. If by accident any one died in their presence, they recommenced the whole of their consecration and Nazariteship. This vow generally lasted eight days, sometimes only a month, and sometimes during their whole lives. When the time of Nazariteship expired, the person brought a umber of sacrifices and offerings to the temple; the priest then cut off his hair and burnt it; after which he was free from his vow, Numbers 6:1-27 Amos 2:11,12 .
Perpetual Nazarites were consecrated as such by their parents from their birth, as was proposed by the mother of Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:11 , and continued all their lives in this state, neither drinking wine, nor cutting their hair. Such were Samson and John the Baptist, Judges 13:4,5 Luke 1:15 7:33 .
As the cost of the offerings required at the expiration of the term of Nazariteship was very considerable for the poor, they were often relieved by persons not Nazarites, who assumed these charges for them for the sake of performing an act of piety and charity. Paul availed himself of this custom to disarm the jealousy of those who represented him as hostile to the faith of their fathers. He took four Christian Jews whose vow of Nazariteship was accomplished, assumed the expense of their offerings, and with them went through the customary services and purification's at the temple, Acts 21:20-26 . There is also in Acts 18:18 an unexplained allusion to some similar vow made by Paul himself, or perhaps by Aquila, probably in view of some danger escaped or some blessing received.
Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types 
Numbers 6:2 (c) This type represents one who willingly takes the path of separation to live only and constantly for the glory of GOD. (See also Judges 13:5).
Webster's Dictionary 
(n.) A Jew bound by a vow to lave the hair uncut, to abstain from wine and strong drink, and to practice extraordinary purity of life and devotion, the obligation being for life, or for a certain time. The word is also used adjectively.
King James Dictionary 
NAZARITE, n. A jew who professed extraordinary purity of life and devotion.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
[or, rather, Nazirite] (Heb. Nazir, נָזַיר , fully נְזַיר אֵֹּלהַים , A Nazarite Of God; Sept. ' properly Ναζιραῖος , as in Judges 13:7; Lamentations 4:7; but often Εὐξάμενος or Ἀγιασμένος ; Vulg. Nazarceus; Talmud, נזירה ), the name given to such Israelites, whether male or female, as consecrated themselves to Jehovah by a peculiar vow — prescribed in Numbers 6. (In the treatment of this subject we present a general view, referring to other heads for details on collateral points. See Vow.
1. The Name And Its Signification . — The term נָזַיי comes with the verb נָזִר , signifying To Bind, and thence To Separate. Hence we have the cognate נֵזֶר (Nezer), denoting a crown or diadem, which binds the head; the hair ( Jeremiah 7:29), which forms a natural crown; and consecration to God as a Nazir, which is a separation from certain things that symbolize all that separates or hinders from union with God. The concrete נָזַיר occurs sixteen times in the Old Testament. It denotes, in general, one who is separated from certain things and unto others, and so distinguished from other persons, and consecrated unto God. In two passages ( Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16) it appears in the phrase נְזַיר אֶחָיו , One Separated From His Brethren, a touching description of Joseph, as he was in the providence of God separated from his brethren by their jealous cruelty for twenty years, and at the same time exalted above them in point of nearness to God and rank among men during the latter period of his life. In two others ( Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11) it denotes that which is separated from common use. It is applied to the vine, while it remained untouched during the sabbatical and the jubilee years. "That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy Nazir" ( Leviticus 25:5), that is, of thy vine in the year of its separation from common use. "A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you; ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather its Nazirs" ( Leviticus 25:11), that is, the vines of the jubilee year. There are here two deviations from custom: the vine is not pruned, and its spontaneous produce is not gathered for consumption. It is remarkable that Joseph, in the context of Genesis 49:26, is figuratively represented as "a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall" ( Genesis 49:22); in other words, a young shoot from a fruitful tree, spreading forth its richly-laden branches in all the unrestrained luxuriance of nature. The verb נָזִר (Nazdr) is found in ten passages, two of which precede the Book of Numbers. In Leviticus 15:13 we read, "Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness;" and in Leviticus 22:2," Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel," namely, when they themselves are in their uncleanness, as is explained in the next verse. In these cases the separation is between the holy and the profane; and this usage naturally leads to the special meaning of the term nazir in the other twelve places in which it occurs.
According to others the word נֶזֶר , A Diadem, contains the original idea of נזר , which will then radically signify To Crown, and the hair is regarded as a crown to the person. The Nazarite in that view is The Crowned One, because, as we are told in Numbers 6:7, he has "the crown of God upon his head" ( נזר אלהיו על ראשו ), evidently referring to his distinguishing badge of the freely growing and profuse mass of hair, which was considered an ornament ( 2 Samuel 14:25-26), and which he wasnot allowed to cut off ( Numbers 6:5), because therein his vow chiefly consisted ( Judges 12:5); and this is confirmed by Numbers 6:9, where it is said, "If he defiled his head diadem ( ראש נזרו ), he is to shave his head." Hence also the signification of 13, Ornamental Hair, Long Hair ( Jeremiah 7:29 with Numbers 6:19); while the vine again, laden with fruit, is called Nazirite, or more probably Nazir, נזיר , i.e., The Crowned ( Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11); because in its uncut state, when its head is covered with grapes and foliage, it is as much adorned with a diadem as the head of the Nazarite with the abundant hair, just as we call the foliage of a tree its crown. Besides, the vine hills rising in the different parts of Palestine, and resembling heads covered with hair, may have suggested this figure to the Oriental mind, since the summits of mountains are called their heads ( ראשׁ ) in Hebrew ( Genesis 8:5; Exodus 17:9-10; Exodus 19:20; Amos 1:2), and the foliage is not unfrequently compared to the hair or wool ( צמרת ) of animals ( Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 31:3; Ezekiel 31:10; Ezekiel 31:14; see Saalschutz, Das Mosaische Recht, page 158).
2. Origin Of The Custom . — The germs of the custom now under consideration reach farther back than the sojourn in the wilderness. The manner in which the topic is introduced in the Book of Numbers (chapter 6) indicates that the nazir was not unfamiliar to the minds of the Israelites. The application of the term to the undressed vine of the sabbatical year in a previous book (Levit.) tends to the same conclusion. A custom of this kind might have readily grown up during the long sojourn in Egypt, and have there served as a protest against the prevalent idolatry. Cyril of Alexandria considered that letting the hair grow, the most characteristic feature in the vow, was taken from the Egyptians. This notion has been substantially adopted by Fagius, Spencer, Michaelis, Hengstenberg, and some other critics. Hengstenberg affirms that the Egyptians and the Hebrews were distinguished among ancient nations by cutting their hair as a matter of social propriety; and thus the marked significance of long hair must have been common to them both. The arguments of Bahr, however, to show that the wearing of long hair in Egypt and all other heathen nations had a meaning opposed to the idea of the Nazaritish vow, seem to be conclusive.
The head of the Nazarite was perhaps considered as adorned with its growth of hair (Lampe, in Miscell. Gron. 4:107 sq.), which, as a kind of crown, showed his consecration, and the touch of a knife or razor was a profanation of that which belonged to God. In other ancient nations it was usual to promise a god, especially in times of danger, the offering of the hair of the head or of the beard; and sometimes the hair was offered without a vow, especially by new-married women. (Compare Spencer, Legg. rit. 3:6, 1; Doughtsei Analect. 1:97.) So among the Egyptians (Diod. Sic. 1:18, 83 sq.), the Syrians (Lucian, Dea Syr. c. 60), the Greeks (Homer, Iliad, 23:41 sq.; Plut. Thes. c. 5; Theodoret, Quaest. in Leviticus 28; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alferthum, 2:558), the Romans (Suet. Ner. 11; Martial, 9:17, 3 sq.), and the Arabians (see Koran, 2:192; lIamas, page 2 sq.). But the most striking resemblance to the Jewish custom is that found by Morier among the modern Persians. "It frequently happens after the birth of a son, that if the parent be in distress or the child be sick, or that there be any other cause of grief, the mother makes a vow that no razor shall come upon the child's head for a certain period of time, and sometimes for all his life. If the child recovers and the cause of grief be removed, and if the vow be but for a time, so that the mother's vow be fulfilled, then she shaves his head at the end of the time prescribed, makes a small entertainment, collects money and other things from her relations and her friends, which are sent as nezers (offerings) to the mosque at Kerbelah, and are there consecrated" (Second Journey, page 109). The abstinence of priests among the ancient Egyptians from certain kinds of food, as a token of peculiar sanctity, is a kindred ordinance (Porphyr. Abstin. 4:7); and some have supposed that the Nazaritish vow had an Egyptian origin, and was simply modified by the Hebrews to accord with their system (Spencer, Legg. Rit. 3:6. 1; Michaelis, Mos. R. 3:27); but the resemblances cited from the Egyptian priesthood are too fragmentary to support the theory. Indeed, the abstinence of the priests was not in the nature of a vow, but was a qualification for their sacred office. And although they were required to practice celibacy, we do not find that wine was forbidden to them. Besides, each feature of the Nazaritish vow is so intimately associated with Hebrew ideas and practices that the search for a foreign origin is wholly unnecessary. The reflections of Ewald (Isr. Gesch. 2:403 sq.) on this subject are too elaborate. Without reason, some, especially Roman Catholic writers, have thought that the first traces of monachism were to be found in this institution. See G. Less, Super lege Mos. de Nasiraeatu, prima eaque antiquissima vitae Monast. improbatione (Gott. 1789). Comp. Michaelis, Orient. Biblioth. 6:235 sq. The only resemblance is in the general purpose, there is none in the nature of the vow. See Dassov, Vota Monast. et Nasiraova inter se collata. (Kil. 1703); comp. Carpzov, Appar. 151 sq., 799 sq.; Reland, Antiq. Sacr. 2:10; Bahr, Symbol. 2:430 sq.; G.F. Meinhard, de Nasiraeis (Jen. 1676); Zorn, in Miscell. Leips. Nov. 4:426 sq. (See Hair).
3. What Constituted A Nazarite . — The special vow whereby one bound himself to be a Nazarite ( נֵדֶר נָזַיר ) involved the following three things: (a.) He is to abstain from wine and strong drink — or as Onkelos, who renders יין ושכר by מחמד חדת ועתיק , and the ancient Jewish canons will have it, from old and new wine-vinegar made of wine or strong drink; liquor of grapes; grapes either moist or dried; and, in fact, from every production of the vine — even from the very stones and skin of the vine. According to the Jewish canons, however, "strong drink made of dates, or such like, is lawful for the Nazarite" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Neziruth, 5:1). (b.) He must refrain from cutting the hair off his head during the whole period of his Nazariteship. (c.) He must avoid every contact with the dead, even if his parents or brothers or sisters were to die during his Nazariteship.
If he was accidentally defiled by death suddenly occurring on his premises, he was obliged to observe the legal purification of seven days (comp. Numbers 19:14); cut off his hair on the seventh day — which in this case was not burned, but buried (Mishna, Temura, 6:4; and Maimonides, ad loc.); bring on the eighth day two turtle-doves or two young pigeons to the priest — one for a sin-offering and the other for a burnt-offering; hallow his head, offer a lamb of the first year as a trespassoffering, renew his vow, and begin again his Nazariteship, as the days which had passed since the commencement of his vow were lost through this interruption ( Numbers 6:1-12). His desecration by a dead body is alone mentioned, because it might happen without his will; whereas the other two conditions of his vow were in his own power, and, it was presumed, would not be violated. According to the later penalties of the Talmud, men and women who, after taking the Nazaritish vow, cut their hair or plucked it off with their hands, or defiled themselves by wilfully coming in contact with dead bodies, or partook of wine, received forty stripes (Nazir, 4:3; Maimonides, Hilchoth Nezir, 5:2, 6, 8, 11). So rigid were the regulations that the Nazarite was not allowed to comb his hair lest some of it might be torn out, but he was permitted to smooth it with his hands (Nazir, 6:3).
As the Mosaic law says nothing about the formality of the Nazaritish vow, and as all other declarations were binding wherever and whenever made ( Deuteronomy 23:24), we may accept the ancient Jewish canons that the vow was made in private, and that it was binding even if a man or woman simply said, "Behold, I am a Nazarite!" ( חריני נזיר ), or repeated, "I also become one," when hearing any one else make this declaration (Mishna, Nazir, 1:3; 3:1; 4:1). A father could make a vow for his son before he was thirteen years of age, but not a mother for hers ( Numbers 30:8; Sota, 3:8; Nazir, 3:6). A man had the power to annul his wife's vow (Nazir, 4:1; Maimonides, Illchoth Neziruth, 2:17), but not his slave's, and in case he did prohibit him to perform it, he was bound to fulfil it as soon as he was set at liberty (Nazir, 9:1).
The vow seems to have been resorted to, like prayer, by pious people, under extraordinary exigencies, such as in cases of sickness (Josephus, War, 2:15), or when starting on a long journey (Mishna, Nazir, 1:6), or when wishing for children (ib. 2:7; 9, 10).
4. Accomplishment Of The Nazarite'S Vow, And The Offerings Connected Therewith . — When the time of his Nazariteship was accomplished, the Nazarite had to present himself before the door of the sanctuary with three sacrifices, corresponding to the three prohibitions of Nazaritism —
(a) A he-lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering;
(b) a ewe-lamb also of the first year for a sinoffering; and
(c) a ram for a peace-offering.
With the latter "he had to bring six tenth-deals and two thirds of a tenth- deal of flour, from which were baked twenty cakes, viz. ten unleavened cakes and ten unleavened wafers. These twenty cakes were anointed with a fourth part of a log of oil, as fixed by a law of Moses from Sinai, and were all brought in one vessel" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Veziruth, 8:1). Besides these extraordinary cakes and wafers, he had to bring the ordinary meat- offering and drink-offering appointed for all sacrifices (comp. Numbers 28). These three sacrifices were designed both as an atonement for the sins which the Nazarite unconsciously committed during his Nazariteship, and as an expression of thanksgiving to Him by whose grace he had happily fulfilled the time of his vow. After the priest had offered these sacrifices — sin-offering first, burnt-offering second, and peace-offering third (Maimonides, Hilchoth Neziruth, 8:3) — the Nazarite cut off his Nazir head ( ראשׁ נזרו ) — i.e., the hair which was his Nazaritish pledge-at the door, threw it into the fire under the peace-offering, or, as the ancient Jewish canons have it, under the caldron in which the peace-offering was boiled (Mishna, Nazir, 6:8). Thereupon "the priest took the boiled shoulder of the ram, one of the ten unleavened cakes from the basket, and one of the unleavened wafers, laid them on the Nazarite's hand, put his hands under those of the owner, and waved it all before the Lord" (Mishna, Nazir, 6:9). "The fat was then salted and burned upon the altar, while the breast and the fore-leg were eaten by the priests after the fat was burned; the cake, too, which was waved, and the boiled shoulder, were eaten by the priests, but the remaining bread and the meat were eaten by the owners" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Maase ha-Corbanoth, 9:9-11).
Besides these sacrifices which were ordained, the Nazarite also brought a free-will offering proportioned to his circumstances ( Numbers 6:13-21). In the time of the Temple there was a Nazarite chamber in the woman's court in the south-east corner, where the Nazarites boiled their peace-offerings, cut off the hair of their heads, and cast it into the fire under the caldron. They were, however, also allowed to cut off their hair in the country. "But whether the Nazarite cut it in the country or in the sanctuary, he was obliged to have the hair cast under the caldron, and was not allowed to do it before the appointed time for opening the door of the court, as it is written, 'the door of the tent' ( Numbers 6:8); which does not mean that he is to cut off his hair Before or At the door, for that would be treating the sanctuary with contempt" (Mishna, Middoth, 2:5; Nazir, 6:8; Maimonides, Hilchoth, Neziruth, 8:3). The assertion, therefore, of Dr. Howson (Life And Epistles Of St. Paul, 1:499), and others, that the vow recorded in Acts 18:18 cannot be regarded as a regular Nazaritish vow, because it is said that Paul "shaved his head in Cenchrese," and because it "was not cut off at the door of the temple where the sacrifices were offered, as was required by the law of the Nazarite," is at variance with the practice of the Jews in the days of our Savior. One could also take upon himself one of the obligations of a Nazarite, and then send his sacrifices through a Nazarite, as may be seen from the following remark: "He who said, 'Lo, I take upon myself the shaving of a Nazarite,' is bound to bring the offerings of shavings for cleanness, and may offer them through any Nazarite he pleases. Or if he says, 'I take upon myself half the offerings of a Nazarite,' or 'I take upon myself half the shaving of a Nazarite,' he has only to bring half the sacrifices, and can send them through any Nazarite he likes, and that Nazarite pays those offerings from his own" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Neziruth, 8:18). This circumstance, which evidently arose from the fact that the offerings required from a full Nazarite were beyond the means of the pious poor, and which made it also an act of piety for a rich man to pay the necessary expenses, and thus enable his poorer brethren to complete their vow (Josephus, Ant. 19:6, 1), explains Acts 21:23-24; Acts 21:26, where we find that St. Paul could only take upon himself a part of the vow, then proceed with the poor Nazarites to the temple, and offer through them, and thus make them partake of his charges about the sacrifices. The Gemara (quoted by Reland, Ant. Sac.) states that Alexander Jannosus contributed towards supplying nine hundred victims for three hundred Nazarites. (See Paul).
5. Duration Of The Nazaritish Vow . — As the Bible says nothing about the duration of the Nazaritish vow, but leaves every one who takes it to fix his own time, the administrators of the Mosaic law were obliged to specify a certain number of days as the lowest period for Nazariteship, since it not unfrequently happened that some took the vow without mentioning any definite time whatever, while others, if they could take it for a few days, would vow too often, and thereby diminish its solemn character. Hence the Jewish canons determined that 'if any one says, I will be a Nazarite, without mentioning expressly how long, he cannot be a Nazarite less than thirty days; and even if he says, I take upon myself to be a Nazarite with an exceedingly great Nazariteship, it is not to be more than thirty days, because he expressed no time. If he mentions less than thirty days, e.g. if he says I am a Nazarite for one day or ten days or twenty days, he is nevertheless a Nazarite for thirty days, for there is no Nazariteship for less than thirty days. This is a law transmitted by tradition. But if he mentions a time more than thirty days, e.g. if he says thirty-one days, or forty, or a hundred days, or a hundred years, he must be a Nazarite during the said period, neither less nor more" (Maimonides, Hilchoth Neziruth, 3:1-3; Mishna, Nazir, 1:3; 3:1; 6:3; Joseph. War, 2:15, 1). The ancient expositors connect the fixing of the indefinite vow at thirty days, with the words, "he Shall Be Holy" (קדש יהיה , Numbers 6:5), by the exegetical rule called Gematria ( בגמטריא שלשים נזירות שלשים יום שנאמר קדש יהיה יהיה סתם ), where יהיה (10+5+10+5=30) Amounts To Thirty (comp. Siphri, ad loc.). It will be seen from this that there were some who took the Nazaritish vow for life. These are called נזירי עולם (Nazaraei nativi), perpetual Nazarites, in contradistinction from those who took the vow for a limited period (Nazaraei votivi), and are therefore called נזירי ימים , Nazarites For A Certaxin Number Of Days, or קצוב נזירי זמן , Nazarites for a short time. The Bible mentions three Nazarites For Life: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Fathers, and mothers with the consent of their husbands, could devote their prospective children to perpetual Nazaritism ( 1 Samuel 1:11; Mishna, Nazir, 9:5), in which case the mother abstained during her pregnancy from wine and strong drink and unclean things ( Judges 13:4; Luke 1:15). These life-long Nazarites were afterwards divided into two classes, viz. עוים נזירי : ordinary perpetual Nazarites, and נזירי שׁמשׁון , Samson-Nazarites, and the distinction between the two was that the former were allowed to diminish their hair when it became too heavy, if they were willing to bring the three appointed sacrifices, and were obliged to bring a sacrifice in case they became defiled; while the latter were not allowed to diminish their hair, however heavy, but were not required to bring a sacrifice in case they became defiled (Mishna, Nazir, 1:2), because Samson brought no sacrifice after he was defiled by contact with the jaw-bone of a dead ass ( Judges 15:16). Of course, any one who wished to become a Samson-Nazarite had distinctly to say so ( הריני כשׁמשׁון ) when he took the vow. One instance is related of Helena, queen of Adiabene (of whom some particulars are given by Josephus, Ant. 20:2), who, with the zeal of a new convert, took a vow for seven years in order to obtain the divine favor on a military expedition which her son was about to undertake. When her period of consecration had expired she visited Jerusalem, and was there informed by the doctors of the school of Hillel that a vow taken in another country must.,be repeated whenever the Nazarite might visit the Holy Land. She accordingly continued a Nazarite for a second seven years, and happening to touch a dead body just as the time was about to expire, she was obliged to renew her vow, according to the law in Numbers 6:9, etc. She thus continued a Nazarite for twenty-one years (Nazir, 3:6).
5. The Meaning of this interesting ordinance has been largely discussed by Philo JudaeusMaimonides, Abarbanel, and other Jewish writers. The following theories have been maintained by them and by modern writers:
(1.) Some consider it as a symbolical expression of the divine nature working in man, and deny that it involved anything of a strictly ascetic character. Several of the Jewish writers have taken this view more or less completely. Abarbanel imagined that the hair represents the intellectual power, the power belonging to the head, which the wise man was not to suffer to be diminished or to be interfered with by drinking wine or by any other indulgence; and that the Nazarite was not to approach the dead because he was appointed to bear witness to the eternity of the divine nature. Of modern critics, Bahr appears to have most completely trodden in the same track. While he denies that the life of the Nazarite was, in the proper sense, ascetic, he contends that his abstinence from wile, and his not being allowed to approach the dead, figured the separation from other men which characterizes the consecrated servant of the Lord; and that his long hair signified his holiness. The hair, according to his theory, as being the bloom of manhood, is the symbol of growth in the vegetable as well as the animal kingdom, and therefore of the operation of the divine power.
(2.) Others see in Nazaritism the principle of stoicism, and imagine that it was intended to cultivate and bear witness to the sovereignty of the will over the lower tendencies of human nature. The philosophical Jewish doctors, for the most part, seem to have preferred this view. Thus Bechai speaks of the Nazarite as a conqueror who subdued his temptations, and who wore his long hair as a crown, "quod ipse rex sit cupiditatibus imperans preeter morem reliquorum hominum, qui cupiditatum sunt servi." He supposed that the hair was worn rough, as a protest against foppery. But others, still taking it as a regal emblem, have imagined that it was kept elaborately dressed, and fancy that they see a proof of the existence of 'the custom in the seven locks of Samson ( Judges 16:13-19).
(3.) Many regard it wholly in the light of a sacrifice of the person to God. Philo has taken this view of the subject. In his work, On Animals Fit For Sacrifice, he gives an account of the Nazaritish vow, and calls it Εὐχὴ Μεγάλη . According to him the Nazarite did not sacrifice merely his possessions, but his person, and the act of sacrifice was to be performed in the completest manner. The outward observances enjoined upon him were to be the genuine expressions of his spiritual devotion. To represent spotless purity within, he was to shun defilement from the dead, at the expense even of the obligation of the closest family ties. As no spiritual state or act can be signified by any single symbol, he was to identify himself with each one of the three victims which he had to offer as often as he broke his vow bytccidental pollution, or when the period of his vow carn to an end. He was to realize in himself the ideas of the whole burnt-offering, the sin-offering, and the peace-offering. That no mistake might be made in regard to the three sacrifices being shadows of one and the same substance, it was ordained that the victims should be individuals of one and the same species of animal. The shorn hair was put on the fire of the altar in order that, although the divine law did not permit the offering of human blood, something might be offered up that was actually a portion of his own person. Ewald, following in the same line of thought, has treated .the vow of the Nazarite as an act of self-sacrifice; but he looks on the preservation of the hair as signifying that the Nazarite is so set apart for God that no change or diminution should be made in any part of his person, and as serving to himself and the world for a visible token of his peculiar consecration to Jehovah.
(4.) In all such disquisitions there is a basis of truth, combined with an element of error derived from the speculations of the age or of the individual. From a review of all the particulars of this institute, it is to be inferred that it was A Typical Representation Of A Holy Life, forming, in the case of individuals, prominent examples of that fidelity to covenant engagements, for the interests of righteousness, which should have been found in the whole community of Israel. It exhibits to the view a practical symbol of that separation from sin which is coincident with dedication to God. It is a part of that system of teaching by figures which was adapted to a comparatively unsophisticated age. It was not in itself a principle or law for the regulation of conduct, as stoicism or asceticism, but a divinely appointed emblem of a duly regulated life. The symbolical character of the nazirate is manifest from its constitution. It was not incumbent upon any individual or order of men, and therefore possessed no inherent moral obligation. In its ordinary form it lasted only thirty, or, at most, one hundred days. It prohibited not merely intoxicating drink, but every product of the vine, whereas for purely moral purposes the Scripture simply enjoins temperance in all things. It imposed two other restrictions which are not in themselves moral, but only typical or ceremonial, namely, leaving the hair unpolled, and taking no part in the last offices that involved contact with the dead.
A symbol thus regulated by a divine ordinance must have had a profound significance. Accordingly it sets forth, in a striking and beautiful manner, the leading features of a life devoted to God. It originates in a solemn resolve of the free-will, and is in this respect an interesting emblem of a godly life, which is the spontaneous outgoing of a heart renewed by the Spirit of God. It prescribes abstinence from every product of the vine. The intoxicating quality of the juice of the grape, by which reason is clouded and unbalanced, is laid hold of as the fit representative of sin, which darkens the intellect and corrupts the will. And every part of the vine is prohibited, not because it was the forbidden fruit, as some Jewish doctors affirm (Lightfoot on Luke 1:15; Magee, On The Atonement, Ilust. 38), but because this symbolic act conveys the obvious lesson to refrain from sin in every shape and of every degree, since the slightest deviation from rectitude indicates a depraved nature as truly as the most enormous transgression. The growth of the beard is an index of manhood; and the unshorn locks present a striking display of the unrestrained luxuriance of corporeal growth and beauty. They are therefore embiematic of power, liberty, youth, and beauty, and of the unreserved exertion of all our faculties in the service of our Maker and Saviour. The determinate choice of that which is right and good is the principle of a holy life, and the coming forth of that choice into full effect is the beauty of holiness. The flowing locks are equally expressive of childlike simplicity and feminine grace, and therefore of that confiding dependence and yielding devotedness which are characteristic of the new-born child of God. This thought is well brought out by Fairbairn (Typol. 2:419), in harmony with Ainsworth and Baumgarten. But the softness of a faithful heart must be combined with the energy of a valiant spirit, to constitute the perfection of the godly or Christian character. Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were no less distinguished for manly fortitude than for humble deference to the will of God. Defilement by a dead body is the third thing to be avoided. The dead body is the victim of death; the penalty of sin. It has, therefore, been the seat of that moral corruption, contact with which con veys ceremonial defilement.
6. Relation Of Nazaritism To The Levitical Economy. As the priestly office presupposed that purity of life of which the Nazarite was an emblem, it is natural that they should present some points of correspondence. Thus the priests were to abstain from wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle of the congregation to perform their official functions ( Leviticus 10:9). But this was obviously a salutary precaution against their being disqualified in mind or body for the proper discharge of their duties. Hence they were not prohibited from other products of the vine; and when not officiating they were under no restriction but the ordinary one of temperance. The high-priest, also, upon whom was "the crown ( נֵזֶר ) of the anointing oil of his God," was not to touch any dead body, or defile himself for his father or his mother ( Leviticus 21:11-12). But the ordinary priests were not placed under the same restraint, plainly because a substitute could in this case be found for one who was under a temporary defilement. Maimonides (More Nebochim, 3:48) speaks of the dignity of the Nazarite, in regard to his sanctity, as being equal to that of the high- priest. The, abstinence from wine enjoined upon the high-priest on behalf of all the priests when they were about to enter upon their ministrations, is an obvious but perhaps not such an important point in the comparison. There is a passage in the account given by Hegesippus of St. James the Just (Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiastes 2:23), which, if we may assume it to represent a genuine tradition, is worth a notice, and seems to show that Nazarites were permitted even to enter into the Holy of Holies. He says that St. James was consecrated from his birth neither to eat meat, to drink wine, to cut his hair, nor to indulge in the use of the bath, and that to him alone it was permitted ( Τούτῳ Μόνῳ Ἐξῆν ) to enter the sanctuary. Perhaps it would not be unreasonable to suppose that the half acerdotal character of Samuel might have been connected with his prerogative as a Nazarite. Many of the fathers designate him as a priest, although St. Jerome, on the obvious ground of his descent, denis that he had any sacerdotal rank (see Ortlob, Thes. Nov. Theol.-Philol. 1:587).
The Nazir did not sequester himself from the engagements or enjoyments of domestic or social life. His vow usually lasted, not for life, but for a number of days determined by himself. He did not therefore form a fraternity, but continued as an individual to participate in the ordinary affairs of every-day life. This vow merely afforded to persons of a certain temperament, in a peculiar state of religious feeling, or in entering on a particular enterprise, a course of typical observance, in which the higher tone of a devout imagination might find a definite and legitimate scope. Such a mode of action, when undertaken with a proper sense of its symbolic import, in accordance with the sanction of the Deity, was well calculated to cultivate pure desires and promote holy tempers in the devotee himself, and at the same time to convey useful and impressive lessons to those who were intelligent and respectful witnesses of his conduct during the time of his separation.
7. Later Notices . — The Nazaritish vow was practiced with more or less frequency during all periods of the Old-Testament history. Ewald supposes that Nazarites for life were numerous in very early times, and that .they multiplied in periods of great political and religious excitement, We have already found traces of its observance in Judges and 1 Samuel. Amos introduces the Lord expostulating with the people, because, when he had raised up young men for Nazarites, they had given them wine to drink ( Amos 2:11-12). Jeremiah laments the miserable change that had come over the Nazarites (princes, Gesen., Blayney) in consequence of the desolations of the holy city and land ( Lamentations 4:7-8). This lamentable state of things was the natural result of the national defection. The Nazaritish vow then sprang from an earnest heart as a solemnn protest against the formality of the times. It was a cry from some one who had not bowed the knee to the Baal of the age — a welcome ray of hope amid the darkness that overshadowed the Church. It was therefore to be expected in the days of apostasy and peril. Individual piety and personal circumstances might bring it forth in all conditions of the Church militant.
In the time of Judas Maccabaeus we find the devout Jews, when they were bringing their gifts to the priests, stirring up the Nazarites of days who had completed the time of their consecration to make the accustomed offerings ( 1 Maccabees 3:49). From this incident, in connection with what has been related of the liberality of Alexander Jannaens and Herod Agrippa, we may infer that the number of Nazarites must have been very considerable during the two centuries and a half which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. The instance of St. John the Baptist and that of St. James the Just (if we accept the traditional account) show that the Nazarite for life retained his original character till later times; and the act of St. Paul in joining himself with the four Nazarites at Jerusalem seems to prove that tvow of the Nazarite' of days was as little altered in its important features. The case of Helena, queen of Adiabene, has already been cited. Gratz (Gesch. der Juden, 3:80) compares Nazarites and Essenes (q.v.).
8. Literature . — In addition to the works repeatedly cited above, especially the Talmudic treatise Nazir, and the commentary called Siphr,, we may mention Michaelis, Laws of Moses, 2:284 sq.; Bahr, Symbolik des Mos. Cultus, 1:364; 2:416, 430; Ewald, Alterthum. page 96 sq.; Critici Sacri ad loc. Num.; Hengstenberg, Egypt and Moses, page 190; Keil, Bibl. Archdologie, 1:322; and on Paul's vows the monograph of Reineccius, De Paulo Nasirono (Weissenf. 1720). Others are cited by Volbeding, Index, pages 45, 168; and by Danz, WIrterb. page 689.
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Naz´arite. This word is derived from a Hebrew word, which signifies to 'separate one's self;' and as such separation from ordinary life to religious purposes must be by abstinence of some kind, so it denotes 'to refrain from anything.' Hence the import of the term Nazarite—one, that is, who, by certain acts of self-denial,' consecrated himself in a peculiar manner to the service, worship, and honor of God.
We are here, it is clear, in the midst of a sphere of ideas totally dissimilar to the genius of the Christian system; a sphere of ideas in which the outward predominates, in which self-mortification is held pleasing to God, and in which man's highest service is not enjoyment with gratitude, but privation with pain.
It may be questioned, if at least so much of this set of notions as supposes the Deity to be gratified and conciliated by the privations of his creatures, is in harmony with the ideas of God which the books of Moses exhibit, or had their origin in the law he promulgated. The manner in which he speaks on the subject would seem to imply that he was not introducing a new law, but regulating an old custom; for his words take for granted, that the subject was generally and well known, and that all that was needed was such directions as should bring existing observances into accordance with the Mosaic ritual.
The law of the Nazarite, which may be found in Numbers 6, is, in effect, as follows—male and female might assume the vow; on doing so a person was understood to separate himself unto the Lord; this separation consisted in abstinence from wine and all intoxicating liquors, and from everything made therefrom: 'From vinegar of wine, and vinegar of strong drink; neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes or dried;' he was to 'eat nothing of the vine-tree, from the kernels even to the husks.' Nor was a razor to come upon his head all the time of his vow; he was to 'be holy, and let the locks of the hair of his head grow.' With special care was he to avoid touching any dead body whatever. Being holy unto the Lord, he was not to make himself unclean by touching the corpse even of a relative. Should he happen to do so, he was then to shave his head and offer a sin-offering and a burnt-offering; thus making an atonement for himself, 'for that he sinned by the dead.' A lamb also, of the first year, was to be offered as a trespass-offering. On the termination of the period of the vow the Nazarite himself was brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, there to offer a burnt-offering, a sin-offering, a peace-offering and a meat and a drink-offering. The Nazarite also shaved his head at the door of the tabernacle, and put the hair grown during the time of separation into the fire which was under the sacrifice of the peace-offerings. 'And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them in the hands of the Nazarite after the hair of his separation is shaven; and the priest shall wave them for a wave-offering.' 'After that the Nazarite may drink wine.'
There do not want individual instances which serve to illustrate this vow, and to show that the law in the case went into operation. Hannah, Samson's mother, became a Nazarite that she might have a son. Samson himself was a Nazarite from the time of his birth (Judges 13).
From the language employed by Samson, as well as from the tenor of the law in this case, the retention of the hair seems to have been one essential feature in the vow. It is, therefore, somewhat singular that any case should have been considered as the Nazaritic vow in which the shaving of the head is put forth as the chief particular. St. Paul is supposed to have been under this vow, when he is said to have 'shorn his head in Cenchrea, for he had a vow' (see also ). The head was not shaven till the vow was performed, when a person had not a vow.
- ↑ Nazarite from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types
- ↑ Nazarite from Webster's Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from King James Dictionary
- ↑ Nazarite from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- ↑ Nazarite from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature