About 10 years ago it became popular among some evangelicals to participate in a Nazarite Vow. These men and women would shave their heads, then not cut their hair for lengthy periods of times. Thus dreadlocks and long hair became the mark of the community. These were people who loved Jesus and were serious about dedicating their lives to the Lord. But it did offer up for me some questions.
The Nazarite Vow
First of all lets look at what the Scriptures describe as a Nazarite Vow. There are a number of defining Features
- It was a voluntary choice. Although if a woman participated in the vow and the husband or a father did not endorse it, the vow could be rescinded (Num 30)
- It was something either a man or a woman could participate in.
- It involved a) No drinking beer or wine or eating anything related to grapes, including raisins, b) one could not cut their hair or defile it and c) they were not to be defiled by dead bodies, even their own family members
- If the person was defiled by a dead body, they had to start over, offering sacrifices and reconsecrating their head.
- The vow was typically for a set time, although it could also be for life.
- At the end of the vow the participant shaved their heads and brought offerings to the Lord
- During the time of the consecration one is “holy to the Lord” (6:8)
The Nazarite Vow was the consecrating of oneself for a specific time frame to the Lord. We are not told why as it appears to be something between the worshipper and God. In fact that word “Nazarite” means “consecrated” or “separated.”
Nazarite Prophets in the Bible
We see several indications of several Nazarites in Scripture. The most pointed one is Sampson which the Scripture says, “the boy will be a Nazarite to God from birth” (Judges 13:5).
The second one is considered to be Samuel. His mother is praying for a son as she is barren, and she says that if the Lord gives her a son, she “will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut” (1 Sam 1:11). The Lord gave her a son and she fulfilled her vow. Samuel went on to become a prophet.
John the Baptist is seen as the other Nazarite (possibly) in Scripture. When the angel came to his father, Zechariah, to announce that they would conceive and have a son, the angel said, “he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). This seems to allude to the possibility that they were Nazarites.
I think it’s interesting to note that in each of these circumstances–Samuel, Sampson and even John the Baptist, who had lifetime Nazarite vows put on them prior to birth, is that they were all born to barren mothers. Each of this figures was special from the Lord and their births were announced by angels. These were men who were set apart by God for His purposes to be leaders in their time.
Nazarites in the New Testament
It is thought that Paul may have taken a Nazarite vow. We see him shaving his head after a period of time and it was related to a “vow” he had taken:
Acts 18:18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.
Then there are the four men who shaved their heads also:
Acts 21:23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved.
We don’t know for sure that this was a Nazarite vow but it seems to from the practice of shaving their heads at the end of the vow or if they defiled themselves through a dead body. Also there were purification expenses. Money was paid equivalent of the value of what the animal sacrifices would have been.
Nazarite Vows Today
So should Nazarite vows be practiced today? Especially since it seems Paul and four others practiced the vow?
I think the setting aside of oneself in consecration to the Lord is good and holy. Especially if there was any vow taken (be careful of vows – Ecc 5:2). We are so busy and distracted with tech that a devotional time of prayer and reading the Word often is intermixed with checking Facebook or other websites.
But should there be seasons of no cutting of hair and then shaving heads at the end? Even for women? I don’t know. I really don’t. I think of the Scripture in the NT that it says “it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved” (1 Cor 11:6). It makes me think that even in the OT times a woman’s hair might not have been completely shaved off but thoroughly cut. But we really don’t know.
It isn’t really clear as we don’t see it practiced much in the NT, but we do see it practiced. The reality is that Jesus consecrates us all to himself and that matters too.
I think grace should prevail in these circumstances. When someone today takes a Nazarite Vow to consecrate their lives to the Lord (eg. Todd White), we have to recognize their zeal, passion and dedication to the Lord. Would we be willing to do the same?