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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Another Supplement

as to the Vow of the Nazarites

(Heading from the French,
“Autre dependence du Voeu des Nazariens.”)

Numbers 6

Numbers 6:1-21

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo,

2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord;

2. Alloquere filios Israel, et dic eis, Vir aut mulier quum separaverit se vovendo votum Nazaraei, ad separandum se Jehovae:

3. He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.

3. A vino et sicera separabit se, acetum vini, et acetum sicerae non bibet, neque ullum liquorem uvarum bibet, nec uvas recentes et siccas comedet.

4. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine-tree, from the kernels even to the husk.

4. Omnibus diebus separationis suds, ex omni quod confieitur ex vite vinifera, ab acinis usque ad corticem, non comedet.

5. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head; until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.

5. Omnibus diebus voti separationis suae novacula non transibit super caput ejus, donec impleti fuerint dies quibus separabit se Jehovah, sanctus erit, crescere sinet cresariem capitis sui.

6. All the days that he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall come at no dead body.

6. Omnibus diebus quibus separabit se Jehovae ad animam mortui non ingredietur.

7. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because the consecration of his God is upon his head.

7. Super patre suo aut super matte sua, super fratre suo aut super sorore sua, non polluet sese illis quum mortui fuerint: quia consecratio Dei sui est super caput ejus.

8. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord.

8. Omnibus diebus separationis suae sanctus erit Jehovae.

9. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.

9. Si autem mortuus fuetit mortuus juxta eum statim mox, et polluerit caput separationis ejus: radet caput suum die purificationis suae, die septimo radet illud.

10. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation;

10. Die autem octavo afferet duos turtures, vel duos pullos columbae ad sacerdotem, ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis.

11. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.

11. Et faciet sacerdos unum pro peccato, et alterum in holocaustum: expiabitque ilium de eo quod peccavit super cadavere, et sanctifiedbit caput ejus die illa.

12. And he shall consecrate unto the Lord the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass-offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.

12. Et separabit Jehovae dies separationis suae, afferetque agnum anniculum pro delicto: et dies priores erunt irriti, quoniam polluta fuit separatio ejus.

13. And this is the law of the Nazarite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation;

13. Haec autem est lex Nazaraei, die quo completi fuerint dies separationis eius, conferet se ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis.

14. And he shall offer his offering unto the Lord, one he-lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt-offering, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin-offering, and one ram without blemish for peace-offerings,

14. Offeretque oblationem suam Jehovae, agnum anniculum perfectum unum in holocaustum, et agnam unam anniculam perfectam in sacrificium pro petcato, et arietem unum perfectum in hostiam prosperitatum.

15. And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat-offering, and their drink-offerings.

15. Canistrum praeterea panum infermentatorum, similam placentarum conspersarum oleo, et lagana infermentata uncta oleo, et minham eorum, et libamina eorum.

16. And the priest shall bring them before the Lord, and shall offer his sin-offering, and his burnt-offering.

16. Et offeret illa sacerdos coram Jehova, facietque sacrificium pro peccato illius, et holocaustum illius.

17. And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace-offerings unto the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat-offering, and his drink-offering.

17. Arietem quoque faciet sacrificium prosperitatum Jehovae, una cum canistro infermentatorum: faciet item sacerdos minham ejus, et libamen ejus.

18. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace-offerings.

18. Tum radet Nazaraeus ad ostium tabernaculi conventionis caput separationis suae, capietque caesariem capitis separationis suae, et ponet super ignem qui est subter sacrificium prosperitatum.

19. 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 upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of the separation is shaven.

19. Capiet prteterea sacerdos ar-mum coctum de ariete illo, et pla-centam infermentatam unam e canistro, et laganum infermentatum unum, et ponet super manus Nazaraei, postquam rasa ruetit separatio ejus.

20. And the priest shall wave them for a wave-offering before the Lord: this is holy for the priest, with the wave-breast and heave-shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.

20. Et elevabit ea sacerdos elevatione coram Jehova: sanetitas est sacerdotii ultra pectusculum elevationis, et ultra armum exaltationis, et postea bibat Nazaraeus vinum.

21. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lord for his separation, besides that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.

21. Haec est lex Nazaraei qui voverit, et oblationis ejus Jehovae pro separatione sua, praeter id quod attinget manus ejus: secundum votum suum quod voverit, sic faciet secundum legem separationis suae.

2 When either man, or woman shall separate themselves. God recently appointed a tribute for every soul, whereby the Israelites were to acknowledge that they were His children. By that profession, then, he bound them all to Himself from the least to the greatest. A closer tie of obligation is now treated of, when any should voluntarily devote himself to God for a season. These were called Nazarites, which is equivalent to separate or select, because there was greater dignity or excellence in them than in the common people. For they were as ornaments to the Church, and God willed that His peculiar glory should shine brightly in them. When, therefore, Amos expostulates with them (Am 2:11) because they had prevented the prophets from exercising their office, and had corrupted the Nazarites with wine, he says, in amplification of their crime, that they bad been honored with a special blessing, when God had created of their sons Nazarites and prophets. And when Jeremiah deplores the desolation of the Church, he insists on this corruption, that their Nazarites no longer appeared as of old, “purer than snow,” etc. (La 4:7.) Nor is it to be doubted, that when Jacob distinguished Joseph his son by the title of a Nazarite  331 among his brethren, (Ge 49:26,) he alluded in the spirit of prophecy to that degree of honor in which afterwards, under the Law, they stood who separated themselves unto God, as the lights of the Church. Therefore, although this consecration pertained not to the whole people, yet it should be deservedly reckoned amongst the exercises of piety, because the Nazarites were like standard-bearers to shew others the way; and though they did not attract all to follow their example, yet the ardor of their zeal was of no little advantage to the weak and inexperienced, exciting them forwards according to their capacity.

Now, because God abominates all fictitious worship, he put a restraint on their licentiousness, by giving them a clear and certain rule. And, from the testimony of Amos which I have just quoted, it is gathered that God alone was the appointer of the Nazarite vow. We must remember, then, that the Nazarites shone among the people of God like precious jewels, and although few imitated them, yet that they were as standard-bearers and leaders to awaken zeal amongst the multitude for the service of God. We must observe, by the way, that Samson was a Nazarite of another kind, because he did not take the vow upon him only for a season, but was sanctified from the womb for his whole life, and separated from the rest of the people; in which respect, too, he was a type of Christ, and represented Him, as it were. And surely whatever is here taught should be referred to the sole Fountain of sanctity, as if the image of Christ had been set before the eyes of the Jews in a mirror. For the nearer any one under the Law approached to God, the more did Christ shine forth in him. We know that the whole priesthood of the Law was nothing but His image. The same may be said of the Nazarites, whose purity and abstinence ornamented them with peculiar dignity.

3. He shall separate himself from wine. The first injunction is, that they should not only abstain from wine, but that they should not even taste grapes or anything connected with wine. The simple observance was, that they should not drink wine or anything inebriating; but, because men are crafty in inventing subterfuges, it was necessary to express specifically the means whereby the Law might be defrauded. Thus, in abstaining from wine, they would not have deprived themselves of luxuries, either by indulging in fresh or dried grapes, or by mixing water with grapes and expressing their juice, or by imitating the sweetness of wine by other delicate preparations. Hence it appears how many secret recesses and lurking-places are possessed by man’s hypocrisy, whilst it shamelessly imagines stupid means of deception for cheating God himself. But, at the same time, we must remark that this subtlety was intolerable to God, who is pleased by nothing so much as sincerity. We shall also see elsewhere that the priests, when they were executing their office by turns in the Temple, were forbidden the use of wine. This similarity proves what I have already said, that the Nazarites were thus separated from the multitude, that they might approach to the honor of the priesthood. But abstinence from wine was enjoined not only that they might avoid drunkenness, but that their whole mode of living might be more temperate and frugal; for the drinking of wine is well known to be among the chief pleasures of the table, and those who are not abstentious will rather content themselves with moderate and common food than bear to be deprived of wine. We may, then, learn from hence, that a sober use of wine is a most important part of temperate living; and in all gluttony and intemperance, this is most to be condemned, when men have too great a love of excess in wine-drinking. It is then astonishing that when the monks under the Papacy boast of their angelical perfection, they should with one accord refuse to abstain from wine. With many  332 it is sinful to touch during their whole life a bit of beef or pork, and they would glory in being martyrs, if they obstinately preferred to die rather than to eat meat in a case of necessity; but their temperance is so inconsistent, that this austerity as to food acquires for them the greater license in drinking, as if they purposely avenged themselves in this way.  333 Wherefore nothing can be more insufferable than their boasting, since this abstinence in eating alone is a mere mockery of God.

5. There shall no razor come upon his head. It cannot be certainly determined why God would have the Nazarites let their hair grow, except that by this present mark of their consecration, they might be more and more reminded of their vow. Some think that it was a mark of honor, as if they wore a crown on their heads. In this the Popish clergy are more than ridiculous, comparing themselves to the Nazarites by their circular tonsure.  334 But this reason satisfies myself, that God would constantly exercise them in the faithful performance of their vow by this visible sign. It is a mark of manhood to cut the hair, and this, as Paul says, a natural feeling dictates. (1Co 11:14.) Therefore, the dedication of the Nazarites was shewn conspicuously by their heads, lest they should fail in their own vows through carelessness or forgetfulness. A question arises respecting the women, for whom this command appears superfluous; but this is easily answered, that they were thus bound to let their hair grow, so as to have it long not only from custom, but in accordance with their vow. Yet there will be nothing absurd in the synecdoche, whereby that is spoken of both the sexes which applies only to the males. Here also the devil formerly played his game, when he persuaded certain monks, as Augustine relates,  335 to make a shew of sanctity by wearing long hair; for, in order that the celibacy which they had vowed might be more conspicuous, they would not allow themselves to be men, having “made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake;” (Mt 19:12;) and, therefore, their long hair was a sign of their virginity. This example teaches us to beware of the wiles of Satan, lest our κακοζηλία make us rather the apes than the imitators of the ancients.

6. He shall come at no dead body. This, too, they had in common with the high-priest, that they were not even to mourn for their relations. Although Moses enjoins two things, that the Nazarites should make themselves unclean neither by entering the house of mourning, nor by mourning themselves, it was indeed a duty of humanity to bury the dead; but if any of the people had touched a dead body, or had come near a death-bed or bier, they were polluted. But God demands more of the Nazarites, lest, they should contract uncleanness; for it was not sufficient for them (as will be seen again presently) to purify themselves according to the accustomed means, but it behoved them to be far removed from all things that would pollute them. But why the touch of a dead body was a pollution, we shall consider more at large in its proper place. Now it must be briefly concluded, that because by death is represented God’s curse, the wages of sin, the Israelites were thus admonished to beware of dead works.  336 As to the mourning, the reason of the prohibition was different, viz., that those who professed the special service of God, should set, an example to others of magnanimity and submission. If it were sinful to weep and lament when our friends are taken from us, Christ would not, have wept. at the tomb of Lazarus; but because perturbation is always associated with grief, and men in their mourning are too apt to give way to ambition and pomp, and voluntarily and purposely provoke themselves to excess, as though nature did not already carry them further than is right, the Nazarites could not give an example of moderation, if they had mixed themselves with mourners. Wherefore, as they were before restrained from daintiness, so now a remedy is applied to the opposite disease, viz., to sorrow. But, although all ought, to seek to indulge it moderately, yet something more is prescribed to the Nazarites, that, as if disentangled and stripped from earthly affections, they should go further than the rest of the people; as we shall see hereafter with respect to the priests.

9. And if any man die very suddenly. Here is prescribed what must be done, if a defilement should have been contracted which no precaution could have prevented. If a Nazarite should have willingly and knowingly entered a house of mourning, or should have come near a dead body, his consecration would have been violated not without, sin; but, in the case of a sudden death, the error was excusable, though God commands that it should be expiated; for whatever time of the vow had passed He counts for nothing, nor will it be taken into account. This was no light punishment, that he, who had been guilty of no fault, should begin to pay his vow altogether afresh. Besides the loss of the time, a sacrifice is also added, whereby he who was polluted should prepare himself for a new consecration. But, because this consecration was voluntary, none could complain of the immoderate rigor to which he had subjected himself of his own accord. Meanwhile, it was shewn how precious to God is the purity of His worship.  337 Two Hebrew words from different roots, though they are of kindred signification, are used, by which mode of speaking Moses wished more fully to express the unexpected nature of the death. For, in my opinion, it is puerile of the Jews to understand the first of a bloody murder, the other of a sudden death.

13. And this is the law of the Nazarites. Moses now shews at last how, after the full period of the vow, the Nazarites must return to their common life. And, first, he commands them to place themselves at the door of the tabernacle; then, to offer there a lamb without spot for a burnt-offering, a ewe-lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for peace-offerings, with cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, wafers, and unleavened bread, and meat-offering, and drink-offerings. As to the peace-offering, because it was presented in thanksgiving, it was by no means inappropriate; nor the burnt-offering either, because they might justly congratulate themselves, and celebrate God’s goodness, when they had discharged their pious duty, since God had vouchsafed them no ordinary honor. But what was meant by the sin-offering may be questioned, since expiation was needless for the pure and holy. Here we clearly perceive, that however cheerfully and earnestly men endeavor to offer themselves altogether to God, yet they never attain to the goal of perfection, nor arrive at what they desire, but are always exposed to God’s judgment, unless He should pardon their sins. Whence it appears how base is the Papists’ folly, when they dream of appeasing God by works of supererogation. For, if ever any supererogation were pleasing to God, the holiness of the Nazarites, being testified to by the Law, was worthy of this honor; yet God, when the work is complete, commands them to confess their guilt, and suffers not this service to intrude into the place of merit, but requires of them a sacrifice, that they may borrow from elsewhere what belongs not to themselves, though they appear to be the most perfect of all men.



The Hebrew word rendered separate in the A. V of Ge 49:26, is נזיר, Nazir. W. Vide C. in loco.


“Aux Chartreux;” with the Carthusian monks. — Fr.


Addition Fr. — Sur le gobelet.


“Sous l’ombre de la couronne, qu’ils appellent, quand ils ne sont pas rasez par les bors;” with reference to the crown, as they call it, when their heads are not shaved round the edges — Fr.


De opere Monachorum, 40. (Edit. Benedict. t. 6:501.) “Jam illud, si dici potest, quam luctuose ridiculum est, quod rursus invenerunt ad defensionem crinium suorum. Virum, inquiunt, prohibuit Apostolus habere comam; qui autem se ipsos castraverunt propter regnum coelorum, jam non sunt viri. O dementiam singularem! etc.”


“Comme l’Apostre les nomme;” as the Apostle calls them. — Fr.


פתע פתאם Each means suddenly. A. V., very suddenly. It is a rule of Hebrew Grammar that the use of two synonymous words is to be considered as a mode of expressing a superlative. — W.

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