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A Nazirite (or Nazarite) was an Israelite who was specially dedicated to God through abstention from alcohol and grapes; shaving their head and contact with corpses[1]. This was a voluntary vow of dedication that a man or woman could swear that would be in effect for a certain time frame. The regulations for Nazirites are recorded in the Law of Nazirite contained in the Book of Numbers[2]. The vow was commonly used by barren mothers who would dedicate their offspring if God provided a child. The most famous and only explicit example of a Nazirite is Samson, whose parents dedicated him since he was born to a barren womb[3]. While Samson is the only person actually confirmed to be a Nazarite, Samuel[4] and John the Baptist[5] may have been Nazirites as well. Israel had other Nazirites[6] throughout its history.


The word Nazirite (Heb. נָזִ֔יר "naw-zeer") is from the verb nazar (נָזַר "naw-zar'). The verb means "to separate", so one who separates is a "separatist". In the case of this order of servants of God, this was a separation from grape products and the ceremonial defilement attached to death.



God created the vow of dedication- that is Nazirites- in order to allow people to consecrate themselves to God in a special way. God revealed his law concerning Nazirites through divine revelation to Moses[7] and Moses recorded this in Numbers. God created the specific law so that there would be rules for anyone who wished to specially dedicate themselves to God (creating a system of uniformity and clarity to what constitutes a vow). This vow was not the exclusive way to bind oneself to God in reverence, but it was a specific and predefined method.


Before his birth, Samson's parents were told that their son would be a Nazirite. Samson's mother had been infertile, until the Angel of the Lord appeared to her and informed her she would have a son. This son would be dedicated as Nazarite from birth, so he should never be shaved.[8] At first, Samson's father did not what to do with the soon-coming son. After speaking with the Angel who spoke to his wife, it was reiterated that the mother abstain from wine so the child could keep the rules of Nazirites.

While traveling to Timnah to negotiate for a bride, a lion attacked Samson. With special God-given strength he tore the lion with his bare hands and it later died. When he returned several days later, Samson turned off the road to see the lion's rotted corpse. He found bees swarming the corpse and he touched the corpse to extract honey from the corpse.[9] By doing this he had broken one of the Nazirite restrictions.

During the wedding feast, Samson participated in drinking wine[10]; violating another Nazirite commandment. Yet again, Samson violated a regulation- the only regulation he had not yet broken. After losing his wife and falling in love with Delilah, the Philistines tried to exploit their relationship to discover the source of Samson's strength. After she manipulated him, he told her that his supernatural strength would leave him if his head was shaved, because he knew that as a Nazirite his head could never be shaved. While he slept on her lap, the Philistines cut off Samson's hair. He no longer had his strength for he had completely broken the Nazirite vow.[11].

The Age of Nazirites[]

God raised up other Nazirites throughout history as well[6]. They were neglected by the people, much like the prophets, when people prevented them from keeping their vows by forcing them to drink wine (and not do what God had set them apart for)[12]. Overall, this demonstrated a lack of regard for godliness by the people of Israel. The irreverent attitude towards Nazirites was brought to mind by the prophet Amos in his proclamations to the northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos charging Israel with making Nazirites drinking wine could be hyperbole, meant to show their total disregard for people taking vows; though it very well could be Israel's literal behavior towards Nazirities.



Abstention from Alcohol[]

Those who are consecrated as Nazarites must not drink wine, vinegar made from wine, or any fermented drink[13]. They must also not consume anything that originates from a grapevine[14].

Heads cannot be shaved[]

Nazarites also were not allowed to use any razor or to shave their head, rather they must let their hair grow long[15]. The long hair was to serve as a symbol of their dedication to God

Avoidance of the dead[]

During the vow, a Nazirite could not be near a dead corpse[16], with even close relatives may being off limits[17]. To touch a dead body broke the vow, requiring a ceremony which included shaving the head before continuing the vow[18].


  1. Num 6:2-3 (Link)
  2. Num 6:13,21 (Link)
  3. Judg 13:3-4 (Link)
  4. 1 Sam 1:11 (Link)
  5. Luke 1:15 (Link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Amos 2:11-12
  7. Num 6:1 (Link)
  8. Judg 13:5,7 (Link)
  9. Judges 14:5-6, 8-9 (Link)
  10. Jdg 14:10 The Hebrew used for festival, mizpeh, indicates a feast with wine (Link)
  11. Judg 16:17,19 (Link)
  12. Amos 2:12 (Link)
  13. Num 6:3 (Link)
  14. Num 6:4 (Link)
  15. Num 6:5 (Link)
  16. Num 6:6 (Link)
  17. Num 6:7 (Link)
  18. Num 6:9 (Link)