Chapter 9: The Nazarite Offering
by James Paterson, Scotland
We shall consider the offerings made by the Nazarites both in the event of their defilement, and those made on completion of their vow, but first of all we must look at the vow of the Nazarite so that we can understand the qualities of the person who would eventually make the particular offerings associated with the vow. While the details of the vow of the Nazarite are helpful, the vow is not the subject of the chapter, nor does space permit a more complete exposition, therefore the following is a basic introduction only.
Vows to God were a regular feature of life in Israel. They traditionally took the form of a promise to give or do something for God, in response to His help to the one who requested. Throughout the Old Testament, the examples are many and as we follow the subject, we see the seriousness of undertaking a vow before God, e.g. Gen.28.17, where there is the sanctity of Jacob’s vow made at the “house of God”; in Lev.27.1 the reference is to a singular vow and its estimation in silver; from Judg.11.30-40 we learn the seriousness of committing to a vow; 1Sam.1.11 shows the sacrifice of undertaking a vow.
We must understand that the vow of the Nazarite has in itself no literal parallel with Christianity today. God does not demand today that His people carry out ritualistic practices like the vow of the Nazarite. While the vow of the Nazarite was a voluntary exercise by individuals showing particular separation, we as believers, at least in a positional aspect, are separate from the world, and as such are “called saints” Rom.1.7; 1Cor.1.2. However, we can take spiritual lessons from the vow, which shows us the principles of living in such a way that constitutes true separation in the sight of God. Believers of today, while not undertaking a vow of separation, have in our baptism made a public declaration as having died to the world at our salvation, and from that point living in a new type of life, “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” Rom.6.4. We are constantly in a position of potential contamination from the sinful practices that prevail in the world around us, contact with which will mar our separation to God. We live in a world where death is all around, and while we strive to avoid contamination, we are only one step away from defilement. The lists found in the New Testament of prevailing sins which are detrimental not only to our separation, but to our spiritual progress and usefulness, should be taken as warnings to guard our separation, e.g. Rom.1.22-32; 1Cor.5.9-11; 2Tim.3.1-9. These lists, while extensive, are not exhaustive and rather than go into detail of particular sinful practices in this chapter, perusal of these Scriptures, among others, would make us aware of the need for moral, religious, social and commercial separation. Paul sums the matter up succinctly in 2Cor.6.14-18.
The language used in Num.6.2 would point to the vow of the Nazarite being a special vow: the Hebrew word hipli indicates something outstanding and unusual in that the person gave himself to the Lord for a particular period of time. This seemed to be the norm for this type of vow, seen in the quotation, “all the days …” Num.6.4,5,6,8,12. This and the regulations about the sacrifices to be offered on completion of the vow show that the Nazarite vow normally had a time limit and was undertaken voluntarily by the person concerned. However, Samson, Judges chapter 13; Samuel, 1Samuel chapter 1, and, it would seem, John Baptist, Luke chapter 1, were dedicated by their parents to be lifelong Nazarites even before they were born. It is worth noting that Samson is the only person in Scripture actually called a Nazarite. In the New Testament, some would say that this was the vow undertaken by Paul and four others. “‘We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law’ … Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them” Acts 21.23-26. However, the specific vow of the Nazarite is not stated.
The English word Nazarite transliterates the Hebrew, nazir, meaning ‘set apart’. It is interesting to see this separation both negatively and positively in the sixteen references to the word in Num.6.1-21; negatively they had to separate themselves from wine, grape and vine products, strong drink, and dead bodies, while positively they were separated “unto the Lord” Num.6.2,5,6,12. This positive aspect of separation is fundamental even today, emphasising the importance of ‘separation to’. The characteristic mark of one undertaking the Nazarite vow was uncut hair. This would be seen by all and so identify one as undertaking the vow. The shaven head at the end of the vow would be a more dramatic testimony to the vow being completed. The word nezer, which is from the same root as nazir mentioned above, is used to describe the Nazarite’s long hair and also the diadem of the high priest. This is interesting, for in both cases they were outward symbols of the holiness expected of both the high priest and the Nazarite. Also on completion of the vow, the Nazarite had to offer the same offerings as Aaron did at his consecration. These facts confirm the exceptional holiness expected of the Nazarite. If in holiness the Nazarite was in many respects comparable to the high priest, in other respects he was quite different. The priesthood was restricted to males, but a woman could become a Nazarite. The priests could enter the tabernacle, offer sacrifices, bless the people and give instruction; the Nazarites could not. The priests wore distinctive garments and trimmed their hair; the Nazarites did not. The priests were supported by the giving of the people, including the giving of the Nazarites. The position of the Nazarite, being a condition of life consecrated to the Lord, resembled the sanctified relationship in which the priests stood before God, yet differed from the priesthood in the fact that it involved no official service at the sanctuary, nor was based upon a Divine calling and institution, but was undertaken spontaneously for a certain time and by a vow. The object of the vow was the realisation of a life of purity and freedom from all contamination from everything connected with death and corruption, a self-surrender to God stretching beyond the deepest earthly ties. Ohler describes it as, “a spontaneous appropriation of what was imposed by virtue of the calling connected with his descent, namely, the obligation to conduct himself as a person betrothed to God, and therefore to avoid everything that would be opposed to such surrender.”1
- 1 Ohler, Gustav Friedrich. "Theology of the Old Testament". Funk & Wagnalls. New York, 1883.
In application, we see from the subject of the Nazarite that we, as those separated from the world and separated to God, should live in all holiness before men, showing our separation. While we have not undertaken such a vow, we have from our salvation walked in “newness of life” Rom.6.4, and have, or should have, confirmed this in baptism. We should note too that in looking at the Nazarite, we can see certain characteristics that would point to such being a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, care should be taken as to how we apply this to Him. We must be clear that in the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus was not literally or externally a Nazarite. He did not need to undertake such a vow under the Law to set Him apart from men. The Lord Jesus in the inward and spiritual sense was a Nazarite to God, but was different in many physical ways from those who took the vow in the Old Testament. As we know, the word “Nazarite” is not used in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus is called “a Nazarene” Matt.2.23, but this was due to Him being brought up in Nazareth. He was from Nazareth, hence, “Nazarene”, but was not a Nazarite.
Our final part of this introduction brings us to the subject to be developed hereafter. When the Nazarite had fulfilled his vow, he brought four of the main statutory offerings as sacrifice: burnt, meal, peace, and sin offerings, together with the drink offerings of wine that traditionally accompanied the burnt and peace offerings. Interestingly, the common man was allowed to bring pigeons as alternative sacrifices for burnt and sin offerings, but in the case of the Nazarite, on completion of the vow, he had to bring three lambs, which is another reminder of the cost and sanctity of the Nazarite vow. We will also see that in addition to the offerings made on completion of his vow, he had to bring, in the exceptional event of him coming into contact with defilement, further offerings, i.e. a sin offering, burnt offering and trespass offering.
There was an orderly sequence of events to be carried out by the Nazarite before his vow could restart after his defilement. There was the usual seven-day period for all who came into contact with a dead body: “He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days” Num.19.11. However, in the case of the Nazarite, on the seventh day there was to be a public display of his defilement in that his hair was to be shorn. Keil-Delitzsch is helpful here: “his hair was shorn, not ‘because such uncleanness was more especially caught and retained by the hair,’ as Knobel fancies, but because it was the diadem of his God, Num.6.7, the ornament of his condition, which was sanctified to God.”2 So in the day when normally an Israelite would have been declared cleansed, the Nazarite confirms his defilement.
- 2 Keil-Delitzsch. "Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol.1". Erdmans, Grand Rapids, 1866.
We will see that on completion of the vow, his shorn hair was burned under the peace offering. However, on the occasion of the defilement no instruction is given with regard to the disposal of the hair. Then on the eighth day, he brings his offerings.
In Relation to Defilement
The series of offerings to be made in the event of defilement are given for the occasion which may never happen, but if the event took place, there was the possibility of recovery, rededication and reinstatement of the vow. The Israelite would in normal life seek to avoid any contamination caused by contact with death. This was seen more so in the vow of the Nazarite, who had undertaken that he would not touch a dead body voluntarily. However, it was ever possible that, because of circumstances, he might be in contact with one who had died, “And if any man die very suddenly by him …” Num.6.9. We must remember that death in the wilderness must have been an everyday occurrence, in the light of the judgment of God, “But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?” Heb.3.17. It is therefore no surprise that contact could inadvertently be made with those that had died. As the Book of Numbers repeatedly stresses, pollution caused by human death was particularly serious. Nevertheless, the ordinary Israelite could be cleansed from it through application of the “water of separation: it is a purification for sin” Num.19.9. Detail of this is given in relation to the red heifer, which is covered in chapter 10 of this publication. However, to quote the applicable section of Scripture; “And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even” Num.19.16-19.
This act of purification was inadequate in the case of the Nazarite. He had to bring birds as a burnt offering and sin offering and, most expensive of all, a lamb for a trespass offering. In addition to this, contact with the dead had broken the vow, so the token of that vow was removed, i.e. his long hair was shaved off. The rededication of the Nazarite involved four steps:
- shaving of the head, Num.6.9
- offering two small birds, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, Num.6.10,11
- consecration of the head in rededication, Num.6.11
- offering a lamb as a trespass offering, Num.6.12.
A Sin Offering
The offering to be made by the Nazarite after his inadvertent contact with a dead body is that which is provided for the poor: “And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the Lord; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering” Lev.5.7. The offering of the two birds is the second least expensive of the various offerings made for the sin offering, showing God’s grace in receiving from the Nazarite an offering made subsequent to his sudden, unwilling defilement. God is always gracious in dealing with one who shows signs of repentance. The bird of the sin offering was treated in the main like the bird of the burnt offering. However, the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on the side of the altar and the remainder wrung out at the bottom of the altar, whereas the blood of the burnt offering was wrung out at the side of the altar. Regardless of where the blood was deposited, the important factor was that the blood of the sin offering was on the altar before the burnt offering was slain. The blood of the sin offering must precede that of the burnt offering in the ritual proceedings, as reconciliation had to be effected between God and the sinner before the sinner’s burnt offering could be accepted. While in the context of the Nazarite, the sin is defilement through coming into contact with a dead body, generally in the sin offering, no specific or particular sin is mentioned, but each person making the offering is declared to have sinned through ignorance. “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them” Lev.4.2. The person who had sinned had of course been covered by the blood shed and displayed on the night of the Passover. However, a sacrifice still had to be made, and so the sinner acknowledged his guilt when defilement came to his knowledge, he confessed in the giving of the sacrifice, and God met him on the basis of the blood being shed. Detail of this subject is given in chapter 6 of this publication.
In the sin offering, we see the glorious aspect of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins. He is seen as the sinner’s Substitute, bearing the curse and shame associated with sin, and ultimately dying in the sinner’s place and so bearing the judgment of sin. The sprinkling of the blood shows the efficacy of the blood of Christ to forgive sins. As a result of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, those who put their trust in Him will enjoy the forgiveness of sins and the eternal blessing resulting from it. There is no further sin offering required, due to His sacrifice. “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” Heb.10.12.
- He took my sins and my sorrows,
- He made them His very own;
- He bore the burden on Calvary,
- And suffered and died alone.
- (Charles H. Gabriel)
A Burnt Offering
In addition to the bird offered for a sin offering, the Nazarite had to bring a second bird for a burnt offering. Once again birds were the smallest and least of the offerings that could be brought for a burnt offering. While, for the other burnt offerings, the offerer had participation in the sacrifice, for the bird the priest acted solely. He killed it, sprinkled the blood, plucked away the crop and the feathers, and clave the flesh. The crop containing undigested food and the feathers of the birds were not burned on the altar. The crop would speak of appetite, and its removal when applied to the Lord Jesus Christ showed that there was nothing of man’s sinful, natural appetite in Him. Likewise, the removal of the feathers indicated the covering over of His glory while He suffered on the cross, and emphasised the stark reality of the barrenness of that scene. Both parts were to be “cast … beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes” Lev.1.16, i.e. out of sight of God. It is interesting that the bird, while it was “cleave[d] with the wings thereof” Lev.1.17, was kept in one piece. Typically, it confirms the statement, “A bone of Him shall not be broken” Jn.19.36. To divide the bird would necessitate breaking some bones, but like the other burnt sacrifices where the limbs were dislocated, the bones were kept intact to preserve the type.
When thinking of the place where the offerings were killed, it is significant that it was done on “the side of the altar northward” Lev.1.11. The north is often seen as the place of death or danger, e.g. Josh.18.16-19; Judg.7.1 among others, and as such would typify Golgotha. While this is the only time the Hebrew word tsaphon (“northward”) is used in Leviticus it would depict the place where all sacrifices were slain, in the place of the burnt offering, Lev.6.25; 7.2; 14.13. We have seen that first the blood of the sin offering was on the altar, thus dealing with the sins of the Nazarite with regard to his defilement. On the basis of the sacrifice made and the blood applied, the relationship between the Nazarite and God is restored and so he is free to bring the second bird as a burnt offering; a token of his acceptance. The law of the burnt offering states, “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” Lev.6.13. The fire on the altar speaks of Christ’s devotion to the Father. Long after His sacrifice was offered there is still a fire burning, there is still a sweet savour exuding from the sacrifice that is continually well-pleasing to God. He has offered Himself without spot to God, so that in addition to the fact that His death was to deal with sin, he also offered Himself to God purely for God’s pleasure. Even in eternity the work of Christ will remain fresh before God, but also ever in our minds as it is the very thing that grants us acceptability before God. In the burnt offering we witness the most glorious aspect of the work of Christ. His sacrifice shows His commitment and devotion to the accomplishment of God’s will.
- We meditate on matchless worth
- That marked His outward ways,
- And told the inner glories forth-
- Too much for mortal gaze.
A Trespass Offering
The third and final offering to be made by the Nazarite before he restarted his vow was that of a trespass offering. “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” Num.6.12. This was both the end of the period of defilement and the restarting of the Nazarite vow. The days of consecration that had already elapsed were not to be reckoned, on account of having been lost. He was, therefore, to commence the whole time of his consecration entirely afresh, and to observe it as required by the vow. To this end he was to bring a trespass offering, as a payment or recompense for being reinstated to the former state of consecration, from which he had fallen through defilement. The detail of the trespass offering can be found in chapter 7 of this publication.
The Hebrew word asham is translated “trespass offering” K.J.V., and “guilt offering” R.V. It is used of:
The trespass, e.g. “But God shall wound the head of His enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses” Ps.68.21;
The trespass offering, e.g. “And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him” Lev.5.18;
The compensation paid for a trespass, e.g. “And they said, ‘If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering’” 1Sam.6.3.
It is difficult at times to separate trespass, asham, from sin, chattath, for all trespass is sin, but perhaps the summary would be, asham is the wrong done, i.e. the result, while chattath is the doing of the wrong, i.e. the act.
While the requirement of the trespass offering was “a ram without blemish” Lev.5.18; 6.6, when it comes to that offered by the Nazarite it is more specific: it has to be, “a lamb of the first year” Num.6.12. While in Leviticus in the record of the offering, the trespass is against another person, it is always against the Lord, and He is always mentioned first. The weight of this is seen: “It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the Lord” Lev.5.19. In the offering made by the Nazarite, it is only ever against God. In breaking the vow due to defilement, the Nazarite has in effect withheld that which was God’s by right. He has injured God’s honour, slighted His throne, and sullied His glory. The trespass offering is, as we know, typical of the Lord Jesus Christ and the word asham, already referred to, is used prophetically of Him in the Old Testament: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin (asham), He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” Isa.53.10. One other factor in regard to the trespass offering is that of restitution; the words, “with thy estimation, for a trespass offering” Lev.5.18; 6.6, confirm this, and while nothing is said in addition to the lamb with regard to the Nazarite’s trespass offering, it is worth highlighting that there was an amount to be paid in silver which included some twenty per cent more than anything lost. Once again this emphasises the typology of the offering, bringing before us the Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom it is written prophetically, “then I restored that which I took not away” Ps.69.4.
In carrying out God’s requirements in these three offerings, the person now restarts his Nazarite vow. Regardless of the duration of the time past, he has to start again from the beginning. His hair will grow and the time will pass, until on the chosen day, and on completion of his vow, “he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” Num.6.13.
On that day that his vow is completed he is required to “... 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, 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. And the priest shall bring them before the Lord, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering” Num.6.14-16.
Once again, as in all the records of the offerings, the orderliness and detail of that which is offered is interesting. In addition to the lamb of the first year, a ewe lamb of the first year, and the ram, all without blemish, the corresponding meal and drink offerings had to be offered. While the details of these additions to the offerings are given in Num.15.1-12, the summary of the accompaniments in the case of the Nazarite would be:
· a burnt offering of an unblemished male lamb of the first year, accompanied by 1/10 deal of flour, ¼ hin of oil and ¼ hin of wine
· a sin offering of an unblemished ewe lamb of the first year, accompanied by 1/10 deal of flour, ¼ hin of oil, and ¼ hin of wine
· a peace offering of an unblemished ram, accompanied by 2/10 deals of flour, 1/3 hin of oil, and 1/3 hin of wine.
God is not a God of disorder; the pattern is seen in the presentation of the burnt offering where everything is in order: “And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar” Lev.1.7,8. We must always take into account that the offerings made speak of Christ, and as such, we see the complete order in His Person, walk, work, sacrifice and future glory.
Here in these offerings related to the completion of the Nazarite’s vow we see the Person of Christ and rejoice in Him:
- in the burnt offering – His perfect devotion to God
- in the sin offering – His becoming sin for us
- in the peace offering – He has made peace by the blood of His cross
- in the meal offering – His holy, perfect life
- in the drink offering – His pouring out of Himself in death.
A Burnt Offering
In addition to what has been written above regarding the offering made because of defilement, we will consider it in some further detail as follows. The present writer has also written on the subject of the burnt offering in the ‘Assembly Testimony’ publication “The Glory of the Lord’s Death”.
The lamb of the first year that was brought on completion of the vow was to be “without blemish” Num.6.14. In other words, it had not to show any abnormality or deformity, and be without disease or bruising. Like on the occasion of the selection of the Passover lamb, the offerer had to choose the best lamb; it had to be ‘the best of its kind’. This typifies the Person of our Lord Jesus, Who is without any imperfection caused by sin, “in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5. The apostle Peter writes that He was like a “lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.19. While we see typically in the bird of the burnt offering the lowliness, poverty and undivided affection of the Lord Jesus, we see in the lamb His meek, gentle and submissive character. He was the one Who submitted perfectly to the Father’s will and suffered without retaliation. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” Isa.53.7. It was the heart of God that Christ pleased and so His death was of the highest order and quality. There was no speck of evil ever present in Him and so He was an acceptable sacrifice that brought a savour of a sweet aroma to God. The sacrifice of Christ was the ultimate proof and expression of His eternal love and devotion to the Father. The voluntary sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ is that which brings the sweet aroma to God, “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” Eph.5.2. The person, who had completed his Nazarite vow, brings a lamb for a burnt offering and “he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering” Lev.1.4. This was the normal action for one bringing a burnt offering and speaks of the person making the offering being accepted by God. The person had identified with the spotless sacrifice, and the qualities of the sacrifice became that of the offerer, and, as a result, God was pleased to accept the sacrifice. In the burnt offering, the offerer presents his offering not to gain acceptance but because he is accepted. Today, the believer therefore brings before God the Person of Christ; we have been accepted in Him, and so our acceptance allows us access to God’s presence. It is a joy to realise that our acceptance in the presence of God is not due to who we are or what we have done, but is entirely dependent on Christ and His sacrifice. “It shall be accepted for him” Lev.1.4.
A Sin Offering
On the day of the reinstatement of his vow, after its early termination because of defilement, the person brought a bird. Now he must bring an offering of greater value: a ewe lamb of the first year without blemish. Unlike the burnt, meal and peace offerings, known as the ‘sweet savour offerings’, the sin offering was known as a ‘non-sweet savour offering’, based on the fact that it was offered for the atonement of sin. It was not a freewill offering, but one that was required by God to express forgiveness for a sin committed. There are four clear categories of those who must bring a sin offering on the event of their sin: the priest, the congregation of Israel, the ruler and the common man. In relation to the Nazarite, he brought, as did the common man, a ewe lamb. While there were different procedures for the presentation of the offering, depending on who brought it, Lev.5.1-13, certain things were the same regardless of the offering brought and the rank of the offerer.
In all cases the offering had to be brought to the door of the tabernacle. There is no distinction among sinners in the sight of God: “for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Rom.3.22,23. The following were stipulated in all cases:
- Laying hands on the offering, showing identification with the offering
- Killing the offering in the place where the burnt offering was killed
- Application of the blood on the horns of the altar and pouring the residue at the base of the brazen altar
- Burning the fat on the brazen altar.
While there were differences in procedure, depending on who had sinned, the above are constant for all, and therefore apply to the sin offering brought by the Nazarite on completion of his vow.
The sin offering was the provision by God for a people already sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb. He had made provision so that, while He held the offender guilty, He had ensured that by means of an offering, the sin could be expiated. In application this indicates the believer’s need to appreciate Christ as his sin offering before he approaches God in worship or seeks to serve Him. It shows not so much the sinner’s initial coming to Christ for salvation, rather the provision in Christ for sins committed since conversion. In the old economy everyone who sinned had to bring his offering and kill it at the brazen altar, so every believer depends solely on the one sin offering, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1Jn.1.7.
A Peace Offering
Commentators have given this offering different titles: the words used being: ‘peace’; ‘fellowship’; ‘praise’ and ‘thanksgiving’, among others. Keil-Delitzsch3 states that the most correct translation is ‘saving offering’. Zodhiates4 uses the word sheh-lem, meaning ‘requital, a sacrifice in thanks’. Under Old Testament law there were three reasons for an Israelite to make a peace offering: thanksgiving, a vow, or a voluntary offering. A thanksgiving is a spontaneous outburst of gratitude for the blessings bestowed by God. A vow is a pledge of solemn promise in relation to a blessing received or to solemnise a commitment to serve the Lord in a particular way, as in the vow of the Nazarite. The third reason is a voluntary offering similar to thanksgiving. The underlying theme of all three is that they are offered voluntarily and with joy on the part of the offerer. While the Nazarite has to bring one such offering on completion of the vow, it still carried the aspect of joy, appreciation and his free will. Following the previous offerings made and the vow being complete, the Nazarite could rejoice in his relationship with God. Full details of the peace offering can be found in chapter 5 of this publication. However, the application of the above, in our day, would correspond to our engagement in the work of the Lord or service to others purely out of our love for the Lord and our appreciation for what we have through Him.
- 3 Keil-Delitzsch, ibid.
- 4 Zodhiates. "The Complete Word Study Old Testament". AGM Publishers. Chattanooga, 1994.
While in the everyday peace offering, the offering being brought could be from the herd, Lev.3.1 or the flock, Lev.3.6, in the case of the Nazarite’s peace offering, it was specifically detailed: “one ram without blemish for peace offerings” Num.6.14. However, the important instruction is that it must be “without blemish before the Lord” Lev.3.1. This unblemished sacrificial animal symbolises the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is “... a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.19. There are no imperfections in Christ; all is pure, all is holy and all is righteous. Interestingly, the animal had to be offered without blemish “before the Lord”, suggesting that it had to pass the scrutiny of the Lord. This is the same expression used of the slaying of the burnt offering, Lev.1.4. God’s eyes were on the offerings and He was finding His delight in this foreshadowing of His Son. While it is wonderful to see the display of His holiness before men, it is of even greater significance that Christ demonstrated His holy perfection before His Father. Not only must the sacrifice be unblemished, but the flesh provided after killing must be kept clean: “And the flesh that toucheth any unclean thing shall not be eaten; it shall be burnt with fire: and as for the flesh, all that be clean shall eat thereof. But the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that pertain unto the Lord, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the Lord, even that soul shall be cut off from his people” Lev.7.19-21. The importance of the cleanliness of those eating the flesh of the peace offering is seen in these verses. All who ate of it must be ceremonially clean, and any who disobeyed this instruction must be excommunicated, and so lose the privileges of God’s people. This aspect of the offering is very significant in the case of the Nazarite where the emphasis has strongly been on avoidance of defilement. This is a solemn warning as we seek to continue in communion with our God.
The offerer presented his offering at the door of the tabernacle, and laid his hands on its head, which was his acknowledgement of his identification with the offering. There he killed the animal, the priest then taking the blood to sprinkle on the altar. Up until this point his actions were similar to the procedure for the burnt offering. However, the animal was then divided into portions for God, for the priest, and for the offerer.
The part that was laid on the altar for God consisted mainly of the fat of the animal. The word used here for fat, kheh-leb is translated ‘the richest or choice part’. These parts are clearly defined, “And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the Lord; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away” Lev.3.3,4. These four portions contain practically all the fat that was in the animal, but one difference is when a lamb was brought, when the additional fat of the tail was added; the R.V. may be clearer in translation, “the fat tail entire” Lev.3.9. The fat given to God in this offering, therefore, speaks of the inward excellence of the Lord Jesus Christ. It reminds us of His being utterly devoted to the will of God, and in this God found great pleasure. God claimed the fat, as only He could see the inward perfection and richness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In addition to the internal fat being offered, the kidneys were also included in the part of the animal for God. Albert Leckie gives the meaning of kidney as coming from the Hebrew root meaning ‘that which is perfect or complete’.5 This would point to the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who perfected and completed every work to which He put His hand.
- 5 Leckie, Albert. "The Tabernacle and The Offerings”. Precious Seed Publications, 2012.
While parts of the sacrifice would be given to the priest and to the offerer, the fat was never to be eaten by them, Lev.7.23, either from the sacrifices or in their everyday diet, “all the fat is the Lord’s” Lev.3.16.
The offerer next gave the officiating priest the right shoulder of the sacrifice, “He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part” Lev.7.33. The right shoulder indicates strength of service, again speaking of the Lord Jesus seen typically in the priest, because only the servant knows the strength that is required to complete service for God.
In addition to the portion given to the officiating priest, the priestly family received the breast of the animal, Lev.7.31. The significance of the breast throughout Scripture always speaks of affection and love. The priestly family illustrates the believer and so we feed on the breast of the sacrifice, which speaks of the love of Christ, Who, “loved the church, and gave Himself for it” Eph.5.25.
For the offering made in relation to thankfulness, the flesh had to be eaten on the day of sacrifice; it was not to be eaten the second day. For the offering made in relation to a vow, including the vow of the Nazarite, the flesh could be kept until the second day, but must not be eaten on the third day. This would point to the Israelite’s degree of devotion. In the first instance, the offerer was displaying his thankfulness, which is the minimum we can offer as appreciation to the goodness of God, so the period in which the flesh could be eaten is less.
In contrast, the vow and voluntary offering are displays of a greater appreciation toward God, therefore giving the Israelite a longer period to enjoy the offering that he had made. However, in all cases the flesh had never to be eaten the third day. The danger being that the longer the flesh was kept after the sacrifice, the less the appreciation became, with the possible result that the flesh, which came into his possession as the result of sacrifice, became just part of the common meal. We must ever guard against the possibility that we allow the things of God to become common, due to over-familiarity.
As was mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, the offering of the ram as a peace offering was also made at the consecration of Aaron, Ex.29.26, where it is called the ram of consecration; however, it was also offered as a peace offering at the dedication of the priests, Lev.9.4,18; at the dedication of the altar, Numbers chapter 7; in addition to the peace offering made, as above, at the completion of the Nazarite’s vow. The ram speaks of the dedication and devoted consecration of the Perfect Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one remaining symbolic act still to be done before the priest completes the ceremony is the shaving of his head by the Nazarite at the door of the tabernacle. “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. 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 his separation is shaven: 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. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lord for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation” Num.6.18-21. The Nazarite shaved his consecrated hair, which was the sign of his devotion and separation, and burned it on the fire under the caldron in which the peace offering boiled. The hair was burned so as not to defile that which had already been consecrated in the vow and so in the burning was rendered wholly unto God the true Holy One. This action by the Nazarite in shaving his hair and burning it under the peace offering is unique and occurs in no other Scripture. It is also the only time that anything that can be considered personal is placed on the altar fire. It should be noted that the hair uncut throughout the vow of the Nazarite marked the person out as being under a vow of separation, i.e. they were different. There is a difficulty in understanding the position of a woman who took the vow. Naturally her hair would have been uncut; so, many commentators state that her hair would have been left ‘unattended’ for the duration of the vow. However, for both male and female, the end of the vow brought cutting the hair and subsequent placing in the fire. Keil and Delitzsch comment that the Nazarite was to “hand over and sacrifice to the Lord the hair of his head which had been worn in honour of Him.” 6 This action can be considered as an offering to the Lord. Such an offering being unique shows that the separation of the Nazarite becomes in a particular way a sacrifice to God. It is identified with the peace offering to show what an important bearing the separation of believers has on our communion and fellowship. It is worth noting while on the subject of the visibility of the vow with regard to hair, that God still expects His people to show obedience to His Word with regard to His instruction on hair. It is one of the most visible tokens to the truth of headship. To the woman the instruction is to “have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” 1Cor.11.15. For the male it is just as clear, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” 1Cor.11.14. In the times of the Nazarite vow, there was no argument: the hair was the sign to all looking on that the person was in a position of separation. Our danger today is that of questioning God’s Word, so Paul states, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” 1Cor.11.16.
- 6 Keil-Delitzsch, ibid.
We, as saints, have the privilege of walking in holy communion with God, as we appreciate and reflect on our appropriation of Christ. Separation in our case and the vow of the Nazarite in the case of the Old Testament results in the joy of fellowship with God. “And after that the Nazarite may drink wine” Num.6.20; wine in the Old Testament being typical of joy. “… my wine, which cheereth God and man …” Judg.9.13. It should be noted that this reference is about the joy of the person completing the vow of the Nazarite, and should not be taken as licence to drink wine or strong drink.
When the day of his vow is over, the requirements of the law have been fulfilled and so the Nazarite rejoices.
All references to Hebrew words and translations are taken from: Zodhiates, “The Complete Word Study Old Testament”. AGM Publishers, Chattanooga, 1994.