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Numbers 6:5-9

Context

6:5 “‘All the days of the vow 1  of his separation no razor may be used on his head 2  until the time 3  is fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord. He will be holy, 4  and he must let 5  the locks of hair on his head grow long.

6:6 “‘All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he must not contact 6  a dead body. 7  6:7 He must not defile himself even 8  for his father or his mother or his brother or his sister if they die, 9  because the separation 10  for 11  his God is on his head. 6:8 All the days of his separation he must be holy to the Lord.

Contingencies for Defilement

6:9 “‘If anyone dies very suddenly 12  beside him and he defiles 13  his consecrated head, 14  then he must shave his head on the day of his purification – on the seventh day he must shave it.

Numbers 6:18

Context

6:18 “‘Then the Nazirite must shave his consecrated head 15  at the entrance to the tent of meeting and must take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire 16  where the peace offering is burning. 17 

1 tc The parallel expression in v. 8 (“all the days of his separation”) lacks the word “vow.” This word is also absent in v. 5 in a few medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The presence of the word in v. 5 may be due to dittography.

2 sn There is an interesting parallel between this prohibition and the planting of trees. They could not be pruned or trimmed for three years, but allowed to grow free (Lev 20:23). Only then could the tree be cut and the fruit eaten. The natural condition was to be a sign that it was the Lord’s. It was to be undisturbed by humans. Since the Nazirite was to be consecrated to the Lord, that meant his whole person, hair included. In the pagan world the trimming of the beard and the cutting of the hair was often a sign of devotion to some deity.

3 tn Heb “days.”

4 tn The word “holy” here has the sense of distinct, different, set apart.

5 tn The Piel infinitive absolute functions as a verb in this passage; the Piel carries the sense of “grow lengthy” or “let grow long.”

6 tn The Hebrew verb is simply “enter, go,” no doubt with the sense of go near.

7 tn The Hebrew has נֶפֶשׁ מֵת (nefesh met), literally a “dead person.” But since the word נֶפֶשׁ can also be used for animals, the restriction would be for any kind of corpse. Death was very much a part of the fallen world, and so for one so committed to the Lord, avoiding all such contamination would be a witness to the greatest separation, even in a family.

8 tn The vav (ו) conjunction at the beginning of the clause specifies the cases of corpses that are to be avoided, no matter how painful it might be.

9 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with the preposition and the suffixed subjective genitive – “in the dying of them” – to form the adverbial clause of time.

sn The Nazirite would defile himself, i.e., ruin his vow, by contacting their corpses. Jesus’ hard saying in Matt 8:22, “let the dead bury their own dead,” makes sense in the light of this passage – Jesus was calling for commitment to himself.

10 tn The word “separation” here is metonymy of adjunct – what is on his head is long hair that goes with the vow.

11 tn The genitive could perhaps be interpreted as possession, i.e., “the vow of his God,” but it seems more likely that an objective genitive would be more to the point.

12 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense followed by the infinitive absolute, יָמוּת מֵת (yamut met). Because the verb is in a conditional clause, the emphasis that is to be given through the infinitive must stress the contingency. The point is “if someone dies – unexpectedly.” The next words underscore the suddenness of this.

13 tn The verb is the Piel perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it continues the idea within the conditional clause.

14 sn The expression is figurative for the vow that he took; the figure is the metonymy because the reference to the head is a reference to the long hair that symbolizes the oath.

15 tn Some versions simply interpret this to say that he shaves his hair, for it is the hair that is the sign of the consecration to God. But the text says he shaves his consecrated head. The whole person is obviously consecrated to God – not just the head. But the symbolic act of cutting the hair shows that the vow has been completed (see Acts 21:23-24). The understanding of the importance of the hair in the ancient world has been the subject of considerable study over the years (see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 436; and J. A. Thompson, “Numbers,” New Bible Commentary: Revised, 177).

16 sn Some commentators see this burning of the hair as an offering (McNeile, Numbers, 35; G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 68). But others probably with more foundation see it as destroying something that has served a purpose, something that if left alone might be venerated (see R. de Vaux, Israel, 436).

17 tn Heb “which is under the peace offering.” The verse does not mean that the hair had to be put under that sacrifice and directly on the fire.



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