A Brief Consideration of the Nazirite and Separation (North’s ‘Holiness’) as defined in Numbers chapter 6

1. Introduction
   a. Definition of the word ‘Nazirite’
      i. The word group used
      ii. What does being ‘separated to God’ mean for christians?
   b. The Nazirite compared to the High Priest
2. The Nazirite’s Vow
   a. The time factor
   b. Sex
   c. Nazirites through the Bible
   d. The three areas of separation
      i. Abstention from the products of the vine/alcoholic consumption
      ii. Abstention from the cutting of his hair
      iii. Abstention from contact with a dead body
3. Summary

I mentioned under my comments on North’s introduction to part 3 that the concept of ‘separation’ is one that runs through the legislation on the vow of a Nazirite in Numbers chapter 6. This short exposition of that chapter (which becomes more like preaching in the final half of the notes) is given as background to some of the points that I only briefly mentioned in my former comments.

1. Introduction

a. Definition of the word ‘Nazirite’

i. The word group used

There are a number of translated words in the Numbers chapter 6 passage that form part of a word group that have a common or similar meaning.

Strongs Heb number 5144 - ‘set apart’ or ‘separate’. Used in Num 6:2,3,5,6,12 (translated as the verb ‘to separate’)
Strongs Heb number 5145 - ‘setting apart’ or ‘separation’. Used in Numbers 6:4,5,7,8,9 (translated ‘consecrated’),12(x2),13,18(x2),19,21(x2) (normally translated as the noun ‘separation’).
Strongs Heb number 5139 - ‘a separated one’. Used in Num 6:2 and translated/transliterated ‘Nazirite’ here. The Nazirite was a personification of separation - he bore the name of one who’s separate and was therefore commanded to live a separated life.

Writing on the above word-group, T E McComiskey in TWOTOT says

‘The basic meaning of nazar [Strongs Heb number 5144] is “to separate”...It bears the meaning “abstain from”...in Numbers 6:3 where it occurs in connection with the Nazirite vow of abstinence...It is used [of “separation to”] Yahweh on the part of the Nazirites...’

Depending upon the preposition used with the word-group, it means either separation ‘from’ or separation ‘to’ and the correct concept can only really be seen by the context in which the word sits.

Zondervan (under the article ‘Consecration’ - my italics) notes that

‘The basic meaning of [the OT term] is that of separation from common or profane use, and dedication to a sacral purpose or use’

Ungers (under the article ‘Nazirite’ - my italics) records that

‘The term...denotes in general one who is separated from certain things and unto others...’

And Wenham 2 (my italics) repeats the same understanding of the word group as meaning

‘Negatively, the Nazirites were separated from...Positively they were separated to the Lord...’

The Nazirite, then, was an Israelite who was both ‘separated from...’ and ‘separated to...’ He was separated from products of the vine (Num 6:3-4), cutting his hair (Num 6:5) and having contact with a dead body (Num 6:6-8), but separated to God (Num 6:2,5,7) for His use and purpose.

When we talk about separation to God, there’s always the implication that lies close at hand of being necessarily separated from false gods and idols. These twin aspects were worked out in the laws that were an integral part of the covenant made with the nation - we find that God commanded the nation to separate themselves from certain actions and separate themselves to others. A nation that has been called to be holy as part of the covenant (Ex 19:6) must live out that separation to God in the things that it both does and doesn’t do.

The legislation that we observe as we work our way through Exodus and into Deuteronomy represent aspects of this separation being outworked into the nation’s lives by the things that they’re commanded both to do and not to do, but the Nazirite was a special person who was able to separate him or herself to God in a far more drastic way than the Israelites who chose to serve under only the laws that were obligatory.

ii. What does being ‘separated to God’ mean for christians?

Being a christian means a change of lifestyle from one thing but to another. It’s not only a separation from (which, in itself, would leave a life empty and without purpose), neither is it only a separation to (which would cause a life to be cluttered, hectic and probably utterly confusing) but it’s a putting away of one thing in order that something more important to God might take place or take over.

To try and put some flesh on the bare bones of our definition, to be ‘separated to God’ doesn’t mean that you always wear a suit to church meetings (or, if you’re like me, that you never wear a suit to meetings - as I type this, I don’t even own a suit or a decent pair of shoes!).

Neither does it mean that you own the biggest Bible in the world.

Neither does it mean that you speak with tongues.

To be ‘separated to God’ doesn’t mean that we talk in ‘holy’ language that nobody else can understand (and which we probably don’t either!).

Neither does it mean that we attend every church meeting there is.

Neither does it mean that we’re in a leadership position or that we play a musical instrument.

It doesn’t mean that you’re married or that you have children.

Neither does it mean that you’ve read the latest christian best-seller or that your theology is perfect or that you understand all things (though that would be nice, wouldn’t it?).

All it means is that you’re available to God - ready and willing to do anything and everything that the Lord tells you to do. It means that you’ve separated yourself from those things that are displeasing to God and have separated yourself to do those things that are pleasing to Him - and that this action that has taken place is a continuing mindset that influences all that’s done.

It was the separation ‘from’ that paved the way for the Nazirite to be separated ‘to’ God. Hindrances had to be removed from his/her life so that separation to God would not be mediocre. There’s no difference under the New Covenant.

Later on, we’ll develop the theme of what it means to be ‘separated from’ in order for us to understand how we can remove any hindrance that may be present in our lives that prevents us from being wholly available to God and His will.

b. The Nazirite compared to the High Priest

The High Priest was the most important person in the Church (the Israelite nation) of its day. It was he who was responsible for mediating between God and Israel and, once every year, to deal with Israel’s sin that separated them from a covenant relationship with God (Leviticus chapter 16 - the Day of Atonement). But, when we compare the legislation for both the Nazirite and the High Priest, we see that the Nazirite gives us more of a picture of what we should be like as christians, just as the High Priest illustrates better the mediation and work of Christ.

Num 6:3-4 - No vine products were to be consumed, though especially it meant alcoholic drink produced from the vine.
High Priest
Lev 10:9 - The High Priest and his sons were only to abstain from alcoholic drink when they went to minister to the Lord in the Tabernacle (lest their judgment be impaired).

The High Priest abstained from alcohol before ministry, the Nazirite from all grape products all the time - in this way, the Nazirite was always to be ready to minister to the Lord and, equally, the Nazirite was to continually minister. The command laid upon the Nazirite was necessarily more severe and perhaps we won’t be going too far to say that the High priest wasn’t intended to minister in any major way to God outside of his role within the Tabernacle - otherwise the abstention from alcohol would have been more inclusive.

Num 6:6-8 -The Nazirite wasn’t allowed to defile himself by contact with a dead body - even if a close relative died, he wouldn’t be permitted to bury them.
High Priest
Lev 21:11 - The High Priest was not allowed to defile himself by contact with the dead even for his nearest of kin, his mother and father. NB - Priests could bury their dead (Lev 21:1-3 - the sons of Aaron) but the High Priest could not.

The High Priest had to handle death as he performed his duties in the Tabernacle (the sacrifices had to be handled after they had been ritually slaughtered and the blood made contact with the priest as it was applied to secure atonement), the Nazirite couldn’t go near any dead body (how far this went, for instance, with regard to food, we don’t know. Samson, who had contact with a dead lion, seems to have profaned his Nazirite vow, but if he prepared a meal of lamb was this also forbidden?). These commands may have been identical but we may be accurate in seeing a stricter principle in force upon the Nazirite. The point is not worth pressing, though.

Num 6:7,9 - The Nazirite ‘s consecration/separation (nezer - Strongs Heb number 5145) was his hair. It was a visible sign that he was separated to God.
High Priest
Ex 29:6 - The holy ‘crown’ is the same word ‘nezer’ as used with reference to the Nazirite’s hair (see also 39:30, Lev 8:9). Lev 21:12 tells us that the ‘consecration’ (nezer) of the anointing oil was upon the High Priest’s head. These (the oil and the crown) were outward signs of his separation to God and both had to do with the head.

The High Priest put on his consecration when he stood to minister in the Tabernacle but the Nazirite always carried his with him and was inseparable from it. When the High Priest went home of an evening, he hung his crown up on the hat stand like everyone else (if they had hat stands in those days...) - but the Nazirite kept his hair on.

The Nazirite was separated to God at every moment of the day whereas the separation of the High priest was specially applicable when He stood to minister to the Lord in the Tabernacle when he had the mark of separation placed upon his head.


Apart, perhaps, from the command concerning contact with the dead, these instructions show that the Nazirite’s vow far surpassed the separation of the High Priest. The Nazirite, although not necessarily from the line of Aaron/Levi, was more separated to serve God than the High Priest was - the former being a continual minister to God while the latter was only an occasional one.

The High Priest performed duties and sacrifices that were already laid down, there was little freedom for obedience to a spoken word from God within the framework of the legalistic religion of the Tabernacle. But the Nazirite wasn’t constrained by such legislation, he was free to hear the spoken Word and obey as necessary.

In this way, these two types of people typify the two covenants - the High Priest of the Old Covenant, the Nazirite of the New. The High Priest must serve God by observing a written code but the Nazirite can serve God in freedom.

2. The Nazirite’s Vow

Under point d we’ll look in a little detail at the three areas of separation that were laid upon the Nazirite and hopefully see the principles of separation that they teach us now concerning our relationship with and separation to God.

But there are a few brief points that need to be noted before we can do this (a-c).

a. The time factor

The Nazirite vow was one that had to have lasted a considerable time else the hair wouldn’t have had opportunity to grow and be seen to be representative of the vow. It would also have been for a specific time duration and would end after that time. After that period, the person would resume his normal life following his offerings to God (Num 6:13-20).

It should be realised that, under the New Covenant, we’re all spiritual Nazirites to God for life - separated from our own lives and way of doing things but separated to God and His purposes. We dare not allow ourselves to go back on our separation as the Nazirite did after a set time - separation both from and to is, in the christian life, until death.

We’re already ‘separated’ to God by our calling in Christ, but we need to live that separation out by applying it to our lives and being as separated to God as He requires us to be.

b. Sex

Nazirites could be either male or female (Num 6:2) just as, in the NT, no distinction is made between believers of different sex (Gal 3:28) – we’re all one in Christ.

c. Nazirites through the Bible

Though the Nazirite laws were a dynamic way for a believing Israelite to separate himself more effectively and fully to God and His service, there’s very little reference to people who were Nazirites before God in Israel’s subsequent history.

There are just the three references.

i. Samuel
I Sam 1:11

Hannah dedicated her firstborn son to the Lord so that he would be a Nazirite all the days of his life (notice the phrase ‘...no razor shall touch his head’ which, at least, is ‘part’ of the consecration of a Nazirite).

The word for ‘Nazirite’ isn’t used here and we may be reading too much in to the text, but, if Samuel maintained the vow that his mother Hannah made when he became old enough to decide upon the matter for himself then no razor would ever have been applied to his hair - his physical appearance must have been something to behold!!

ii. Samson
Judges 13:3-5

Samson’s parents were told by the angel that he was to be a Nazirite even from the time of his conception (the woman was told not to drink wine as this would violate the separation while he was still in the womb).

This was the choice of God upon Samson’s life even though the passage in Numbers maintains that the decision to be a Nazirite rested with the Israelite. Samson, as we know from his subsequent history, seemed to try and throw off the responsibility that had been put upon him by God resulting in disaster. However, he seems to have finally realised his calling in the final moments of his life (Judges 16:28-30). iii. Paul the apostle
Acts 18:18

It appears that Paul put himself under the Nazirite vow for a time, the cutting of his hair being the termination of it. It’s difficult to see any other explanation for Luke’s remark here.

I wonder what his vow was?

NB - Jesus was a Nazarene (that is, One who came from the village of Nazareth) and not a Nazirite.

d. The three areas of separation

There were three specific commands that separated the Nazirite from all his fellow Israelites and it’s these that we’ll now go on to look at individually and hopefully see the principles that can be applied to us as New Testament believers:

i. Num 6:3-4 - Abstention from the products of the vine/alcoholic consumption
ii. Num 6:5 - Abstention from the cutting of the hair
iii. Num 6:6-8 - Abstention from contact with a dead body (probably human)

Although we can’t say that the three areas of separation in Numbers 6:3-8 (above) should be binding upon Jesus’ disciples now, they do teach us principles of abstention that we can apply to our walk with God.

i. Abstention from the products of the vine/alcoholic consumption
Numbers 6:3-4

[NB – We’ll see below some Scriptural examples of the effects that wine has on men and women and the commands and observations regarding it. For now, it’s only necessary to note that wine (and other alcoholic drink) impairs the judgment of those who partake of it - whether physically (slurring speech, erratic walking) or mentally (thought processes fail to work, concentration lapses, emotions are aroused such as anger and sorrow).

The Bible doesn’t condemn people for drinking alcohol but it does point out that some of the effects that it can have on people should be avoided by sensibly moderate drinking.

Numbers 6:20 shows us that it was the consumption of wine that was the primary reason for the commandment.]


Abstention from anything that impairs our judgment of the way we should serve God, whether it’s pollution of the body or pollution of the spirit.

The Gnostics believed that only the spirit was important so they allowed their bodies to be agents of immorality and idolatry. But body, soul and spirit must all be kept blameless before God (I Thess 5:23, II Cor 7:1).

What impairs our judgment in our service to God is also a stimulation to the flesh within to rise up and fight for the sovereignty of our lives.

Stimulation, then, throws dry wood onto the raging fires of the flesh. It allows free vent for the leading of the flesh to subjugate our wills. It’s an external weapon in the hands of our enemy, but its target is the sinful nature within. Our enemy uses anything that will weaken the resolve of our will and we need to be wise to the effects that certain ‘unsinful’ products may have upon us.

Alcohol can and does provide a way whereby morals are relaxed and boundaries are stepped over. It’s good that a man or woman knows when to stop and so not step into that area where they’ll participate in behaviour that’s displeasing to God but, if no control can personally be put on the consumption of alcohol, abstention is preferable.

The example of drink

The following three Scriptures are examples of alcohol problems in the Bible which led astray their participants from a pure and sincere devotion to God. The principles of abstention show us how to remove hindrances from our relationship with God.

1. Lev 10:9

When Nadab and Abihu offered unholy fire before the Lord, He slayed them with fire that came from His presence (v.1-2). The commands to Aaron and his remaining sons that followed this incident hint at the possibility that Nadab and Abihu came into the Lord’s presence in an intoxicated state - not that drinking alcohol is, in itself, sinful, but their inebriation meant that they failed to judge properly between that which was unclean for use in the service of the Lord and that which was clean (v.10-l1).

See also my further teaching on Leviticus chapters 8-10.

2. Gen 9:20-21

After the flood, Noah was the first tiller of the soil and, having cultivated a vineyard, he used the grapes to produce wine. When he was drunk, he threw off his morality, uncovering himself as he lay within his tent. Alcohol led him into bad judgment and put temptation in the path of Ham who received a curse that destroyed the potential of his life.

Just as the sin of Noah destroyed Ham, so too the sin of one can affect another through our misuse of an ‘unsinful’ product.

3. Prov 31:4-5

‘...it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted’

Scripture recognises that alcohol, though not in itself sinful, impairs and hinders sound judgment. Because of this, it’s not for God’s leaders in Jesus’ Church to be dependent upon it (I Tim 3:8 - Deacons, Titus 1:7 - Elders) for it will impair the judgment that’s a necessary task of the post.

The New Testament Scriptures don’t say that wine shouldn’t be consumed by Church leaders but that they shouldn’t be dependent upon it.

4. Other Scriptures worthy of note here (my italics):

Prov 20:1 - ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise’

Prov 23:29-35 - ‘Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things’ (anyone who has been drunk at one time or another can vouch for the truth of this statement - I’m one of them)

Eph 5:18 - ‘...do not get drunk with wine (a work of the flesh)...but be filled with the Spirit’. The way of the spirit and the way of the flesh are diametrically opposed to each other and drunkenness undermines the work of the Spirit of God.


Alcohol weakens the intention and control of the will that’s set to do the purposes of God, and the flesh manipulates that weakness in order to lead a person’s life into sin.

In a believer’s life, participation in alcohol needs to be kept under control or else abstention is necessary. And, in addition to this, it’s often been a cause of stumbling for the weaker brother who hasn’t the experience of the Lord’s power to abstain or know when to stop (see my notes on Rom 14:1-15:7).

The example of women

Women were sometimes the instruments of temptation that impaired the judgment of God’s people, causing the flesh to take over the person’s will. Women are not, in themselves sinful (! – I’ve heard many different opinions on this one [mostly from married men concerning their mothers-in law] but I shall stick with the traditional interpretation...), but the Scriptures show that they’ve often been the ‘temptation’ that God’s leader failed to master.

Women tempted Samson into bad judgment. They preyed upon the weakness of His flesh (Judges 14:15-17 [a woman of Timnah], 16:1 [a harlot of Gaza], 16:4 & 16:15-17 [Delilah of Sorek]). Each time he put himself into a situation that was potentially deadly - he only escaped from the situation twice.

Solomon also was led astray by women into idolatry (I Kings 11:1-3). His love for his wives turned his head from serving Yahweh only, which brought God’s judgment down upon his kingdom (I Kings 11:9-13).

David, though not led astray by the work of a woman, was led astray when he allowed his flesh free reign to go after what he’d allowed his eyes to see (II Sam 11:2). The result of that adultery was internal war amongst his sons and a temporary loss of his rule over Israel (II Sam 12:10-12).

The example of materialism
Probably the world’s biggest hindrance that causes separation to God

If our hearts are set upon earthly reward, then our judgment will be impaired – we’ll be hindered in making decisions unless we take steps to remove the temptation from ourselves (hence Jesus’ command to the ‘rich young ruler’ to sell all his possessions - Mark 10:21).

What those below saw with their eyes (or mind’s eyes) encouraged them to judge badly which course of action to take:

Mark 10:17-27 - The desire for earthly wealth caused the ‘rich young ruler’ to make the bad judgment not to follow the Lord.
Acts 5:1-11 - The desire for earthly wealth and fame caused Ananias and Sapphira to hold back part of the sale of the property while declaring that they’d given all.
II Kings 5:19-27 - The desire for earthly wealth caused Gehazi to trick Naaman to give him goods even though God’s Word was against it (v.16).
Joshua 7:1,20-21 - The desire for earthly wealth caused Achan to take from Jericho what was for destruction and for the Lord (6:17-19). In this case, Achan’s sin destroyed others’ lives.

In some of the examples above, it was impossible for the individuals concerned to remove the temptation from themselves - rather, they needed to master the problems within that the presence of the temptation brought with it.
In this case they needed to know the strength and power of the Lord over the weakness that they were aware of.

However, it’s not adequate to say that those who are weak shouldn’t be so! I would venture to suggest that all believers are weak in at least one area of their lives that they struggle with, possibly, until the day of their death (see, for instance, Paul writing in II Cor 12:7-9).

What should we do, then, when we perceive a weakness in our life that we don’t know the Lord’s strength in as of yet? Avoid the stimulation that would draw us away from Jesus - but ask for strength from the Lord to master it.

In today’s Church, abstention is sometimes frowned upon, an admission that we’ve no faith in the power of God to prevent us from stumbling - but Paul doesn’t condemn the weak man in Romans chapters 14 and 15. Rather, he urges the strong in the Church to bear with the weaknesses that are present in individuals’ lives (see my teaching on these chapters).

Jesus is of the same opinion - if there’s a cause of sin that prevents you from entering eternal life, then drastic measures are needed (Mtw 5:29-30).

Even things that are not, in themselves, sin, need to be removed from our lives if we find that they’re becoming our master rather than continuing as our slave (I Cor 6:12).


In concluding, let’s notice that we need to be radical.

The Nazirite abstained from what would impair his judgment in his service of God.

Likewise, if we find ourselves making imperfect judgments (or being tempted to make them) because of items in our lives that are hindering, then either we need to experience the Lord’s power in that area of our life to master the temptation or we need to remove the problem from ourselves - or ourselves from the problem.

The Nazirite abstained from those things that were not, in themselves, sin. We may need to do the same if our relationship with God is not to be hindered.

ii. Abstention from the cutting of his hair
Numbers 6:5


Separation from anything that saps God’s strength and power from our lives. We’re to live in the full power of the Holy Spirit, not in dribs and drabs of anointing. Samson knew that the secret of his power lay in his long hair - there was a relationship between the presence of his uncut hair and the presence of God’s anointing upon him. Not that long hair is magical, but it was the outward sign of his separation to God (Cp Num 6:7). When his hair was taken away, then so was his power (Judges 16:15-21).

What is this thing that saps God’s power in His peoples’ lives?

To answer this, we need to look at some Scriptural examples of instances where the power was restricted:

King Saul

King Saul lost his power over Israel through three successive acts of disobedience:

a. I Sam 13:8-15

He disobeyed the Lord by offering sacrifice himself rather than waiting for Samuel to arrive. He lost the kingdom as a result (v.13-14).

b. I Sam 15:1-31

He disobeyed the Lord’s specific word concerning the Amalekites (v.1-3) so the Lord repeated His decision to remove the kingdom (v.28-29). Verses 22-23 describe his action as rebellion and disobedience.

NB - In I Sam 16:14 the Scripture says that the anointing of the Holy Spirit left him.

c. I Sam 28:3-19

He disobeyed the Lord’s word concerning divining spirits for guidance. The vision repeated God’s judgment (v.17), tying it down to Saul’s disobedience (v.18).

See also the summary of Saul’s life in I Chr 10:13-14.

King David

King David lost his power over his own family and Israel for a time by one act of disobedience in the matter of Bathsheba (II Samuel chapters 11-12).

David was guilty of covetousness, adultery, deceit and murder. Nathan the prophet tied David’s actions down to ‘despising the word of the Lord’ (that is, disobedience - 12:9). The judgment was that he would lose his power over his own household (II Sam 13:10) and that he would lose his power over the people of Israel (v.11’s consequence - see II Sam chapters 14-15).

David, however, eventually had his power over Israel restored because his disobedience was momentary and ended with repentance, whereas Saul’s was continual and permanent.


Throughout Israel’s history, the nation found that obedience to the commands of God meant that they had power available to defeat the enemy that came against them, but disobedience resulted in defeat, judgment and, ultimately, their removal from living before God in Jerusalem (Lev 26:14,17,19-20).

See also Deut 28:l5ff - God’s hand is removed from His people in disobedience. Notice especially v.25 which speaks of power over their enemies being lost.

In Joshua 7:1-5, we see the result of the sin of Achan. Israel lost power over their enemies because of one man’s disobedience to God’s word in 6:18-19. One man’s sin was a nation’s loss.

Disobedience saps the power of God from working in and through the lives of His people. So Peter says in Acts 5:32 (my italics) that the Holy Spirit is

‘...given to those who obey [God]’

Submission to God is a condition before the devil will flee when we resist him (James 4:7) - if we’re living in disobedience to God then we’ll never experience His power to oppose satan successfully.

In the incidents above of King Saul in I Sam 28:3-19 and of David, the disobedience was to the written Law (that is, the commandments and ordinances that God gave through Moses to the people of Israel at Sinai). But in the incident regarding King Saul in I Sam 15:1-31, it was to a specific word that God spoke at that time for that one battle.

So then, whatever the command, it’s important that we be obedient to God’s voice, otherwise His power will be hindered from working both in and through our lives.

iii. Abstention from contact with a dead body
Numbers 6:6-8


Rather than seeing a command to those under the New Covenant concerning either:

1. Touching a corpse, or,

2. Mixing with the unclean of the world for the Lord’s sake,

we should realise that these commands teach us concerning getting involved in unclean situations as an act of our own freewill and not as a response to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Notice that Num 6:6 says of the Nazirite that

‘...he shall not go near a dead body...’

which is an act of the will - it implies choice. It’s not that the Nazirite must avoid touching the dead (though this is true), but he’s warned not even to go near a corpse. He’s to stay clear of any situation that he knows there’s death in (that is, situations in which there’s danger to his spiritual life - his relationship/union with God).

In Luke 10:3 we read of the priest and the Levite in the story of the good Samaritan not being able to risk touching the victim in case he was dead, for they would have incurred ceremonial defilement. So, too, it could just as well have been a Nazirite that had avoided the body, for contact with a corpse would have ended his separation and would have meant an act of the will on his part.

But to show compassion is the fulfilment of the Law rather than to eliminate the risk of becoming ceremonially unclean (as Jesus showed by eating, drinking and mixing with the dregs, the unclean, of society - those who could impart ceremonial uncleanness to Him).

NB - Judges 14:8-9 - Samson, after having slain a lion that roared against him, returned to the carcass to eat of the honey from the bees’ nest. In this way, it’s usually understood that he violated his consecration, though it must be pointed out (as previously) that the commandment seems to have specifically had in mind contact with a dead human body.


Haggai 2:13-14 - The children of Israel had contact with (spiritual) death (this appears to be the intent of the words through Haggai even though he’s using imagery of physical death to get his point across), so that what they sacrificed to the Lord in the Temple was also rendered unclean (that is, unacceptable to God). Our service to the Lord is, likewise, unacceptable and unclean to Him if we’re having direct contact with (spiritual) death and are being tainted by it.

We have to live in a dead world, but it’s up to us to make sure that we don’t follow the world’s ways, thereby becoming spiritually polluted and unclean. Religion that’s pure and undefiled before God is to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).

Having to be in the world is totally different from becoming like the world. Its systems, morals, beliefs and life-style shouldn’t characterise the believer - he should remain totally separated from all its death, separated for service to the Lord.

A dead body is one devoid of life. Likewise, the death in the world is never a source of spiritual life for the believer.

Following the world brings death. Following Jesus brings life. And the two are diametrically opposed.


I want to give some specific examples of what ‘uncleanness’ both is and isn’t (when viewed under the New Testament). There’s a lot of differing interpretation when the range of denominations are considered so I’d best nail my colours to the mast!

Wearing clothes that the world sells is not following after death, but conforming everything we wear to the world’s fashions is.

Buying a car for work use and pleasure is not following after death, but obtaining one that gives yourself a certain image is. Buying one that maintains a certain class image is also following after death.

Buying a house to live in isn’t contact with death, but devoting your time and money to bring it up to a standard that’s acceptable in the world’s eyes or that conforms itself to a certain class level is. It’s not unreasonable for us to maintain a house to a certain standard in order to look after the gift of God that we’ve been given but to overly invest in a structure when money is needed for missions isn’t acceptable.

Some other Scriptures

Rev 18:4, Is 52:11, Jer 51:9,45, II Cor 6:17 - Babylon isn’t just a geographic location in the Bible that hindered God’s people by opposing them in the promised land – it’s a type of the world. God’s command to His people is to come out of the world, not referring to a physical withdrawal but a spiritual one, ‘lest you be a partaker in her sins...’

Rom 1:18, Eph 2:3 - God’s anger is against the world for they don’t know Him - at its heart is rebellion against His image. If we go the world’s way, then God’s anger rests upon us also (James 4:4, I John 2:15-17).

Rev 19:1-5 - When Babylon falls, the Church rejoices. Not so if our hearts are set fast in it. We’re to use the world to support our walk with Jesus, not have a ‘little bit of religion’ with a devotion to the present world systems.

3. Summary

The three points summarised:

i. Numbers 6:3-4 (Wine)
Separation from things that influence us to make bad judgment.

ii. Numbers 6:5 (Hair)
Separation from things that sap the flow of God’s power through us.

iii. Numbers 6:6-8 (Death)
Separation from things that impart death to our lives.

Leviticus Home Page
Old Doctrines Home Page