THE NAZIRITE (Samson – Part 1)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)]

red-shouldered hawkThe word Nazirite comes from the Hebrew words nazir, meaning to consecrate, and nazar, meaning to separate. An Old Testament Nazirite separated himself from the world and was consecrated to God. To do this, there were specific restrictions and requirements. Nazirites had to abstain from wine or any fermented drink and weren’t even allowed to drink grape juice, eat grapes or raisins, or touch grape seeds or skins. Hair was not supposed to be cut for the entire length of the vow nor was the Nazirite allowed to become ceremonially unclean by being anywhere near a dead body. The Nazirite vow could be taken by both men and women and several sacrificial offerings were made at its conclusion. Typically, the vow was taken voluntarily and had a specific time frame, usually thirty days. For three men in Scripture, however, becoming a life-long Nazirite was decided for them. It was Samuel’s mother who dedicated him as a Nazirite and angels of the Lord declared that both Samson and John the Baptist were to be Nazirites.

Perhaps it was because he didn’t choose to become a Nazirite that Samson seemed particularly flawed in his role. While his hair remained uncut until that unfortunate night with Delilah, he certainly didn’t remain set apart from society or consecrated to God. He deliberately defied both Jewish law and his parents by marrying a Philistine woman—and all because she was pretty. Later in life, he continued to consort with Philistine women of questionable morality. As for being unclean, after killing a lion, Samson later returned to its carcass where he found a bee hive. It’s difficult to understand how he could scoop out handfuls of honey from the lion’s remains without coming near to or touching its dead body. When he shared the honey with his parents, he never told them its source which implies that he knew what he’d done was wrong. The lion had attacked him near the vineyards of Timnah and, as a Nazirite, he never should have been anywhere near a vineyard. Later, during his week-long nuptial celebration, he entered into a wager with thirty Philistine men that seems suspiciously like the sort of bet a young man would make after having too much to drink. The prohibition about grapes and wine was supposed to show self-discipline and restraint yet most of Samson’s behavior speaks of hotheadedness and self-indulgence rather than moderation and self-control.

Samson’s first wife finagled the answer to his riddle with a combination of feminine wiles and nagging. More than twenty years later, the enticing Delilah managed to do the same thing not once but four times! After telling her that his strength would be gone if restrained by seven fresh bowstrings and then waking up to find himself tied up with seven new bowstrings, one would think he would have figured out her ploy. Because of his lust, however, the man who could kill a lion with his bare hands and slay thousands of Philistines, was putty in the hands of a sexy nagging woman.

Although Samson’s story is told in three chapters of Judges, his twenty years as a judge are dismissed with one short sentence. The mighty warrior, the man who’d been dedicated to God while still in the womb, the judge selected by God to deliver His people, ended up blind and grinding grain in prison. He wasted his strength on foolish wagers, getting out of scrapes that were his own fault, and chasing after women. He was a lustful braggart who was physically strong but morally weak. Yes, in his last act, he killed thousands of Philistines by destroying their temple but consider what this man could have accomplished if he truly had consecrated his life to God!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)]

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