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What is the biblical meaning of a Nazarite?

In the Bible, a Nazarite is someone who takes a special vow of separation and dedication to God. The requirements and meaning of the Nazarite vow are primarily outlined in Numbers 6 in the Old Testament.

What are the requirements of a Nazarite vow?

There are three main requirements for someone taking a Nazarite vow:

  1. Abstain from drinking wine or any fermented drink
  2. Refrain from cutting one’s hair for the duration of the vow
  3. Avoid contact with corpses or graves

These requirements set the Nazarite apart as holy and dedicated to the Lord during the period of their vow. The abstinence from wine symbolized self-control and avoiding worldly indulgences. Letting one’s hair grow expressed devotion to God’s will above concern for physical appearance. Avoiding corpses ensured ceremonial purity and separation from death and sin.

What was the typical duration of a Nazarite vow?

The minimum duration of a Nazarite vow was 30 days, but vows could be taken for a lifetime as well. Examples include:

  • Samson – A lifetime Nazarite (Judges 13:5)
  • Hannah – Vowed her son Samuel would be a Nazarite for life, as thanks to God for allowing her to conceive (1 Samuel 1:11)
  • Apostle Paul – Took a Nazarite vow for a limited period as part of a purification ritual (Acts 18:18, Acts 21:23-24)

In most cases in Scripture, the Nazarite vow is temporary, but God did call certain people like Samson to live under the vow their entire lives.

What happened at the completion of a Nazarite vow?

At the end of the set time, the Nazarite had specific rituals to perform to conclude the vow:

  1. Shave their head at the entrance to the tabernacle/temple and burn the cut hair in a sacrifice
  2. Offer a year-old male lamb as a burnt offering
  3. Offer a year-old ewe lamb as a sin offering
  4. Offer a ram as a fellowship offering
  5. Present offerings of grain and drink to the Lord

These offerings and rituals purified the Nazarite from any accidental defilement during their vow and re-consecrated them to the Lord. The Nazarite’s hair was holy to God during the vow, so the shaving and sacrifice concluded their season of special dedication.

What happened if a Nazarite became defiled?

If a Nazarite unintentionally came into contact with a corpse or died during their vow, they had to start the vow over again. They shaved their head, offered the prescribed sacrifices, and then re-started the vow period.

However, if a Nazarite became defiled with wine or by cutting their hair, the vow was considered broken. They forfeited the time already completed. The Nazarite had to offer a lamb as a guilt offering for becoming defiled, re-start the vow period, and begin counting the days again from the beginning.

What is the spiritual significance of a Nazarite vow?

A Nazarite vow was a unique form of personal consecration and devotion to the Lord. Nazarites lived in deeper separation for a time, demonstrating single-minded focus on purity before God. Their outward appearance and abstinence reflected inner devotion and obedience to God’s will.

Through their sacrifice and self-denial, Nazarites served as living examples of Israel’s call to be set apart and holy as God’s people. Their vows encouraged others to likewise pursue greater dedication and faithfulness to the Lord.

For the Nazarite themselves, the experience cultivated their spiritual discipline, strengthened their relationship with God, and equipped them for special service. When the vow period ended, they emerged with a renewed devotion to live all of life for the Lord.

What are some examples of Nazarites in the Bible?

Here are some of the Nazarites whose stories are told in Scripture:


  • Called by God to be a Nazarite for life
  • Born to previously barren parents after an angel announced his birth
  • Known for supernatural strength
  • Used by God to begin delivering Israel from Philistine oppression
  • Defiled his vow by touching a dead lion and allowing his hair to be cut
  • Betrayed by Delilah, lost his strength when his hair was cut
  • Prayed for strength one last time to destroy the Philistine temple and sacrificially died with them


  • Vowed as a Nazarite for life by his mother Hannah before he was born
  • Served the Lord under the priest Eli after being weaned
  • Heard the voice of God as a boy and became His prophet
  • Anointed Saul and David as the first kings of Israel
  • Led Israel as a prophet, priest, and judge until his death

John the Baptist

  • Likely took a temporary Nazarite vow
  • Prophesied the coming of the Messiah and called people to repentance
  • Baptized Jesus at the start of His ministry
  • Boldly confronted sin and hypocrisy
  • Beheaded by Herod Antipas while in prison

Their stories reveal how God used Nazarites in unique ways during key periods of biblical history.

What is the meaning of Paul’s Nazarite vow in Acts?

In Acts 18, Paul cut his hair at Cenchreae to mark the end of a Nazarite vow he had taken. This was likely a temporary vow, as there is no other indication that Paul kept the vow his entire life.

Bible scholars have a few theories about why Paul took this Nazarite vow:

  • To express thanksgiving to God after arriving safely in Syria following his second missionary journey
  • To seek greater spiritual empowerment and blessing prior to his third missionary journey
  • To identify with and be culturally sensitive to the Jewish Christians by observing a Jewish custom

In Acts 21, Paul submits to James’ request to join four other Jewish believers completing their temporary Nazarite vows. This further demonstrated Paul’s desire to avoid offending Jewish cultural sensitivities.

How were Nazarites empowered by the Holy Spirit?

God supernaturally empowered some Nazarites like Samson to accomplish His will. The Holy Spirit gave them:

  • Strength – Samson’s incredible strength came from the Spirit of the Lord (Judges 14:6, 19).
  • Wisdom – The Spirit rested on Samson and Samuel, giving wisdom despite their youth (Judges 13:25, 1 Samuel 3:19-21).
  • Prophecy – John the Baptist and Samuel prophetically spoke the word of God through the Spirit.
  • Discernment – The Spirit enabled Samson, Samuel, and John to perceive God’s will in their generation.

However, their power always came from devotion to God’s purposes, not their Nazarite vow itself. The vow was an expression of faith, but God Himself empowered their lives.

Did Jesus endorse or embody the Nazarite vow?

There is no record of Jesus explicitly teaching about or taking a Nazarite vow, even though they were common in Jewish culture during His time. However, we do see foreshadowing of the Nazarite separation to God in the life of Christ:

  • He was conceived by the Spirit and set apart to God from birth (Luke 1:35)
  • He refused wine to begin His ministry, perhaps echoing the Nazarite abstinence (Luke 7:33)
  • He never cut His hair during His earthly life (Isaiah 50:6)
  • He resisted all sin and temptation to remain holy

Unlike previous Nazarites, Jesus’ holiness and separation to God was not temporary but integral to His identity as the Son of God. He embodied the perfect, sinless consecration to the Father that Nazarites only glimpsed for a time.

How did Jesus bring deeper meaning to consecration and holiness?

Jesus fulfilled and reinterpreted the Old Testament visions of consecration and holiness:

  • His perfect life replaced external ritual with complete internal devotion to God
  • He opened holiness to all people, not just those who took vows
  • He brought the new power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify all believers
  • He reconciled all things to God, ending separation through His sacrifice (Ephesians 2:14-18)

With Christ, temporary vows and washings gave way to lasting cleansed consciences and hearts united to God through the Spirit. He invites us into lifelong consecration through faith in Him.

Should Christians take Nazarite vows today?

The Nazarite vows were part of the Old Covenant law and worship system fulfilled in Christ. There is no command or model in the New Testament for Christians taking Nazarite vows.

However, the principles of self-denial, devotion to God, and holy living are still relevant. For a time, Christians may benefit spiritually from abstaining from certain indulgences, fasting from media, or focusing intently on Scripture study and prayer. But these should flow from a desire to deepen devotion to Christ rather than an attempt to replicate the Nazarite legal requirements.

Paul encourages Christians to offer themselves as “living sacrifices” by being transformed through renewing our minds, rather than being conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-2). By the empowering grace of the Spirit, believers can walk in practical holiness and increasing Christlikeness throughout our lives.


The Old Testament Nazarite vow provided a structure for Israelites to express devotion to God through separation and self-denial for a set period. Nazarites like Samson and Samuel served as models of spiritual commitment. While Jesus did not directly teach on Nazarite vows, His perfect, holy life fulfilled the purpose of temporary Old Testament consecration.

For Christians, the principles behind the Nazarite vow can inspire us to pursue deeper communion with Christ through times of focused prayer, fasting, and intentional holy living by God’s strength. However, Christ has brought an open invitation to continual consecration made possible by His finished work for all believers.