Num 6.1-21 deals with the instruction of the Nazarite. Nazarite comes from the Hebrew word “nazair” meaning “consecrated” or “separated.” This is a voluntary separation from drinking wine, vinegar, grape juice or grapes. They are not to shave their head or go near the dead. The length of the vow varied. It could be a few days or a lifetime. Paul had a Nazarite vow and came out of it by cutting his hair in Acts 18.18. In Acts 21.15-26 it says he came to Jerusalem and to the Temple to give the required animal offerings and other korbanot when the Nazarite vow is finished (Acts 21.23-26). Now, this is around 58 AD and nearly 30 years after Yeshua resurrected and ascended to Heaven. So, let’s go over a few things here.
If the “law” has been done away with and we are not “under the law” why is Paul and the early Messianic believers following the Torah, going to the Temple and offering animal sacrifices (Acts 21.23-26)? Paul and the other believers who offered animal sacrifices here, at the urging of James and the elders, were not doing something that was uncommon. They were not doing this “for show” so they could win over the unbelieving Jews. Paul said he was specifically coming to the Temple to “bring alms to my nation and to present offerings” (Acts 24.17). If Yeshua told them they were not under the law and it has been done away with, Paul and the First Century believers didn’t believe him, and didn’t listen. Even Peter said he remained Torah observant when it came to eating unclean animals in Acts 10.14. The vision he sees is not about permitting the consumption of unclean foods, its about not calling any man unclean (Acts 10.28-35). The fact is, Yeshua never told them the Torah has been done away with and that they were “free from the law” as many teach today. That is a lie and it cannot be supported by Scripture.
Now, getting back to the Nazarite vow. If you are defiled by accident, you would cut your hair and you brought a korban. Then you would start again. When your time is up, you would shave your head, bring the required korbanot and your hair was burned in the fire that was under the fellowship offering (Num 6.18). That is what Paul is doing in Acts 18.18 and Acts 21.15-26. In Num 6.2 it says, “When a man or a woman makes a vow.” What is a vow? A vow brings the future into the present reality using words.
For example, when we vow to do something, our future is pulled down into the present and the reality of the vow is created, and people will treat you as your vow indicates. Time no longer has meaning. Our words have created a new reality, not only for now, but the future. We speak a vow, and it is done. Breaking a vow is painful because we tear reality apart. The Lord requires us to keep vows because we have changed his creation. It is a different place because of our words. Spiritually, what does the law of the Nazarite teach us? It teaches that greatness can be achieved in the smallest of life’s decisions, not the ultimate “big” leap. The Nazir did not have but a few, simple requirements to achieve the great level of kedusha to God (Num 6.8). Communicating with ones family, commitment to Torah, kindness, mercy, justice are small kinds of meaningful actions we can do. Greatness is available by making small steps.
Next we are going to talk about the Priestly Blessing found in Num 6.22-27. There are many traditions concerning it. This is the biblical way to bless people, “speak” the name of God on them (Num 6.27). The blessing comes in three parts and six lines and “you” is mentioned sis times. In Hebrew, this very poetical and it has a structure. Line one has three words and fifteen letters. Line two has five words and twenty letters. Line three has seven words and twenty-five letters. When the priests gave this blessing in the Temple, they were on the steps leading to the Sanctuary building and their backs were to the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies). You did not turn your back on God in the Temple, but in this instance they did, but why? This blessing was from the Lord through the priests. It was an inheritance. The name of God “Yehovah” is mentioned three times. We believe that it alludes to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
You will notice that the Lord does not tell the kohanim to bless the people using their own words, but to use the exact form given here. That is because Yehovah is the one blessing the people. This concept can also be seen when the Levitical choir sang. They stood on what is called the Duchan in the azarah (courtyard). Their backs were to the Sanctuary also. This also conveyed the idea that the Lord was speaking to the people through the choir in the words that were sung. The Torah prescribed that only the sons of Aaron were allowed to give this blessing, so let’s look at it briefly.
It begins with the words, “May Yehovah bless you and keep you.” The word “bless” is “bareka” and it means to protect, bring contentment, happiness, health and prosperity. The word “keep” is “V’yishmereka” and the root is “shammar” meaning to guard. The second part is “May Yehovah shine his face on you and be gracious to you.” This means while he is looking at us he is our light. In the desert, the face was oiled and it shined. To be gracious is “Vi’chuneka” and it means to fulfill your prayer. It is related to the word “chanan” meaning healing, help, refuge, strength and rescue.
The third part is “May Yehovah lift up his face to you and give you peace.” To lift his countenance to you means “to take a long look to see what our needs are” Of course, the word “peace” is “shalom” and this ultimately alludes to eternal life. It is a gift and we cannot get this gift by just going out to get it (John 1.13).
As we have said before, you could not turn your back on God in the Temple. But, we also mentioned that the priests reciting this blessing did because the blessing was coming from God. It is the same way with the priests on the Duchan when they were singing. The Psalm was coming from God to the people.
In Num 6.27 it says they were to “invoke” God’s name Yehovah on Israel. The way this is sung today they use “Adonai” in place of Yehovah, but that is not invoking the name of God on the people. His name is Yehovah and we have established that in a previous teaching on the name of God.
Why are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob called “Yehudim” (Jews)? The word “Yehudim” comes from the word “Yehudah” (Judah) and it is spelled with a yod (y), hey (h), vav (v), dalet (d) and hey (h). Take the dalet (d sound) out and you have Yehovah (YHVH). When you say “Jews” (Yehudim) it is related to “Yehudah” and you are invoking the name of Yehovah on Israel. That is why there is the concept of Replacement Theology. They want God’s name on them (a sign of ownership) and they want this blessing, but without all that “Torah” stuff. Yehudah (Judah) means “praise” and it is the same thing as saying “halleluyah.” That’s why Yehudah has taken prominence as the name for Israel.
Replacement Theology wants the blessing but not the curse. That is why certain denominations within Christianity say they are the true “Jews” (Yehudim) and teach that they have replaced Israel. They teach that the blessing belongs to them, but the curses belong to Israel. Now, Christianity will reach out to Jews and say they want to bless Israel, and that is a nice thing to do, but they also want to turn the Jews into Christians, which isn’t too nice. However, these Christians have no intention of turning from their ways to follow the Torah either. It’s only a one sided deal here. They want the Jews to forsake the Torah like they do, go to church on Sunday like they do, accept a Jesus” that is foreign to the Scriptures like they do, they want them to eat forbidden things like they do, they want them to keep Christmas and Easter like they do. In other words, forsake the Torah like they do. But by trying to get Jews to forsake the Torah, they are actually setting them up for failure (Deut 28.15-68).
In Part 6 we will pick up here and begin with Num 7.1-59 and the dedication of the Mishkan.