Numbers 6 Study Notes


6:1 After two chapters of Levitical and priestly instructions (chaps. 3-4), and a series of community purity laws in chap. 5, the Nazirite legislation defines an additional level of service for the laity in the community of faith.

6:2 Unlike the priestly and Levitical service, which was limited to males of a certain age and ancestral heritage, the Nazirite vow was a special dedicatory service for the Lord that was open to females. Though only Aaronic priests were permitted to conduct worship rituals in the tabernacle, any person could dedicate his or her life in service to the Lord for a specific period of time. Samson was dedicated as a Nazirite for the purpose of delivering Israel from Philistine oppression (Jdg 13:2-4). The mothers of Samson and Samuel took Nazirite vows during their times of barrenness.


Hebrew pronunciation [MAR]
CSB translation bitter, bitterness
Uses in Numbers 6
Uses in the OT 38
Focus passage Numbers 5:18-19,23-24,27

Mar denotes bitter or bitterness (Is 38:15), then angry (Jdg 18:25), hurt (1Sm 1:10), discontented (1Sm 22:2), or desperate (2Sm 17:8). Mar yields the name Marah (Ex 15:23). Marar (16x) means be bitter (Lm 1:4) or in anguish (2Kg 4:27). The intensive verb denotes attack (Gn 49:23), the causative verb defy, and both signify make bitter (Ex 1:14) or weep bitterly (Zch 12:10). The reflexive-passive means be infuriated (Dn 8:7). Mor (12x, Ex 30:23) is myrrh, which tastes bitter. Merorah (4x) suggests venom, liver (Jb 20:14,25), or bitter. Maror (3x) is bitter herbs (Nm 9:11) or bitterness (Lm 3:15). Tamrur (3x) represents bitter anger (Hs 12:14) or bitter. Mererah is bile (Jb 16:13). Meriyriy is bitter (Dt 32:24). Mamror implies bitter experience (Jb 9:18). The nouns morah (Gn 26:35), morrah (Pr 14:10), memer (Pr 17:25), and meriyrut (Ezk 21:6) indicate bitterness.

6:3-4 The Nazirite vow involved total restriction from the vineyard and any of its products. This was more stringent than the restriction of priests from consuming wine during their time of ritual service. The vineyard denoted a sedentary lifestyle that often lost its perspective of total devotion to the Lord. Note the example of the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35 (see notes at Jr 35:2 and Jr 35:6-11). Beer translates a Hebrew term traditionally translated “strong drink,” derived from the verb shakar, “to be drunk.” The distillation process, which leads to a higher alcoholic content than can be achieved via mere fermentation, was unknown until the ninth century AD. Thus the ancients were unable to make beverages that are as potent as the “strong drinks” available since medieval times. For this reason the CSB translators reason that “beer” is a more accurate translation since it has a lower alcohol percentage than the “strong drink” that results from distillation.

6:5-6 The uncut hair would be an outward symbol to others of the Nazirite dedication. Refraining from coming near the dead or participating in the burial ritual would be a reminder to that person’s family that he had been totally dedicated to the Lord.

6:7-8 Like the high priest (Lv 21:11), a Nazirite could not go through the normal grief process if a family member died (cp. Mt 8:21-22).

6:9-12 Closeness to a dead body, a major contaminant mentioned in 5:2, could happen accidentally while a person was sleeping in his tent when an elderly relative died. If the vineyard and razor restrictions were deliberately broken, the vow was automatically ended. See chap. 19 for detailed legislation on cleansing from contamination by a corpse.

6:13-21 The concluding ceremony of the Nazirite vow involved each of these sacrificial offerings: (1) a burnt offering (Hb ‘olah) for consecration, (2) a sin offering (Hb chatta’ath) for purification, and (3) a fellowship offering (Hb shelomim) for celebration.

6:22-27 The priestly blessing concludes the first section of the book of Numbers.

6:23 Blessing was invoking the power of God on behalf of the people of God (bless the Israelites). This blessing would bring such things as numerous descendants, a fruitful land, good health, long life, deliverance from danger and oppression, protection from one’s enemies, and God’s abiding presence. As the recipient of God’s blessing, Israel was to bless the nations (Gn 12:3) as his instrument, serving as a light to the entire world and pointing the nations to the one true God.

6:24 God’s protection of Israel had been demonstrated by their deliverance from Egypt. The prayer calls for that protection to continue.

6:25 The face reflected the righteous character of God. Be gracious to you evoked God’s favor, which was beyond measure. God’s grace would be exemplified when God brought the second generation into the promised land after the rejection of that gift by the generation delivered from Egypt.

6:26 Look with favor on you and give you peace expresses God’s grace and beneficence. Favor is the directing of one’s full attention toward the needs and desires of another person. The smile of God on the community of faith would bring peace as his covenant mercy came to fruition in the life of the community.

6:27 The name of God is a reflection of the fullness of his character. When Jesus spoke of coming in the name of the Father (Jn 5:43; 10:25), he was evoking the fullness of God’s character upon his public ministry.