1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.
5 ‘All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD.
9 ‘And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; 11 and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day.
12 He shall consecrate to the LORD the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
Numbers 6:1-12 presents us with two consecrations: (i.)vv.1-8, and (ii.)vv.9-12. The first is the individual’s consecration of his offering to take the vow of a Nazarite; the second is the consecration of “the days of his separation” (v.12). Are these two the same type of consecration? I’m not sure. But the language is compelling for a number of reasons.
Complete Abstinence Is Not Enough
In the first consecration, it was possible for the person vowing to not drink or defile himself, and yet it seems as if the Lord is showing us that even complete abstinence is not enough to keep a man. Hence, we find this juxtaposition:
6 All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body.[…]
9 …if anyone dies very suddenly beside him
The would-be-Nazarite was perhaps willing and able to abstain from even defiling himself for his own family members, but he couldn’t stop defilement from coming to him. God demanded active and passive purity. And because death and sin and corruption came to him, he was guilty, in spite of his active pursuit of a clean track record. He needed to start over; the old vow, though made with the best of intentions, was now completely lost.
After consecrating his offering to the Lord to take the vow of a Nazarite, he was now defiled, the days he had “under his belt” being lost to his corruption. And what was a symbol of his devotion to God was to be cast away like a filthy rag. He had to shave his head clean and begin anew.
However, in order to atone for his sin, the would-be-Nazarite needed to bring two birds to the priest. The first was to be slain as a sin offering, while the second was to be consumed as a burnt offering. The first heavenly creature was to be slain for his sin, the second was to be consumed with fire and ascend into the heavens from whence it came down to the altar of sacrifice.
Is the picture clear yet?
Without the descent, sacrifice, and ascension of these birds (in the form of rising smoke before the Lord God), there would be no atonement for the individual’s corruption/defilement. Ironically, he would now be separated by his sin, not his vow.
The Second Consecration & The Lamb Slain for Trespasses
While the two birds stand in relation to the individual’s broken commitment to the Lord, his sin and corruption, the lamb stands in relation to the individual’s trespass and his consecration of his days. At least in the text, the lamb is given alongside/with the individual’s consecration of his days unto God.
And all this is done on the eighth day (which is the number of new life/regeneration/resurrection).
The Significance of the Two Consecrations
I’m not sure how exact of an understanding of this passage I actually have, but here’s what I gained.
The individual’s vow and active abstinence from wine and grapes and dead bodies, etc, is not enough to keep him while he lives in a world saturated with sin and death. He must look to Christ daily. His days must be consecrated by the blood of the Lamb. Like the would-be-Nazarite, our failed vows, promises, etc are forgiven, but we need to pick up where we fell, and continue to follow Christ, although our past achievements may now be lost.
If you have anything to add, to correct, to admonish, to exhort, etc – let me know :) This was a challenging passage, and I’d appreciate whatever insight the Lord has given to you.