Rise A Knight
“A defiled Nazirite is an Adam or an Eve who has failed at holy war and thus cannot enter into God’s rest.”
Since I rave on about structure so much (and how wrong it is that we moderns regard it as merely an ornamental option rather than as the label on the tin) the fractalicious* Covenant structure of Numbers 6 should give us some clues as to what the Nazirite vow actually was in the big picture.
Firstly, Numbers 6 is the fifth step in the first cycle of the book of Numbers. This means it is “bridal.” Coming after the “jealous inspection” (Testing) it has to do with judicial maturity, a mustering of the bride, terrible as an army with banners, ready for purification on the Day of Atonement (see The Beauty of Numbers 1-7).
Repeated structure is what ties every part of the Bible to every other part. Since every part has the same shape, all parts speak to and comment on each other. You may not be familiar with some of the allusions below, but trust me, it works like clockwork. I could explain every line, but you can get that from the Bible Matrix books. The structure is a threefold cord of the Creation Week/Tabernacle Furniture, the Annual Feasts, and the pattern of Dominion. Hopefully there are enough notes to get you through it. I do have a detailed commentary on the structure of the Torah (similar to the work on Numbers) planned for next year. I’ll probably have to blog my way through it to trick myself into getting it done!
Anyhow, Bible commentators haggle over hermeneutics but the Bible is a woven cloth. Everything new alludes to everything before. There are no hermeneutical rules. Again. There are no hermeneutical rules. There are living connections and structure is what holds them together. So, our interpretation of the Nazirite vow refers to all previous Scripture, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can also see how it plays out in later Scripture, using this “cross-eyed exegesis” (alignment and comparison of patterns).
TRANSCENDENCE – Creation (Genesis)
As in Genesis, the entire event begins with a word from God. As usual, the first stanza is a microcosm of the whole, the first “soundwave” from the mouth of God, to be reiterated in God’s man and then God’s people, with a view to ministry to the nations. In this first pattern, notice that “Israel,” the man of God, appears at Day 6.
HIERARCHY – Priesthood in the Desert (Exodus)
The Hierarchy section is threefold and seems to be divided into the three domains corrupted in early Genesis. Even more interesting is the play on the triune nature of fruit as an image of Man, with its seed, its flesh and its glorious “clothing.” (See Seed, Flesh and Skin concerning the “uncircumcised fruit” in Lev. 19).
Vinegar is made from wine but considered to be a condiment. “Strong drink” is actually beer, hence its place on the Table here, as a grain derivative. Israel used beer for the drink offerings in the wilderness until they reached the vineyards of Canaan. I like the reference to Jew and Gentile at Booths as fresh (moist) and dried. The abstinence of the Nazirite was priestly, a deliberate refusal of “kingly” or kingdom foods.
The third level (the Gentile courts) references the entire fruit, which in Noah’s day was a world ripe for judgment. Skin refers to covering for sin. The entire world was covered. Here, the “seeds” are at Trumpets as military sons, and the skin is the covering at Atonement.
ETHICS – Priestly Law (Leviticus)
All the days (Sabbath – New Creation)
I love how the Nazirite’s hair is the “firstfruits” in this passage. The glory of hair is a godly crop upon the Covenant head. This should also make us think of the crown of thorns upon Jesus’ head, wearing the curse of a Land that did not bring forth the fruit God wanted. (Unless of course we are unable to make such connections because we were taught the Bible by intellectuals — as most pastors are — and not by farmers, who know a thing or two.)
Division corresponds to Passover. At this point, in many instances, God turns up and the Man falls face down as if dead. The Nazirite is thus a kind of temporary “firstborn,” symbolically inside the house of God — on the Table — wherever he or she goes.
This is the “social” step. In Adam’s pattern it was his marriage to Eve and the promise of children. In the Ten Words, it is the commandment with a promise, concerning living long in the land.
Check out the reference to oil and head at the centre. That is the “Pentecost” step – flame on head, a human torch. Again, the last line is a cutting off from glory. The entire point of the Nazirite vow seems to be a refusal to grab the glory of God’s rest.
Just as Trumpets concerns the offering of Israel’s military sons to God, so here the Nazirite brings his or her offering, ready for cleansing.
Notice that this cycle of stanzas is not complete, and thus even the final cycle is not complete. A defiled Nazirite is an Adam or an Eve who has failed at holy war and thus cannot enter into God’s rest.
SANCTIONS – Covenant Body (Numbers)
The Sanctions/Oath section follows the matrix pattern but appears to highlight its “Covenant renewal” strand. Again, this stanza prefigures the structure of this entire section.
Here it is animals and food that stand in for the holy warrior. Notice that this again refers to Abel and Cain. Cain’s sin was not what he offered, but simply the fact that he pushed in before Abel and made his kingly offering first, a veiled insult to God, a proclamation that nothing really happened in the Garden, that men can rule without any obedience to God. Notice that the offerings with oil come at Pentecost and Trumpets. Oil is the Spirit given after the blood has been shed. Of course, animals and food are a reference to the curse upon Land and womb in Genesis 3.
The priest, previously anointed with blood and oil, can ascend before God with the offering, winged as an angel-servant. Note that, as James Jordan points out, burnt offering is a mistranslation. The ascension offering is a reference, always, to Isaac, the priestly firstfruits. It makes sense that this is followed by the offering of a ram. The unleavened bread is in an odd place here, perhaps referring to the purity of the bride. The old history has been cut off and she is now resurrected in purity.
The centrepoint is the shaving of the head. Notice the “consecrated head” is in the place of both the Golden Table and the Incense Altar, that is, the firstfruits Adam and the Eve. And the theme of this “Pentecostal” stanza (Ethics 2) is fire.
The presentation of the bride as a chaste virgin means that the holy war is over. The warrior went into the wilderness with the head of Adam and returned with the glorious hair of Eve. Every Nazirite went out a Tabernacle (covered in skin) and came back a glorious bridal Temple. Every Nazirite was thus a forming and a filling, a complete house. Notice that the angels who cast down their crowns in the Revelation are following this rite. They had finished their holy war as ministers of the Old Covenant and were offering the glory of their heads to God in completion of their vows. Their roles would be filled by an ascended “Firstfruits” Church just before the destruction of Jerusalem, the harlot.
Sanctions often concerns the Covenant vow. Once again, step 7 is missing because it involves wine and rest. I love how “in exact accordance” communicates the “eye and tooth” of the Law at the centre. The stanza begins and ends with “the law of the Nazirite.” Notice to use of “above” at Ascension and “as he can afford” at the Firstfruits tithe.
SUCCESSION – The Future (Deuteronomy)
So, what was a Nazirite?
The Nazirite vow was a means of extending the guarding role of the priesthood to an Israelite — either male or female — for the purpose of holy war. It was a sort of “priestly knighthood.”
The vow is a miniature of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness – an emptying and a humbling followed by a filling and a glorification. The “Covenant head” is empty and comes back with “bridal hair.” The grapes of Canaan are refused until the vow is complete and the Land is taken. The idea goes back to the two trees in the Garden: the second tree temporarily forbidden for the sake of the humbling of Adam and the glorification of the Bride. Phil 2:5-11 also follows this pattern of emptying and filling.
Also, notice that no wine is drunk before God between Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham and the Last Supper (the Greater Melchizedek). The entire period of the Abrahamic Covenant was a priestly humbling, a temporary abstinence from kingly food for the maturation and qualification of humanity for Adamic rule.
The closest thing under the New Covenant is believer’s baptism (which is also for both men and women — the role of the Nazirite was priestly action in the outer courts of the house, that is, the nations). Believers abstain from “kingdom privileges” (food, alcohol, sex) temporarily for the sake of priestly war (1 Corinthians 7:5).
* fractalicious – A holy mixture of something that is tasty with something that can be infinitely zoomed in, like bread and wine that is still fresh after two thousand years, or The Magic Pudding.
IMAGE: From the movie Kingdom of Heaven. The real knights had all deserted the city, so Balian simply knighted some more. “Rise a knight!” The priest wasn’t happy.