Nazarite, Or Nazirite Cm
unshorn samson hair
NAZARITE, or NAZIRITE CM), was the name among the Hebrews for a peculiar kind of devotee. The characteristic marks of a Nazarite were unshorn locks and abstinence from wine (Judg. xiii. 5 ; 1 Sam. i. 11 ; Amos ii. 11, 12); full regulations for the legal observance of the Nazarite vow are given in Numb. vi., where every product of the grape-vine is forbidden, and the Nazarite is further enjoined to abstain from approaching a dead body, even if it be that of his nearest relative. The law in question is not pre-exilic, and is plainly directed to the regulation of a known usage. It contemplates the assumption of the vow for a limited period, and gives particular details as to the atoning ceremonies at the sanctuary by which the vow must be recommenced if broken by accidental defilement, and the closing sacrifice, at which the Nazarite, on the expiry of his vow, cuts off his hair and burns it on the altar, thus returning to ordinary life. Among the later Jews the Nazarite vow of course corresponded with "thelegal ordinance, which was further developed by the scribes in their usual manner (Mishna, Hazir; comp. 1 Mac. iii. 49; Acts i. 23 sq.; Joseph., Ant., xix. 6, 1; Id., B. J., ii. 15, 1). On the other hand, in the earliest historical case, that of Samson, and in the similar case of Samuel (who, however, is not called a Nazarite), the head remains unshorn throughout life, and in these times the ceremonial observances as to uncleanness must have been less precise. Samson's mother is forbidden to eat unclean things during pregnancy, but Samson him self touches the carcase of a lion and is often in contact with the slain.2 In the cases of Samuel and Samson the unshorn locks are a mark of consecration to God (ton7t1, Judg. xiii. 5) for a particular service, - in the one case the service of the sanctuary, in the other the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. Since, moreover, the Hebrew root N-Z-R is only dialectically different from N-D-R, "to vow," both corresponding to the same original Semitic root (Arabic N-D11-1), it would seem that the peculiar marks of the Nazarite are primarily no more than the usual sign that a man is under a vow of some kind. To leave the locks unshorn during an arduous undertaking in which the divine aid was specially implored, and to consecrate the hair after success, was a practice among various ancient nations, of which examples may be seen in Spencer, De Legibus Ileb., iii. 1, cap. 6 ; but the closest parallel to the Hebrew custom is found in Arabia. There the vow was generally one of war or revenge (Ifamasa, p. 167 ; `Antara, Moal., 1. 74; Mole. in Medina, p. 201), and till it was accomplished the man who vowed left his hair unshorn and unkempt, and abstained from wine, women, ointment, and perfume. Such is the figure of Shanfara as described in his Ldmiya. The observances of the ihrdm belong to the same usage (see vol. xv. p. 674), and we find that at Tdif it was customary to shear the hair at the sanctuary after a journey (Moir. in Medina, p. 381). The affinity between the Arabian usage and a case like that of Samson is obvious, and the consecration of Samuel has also its Arabic parallel in the dedication of an unborn child by its mother to the service of the Ka', ba (Ibn Hishdm, p. 76 ; Azraki, p. 128); but we have not sufficient data to enable us to trace the further development of the Nazarite vow among the Hebrews. The spirit of warlike patriotism that characterized the old religion of Israel could scarcely fail to encourage such vows (comp. 2 Sam. xi. 11, and perhaps 1 Sam. xxi. 4, 5), and from the allusion in Amos we are led to suppose that at one time the Nazarites had an importance - perhaps even an organization - parallel to that of the prophets, while on the other hand the Canaanized popular religion of the 8th century B.C. made light of an institution that belonged to a very different religious type from Canaanite nature worship. The Nazarites as they appear in Amos have another parallel in the Rechabite-s.