(Heb. form Nazirite), the name of such Israelites as took on
them the vow prescribed in Num. 6:2-21. The word denotes
generally one who is separated from others and consecrated to
God. Although there is no mention of any Nazarite before Samson,
yet it is evident that they existed before the time of Moses.
The vow of a Nazarite involved these three things, (1)
abstinence from wine and strong drink, (2) refraining from
cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the
continuance of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with
When the period of the continuance of the vow came to an end,
the Nazarite had to present himself at the door of the sanctuary
with (1) a he lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, (2) a
ewe lamb of the first year for a sin-offering, and (3) a ram for
a peace-offering. After these sacrifices were offered by the
priest, the Nazarite cut off his hair at the door and threw it
into the fire under the peace-offering.
For some reason, probably in the midst of his work at Corinth,
Paul took on himself the Nazarite vow. This could only be
terminated by his going up to Jerusalem to offer up the hair
which till then was to be left uncut. But it seems to have been
allowable for persons at a distance to cut the hair, which was
to be brought up to Jerusalem, where the ceremony was completed.
This Paul did at Cenchrea just before setting out on his voyage
into Syria (Acts 18:18).
On another occasion (Acts 21:23-26), at the feast of
Pentecost, Paul took on himself again the Nazarite vow. "The
ceremonies involved took a longer time than Paul had at his
disposal, but the law permitted a man to share the vow if he
could find companions who had gone through the prescribed
ceremonies, and who permitted him to join their company. This
permission was commonly granted if the new comer paid all the
fees required from the whole company (fee to the Levite for
cutting the hair and fees for sacrifices), and finished the vow
along with the others. Four Jewish Christians were performing
the vow, and would admit Paul to their company, provided he paid
their expenses. Paul consented, paid the charges, and when the
last seven days of the vow began he went with them to live in
the temple, giving the usual notice to the priests that he had
joined in regular fashion, was a sharer with the four men, and
that his vow would end with theirs. Nazarites retired to the
temple during the last period of seven days, because they could
be secure there against any accidental defilement" (Lindsay's
As to the duration of a Nazarite's vow, every one was left at
liberty to fix his own time. There is mention made in Scripture
of only three who were Nazarites for life, Samson, Samuel, and
John the Baptist (Judg. 13:4, 5; 1 Sam. 1:11; Luke 1:15). In its
ordinary form, however, the Nazarite's vow lasted only thirty,
and at most one hundred, days. (See RECHABITES ¯T0003080.)
This institution was a symbol of a life devoted to God and
separated from all sin, a holy life.
of the sun, the son of Manoah, born at Zorah. The narrative of
his life is given in Judg. 13-16. He was a "Nazarite unto God"
from his birth, the first Nazarite mentioned in Scripture (Judg.
13:3-5; comp. Num. 6:1-21). The first recorded event of his life
was his marriage with a Philistine woman of Timnath (Judg.
14:1-5). Such a marriage was not forbidden by the law of Moses,
as the Philistines did not form one of the seven doomed
Canaanite nations (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:1-4). It was, however,
an ill-assorted and unblessed marriage. His wife was soon taken
from him and given "to his companion" (Judg. 14:20). For this
Samson took revenge by burning the "standing corn of the
Philistines" (15:1-8), who, in their turn, in revenge "burnt her
and her father with fire." Her death he terribly avenged
(15:7-19). During the twenty years following this he judged
Israel; but we have no record of his life. Probably these twenty
years may have been simultaneous with the last twenty years of
Eli's life. After this we have an account of his exploits at
Gaza (16:1-3), and of his infatuation for Delilah, and her
treachery (16:4-20), and then of his melancholy death
(16:21-31). He perished in the last terrible destruction he
brought upon his enemies. "So the dead which he slew at his
death were more [in social and political importance=the elite of
the people] than they which he slew in his life."
"Straining all his nerves, he bowed:
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro
He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder
Upon the heads of all who sat beneath,
Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests,
Their choice nobility and flower."
Milton's Samson Agonistes.
the process by which a person unclean, according to the
Levitical law, and thereby cut off from the sanctuary and the
festivals, was restored to the enjoyment of all these
The great annual purification of the people was on the Day of
But in the details of daily life there were special causes of
cermonial uncleanness which were severally provided for by
ceremonial laws enacted for each separate case. For example, the
case of the leper (Lev. 13, 14), and of the house defiled by
leprosy (14:49-53; see also Matt. 8:2-4). Uncleanness from
touching a dead body (Num. 19:11; Hos. 9:4; Hag. 2:13; Matt.
23:27; Luke 11:44). The case of the high priest and of the
Nazarite (Lev. 21:1-4, 10, 11; Num. 6:6, 7; Ezek. 44:25).
Purification was effected by bathing and washing the clothes
(Lev. 14:8, 9); by washing the hands (Deut. 21:6; Matt. 27:24);
washing the hands and feet (Ex. 30:18-21; Heb. 6:2, "baptisms",
R.V. marg., "washings;" 9:10); sprinkling with blood and water
(Ex. 24:5-8; Heb. 9:19), etc. Allusions to this rite are found
in Ps. 26:6; 51:7; Ezek. 36:25; Heb. 10:22.
Numbers, Book of
the fourth of the books of the Pentateuch, called in the Hebrew
be-midbar, i.e., "in the wilderness." In the LXX. version it is
called "Numbers," and this name is now the usual title of the
book. It is so called because it contains a record of the
numbering of the people in the wilderness of Sinai (1-4), and of
their numbering afterwards on the plain of Moab (26).
This book is of special historical interest as furnishing us
with details as to the route of the Israelites in the wilderness
and their principal encampments. It may be divided into three
1. The numbering of the people at Sinai, and preparations for
their resuming their march (1-10:10). The sixth chapter gives an
account of the vow of a Nazarite.
2. An account of the journey from Sinai to Moab, the sending
out of the spies and the report they brought back, and the
murmurings (eight times) of the people at the hardships by the
3. The transactions in the plain of Moab before crossing the
Jordan (21:21-ch. 36).
The period comprehended in the history extends from the second
month of the second year after the Exodus to the beginning of
the eleventh month of the fortieth year, in all about
thirty-eight years and ten months; a dreary period of
wanderings, during which that disobedient generation all died in
the wilderness. They were fewer in number at the end of their
wanderings than when they left the land of Egypt. We see in this
history, on the one hand, the unceasing care of the Almighty
over his chosen people during their wanderings; and, on the
other hand, the murmurings and rebellions by which they offended
their heavenly Protector, drew down repeated marks of his
displeasure, and provoked him to say that they should "not enter
into his rest" because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:19).
This, like the other books of the Pentateuch, bears evidence
of having been written by Moses.
The expression "the book of the wars of the Lord," occurring
in 21:14, has given rise to much discussion. But, after all,
"what this book was is uncertain, whether some writing of Israel
not now extant, or some writing of the Amorites which contained
songs and triumphs of their king Sihon's victories, out of which
Moses may cite this testimony, as Paul sometimes does out of
heathen poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12)."
John the Baptist
the "forerunner of our Lord." We have but fragmentary and
imperfect accounts of him in the Gospels. He was of priestly
descent. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the course of
Abia (1 Chr. 24:10), and his mother, Elisabeth, was of the
daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). The mission of John was the
subject of prophecy (Matt. 3:3; Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1). His birth,
which took place six months before that of Jesus, was foretold
by an angel. Zacharias, deprived of the power of speech as a
token of God's truth and a reproof of his own incredulity with
reference to the birth of his son, had the power of speech
restored to him on the occasion of his circumcision (Luke 1:64).
After this no more is recorded of him for thirty years than what
is mentioned in Luke 1:80. John was a Nazarite from his birth
(Luke 1:15; Num. 6:1-12). He spent his early years in the
mountainous tract of Judah lying between Jerusalem and the Dead
Sea (Matt. 3:1-12).
At length he came forth into public life, and great multitudes
from "every quarter" were attracted to him. The sum of his
preaching was the necessity of repentance. He denounced the
Sadducees and Pharisees as a "generation of vipers," and warned
them of the folly of trusting to external privileges (Luke 3:8).
"As a preacher, John was eminently practical and discriminating.
Self-love and covetousness were the prevalent sins of the people
at large. On them, therefore, he enjoined charity and
consideration for others. The publicans he cautioned against
extortion, the soldiers against crime and plunder." His doctrine
and manner of life roused the entire south of Israel, and the
people from all parts flocked to the place where he was, on the
banks of the Jordan. There he baptized thousands unto
The fame of John reached the ears of Jesus in Nazareth (Matt.
3:5), and he came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized of John,
on the special ground that it became him to "fulfil all
righteousness" (3:15). John's special office ceased with the
baptism of Jesus, who must now "increase" as the King come to
his kingdom. He continued, however, for a while to bear
testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus. He pointed him out to his
disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God." His public ministry
was suddenly (after about six months probably) brought to a
close by his being cast into prison by Herod, whom he had
reproved for the sin of having taken to himself the wife of his
brother Philip (Luke 3:19). He was shut up in the castle of
Machaerus (q.v.), a fortress on the southern extremity of
Peraea, 9 miles east of the Dead Sea, and here he was beheaded.
His disciples, having consigned the headless body to the grave,
went and told Jesus all that had occurred (Matt. 14:3-12).
John's death occurred apparently just before the third Passover
of our Lord's ministry. Our Lord himself testified regarding him
that he was a "burning and a shining light" (John 5:35).
separated, generally supposed to be the Greek form of the Hebrew
_netser_, a "shoot" or "sprout." Some, however, think that the
name of the city must be connected with the name of the hill
behind it, from which one of the finest prospects in Israel
is obtained, and accordingly they derive it from the Hebrew
_notserah_, i.e., one guarding or watching, thus designating the
hill which overlooks and thus guards an extensive region.
This city is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It was the
home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39), and here the angel
announced to the Virgin the birth of the Messiah (1:26-28). Here
Jesus grew up from his infancy to manhood (4:16); and here he
began his public ministry in the synagogue (Matt. 13:54), at
which the people were so offended that they sought to cast him
down from the precipice whereon their city was built (Luke
4:29). Twice they expelled him from their borders (4:16-29;
Matt. 13:54-58); and he finally retired from the city, where he
did not many mighty works because of their unbelief (Matt.
13:58), and took up his residence in Capernaum.
Nazareth is situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on
the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of
Galilee and about 6 west from Mount Tabor. It is identified with
the modern village en-Nazirah, of six or ten thousand
inhabitants. It lies "as in a hollow cup" lower down upon the
hill than the ancient city. The main road for traffic between
Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot
of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.
It is supposed from the words of Nathanael in John 1:46 that
the city of Nazareth was held in great disrepute, either
because, it is said, the people of Galilee were a rude and less
cultivated class, and were largely influenced by the Gentiles
who mingled with them, or because of their lower type of moral
and religious character. But there seems to be no sufficient
reason for these suppositions. The Jews believed that, according
to Micah 5:2, the birth of the Messiah would take place at
Bethlehem, and nowhere else. Nathanael held the same opinion as
his countrymen, and believed that the great "good" which they
were all expecting could not come from Nazareth. This is
probably what Nathanael meant. Moreover, there does not seem to
be any evidence that the inhabitants of Galilee were in any
respect inferior, or that a Galilean was held in contempt, in
the time of our Lord. (See Dr. Merrill's Galilee in the Time of
The population of this city (now about 10,000) in the time of
Christ probably amounted to 15,000 or 20,000 souls.
"The so-called 'Holy House' is a cave under the Latin church,
which appears to have been originally a tank. The 'brow of the
hill', site of the attempted precipitation, is probably the
northern cliff: the traditional site has been shown since the
middle ages at some distance to the south. None of the
traditional sites are traceable very early, and they have no
authority. The name Nazareth perhaps means 'a watch tower' (now
en-Nasrah), but is connected in the New Testament with Netzer,
'a branch' (Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Matt. 2:23),
Nazarene being quite a different word from Nazarite."
heard of God. The peculiar circumstances connected with his
birth are recorded in 1 Sam. 1:20. Hannah, one of the two wives
of Elkanah, who came up to Shiloh to worship before the Lord,
earnestly prayed to God that she might become the mother of a
son. Her prayer was graciously granted; and after the child was
weaned she brought him to Shiloh nd consecrated him to the Lord
as a perpetual Nazarite (1:23-2:11). Here his bodily wants and
training were attended to by the women who served in the
tabernacle, while Eli cared for his religious culture. Thus,
probably, twelve years of his life passed away. "The child
Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also
with men" (2:26; comp. Luke 2:52). It was a time of great and
growing degeneracy in Israel (Judg. 21:19-21; 1 Sam. 2:12-17,
22). The Philistines, who of late had greatly increased in
number and in power, were practically masters of the country,
and kept the people in subjection (1 Sam. 10:5; 13:3).
At this time new communications from God began to be made to
the pious child. A mysterious voice came to him in the night
season, calling him by name, and, instructed by Eli, he
answered, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." The message
that came from the Lord was one of woe and ruin to Eli and his
profligate sons. Samuel told it all to Eli, whose only answer to
the terrible denunciations (1 Sam. 3:11-18) was, "It is the
Lord; let him do what seemeth him good", the passive submission
of a weak character, not, in his case, the expression of the
highest trust and faith. The Lord revealed himself now in divers
manners to Samuel, and his fame and his influence increased
throughout the land as of one divinely called to the prophetical
office. A new period in the history of the kingdom of God now
The Philistine yoke was heavy, and the people, groaning under
the wide-spread oppression, suddenly rose in revolt, and "went
out against the Philistines to battle." A fierce and disastrous
battle was fought at Aphek, near to Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1, 2).
The Israelites were defeated, leaving 4,000 dead "in the field."
The chiefs of the people thought to repair this great disaster
by carrying with them the ark of the covenant as the symbol of
Jehovah's presence. They accordingly, without consulting Samuel,
fetched it out of Shiloh to the camp near Aphek. At the sight of
the ark among them the people "shouted with a great shout, so
that the earth rang again." A second battle was fought, and
again the Philistines defeated the Israelites, stormed their
camp, slew 30,000 men, and took the sacred ark. The tidings of
this fatal battle was speedily conveyed to Shiloh; and so soon
as the aged Eli heard that the ark of God was taken, he fell
backward from his seat at the entrance of the sanctuary, and his
neck brake, and he died. The tabernacle with its furniture was
probably, by the advice of Samuel, now about twenty years of
age, removed from Shiloh to some place of safety, and finally to
Nob, where it remained many years (21:1).
The Philistines followed up their advantage, and marched upon
Shiloh, which they plundered and destroyed (comp. Jer. 7:12; Ps.
78:59). This was a great epoch in the history of Israel. For
twenty years after this fatal battle at Aphek the whole land lay
under the oppression of the Philistines. During all these dreary
years Samuel was a spiritual power in the land. From Ramah, his
native place, where he resided, his influence went forth on
every side among the people. With unwearied zeal he went up and
down from place to place, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting the
people, endeavouring to awaken in them a sense of their
sinfulness, and to lead them to repentance. His labours were so
far successful that "all the house of Israel lamented after the
Lord." Samuel summoned the people to Mizpeh, one of the loftiest
hills in Central Israel, where they fasted and prayed, and
prepared themselves there, under his direction, for a great war
against the Philistines, who now marched their whole force
toward Mizpeh, in order to crush the Israelites once for all. At
the intercession of Samuel God interposed in behalf of Israel.
Samuel himself was their leader, the only occasion in which he
acted as a leader in war. The Philistines were utterly routed.
They fled in terror before the army of Israel, and a great
slaughter ensued. This battle, fought probably about B.C. 1095,
put an end to the forty years of Philistine oppression. In
memory of this great deliverance, and in token of gratitude for
the help vouchsafed, Samuel set up a great stone in the
battlefield, and called it "Ebenezer," saying, "Hitherto hath
the Lord helped us" (1 Sam. 7:1-12). This was the spot where,
twenty years before, the Israelites had suffered a great defeat,
when the ark of God was taken.
This victory over the Philistines was followed by a long
period of peace for Israel (1 Sam. 7:13, 14), during which
Samuel exercised the functions of judge, going "from year to
year in circuit" from his home in Ramah to Bethel, thence to
Gilgal (not that in the Jordan valley, but that which lay to the
west of Ebal and Gerizim), and returning by Mizpeh to Ramah. He
established regular services at Shiloh, where he built an altar;
and at Ramah he gathered a company of young men around him and
established a school of the prophets. The schools of the
prophets, thus originated, and afterwards established also at
Gibeah, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, exercised an important
influence on the national character and history of the people in
maintaining pure religion in the midst of growing corruption.
They continued to the end of the Jewish commonwealth.
Many years now passed, during which Samuel exercised the
functions of his judicial office, being the friend and
counsellor of the people in all matters of private and public
interest. He was a great statesman as well as a reformer, and
all regarded him with veneration as the "seer," the prophet of
the Lord. At the close of this period, when he was now an old
man, the elders of Israel came to him at Ramah (1 Sam. 8:4, 5,
19-22); and feeling how great was the danger to which the nation
was exposed from the misconduct of Samuel's sons, whom he had
invested with judicial functions as his assistants, and had
placed at Beersheba on the Philistine border, and also from a
threatened invasion of the Ammonites, they demanded that a king
should be set over them. This request was very displeasing to
Samuel. He remonstrated with them, and warned them of the
consequences of such a step. At length, however, referring the
matter to God, he acceded to their desires, and anointed Saul
(q.v.) to be their king (11:15). Before retiring from public
life he convened an assembly of the people at Gilgal (ch. 12),
and there solemnly addressed them with reference to his own
relation to them as judge and prophet.
The remainder of his life he spent in retirement at Ramah,
only occasionally and in special circumstances appearing again
in public (1 Sam. 13, 15) with communications from God to king
Saul. While mourning over the many evils which now fell upon the
nation, he is suddenly summoned (ch.16) to go to Bethlehem and
anoint David, the son of Jesse, as king over Israel instead of
Saul. After this little is known of him till the time of his
death, which took place at Ramah when he was probably about
eighty years of age. "And all Israel gathered themselves
together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at
Ramah" (25:1), not in the house itself, but in the court or
garden of his house. (Comp. 2 Kings 21:18; 2 Chr. 33:20; 1 Kings
2:34; John 19:41.)
Samuel's devotion to God, and the special favour with which
God regarded him, are referred to in Jer. 15:1 and Ps. 99:6.