I read an interesting interview with actor Taylor James, a Christian, who plays the role of Samson in the full-feature movie “Samson” released earlier this month.
In an interview with “Pure Talk,” Taylor talked about a vision he had a few years earlier that actually prepared him for the lead role in the movie.
“I had a vision as an actor and a person a few years ago to grow my hair and to maintain a certain physical appearance. It was my guiding light.”
After this vision, another Christian provided further revelation on what lay ahead for Taylor. The person added that at some point Taylor would be returning home to South Africa and leading “his people.”
Taylor had actually been born in South Africa and lived there for six years. When the role of Samson came up, Taylor auditioned for the lead role and was surprised when reading the script that much of the movie would be shot in South Africa.
Then, when he noticed the movie’s subtitle “A man who leads the people,” this confirmed to him that God would give him the role of Samson.
It is interesting, because by allowing his hair to grow, Taylor was to some extent fulfilling the Nazirite vow found in Numbers 6. We know that Samson was also a Nazirite having been dedicated by his parents at birth to deliver Israel from the Philistines:
5 For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5 NASV)
There was one other person who was dedicated a Nazirite at birth and that was John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17). Like Samson, John had a specific purpose and calling that God wanted him to fulfill.
So what is the Nazirite vow?
According to Numbers 6, it was a voluntary dedication to God that people could undertake for a time. It has a specific beginning and ending. Samson differed in that he was dedicated at birth, which may explain the leniency that God showed Samson throughout his life.
For the vow’s duration, a person was consecrated to God.
8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord. (Numbers 6:8 NASV)
- They could not consume anything associated with grapes, including drinking wine or even eating raisins or seeds. They were also told to avoid other fermented drink;
- They were not to cut their hair during the time of consecration; and
- They could not touch a dead body and thus would not be allowed to even attend a funeral of a family member.
At the end of the Nazirite vow, a person was required to shave their head and have a priest make a sacrifice on his or her behalf. It was also common practice to have the shorn hair thrown in with the sacrifice (Numbers 6:13-17, 20).
So is the Nazirite vow still valid for Christians today?
It seems that the Apostle Paul took the Nazirite vow. In Acts, we are told that Paul shaved his head in fulfillment of a vow he had undertaken:
18 Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. (Acts 18:18 NASV)
Though it is not explicitly said, most presume that Paul took the Nazirite vow. This meant that he had finished his vow and the period of dedication was completed.
In Acts 21:23-24, we read that Paul was not alone, four others had taken the vow as well, and having shaved their heads were now heading to Jerusalem to fulfill the last part that included the sacrifice:
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them. (Acts 21:26 NASV)
But we are not sure exactly when Paul began his Nazirite vow or why he did it. Some suggest he may have started the vow in Acts 18:5, when we read that Paul made the decision to devote himself to the word of God and reaching the Jews.
So we have five believers in the early church taking the Nazirite vow.
Are there any other hints of this vow found in the New Testament? There might be.
In the Book of Romans, Paul talks about Christians being a “living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-3). This may be a subtle reference to the Nazirite vow when a person actually sacrificed their hair at its completion.
Then in 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul talks about a married couple refraining from sex for a time of prayer. Though this was not one of the conditions of the vow, it is somewhat similar in that Paul sets a limit to this period of separation.