Monday, August 10, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Summary:God speaks to Moses, giving him more laws for the people of Israel.

When either a man or a woman(!) decides to commit themselves to a vow of a Nazarite*, they are to obstain from wine and "strong drink", vinegar, vinegar from "strong drink", liquor made with any kind of grape, or grapes themselves (natural grapes or raisins). Nothing made with grapes is to be consumed, not even the seeds or skins of grapes.

During the duration of the vow, the person is not to cut their hair* until the vow is fulfilled. God considers Nazarites "holy", and therefore they are to let their hair on their head grow.

One is also not to go near a dead body during the duration of the vow, and is not allowed to make themselves "unclean" even if the dead body is that of their father, mother, brother, or sister - because the consecration of God is upon the individual's head, and the person is considered "holy" through the duration of their vow.

If a person drops dead by a Nazarite, and is therefore "defiled", then the Nazarite must shave their head seven days later. On the eighth day the Nazarite is to bring two turtle doves, or two young pigeons to a priest at the door of the tabernacle. The priest is to sacrifice one bird as a "sin offering", and the other as a "burnt offering", to make atonement for the Nazarite who "sinned" by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time - as having someone die in front of you while you're taking a vow of a Nazarite is somehow your fault. The person will also have to renew their vows from the beginning, and any time they've already served will have to be served again due to their "defilement". The same day, the Nazarite shall have to also bring a yearling lamb to be sacrificed as well as a "guilt offering".

When the Nazarite's vow is completed, they will have to bring a yearling lamb - without defect - to the tabernacle for a "burnt offering", a yearling ewe lamb - also without defect - for a "sin offering", and a ram - also without defect - for a "peace offering" animal sacrifice. In addition to the animal sacrifices, the Nazarite is also to bring a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with olive oil, wafers of unleavened bread spread with olive oil, and an accompanying "grain offering" and "drink offering".

The priest is to then bring these animal sacrifices and "offerings" before God, beginning with the "sin offering" and the "burnt offering". Next the priest shall sacrifice the lamb, and then "offer" the basket of bread, "grain offering", and "drink offering" to God.

After the priest has finished sacrificing animals and "offering" the rest of the food and wine to God, the Nazarite is to shave their head at the door of the tabernacle, and afterward gather their hair and put into to the fire under the "peace offering" sacrifice (the ram).

The priest shall then take a roasted shoulder of the lamb, one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer and place them into the hands of the Nazarite. The priest shall then wave the items in the air before God, as this is "holy" for the priest, along with the ram's breast and shoulder. After this is complete, the Nazarite may drink wine again.

This is the law of the Nazarite, and their offerings to God. The Nazarite must also bring any further offerings they had promised at the time the vow was begun.

God says to Moses, that he is to speak to Aaron and his sons that they are to bless the people of Israel, saying to them that God blesses them, that God will make his face shine upon them, will be gracious to them, and give them peace. God finishes off by stating that the people of Israel shall put God's name upon themselves, and in turn, God will bless them.
Notes:1.) Although not described, a "Nazarite" is a specific vow of abstinence from various "pleasures", and is derived from the Hebrew word nazir, meaning "consecrated" or "separated".
2.) Numbers 6:5 reads " razor shall come upon his head..."
Thoughts:This chapter of Numbers basically deals with the procedures which a person is to follow if they make a special vow to God, as a Nazarite.

One of the first things that stands out is that in the second verse, it is mentioned that either a man or a woman may make this vow (although all of the pronouns that follow reference the male gender). It's rather unusual to see an instance of equal opportunity in the bible for both sexes.

As mentioned in my footnotes, although the term Nazarite is not explained within the chapter (or in the previous chapters we've read either), the term is derived from the Hebrew word "nazir", meaning "consecrated" or "separated". A vow of the Nazarite is basically a limited time vow of abstinence from wine and grape products and a special dedication of oneself to God.

No grape products (including anything made with the seeds or skins) or "strong drinks" are to be consumed during this vow, nor is the person to cut the hair on their head - they are to let their hair grow long and flowing as a sign of dedication to their vow.

However, you'll also have to take extra care not to go anywhere near a corpse - not even the corpses of your parents or siblings, if they by chance die during your vow. If somebody happens to drop dead in your presence, then God is not only going to make you shave your head and start your vow all over, you'll also have to gather up some animals for some good old animal sacrificing.

Apparently God considers you the "sinner" if somebody else happens to drop dead in your presence - which is a shining example of why the concept of "sin" is pretty much ridiculous. Theists will tell you that sin equates to a "crime against God". defines the word "sin" with the following definitions:
1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It's a sin to waste time.
–verb (used without object)
4. to commit a sinful act.
5. to offend against a principle, standard, etc.
–verb (used with object)
6. to commit or perform sinfully: He sinned his crimes without compunction.
7. to bring, drive, etc., by sinning: He sinned his soul to perdition.
Even putting aside the silliness of the notion of having a "law" against intentionally going near a dead body, "punishing" someone for something that they have absolutely no control over - such as a person suddenly dying in their presence - is not a "crime" or "transgression" by any sense. Any "moral" judge would not punish a person for something that they had absolutely no negligence for or any control over. The notion of "sin" is preposterous simply because it punishes the innocent as well as the guilty. Women allegedly (according to the bible) are punished for the sin of their mythical ancestor Eve by means of painful childbirth and menstruation, and Nazarites are apparently punished for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God punishes people for very mundane and ridiculous reasons even when they are clearly not at fault.

People sometimes die very suddenly from strokes, heart attacks, or unknown illnesses, and unless you completely avoid human contact altogether, there is no way you could guarantee to anyone that you will never be in the presence of someone who has died. It simply is an unfair "law", and would be akin to making it a crime to be in the same room at the same time that someone has sneezed. It is laws like these that show that God simply cannot be described as the "perfect judge" as the theist will claim him to be.

Anyways, it comes as no surprise that along with the Nazarite having to shave their head and start their vow all over again, God's punishment for having the misfortune of being in the presence of someone who has died, is the good old standby of animal sacrifice. Eight days after being in the presence of the dead, the Nazarite will have to bring either a pair of turtledoves, or a pair of young pigeons, down to the tabernacle. One bird is for a "sin offering", the other is for a "burnt offering". In addition to the birds, you'll also need to bring along a yearling lamb for a "guilt offering".

When the Nazarite is done with their vow, it'll be time for more animal sacrificing. This time you'll need a yearling lamb, a yearling ewe, a ram, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of flour mixed with olive oil, wafers of unleavened bread, some grain, and some wine. The priests sure are going to eat well with this feast you'll have to hand over - "for God".

After the priest sacrifices the animals, the Nazarite has to shave off all their hair and place it into the fire inside the tabernacle - presumably giving it to a priest to do this for them, as non-Levites are not allowed inside the tabernacle. The priest then takes the shoulder and the breast of the ram that was sacrificed, along with one cake of bread and one wafer from the basket, and places them into the Nazarites hands. The priest is then to wave these items in the air as a gesture of offering them to God. Afterwards, the priest gets to keep all the food, and the Nazarite is free from his vow and can once again drink wine and consume grape products.

Anything else the Nazarite might have pledged to give to God (more aptly, to the priests) he is to give them at this time.

God closes out the chapter by telling Moses to have Aaron bless the people of Israel. God says that he will make his face shine upon the people, will be gracious to them, and bring them peace. He concludes by saying that the people of Israel shall put God's name upon themselves and God will bless them in return - as long as they follow his laws to a tee, otherwise he's got other plans for them.

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