Wednesday, February 09, 2011

New Year: Nm 5-6 for Feb 9

What does the society do with the extremely suspicious, and with the extremely dedicated? Nm 5 and 6 deals with these boundary conditions.

The provision of Nm 5 is like a court of last-resort, and functions as what to do in cases without any evidence for a crime. The sheer elaborateness of the "law of jealousy" (not even mentioning the name of the practice, which is a comment of the book itself on the practice it describes!) serves to deter the extremely suspicious: "do you REALLY want to do this?"

Numbers 6. As if to say, "oh, you wish to self-dedicate to the Lord? It's not a light thing. It's much more complex than your "special vow" (6:1) alone. One must forego basic familial obligations(6:7), and basic joys (6:3-5). Even one ceremonial mistake (6:9) makes it necessary to scratch all previous fulfillment of one's self-dedication. On top of all that, when the time for the self-dedication is completed, the ceremony finishing it is elaborate and costly (6:13-20). As a reminder that this time of self-dedication is what it is, and nothing more, the Law merely states, when the time is completed -- "afterward the Nazirite may drink wine" (6:20). That's it. That's the sum of the response of the Law to the accomplishment.

It's almost impossible not to mention some New Testament parallels and echoes. Regarding the hugeness, beyond expectation, of dedication to the Lord, once the Lord told a man to let the dead bury his dead father, and to follow Him (Mt 8:22). This is very Nazirite, from Nm 6:7. Also, regarding the downplaying of reward for dedication, Jesus sometimes did the same thing, telling people to expect to have no place to lay their heads (Mt 8:20); there is a similar reduction of expectation in advice to any who conceivably have done everything required, to consider themselves as unprofitable servants doing only "what we ought to have done" (Lk 17:10). This is very Nazirite. The Nazirite has incurred an obligation, but society is not to be looked to, to reward such a person. Indeed, society may well feel slighted by the Nazirite, because society's normal expectations are not laid on such a person. This enforces what the Nazirite should not expect, therefore: any of society's reward.

Compare the case of the One mentioned in Mt 2:23.

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