The Nazir (in Hebrew: נזיר), Nazirite, Nazarite, Nazarite or Nazarite is a person who, according to the Hebrew Bible, dedicated himself to God by a vow according to which, according to the prescriptions described in the Book of Numbers (No. 6 1-21), it is forbidden for him to drink wine, to cut his hair and to approach what was considered impure by law, in particular, of a corpse; this in order to obtain a divine blessing. The word Nazir comes from a Hebrew word which means etymologically "separated", then who took the meaning of "consecrated"


The Nazir is a person, man or woman, who consecrates himself to God during a fixed period during which he commits himself to remain in a state of purity. The wish is voluntarily expressed for thirty days. Meanwhile, the Nazir abstains from drinking wine, taking advantage of a product of the vine, cutting his hair, or approaching a corpse, even that of a member of his own family. If, for one reason or another, the Nazir contracts an impurity by contact with a corpse, the Bible includes a purification prescription: shave the skull, wait seven days and then, the eighth, bring two turtle doves and two pigeons to the priest as an offering of atonement for the sin of impurity. The wish can begin again.

When the vow is fulfilled, the nazir must bring a sheep and a ram as an offering to the Temple, shave his skull and burn his hair on the altar; he can then drink wine and return to normal life.

The vow of the Nazir is often pronounced in thanks, for example for a health recovery, or for the birth of a child, or simply as an act of spiritual purification. The rabbis discouraged the vow of the Nazireat, as did other practices of asceticism; according to them, the laws of the Nazarite applied only in the Land of Israel and, more precisely, only when the priests officiated at the Temple. However, there are cases in the diaspora.

If the Nazarite engages most often for a limited period, the Bible mentions two cases of life-time Nazis: Samson, consecrated to God from before conception and inhabited by the spirit of holiness as long as he remains in his Nazarite, and Samuel. This subject is developed in the Nazir treaty of the Mishnah.

Writing in the first century, Flavius ​​Josephus still evokes this tradition in his Judaic Antiquities.

In modern Hebrew, by a phenomenon of semantic sliding, the word "nazir" is commonly used to designate a monk, whether Christian or Buddhist.


The Hebrew verb corresponding to this root is נזר (nâzar) which, according to the mode, means "to separate" (ten Biblical occurrences) or "to consecrate", that is to say "to separate in favor of divinity" (twelve occurrences The actor of this consecration is a nazir, נז (י) ר (sixteen occurrences in the Hebrew Bible, the first in Genesis 49, 26). If the Samson judge Samson was consecrated to God from (before) birth (Judges 13: 6-24), most of those who voluntarily committed themselves to the Nazarite did so for a limited period, fixed by him or her. beforehand (see Deuteronomy).

Texts and praxis

The texts

The Book of Numbers (No. 6. 1-21) specifies the law applicable to the Nazis:

"YHWH said to Moses:
[...] If a man or a woman makes a vow to be a Nazi in honor of the Lord,
he will abstain from wine and alcoholic drinks, he will not drink either vinegar or vinegar of alcohol [...] he will not eat neither fresh grapes nor raisins. [...] or even skins of grapes ... [...].
[...] the razor will not go over his head; [...]
During all the days he has set aside for YHWH, he will not approach a dead person. "


At the beginning of the common era, these prescriptions were still in force among Jews and, although seemingly followed by a small number of people, were rigorously applied: in pious families, one of the children was to be Nazi. Was nazir, in general, the first-born, girl or boy. It was for a longer or shorter period, as long as he did not revoke this wish. If the eldest refused or could not, the next took over and so on, because this wish implied many obligations: Model necessary reference not to absorb wine, not to cut hair, etc.

This particularly restrictive prescription for young people or even of mature age (especially over time), stated to Moses, seems to have regressed, over the centuries, to the rank of simple custom, more or less neglected over time (for take an example, a bit like today's religious processions).

The Nazirs recognized

In the Old Testament, they include, among others, the "life" Nazis Samson and Samuel.

The characters of the New Testament, including James the Just, are not nazirs attested with certainty. Similarly, the hypothesis that Jesus Nazareth is a Nazir on the grounds that the term is similar to Nazarene or Nazarene comes up against an obstacle: these words do not have the same etymology.


Rastafarians are inspired by the Bible and see God's recommendation to grow long hair, and that's where the dreadlocks come from. Indeed, they see it as a symbol of strength and courage like Samson.

  • André-Marie Gerard, Dictionary of the Bible
  • Geoffrey Wigoder (eds.), Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Judaism, Paris, Cerf - Robert Laffont, coll. "Bouquins", 1996 (ISBN 2-221-08099-8), article "Nazir", p. 724-725