Leviticus 10: The book of Leviticus contains very little action. This chapter includes a change of pace in this book of instruction, but it is not a happy change of pace. This chapter involves the death of two of Aaron’s sons.
Their death is caused by disobedience that is not precisely spelled out for us. But the fact is, they did not do exactly what Elohim told them to do. So how do we know what Elohim wants us to do? We are to look into Scripture for ourselves to learn His Instructions. Elohim does not tolerate casual disobedience to His Torah (Deut. 27:26).
I’ve heard many people say that we need to turn to our pastor to interpret Scripture for us. That is a dangerous path to take. An elder is to teach and guide, but how do you know if the direction he is teaching and guiding you is proper? We have many denominations that are teaching vastly different doctrines of Scripture. Who is right?
You must study Scripture on your own. Most of us are people who can read and comprehend. The way to properly interpret Scripture is to take the text literally unless the passage is a parable, prophecy, or if the context clearly states otherwise. If you are filled with the interpretive doubts of many church scholars, you will be lost. There are Hebrew idioms that are clearly symbolic in Scripture. But for the most part, simply let Scripture talk to you in it’s plain sense and say what it says. These two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, wish they had!
(Lev 10:1 NASB) Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
(Lev 10:2 NASB) And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Lev 10:2: Don’t misunderstand the enormity of the consequences of disobedience to Elohim. What exactly did they do wrong? We don’t know exactly, but we can speculate.
The text states that they “offered a strange fire before Yahweh.” It is possible that they did not light the censer of incense with the coals from the altar, which is explicitly required (Lev. 16:12). This is probably the only correct method of lighting the incense.
Their timing may have been off. They may have been wanting to continue the display of the consecration of the priests that was done in the previous chapter.
It is also possible that they went behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. This is strictly forbidden (Lev. 16:1-2).
Some people think this judgement was too quick and severe. Elohim’s method has not changed. Remember Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-10)?
(Lev 10:3 NASB) Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
Lev 10:3: Elohim will be treated as set-apart from everything and everybody else. He is to be honored before all the people.
(Lev 10:4 NASB) Moses called also to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp.”
(Lev 10:5 NASB) So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said.
Lev 10:5: Notice that the bodies were burned, but the tunics were not consumed. This tells us that this fire specifically was intended to kill these two men. Their clothing was still sturdy enough to support the bodies.
The other two sons of Aaron could not touch the corpses because they were in service to Elohim and this would make them unclean. The unclean dead bodies were removed by their cousins and taken outside the camp. They were likely buried, but we do not know precisely how they dealt with dead bodies. Burial is likely. If so, it was certainly in an unoccupied place.
(Lev 10:6 NASB) Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you may not die, and that He may not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about.
(Lev 10:7 NASB) “You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, lest you die; for the LORD’S anointing oil is upon you.” So they did according to the word of Moses.
Lev 10:7: Aaron and his other two sons were not allowed to outwardly mourn these deaths. They were representatives of the people before Elohim and this would represent rebellion to Elohim.
They probably went about their duties with great sadness.
Why did these boys disobey? We do not know why or what they did exactly. It is likely they did not use the correct fire. However, in the next passage we are told likely why they disobeyed and used the wrong fire.
(Lev 10:8 NASB) The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying,
(Lev 10:9 NASB) “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die– it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations–
Lev 10:9: It is possible that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking too much before they went into the Tabernacle. There is no teaching in Scripture for man to have abstinence from alcohol. But when we are involved in special service to Him, we are to serve Elohim with a clear, steady, and sober mind.
(Lev 10:10 NASB) and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean,
(Lev 10:11 NASB) and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.”
Lev 10:11: When teaching the Word of Elohim, it must be done with a totally clear mind. The teacher must teach others how to distinguish between the set-apart and the profane and between the clean and unclean.
James speaks of the responsibilities and judgment upon a teacher (James 3:1).
(Lev 10:12 NASB) Then Moses spoke to Aaron, and to his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from the LORD’S offerings by fire and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy.
(Lev 10:13 NASB) “You shall eat it, moreover, in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due out of the LORD’S offerings by fire; for thus I have been commanded.
Lev 10:13: We were told this in Leviticus 2 concerning the grain offering. The priests are to eat of it in the Holy Place.
(Lev 10:14 NASB) “The breast of the wave offering, however, and the thigh of the offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you; for they have been given as your due and your sons’ due out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the sons of Israel.
(Lev 10:15 NASB) “The thigh offered by lifting up and the breast offered by waving, they shall bring along with the offerings by fire of the portions of fat, to present as a wave offering before the LORD; so it shall be a thing perpetually due you and your sons with you, just as the LORD has commanded.”
Lev 10:15: Moses repeats these commands concerning both the grain offerings and the peace offering. The priests were to partake of these offerings. It is a part of the consecration of the offering.
(Lev 10:16 NASB) But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying,
(Lev 10:17 NASB) “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD.
(Lev 10:18 NASB) “Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.”
Lev 10:18: The other sons of Aaron messed up also. They committed a sin, but it was not a deliberate one. The sin offering was to be eaten in the Holy Place, but that was not done.
(Lev 10:19 NASB) But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?”
(Lev 10:20 NASB) And when Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight.
Lev 10:20: Aaron is saying that they did not do this because they were in mourning. It mentioned in Torah to not eat while in mourning (Deut. 26:13-14). Regardless, what they did was unintentional.
Aaron took responsibility for the mistakes of his last two sons. If nothing else, the other two boys probably lost their appetite after the deaths of their brothers. They didn’t eat the sin offering in the Holy Place. They probably didn’t feel worthy to serve Elohim in their prieistly capacity.
There is a lesson for us to remember from this account. We cannot come to Elohim on our own terms. We cannot take the Word of Elohim and twist and contort it to meet our own needs or someone else’s instructions. We do not make the rules. Elohim does. We must be mindful of this in all that we do.
Patrick McGuireCopyright 2014 Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly Fort Smith, Arkansas