The sin and death of Nadab and Abihu. (Verse 1,2.)
Aaron and his sons forbidden to mourn for Nadab and Abihu. (Verse 3-7.)
Wine forbidden to the priests when in the service of the tabernacle. (Verse 8-11.)
Of eating the holy things. (Verse 12-20.)
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
What command did Nadab and Abihu disobey from Exodus 30:9?
2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
A very specific order was already established by the LORD and it was explained thoroughly to Aaron and his sons so there would be no mistakes, but emotionalism snuck in and during all the excitement that was going on Nadab and Abihu took it upon themselves to offer strange fire upon the altar.
What was meant by strange fire? God had stipulated that fire should be offered on the altar, but he prescribed exactly how to do it and with what they were to do it.
They were not just to run off halfcocked and do whatever they wanted as we see in so many Charismatic services today that are run by emotionalism.
Under the Law of Moses people died who did whatever they wanted in the area of worship and they serve as an example for us today for our admonition, but do we learn from the children of Israel’s mistakes? No many do not and the only thing that saves them is that they are under Grace today and not the Law.
This must have been a horrific sight for Aaron the High Priest to have seen with his two eldest sons burnt to death in front of his eyes.
I have two sons and cannot begin to wonder how he felt and what he must have been thinking at that moment.
I wonder if for a moment he thought his sons accidentally spilled something in the fire that cause such a horrible flame powerful enough to kill his sons instantly but Moses his brother comes along side of this grieving parent and tells them exactly what it was that happened at that time.
The fire was from the LORD just as he had told Moses it would happened if they did not do everything the way the LORD had instructed Moses to have them to do it.
God had to maintain the sanctity of the Tabernacle and the offerings because they all were pictures of Christ and his redemptive work (even though they had no idea that was so).
They just knew if God said something should be done a certain way then that was the way it was supposed to be done and, in this instance, it was not and the result of their giving themselves over to emotionalism was their deaths.
This incident served as a tragic reminder to Aaron and his other two sons, and all who followed after to take seriously the things of God.
4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.
5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.
Notice who it is that Moses calls to remove Nadab and Abihu’s bodies. It is not Aaron and his remaining two sons because that would violate another set of Levitical instructions mentioned later in this book.
That forbad the High Priest of the priests from touching any dead body or they would be unclean for service in the Tabernacle.
If that was all it was then they could have just carried them out and been unclean till the evening and could have offered the required offerings for their purification, but they were in the middle of purifying the Tabernacle.
They themselves had on them the oil of anointing and were not allowed to remove their priestly garments not touch any dead thing while they were in the middle of ministering in the Tabernacle or they would die at God’s word because that was his command as also found in the next verses:
6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.
7 And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.
The LORD did not want Aaron to sorrow over his loss of his children because that is the natural thing to do but he wanted to let them know that what they did was wrong and because of that Aaron could not interrupt the task the LORD had given him and his other two sons because of the sin of others.
The cleansing of the Priesthood, the Tabernacle and ultimately the atoning of the Nation of Israel was at stake if they did and so the LORD had to require Aaron and his remaining sons to continue on with the cleansing of these things.
They would each have time to reflect and mourn the loss of the loved ones later, but not now.
8 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying,
9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:
“wine nor strong drink” – in many places throughout the Bible wine is differentiated from strong drink – ie., “wine” often was the Bible term given to unfermented grape juice while anything fermented (ie. alcoholic) was called “strong drink.” This difference can also be seen in some passages where the contrast is drawn between “old wine” (alcoholic) and “new wine” (freshly squeezed, non-alcoholic grape juice). Before a Christian uses the Bible to try to justify their consumption of alcoholic beverages, they would do well to look at ALL the relevant passages!
10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
God is a God of discrimination and separation! In a day and age where much of modern Christianity emphasises “similarities” in the name of Christian unity, the Bible is also careful to distinguish between things that are different. Any church worth attending should have a pastor that carefully shows his people from the Bible the “DIFFERENCE between holy and unholy” things – whether the subject be sin, doctrine, etc.
Aaron and his sons were told by the LORD not to drink wine nor strong drink when they go into the tabernacle lest they die.
This leads us to believe that that is the reason why Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire unto the LORD because their minds were affected by being under the influence of alcohol.
This we see as a requirement for Pastors in the body of Christ and we remember what the Apostle Paul said that he would not allow anything (alcohol) to bring him into bondage so that he might serve the LORD with a sober mind.
11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
one of the primary responsibilities of an OT priest was to teach God’s people God’s words! Too many churches today fail to teach Christians they actual words of God.
12 And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meat offering that remaineth of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy:
13 And ye shall eat it in the holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons’ due, of the sacrifices of the LORD made by fire: for so I am commanded.
14 And the wave breast and heave shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they be thy due, and thy sons’ due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel.
Not only were the priests fed by the offerings, but their families were also taken care of by the LORD as far as their food was concerned.
With all the sacrifices happening and the priests taking their share for themselves there would still be a lot of meat that could potentially go to waste and the LORD in his wisdom allotted that to the families of the priests.
15 The heave shoulder and the wave breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be thine, and thy sons’ with thee, by a statute for ever; as the LORD hath commanded.
16 And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying,
17 Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?
18 Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded.
19 And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering to day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?
20 And when Moses heard that, he was content.
Aaron calmed his angry brother down concerning his other two sons because they did not eat the goat of the sin offering on that day.
I believe they did not have any appetite to eat after the deaths of their brothers that day, and so in the Law all that remained of the offerings that wasn’t eaten was to be consumed in the fire and it was.
Moses thought that there was a deliberate act of disobedience but none of them could force themselves to eat with all they had witnessed on that day. God understands.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1,2 – Next to Moses and Aaron, none were more likely to be honourable in Israel than Nadab and Abihu. There is reason to think that they were puffed up with pride, and that they were heated with wine. While the people were prostrate before the Lord, adoring his presence and glory, they rushed into the tabernacle to burn incense, though not at the appointed time; both together, instead of one alone, and with fire not taken from the altar. If it had been done through ignorance, they had been allowed to bring a sin-offering. But the soul that doeth presumptuously, and in contempt of God’s majesty and justice, that soul shall be cut off. The wages of sin is death. They died in the very act of their sin. The sin and punishment of these priests showed the imperfection of that priesthood from the very beginning, and that it could not shelter any from the fire of God’s wrath, otherwise than as it was typical of Christ’s priesthood.
Verse 3-7 – The most quieting considerations under affliction are fetched from the word of God. What was it that God spake? Though Aaron’s heart must have been filled with anguish and dismay, yet with silent submission he revered the justice of the stroke. When God corrects us or ours for sin, it is our duty to accept the punishment, and say, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Whenever we worship God, we come nigh unto him, as spiritual priests. This ought to make us very serious in all acts of devotion. It concerns us all, when we come nigh to God, to do every religious exercise, as those who believe that the God with whom we have to do, is a holy God. He will take vengeance on those that profane his sacred name by trifling with him.
Verse 8-11 – Do not drink wine or strong drink. During the time they ministered, the priests were forbidden it. It is required of gospel ministers, that they be not given to wine, 1st Timothy 3:3. It is, Lest ye die; die when ye are in drink. The danger of death, to which we are continually exposed, should engage all to be sober.
Verse 12-20 – Afflictions should rather quicken us to our duty, than take us from it. But our unfitness for duty, when it is natural and not sinful, will have great allowances made for it; God will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Let us profit by the solemn warning this history conveys. When professing worshippers come with zeal without knowledge, carnal affections, earthly, light, vain, trifling thoughts, the devices of will-worship, instead of the offering of soul and spirit; then the incense is kindled by a flame which never came down from heaven, which the Spirit of a holy God never sent within their hearts.