Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Leviticus - Chapter 10 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. Nadab and Abihu were two of Aaron's sons, but they disobeyed the LORD by burning incense to him on a fire pan, when they were not supposed to.
    2. Suddenly the LORD sent fiery flames and burned them to death.
    3. Then Moses told Aaron that this was exactly what the LORD had meant when he said: "I demand respect from my priests, and I will be praised by everyone!" Aaron was speechless.
    4. Moses sent for Mishael and Elzaphan, the two sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel. Then he told them, "Take these two dead relatives of yours outside the camp far from the entrance to the sacred tent."
    5. So they dragged the dead men away by their clothes.
    6. Then Moses told Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar: Don't show your sorrow by messing up your hair and tearing your priestly clothes, or the LORD will get angry. He will kill the three of you and punish everyone else. It's all right for your relatives, the people of Israel, to mourn for those he destroyed by fire.
    7. But you are the LORD's chosen priests, and you must not leave the sacred tent, or you will die. Aaron and his two sons obeyed Moses.
    8. The LORD said to Aaron:
    9. When you or your sons enter the sacred tent, you must never drink beer or wine. If you do, you will die right there! This law will never change.
    10. You must learn the difference between what is holy and what isn't holy and between the clean and the unclean.
    11. You must also teach the people of Israel everything that I commanded Moses to say to them.
    12. Moses told Aaron and his two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar: The grain sacrifice that was offered to give thanks to the LORD is very holy. So make bread without yeast from the part that wasn't sent up in smoke and eat it beside the altar.
    13. The LORD has said that this belongs to you and your sons, and that it must be eaten in a holy place.
    14. But the choice ribs and the hind leg that were lifted up may be eaten by your entire family, as long as you do so in an acceptable place. These parts are yours from the sacrifices that the people offer to ask the LORD's blessing. This is what the LORD has commanded, and it will never change.
    15. (SEE 10:14)
    16. When Moses asked around and learned that the ram for the sin sacrifice had already been burned on the altar, he became angry with Eleazar and Ithamar and said,
    17. "Why didn't you eat the meat from this sacrifice in an acceptable place? It is very holy, and the LORD has given you this sacrifice to remove Israel's sin and guilt.
    18. Whenever an animal's blood isn't brought into the sacred tent, I commanded you to eat its meat in an acceptable place, but you burned it instead."
    19. Their father Aaron replied, "Today two of my sons offered the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice to please the LORD, and look what has happened to me! Would the LORD have approved if I had eaten the sacrifice for sin?"
    20. Moses was satisfied with Aaron's reply.

Leviticus - Chapter 10

Entered: October 30, 2006
This glorious occasion is soon followed with tragedy, though the tragedy also serves as a learning experience for the people. There are many blessings and benefits for the Lord's people, but His people follow His instructions, otherwise they are not His people. When there is failure to follow instructions consequences result. The priests were not allowed to mourn, which was an ongoing practice of the priests. Thus, Aaron was unable to openly mourn the loss of his sons. The mourning was done by all the people. Following these events, God, for the first time, speaks directly to Aaron. At the conclusion of the chapter there is what appears to be another breach of instructions by Aaron and his remaining sons, but Aaron has reason for it and the incident of overlooked.

Entered: May 07, 2012

Tragedy struck at the height of the first observance of the sacrificial system God instituted with the Israelite people. It was also the first exercise of priestly duties by Aaron and his sons.  Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's two eldest sons, presented "unauthorized fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them to do."  The result was immediate death for the two: "Then flames leaped from the LORD's presence and burned them to death before the LORD." (10:2)  Their duties as priests could not be handled carelessly.  If they were to mediate with God on behalf of the people they must be in good standing with God, giving attention to all He commanded. It was an imperfect system pointing to the need for a Messiah to do what animal sacrifices offered by sinful people could not do. 

Why did Nadab and Abihu do this? Were they simply being careless or presumptious? Was it possible they were being willful by intentionally doing their own thing? We can only guess. With the prohibition against the use of wine or beer while performing duties in the tent of meeting, it is possible the two were intoxicated. Whatever the reason, God made it clear that His instructions were to be strictly observed. Worship of the only true and living God will be done as He prescribes and not as man chooses. All other religions are of man's designs, built on his concept of what it should be. Worship of the true God, Creator of all that exists, is by His design.

Aaron and his two surviving sons were in the tent of meeting performing their duties when the two oldest sons were killed. They were prohibited from breaking away form their duties. They were not to mourn the deaths or to leave the tent. Shortly after this tragedy another priestly error occurred. Aaron's remaining two sons burned up all of a sin offering that should have been eaten by the priests. Moses became angry with them when he discovered the error. But Aaron said to Moses, "Since these things have happened to me, if I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been acceptable in the LORD's sight?" In view of the Lord's punishment of his sons, Aaron didn't feel He would accept his eating of the sin offering. Moses accepted this explanation as, evidently, did God.