Leviticus 8-10 They offered unauthorized fire before the LORD

From Leviticus 8-10

03 Leviticus SacrificeToday’s passage is one where I am reminded of the holiness of God and his wrath at disobedience. Aaron’s sons had just been ordained and Moses commands Aaron to perform several offerings in sequence (Lev 9.1-21).

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

For himself;

  • a sin offering (bull calf) and
  • a burnt offering (ram).

Then for the people of Israel;

  • a sin offering (goat),
  • a burnt offering (calf and a lamb),
  • a peace offering (ox and a ram) and
  • a grain offering.

At this point the glory of the LORD appeared before the people and fire consumed the burnt offering. The people shouted and fell on their faces. They worshipped him (Lev 9.22-24).

10 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ”

And Aaron held his peace. (Lev 10:1–3)

03 Leviticus Aarons sons slain

The LORD’s instructions could be likened to fixing a new light globe in the socket. While the power is off, its safe to screw the old one out. But if the power is switched on before the new one is screwed in, be prepared for a shock!

Are you ever shocked about the LORD’s reaction to sin?

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu went beyond the LORD’s instructions. The LORD will be sanctified – treated as Holy and pure. The LORD will be glorified before the people, that is treated with respect. They went beyond his instructions. They thought they could offer something more and they died quickly for it.

Aaron wisely holds his peace. He did not complain, he did not cry out.

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. (Lev 10:4-6)

Moses calls some of Aarons relatives to remove the bodies. He instructs Aaron, and his remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar not to grieve. Lest they and the house of Israel be punished.

7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses. (Lev 10:7)

They are also not allowed to leave the tent of meeting. This is a difficult situation. They are in the middle of a ceremony where they and the whole house of Israel will be blessed. The LORD has come and now they need to finish what they started. They follow Moses’ instructions. Now the LORD speaks directly to Aaron.

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” (Lev 10:8-11)

The LORD gives Aaron and his sons another law. Its not unusual for the LORD to burden Israel with more laws as a consequence of their sin (cf. Gal 3.19). The new law not to drink when in the tent of meeting may suggest Nadab and Abihu had been drinking and this is why they offered the unauthorised fire. The LORD then emphasises the importance of respecting his commands. Knowing the difference between the holy and the common. The clean and the unclean. In the immediate context the offerings Moses commanded were holy. The unauthorised fire – common.

What kinds of things should distinguish as Holy and Common? Clean and unclean?

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.” (Lev 10:12-15)

Moses instructs them in the remaining ritual.

  1. They are to eat the grain offering.
  2. They are to eat the wave offering (from the peace offerings).

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” (Lev 10.16-18)

It seems the should have eaten the sin offering for the people as well. Instead they burnt it all up. Moses initially disapproves of their actions.

19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved. (Lev 10:19–20)

Moses is angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, but it is Aaron who speaks. He may have given them this instruction. He speaks about what has happened to him. Two of his sons have just died and he grieves deeply inside. Probably his remaining sons do as well.

God knows what you are feeling.

Aaron and his remaining sons could have eaten it, but if they did they would have done so with their hearts full of grief. They believed if they did so they would not be accepted by the LORD. They didn’t eat because they desired the approval of the LORD.

Story of Israel

00 OT Story Israel Jesus

There were times in Israel’s history when they made offerings according to the rule but these offerings were rejected. The LORD hated them.

10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom!

Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?

13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Is 1:10–17)

The LORD hated them because of the underlying attitudes of their hearts. They did not love God, not their neighbours. Aaron and his sons recognised they were unfit to go through with the sacrifice and eat it. In doing so they showed respect to the LORD.

Story of Jesus

Sometimes doing the right thing means we have to go against the Law. In the gospel, Jesus  called people to do good even though they would break the sabbath.

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. (Mt 12:9–13)

The story of Nadab and Abihu reminds us to honour the LORD and his instructions. To make a distinction between the holy and the common. The good and the bad. It also reminds us to consider the state of our hearts and do what we believe is right.

God knows what we think and what we feel.


Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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