The Sin of Nadab and Abihu
10 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective [ceremonial] censers, put fire in them, placed incense on it and offered [a]strange (unauthorized, unacceptable) fire before the Lord, [an act] which He had not commanded them to do. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord said:
‘I will be treated as holy by those who approach Me,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, said nothing.
4 Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel who was Aaron’s uncle, and said to them, “Come here, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary and take them outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and carried them, still in their undertunics, outside the camp, as Moses had said. 6 Then Moses said to Aaron and to his [younger] sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not [b]uncover your heads nor let your hair hang loose nor tear your clothes [as expressions of mourning], so that you will not die [also] and so that He will not express His wrath and anger toward all the congregation. But your relatives, the whole house of Israel, may mourn the burning which the Lord has brought about. 7 You shall not even go out of the doorway of the Tent of Meeting, or you will die; for the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you.” So they did [everything] according to the word of Moses.
8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “[c]Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the Tent of Meeting, so that you will not die—it is a permanent statute throughout your generations— 10 and to make a distinction and recognize a difference between the holy (sacred) and the common (profane), and between the [ceremonially] unclean and the clean;(A) 11 and you are to teach the Israelites all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them [d]through Moses.”
12 Then Moses said to Aaron, and to his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from the offerings by fire to the Lord, 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 portion and your sons’ portion, from the offerings by fire to the Lord; for so I have been commanded. 14 But the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and daughters with you; for the breast and the thigh are your portion and your sons’ portion, given out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the Israelites. 15 They shall bring the thigh presented by lifting up and the breast presented by waving, along with the offerings by fire of the fat, to present as a wave offering before the Lord. This shall be yours and your sons’ with you, as your perpetual portion, just as the Lord has commanded.”
16 But Moses diligently tried to find the goat [that had been offered] as the sin offering, and discovered that it had been burned up [as waste, not eaten]! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, 17 “Why did you not eat the sin offering in the holy place? For it is most holy; and God gave it to you to remove the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the Holy Place; you certainly should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” 19 Then Aaron said to Moses, “This very day they have [obediently] presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, but [such terrible things] as these have happened to me [and to them]; if I [and my sons] had eaten a sin offering today would it have been acceptable and pleasing in the sight of the Lord?”(B) 20 When Moses heard that, he was satisfied.
- Leviticus 10:1 What made the fire “strange” cannot be determined. They may have taken the fire from an unauthorized source, or used incense that did not meet the divine specifications. In any case, God’s laws and requirements are not subject to modification by man.
- Leviticus 10:6 Lit unbind.
- Leviticus 10:9 This prohibition may imply that intoxication precipitated the irreverent behavior that resulted in the death of Aaron’s two older sons.
- Leviticus 10:11 Lit by the hand of.