Moses is here directing Aaron to go on with his service after this interruption. Afflictions should rather quicken us to our duty than take us off from it. Observe (Lev. 10:12), He spoke unto Aaron and to his sons that were left. The notice taken of their survivorship intimates, 1. That Aaron should take comfort under the loss of two of his sons, from this consideration, that God had graciously spared him the other two, and that he had reason to be thankful for the remnant that was left, and all his sons were not dead, and, in token of his thankfulness to God, to go on cheerfully in his work. 2. That God’s sparing them should be an engagement upon them to proceed in his service, and not to fly off from it. Here were four priests consecrated together, two were taken away, and two left; therefore the two that were left should endeavour to fill up the places of those that were gone, by double care and diligence in the services of the priesthood. Now,
I. Moses repeats the directions he had formerly given them about eating their share of the sacrifices, Lev. 10:12-15. The priests must learn not only to put a difference between the holy and the unholy, as they had been taught (Lev. 10:10), but also to distinguish between that which was most holy and that which was only holy of the things that were to eat. That part of the meat-offering which remained to the priest was most holy, and therefore must be eaten in the courts of the tabernacle, and by Aaron sons only (Lev. 10:12, 13); but the breast and shoulder of the peace-offerings might be eaten in any decent place out of the courts of the tabernacle, and by the daughters of their families. The meat-offerings, being annexed to the burnt-offerings, were intended only and wholly for the glory of God; but the peace-offerings were ordained for the furtherance of men’s joy and comfort; the former therefore were the more sacred, and to be had more in veneration. This distinction the priests must carefully observe, and take heed of making any blunders. Moses does not pretend to give any reasons for this difference, but refers to his instructions: For so am I commanded, Lev. 10:13. This was reason enough; he had received of the Lord all that he delivered unto them, 1 Cor. 11:23.
II. He enquires concerning one deviation from the appointment, which it seems had happened upon this occasion, which was this:—There was a goat to be sacrificed as a sin-offering or the people, Lev. 9:15. Now the law of the sin-offerings was that if the blood of them was brought into the holy place, as that of the sin-offerings for the priest was, then the flesh was to be burnt without the camp; otherwise it was to be eaten by the priest in the holy place, Lev. 6:30. The meaning of this is here explained (Lev. 10:17), that the priests did hereby bear the iniquity of the congregation, that is, they were types of him who was to be made sin for us, and on whom God would lay the iniquity of us all. Now the blood of this goat was not brought into the holy place, and yet, it seems, it was burnt without the camp. Now observe here, 1. The gentle reproof Moses gives to Aaron and his sons for this irregularity. Here again Aaron sons are said to be those that were left alive (Lev. 10:16), who therefore ought to have taken warning; and Moses was angry with them. Though he was the meekest man in the world, it seems he could be angry; and when he thought God was disobeyed and dishonoured, and the priesthood endangered, he would be angry. Yet observe how very mildly he deals with Aaron and his sons, considering their present affliction. He only tells them they should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, but is willing to hear what they have to say for themselves, being loth to speak to the grief of those whom God had wounded.
2. The plausible excuse which Aaron makes for this mistake. Moses charged the fault upon Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev. 10:16), but it is probable that what they did was by Aaron direction, and therefore he apologized for it. He might have pleaded that this was a sin-offering for the congregation, and if it had been a bullock it must have been wholly burnt (Lev. 4:21), and therefore why not now that it was a goat? But it seems it was otherwise ordered at this time, and therefore he makes his affliction his excuse, Lev. 10:19. Observe, (1.) How he speaks of affliction: Such things have befallen me, such sad things, which could not but go near his heart, and make it very happy. He was a high priest taken from among men, and could not put off natural affection when he put on the holy garments. He held his peace (Lev. 10:3), yet his sorrow was stirred, as David’s, Ps. 39:2. Note, There may be a deep sense of affliction even where there is a sincere resignation to the will of God in the affliction. “Such things as never befel me before, and as I little expected now. My spirits cannot but sink, when I see my family sinking; I must needs be heavy, when God is angry:” thus it is easy to say a great deal to aggravate an affliction, but it is better to say little. (2.) How he makes this an excuse for his varying from the appointment about the sin-offering. He could not have eaten it but in his mourning, and with a sorrowful spirit; and would this have been accepted? He does not plead that his heart was so full of grief that he had no appetite for it, but that he feared it would not be accepted. Note, [1.] Acceptance with God is the great thing we should desire and aim at in all our religious services, particularly in the Lord’s supper, which is our eating of the sin-offering. [2.] The sorrow of the world is a very great hindrance to our acceptable performance of holy duties, both as it is discomposing to ourselves, takes off our chariot-wheels and makes us drive heavily (1 Sam. 1:7, 8), and as it is displeasing to God, whose will it is that we should serve him cheerfully, Deut. 12:7. Mourner’s bread was polluted, Hos. 9:4. See Mal. 3:14.
3. The acquiescence of Moses in this excuse: He was content, Lev. 10:20. Perhaps he thought it justified what they had done. God had provided that what could not be eaten might be burnt. Our unfitness for duty, when it is natural and not sinful, will have great allowances made for it; and God will have mercy and not sacrifice. At least he thought it did very much extenuate the fault; the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. God by Moses showed that he considered his frame. It appeared that Aaron sincerely aimed at God’s acceptance; and those that do so with an upright heart shall find he is not extreme to mark what they do amiss. Nor must we be severe in our animadversions upon every mistake, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted.