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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.
The sons of Aaron ... If this incident occurred at the solemn period of the consecrating and dedicating the altar, these young men assumed an office which had been committed to Moses; or if it were some time after, it was an encroachment on duties which devolved on their father alone as the high priest. But the offence was of a far more aggravated nature than such a mere informality would imply. It consisted not only in their venturing unauthorized to perform the incense service-the highest and most solemn of the priestly offices-not only in their engaging together in a work which was the duty only of one, but in their presuming to intrude into the holy of holies, to which access was denied to all but the high priest alone. In this respect they offered strange fire before the Lord:" they were guilty of a presumptuous and unwarranted intrusion into a sacred office which did not belong to them.
But their offence was more aggravated still; for instead of taking the fire which was put into their censers from the brasen altar, they seem to have been content with common fire, and thus perpetrated an act which, considering the descent of the miraculous fire they had so recently witnessed, and the solemn obligation under which they were laid to make use of that which was specially appropriated to the service of the altars, they betrayed a carelessness, an irreverence, a want of faith, most surprising and lamentable. A precedent of such evil tendency was dangerous; and it was imperatively necessary, therefore, as well for the priests themselves as for the sacred things, that a marked expression of the divine displeasure should be given for doing that which God "commanded them not" - i:e., which He forbade them to use.
And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Fire from the Lord ... devoured them - rather, killed them; for it appears (Leviticus 10:5) that neither their bodies nor their robes were consumed. The expression, "from the Lord," indicates that this fire issued from the most holy place; and in the destruction of these two young priests, by the infliction of an awful judgment, the wisdom of God observed the same course, in repressing the first instance of contempt for sacred things, as He did at the commencement of the Christian dispensation (Acts 5:1-11).
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.
Moses said ... This is it ... "They that come nigh me" points, in this passage, directly to the priests; and they had received repeated and solemn warnings as to the cautious and reverent manner of their approach into the divine presence (Exodus 19:22; Exodus 29:44; Leviticus 8:35).
Aaron held his peace. The loss of two sons in so sudden and awful a manner was a calamity overwhelming to parental feelings. But the pious priest indulged in no vehement ebullition of complaint, and gave vent to no murmur of discontent, but submitted in silent resignation to what he saw was "the righteous judgment of God."
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.
Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan (see Exodus 6:22 ) ... Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary. The entrance of the two brothers into the sanctuary being in this case absolutely necessary, the ceremonial rules were relaxed on the occasion.
In their coats, [ bªkutaanotaam (H3801)] - in their tunics, a loose upper coat. The removal of the two corpses for burial without the camp would spread the painful intelligence among all the congregation. The interment of the priestly vestments along with them was a sign of their being polluted by the sin of their irreligious wearers; and the remembrance of so appalling a judgment could not fail to strike a salutary fear into the hearts both of priests and people.
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.
Uncover not your heads. They who were ordered to carry out the two bodies, being engaged in their sacred duties, were forbidden to remove their turbans, in conformity with the usual customs of mourning; and the prohibition, "neither rend your garments," was in all probability confined also to their official costume. For at other times the priests wore the ordinary dress of their countrymen, and, in common with their families, might indulge their private feelings by the usual signs or expressions of grief (see the note at Numbers 9:6).
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.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying,
Do not drink wine ... This prohibition, and the accompanying admonitions, following immediately the occurrence of so fatal a catastrophe, has given rise to an opinion entertained by many, that the two unhappy priests were under the influence of intoxication when they committed the offence which was expiated only by their lives. Such an idea, though the presumption is in its favour, is nothing more than conjecture; but our knowledge of the intemperate habits of the ancient Egyptians shows the necessity, or at least the appropriateness, of such a caution to the ministers of the sanctuary, among a people recently come from Egypt (Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' 3:, p. 172). Verse 10. That ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean. The grand and special function of the priests, while attending in the first instance to the daily or oft-recurring observances of the Mosaic ritual, was to teach the doctrines of true religion to the people, both symbolically and orally. They were not, like the pagan priests, to possess an esoteric and exoteric doctrine, but whatever was made known to themselves of the nature and practical bearing of sacred things, they were, as official instructors in Israel, to communicate it for the benefit of the congregation.
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:
Moses spake unto Aaron ... This was a timely and considerate rehearsal of the laws that regulated the conduct of the priests. Amid the distractions of their family bereavement, Aaron and his surviving sons might have forgotten or overlooked some of their duties (cf. Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14); but those only might partake of them who were themselves ceremonially clean.
Verse 15. A statute for ever. It is repeatedly said that the injunctions addressed to Aaron and his sons were not for them as individuals only, but to serve as permanent ecclesiastical regulations. And yet, in regard to these, there was a wise accommodation to circumstances. Rites which could be observed in the wilderness were duly attended to there; while others, which implied the possession of the promised land, were deferred until the eventual settlement in that country, where the Mosaic dispensation was to be the established law of church and state (see the notes at Numbers 15:1-2; Numbers 15:13; Numbers 15:16).
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,
Moses diligently sought ... In a sacrifice presented, as that had been, on behalf of the people, it was the duty of the priests, as typically representing them and bearing their sins, to have eaten the flesh after the blood had been sprinkled upon the altar. Instead of using it, however, for a sacred feast, they had burnt it without the camp; and Moses, who discovered this departure from the prescribed ritual, probably from a dread of some further chastisements, challenged-not Aaron, whose heart was too much lacerated to bear a new cause of distress-but his two surviving sons in the priesthood, for the great irregularity.
Their father, however, who heard the charge, and by whose directions the error had been committed, hastened to give the explanation. The import of his apology is, that all the duty pertaining to the presentation of the offering had been duly and sacredly performed, except the festive part of the observance, which privately devolved upon the priest and his family; and that this had been omitted, either because his heart was too dejected to join in the celebration of a cheerful feast, or that he supposed, from the appalling judgments that had been inflicted, the whole services of that occasion were so vitiated that he did not complete them.
Aaron was decidedly in the wrong. By the express command of God the sin offering was to be eaten in the holy place; and no fanciful view of expediency or propriety ought to have led him to dispense at discretion with a positive statute. The law of God was clear; and where that is the case, it is sin to deviate a hair's breadth from the path of duty. But Moses sympathized with his deeply afflicted brother; and having pointed out the error, said no more (see the notes at Leviticus 6:25-26).
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18