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The Sin of Nadab and Abihu and its Punishment
v. 1. 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. Nadab and Abihu were probably the oldest sons of Aaron, and were distinguished by Moses in being selected to accompany him to the feast before the Lord, Exodus 24:1-1 Samuel :. The chances are that they were unduly exalted over their initiation into the priesthood and believed themselves competent to select their own methods of worshiping the Lord. They took two of the small vessels pertaining to the golden altar, put some fire in them which was not taken from the altar of burnt offering, and proceeded to offer incense to the Lord in these censers of their own selecting, whereas incense was to be offered only on the golden altar by the officiating priest twice daily, Exodus 30:7-Ruth :.
v. 2. And there went out fire from the Lord, this time in consuming wrath, as it had shortly before flashed forth in an expression of mercy, and devoured them; and they died before the Lord. It was like a bolt of lightning which struck them dead without consuming their bodies or even their clothes. The punishment struck them while they were yet in the Sanctuary or in the court. Our God, in His jealousy, is a consuming fire, and will occasionally even now strike down such as blasphemously presume upon rights before Him which they do not possess.
v. 3. 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. That was the explanation of this severe judgment. Since the two young men had omitted the proper preparation and had acted contrary to the commandment of the Lord, therefore He had sanctified Himself upon them by this punishment, which was to redound to His glory as the Holy One, who will not be mocked by disobedience. And Aaron held his peace; he was unable to gainsay the righteousness of the act of God, as set forth by Moses
v. 4. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, Exodus 6:18, and his own cousins, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the Sanctuary out of the camp. The two dead men were the brethren, the relatives, of the men who were to perform the last rites over them: and they were buried in their linen coats, for these priestly garments had been defiled with the dead bodies.
v. 5. So they went near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said, the people meanwhile looking on in a kind of stupefied awe.
v. 6. And Moses said unto Aaron and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, the usual manner of showing a high degree of mourning being to let the hair of the head grow without trimming and cutting and to tear open the garments over the breast, lest ye die, and lest wrath come up on all the people. A transgression of the high priest, as the mediator between God and the people, involved the latter in the punishment of God. To mourn in this case would have been equivalent to expressing dissatisfaction with the judgments of the Lord and would have brought His punishment upon the offenders and upon all whom they represented. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled, the terrible expression of God's wrath in destroying the priests, the sad calamity that had befallen them.
v. 7. And ye shall not go out from the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, in order to join the funeral procession or in any way to permit an intermission to take place in the priestly functions, lest ye die; for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses. The anointing oil was the symbol of the Spirit of the living God, who has nothing in common with death, but rather conquers death, and sin which causes death. Cf Leviticus 21:12.
Instructions To The Priests
v. 8. And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, He now addressed Himself directly to the high priest to let him know His will,
v. 9. Do not drink wine nor strong drink, the latter being a very strongly intoxicating beverage made from barley, dates, and honey, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go in to the Tabernacle of the Congregation, when engaged in the duties of the priesthood, lest ye die; it shall be a statute forever through out your generations; it was practically equivalent to absolute prohibition in the case of Aaron and his sons, for they must have been on duty continually, especially in the early days: later the priests were on duty in the Sanctuary only a short time during the year;
v. 10. and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; their minds had to be clear for the many cases which required careful distinguishing;
v. 11. and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses. The priests were at the same time the teachers of the people, and their minds did not dare to be befuddled with the fumes of intoxicating liquors while they mere engaged in the discharge of their duties.
v. 12. 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, only a handful having been offered, Leviticus 9:17, and eat it without leaven beside the altar; for it is most holy. It was used as food for the priests in a place provided for that purpose in the court.
v. 13. And ye shall eat it in the Holy Place, because it is thy due; it was a fee which was intended for the sustenance of the priests while they were on duty in the Sanctuary, and thy sons' due, of the sacrifices of the Lord made by fire; for so I am commanded.
v. 14. And the wave-breast and heave-shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou and thy sons and thy daughters with thee; for they be thy due and thy sons' due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace-offerings of the children of Israel. This was the portion set aside for the priests and their families, fees or emoluments, a part of the salary, and this holy meal could be eaten outside of the court, in some clean place.
v. 15. The heave-shoulder and the wave-breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave-offering before the Lord; and it shall be thine, and thy sons' with thee, by a statute forever, as the Lord hath commanded, Leviticus 7:31-Nahum :.
v. 16. And Moses diligently sought the go at of the sin-offering, for since its blood had been poured out at the altar of burnt offering, its flesh, being a sin-offering, should have been eaten by the priests in the Holy Place, and, behold, it was burned; and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, which were left alive, saying,
v. 17. Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the Holy Place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make an atonement for them before the Lord? The priests, being mediators of the people in offering the sacrifices, were bound to follow the ritual in all its details, and the eating of the flesh was an essential part of this service.
v. 18. Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the Holy Place, to the altar of incense, as it was described Leviticus 4:1-Ecclesiastes : ; ye should indeed have eaten it in the Holy Place, as I commanded. Having undertaken the atonement for the people, the responsibility for the sins and that of carrying out every single precept of the sacrifice rested upon them.
v. 19. And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, the priests had made these offerings for themselves; and such things have befallen me, in being bereft of two of his sons; and if I had eaten the sin-offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord? The fearful accident which had happened had made Aaron and his remaining sons incapable of and unfit for eating. Cf Hosea 9:4.
v. 20. And when Moses heard that, he was content, literally, "it was good in his eyes," he was satisfied that no disregard of the Lord's precepts was intended, that the circumstances warranted Aaron and his sons in acting as they did. The law of love is the highest law and supersedes all others. It was so in the Old Testament, as it is in the New, that God desired mercy rather than sacrifice.
Chiefly of the Second Table
v. 9. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, to the very edge of the property line, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest, single stalks and ears that dropped when the sheaves were bound.
v. 10. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard after the first picking, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard, those that had fallen to the ground during the picking; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger. I am the Lord, your God. Love toward one's neighbor was emphasized again and again as a fundamental requirement of the Law.
v. 11. Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, hypocritically, neither lie one to another, said of deceit and perfidiousness. Note that falsehood and fraud are enumerated with theft, for the three go together.
v. 12. And ye shall not swear by My name falsely; true oaths are indeed permitted, those in the interest of one's neighbor, but not false oaths; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God, desecrate it by taking it in vain. I am the Lord.
v. 13. Thou shalt not defraud, oppress, thy neighbor, neither rob him, in any manner whatever deprive him of something which is due him; the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. The day-laborer was to receive his pay at the end of each day, Deuteronomy 24:14-Ezra :.
v. 14. Thou shalt not curse the deaf, the poor man not being able to hear the maledictions and to defend himself, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, to cause him to fall, a decidedly ill-conceived form of practical joke, but shalt fear thy God, who both hears and sees, and will avenge the wrong in due time. I am the Lord.
v. 15. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, not let personal interests influence you to disregard the demands of justice. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, take his part from false sympathy, nor honor the person of the mighty, with the aim of gaining his favor; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.
v. 16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor, as the false witness often does. I am the Lord. This involves, of course, "casting aside all inhumane conduct, all ill will, as manifested in malicious belittling, blackening, and slandering, and especially in attempts against the life of a neighbor, whether in court or in private life. " (Lange. )
v. 17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, not bear him any grudge. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, frankly and openly tell him his fault in the event of a transgression, as the Lord also bids us do, Matthew 18:15-Esther :, and not suffer sin upon him, that is, not bear a sin on his account by remaining silent, when a remonstrance in time might save one's neighbor from severe transgressions. So even the Israelites, according to this precept, would become partakers of other men's sins.
v. 18. Thou shalt not avenge, seek and take revenge for a wrong which has been inflicted, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, Romans 12:19, after a wrong has been committed, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. I am the Lord. Cf Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39. Many of these cases, if not all, are applications of the law of love, and therefore require to be observed by Christians to this day.
v. 19. Ye shall keep My statutes, those special precepts which applied particularly to the conditions under which the Jews lived. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind, for the production of hybrids. Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed, for the same reason; neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.
v. 20. And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman that is a bondmaid, a slave, betrothed to an husband, probably after the manner spoken of Exodus 21:7-1 Kings :, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her, these being the two ways in which a slave could gain his liberty; she shall be scourged, or rather, there shall be a punishment of both guilty persons; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free and could not legally contract marriage.
v. 21. And he, the guilty man, shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord, unto the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, even a ram for a trespass-offering.
v. 22. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass-offering before the Lord for his sin which he hath done, in the manner prescribed by God, Leviticus 7:1-Judges :; and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.
v. 23. And when ye shall come in to the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, fruit-trees and nut-trees, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised, and therefore not to be used; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you; it shall not be eaten of.
v. 24. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal, hallowed to Jehovah, and fit to be used as an offering of first-fruits.
v. 25. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof through the blessing of the Lord. I am the Lord, your God. This manner of treating the trees incidentally increased the yield of the orchard.
v. 26. Ye shall not eat anything with the blood, flesh from which the blood had not thoroughly drained, Leviticus 17-10; neither shall ye use enchantment, any form of soothsaying, nor observe times, another form of witchcraft, that of using the evil eye.
v. 27. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, cut or shave the hair in a circle from one temple to the other, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard, crop or trim the ends. This seems to have reference to a custom followed by some heathen nations in honor of certain idols.
v. 28. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, such tattooing and such incisions as the Jews must have seen done among the Egyptians, nor print any marks upon you, in the form of pictures, letters, or figures. I am the Lord.
v. 29. Do not prostitute thy daughter, induce her to permit her body to he used for immoral purposes, to cause her to be a whore, a sin which profanes the body in the most specific and emphatic sense, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness, full of abominable deeds. The reference is probably to religious immorality, as it was joined with many idolatrous worships and is to this day, in which women voluntarily abandoned their chastity as priestesses of the idol.
v. 30. Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, all the prescribed festivals, and reverence My Sanctuary. I am the Lord. The entire social and domestic life of the Israelites was to be pervaded by the fear of God and characterized by chasteness and propriety.
v. 31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled by them; literally: "Do not turn to the spirits of the dead, and after the spirits of soothsaying do not follow. " I am the Lord, your God. All intercourse with conjurors of the dead and with wizards was equivalent to desecration of the holy relation with God, "The chief means used by both these classes of persons was the consulting with the spirits of the departed. While this furnishes an incidental testimony all along to the belief of the Israelites in the life beyond the grave, it is self-evident that all such attempts to secure knowledge which God has not put in the power of living man to acquire are a resistance to His will, and a chafing against the barriers He has imposed. It is remarkable that such attempts should have been persisted in through all ages and in all lands. " (Gardiner. )
v. 32. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God. I am the Lord. The respect for old age, coming under the Fourth Commandment, is here associated with the fear of God, who demands this showing of respect.
v. 33. And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex, that is, oppress, him, make him feel that he is an outcast.
v. 34. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, be treated with all kind regard, just as though he were an inhabitant of the land, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt, and the remembrance of the oppression suffered there was to have a wholesome influence in teaching them mercy, I am the Lord, your God.
v. 35. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in any matter that is to be decided in court, in mete-yard, in measurements of length, in weight, or in measure, both dry and liquid measure being included.
v. 36. Just balances, for measures of weight, just weights, stones used as standards of weight, a just ephah, as a standard for dry measure, and a just hin, as the standard for liquid measure, shall ye have. I am the Lord, your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. It is clear that equity in the affairs of daily life is here made to rest upon the foundation of duty toward God.
v. 37. Therefore shall ye observe all My statutes and all My judgments, the precepts flowing out of the natural law inscribed in the hearts of all men as well as those given to the Jews in particular, and do them. I am the Lord, Love is still the fulfillment of the Law, the advantage which the Christians have consisting chiefly in this, that its application in the individual cases is left to the judgment of the believer, as a spur to his ingenuity.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18