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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 10

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


Chapter 10 A Stark Lesson and a Glorious Continuation.

But as so often when there is blessing, disobedience comes. Men have a strange ability to forget their own weakness and begin to think that they know better than God, to declare, ‘I am the captain of my soul, I am the master of my fate’, even at such times as this. And thus it was with Aaron’s elder sons. In overweening pride, or overweening folly, or both, they ignored what God had revealed and chose to follow their own way. They offered what Yahweh had not laid down in a way that demonstrated that they despised the set service of the tabernacle. They did not fully follow His will. Were they not now superior to common mortals? Had they not been with Yahweh in the Mount? (Exodus 24:9). Could they not now lead the way with their own innovations (which were simply pagan practises)?

This whole chapter concerns the holiness of God and the necessity for His people to be fully holy if they are to meet with Him. It first declares that His ordinances must be followed exactly. It then goes on to declare that the priests, in preparation for their service, are to keep away from alcohol when about to enter His presence, are to be careful to discern at all times between what is clean and unclean, and are therefore to avoid all that is ‘unclean’, and that they are to ensure that the people are made fully aware of all covenant requirements, that they sin not in any way. It commences with this example of those who failed in holiness, and died for it, and then goes on to deal with various requirements in order to maintain the holiness of the Sanctuary, all of which are made more serious by these untimely deaths of those who failed to discern God’s holiness. The stress all through is on the holiness of God.

Verses 1-7

Disobedience Brings Death For the Disobedient And A Test For The Faithful (Leviticus 10:1-7 ).

Leviticus 10:1

‘And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which he had not commanded them.’

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, transgressed against the holiness of God. They treated holy things lightly, and brought God’s judgment on themselves. When dealing with God we too need always to remember with Whom we have to do.

As sons of Aaron Nadab and Abihu might possibly one day have had the right as his deputies to put fire in the holy censers from the altar of incense, and to put incense on it, and bear it within the veil (if Aaron was unwittingly ceremonially unclean or ill on the Day of Atonement), and they would certainly have had the right to offer incense on the altar of incense at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices that its odour might go within the veil. But the right was carefully restricted and limited. God must not be demeaned, nor must His holy things be treated lightly. He had given no authority otherwise to burn incense in censers.

So what they had not the right to do was to ‘do their own thing’. Indeed at such a time at this when the very priesthood was new, such an attitude would only lead swiftly into error. It had to be severely dealt with. We must recognise that what they did was done deliberately and with an ungodly attitude. They would certainly have had to hide what they were about from Aaron and their other brothers.

“Strange fire.” It was strange fire because it was unauthorised fire. It may be that the coals had not been taken from the altar of incense, the altar ‘before Yahweh’ (Leviticus 16:12), and thus were not holy (they probably had to sneak in their ashes for otherwise Aaron would have asked what they were doing), that the censers were their own and not sanctified, and that the incense was not of the prescribed type and was therefore also not holy (Exodus 30:9, compare Exodus 30:34-38; Exodus 37:29). Thus would they be bringing in what was not holy to the Holy Place. That was bad enough. But what was far worse was that they did in His Holy Place what Yahweh had not commanded. They grossly slighted Yahweh. They took to themselves the right to worship in ways that Yahweh had not commanded or revealed, in a way that was not acceptable, and they did it in Yahweh’s very presence. It revealed an attitude of heart that was thoroughly blasphemous.

Had it not been stopped it would have led to an ‘anything goes’ situation. Compare how later Uzziah would sin in a similar way and also paid the penalty (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). We may hesitate at the seriousness of the penalty. But consider the situation. They had been by their own voluntary will sanctified as God’s priests. They had taken on a holy appointment. They had sworn to obey Yahweh absolutely. They had been made ‘holy to Him’. But now they had demonstrated that in heart they were not so. They could not be allowed therefore to continue as priests. What then was to be done? They were holy to Yahweh. They could not therefore return to what they had been. There could only be one solution, that Yahweh would remove them by fire as was done with all sanctified things that were no longer of use or that were offered to Him. (What happened to them then was between God and them).

That censers could be used in this way when commanded by Yahweh comes out in Numbers 16:46 but the incident in Numbers 16:6-38 had similarities to this. There Moses challenged the malcontents sarcastically that if they wished to take on themselves the Aaronite priesthood against God’s clear commandment they follow the example of Nadab and Abihu. He was warning them that men do not take such privileges on themselves. He wanted them to remember what had happened to Nadab and Abihu when they went outside Yahweh’s remit and burned incense in censers. They should all have remembered and taken heed. But foolishly they ignored the warning, they too burned incense in censers before Yahweh and they too were consumed with fire.

Leviticus 10:2

‘And there came forth fire from before Yahweh, and devoured them, and they died before Yahweh.’

We do not know whether Aaron’s sons were just rash and arrogant, or foolishly deliberately blasphemous, recklessly following examples that they had seen elsewhere, but either way they were deliberately doing the very thing that Yahweh had warned against, following the ways of the nations. They were being deliberately disobedient ‘with a high hand’ (Numbers 15:30). There is no hiding from that. And the penalty for that, as they well knew, was death. It had to be dealt with severely for the sake of future generations. For the lesson must be learned at any cost that there must be no innovations on top of what Yahweh had commanded. They offered up strange fire, Yahweh dealt with it by the fire of judgment. They were ‘devoted’ (given over to judgment) to Yahweh (compare Joshua 7:25). ‘They died before Yahweh’ might be seen as indicating that it was within the Holy Place. God took His disobedient ‘holy ones’ to Himself.

It must be noted that this was not just a rash mistake. It was a deliberate flouting of Yahweh’s prescribed way of worship because of their contempt for what was prescribed. And such flouting of His ways had to be cut off immediately before it became worse. If God’s revelation was to continue unmarred then there was no alternative to severe action that would be a once for all warning (but still unheeded by the foolish) of what would happen to those who distorted God’s ways. (Compare Numbers 16:1-50; Joshua 7:1-26; 2 Samuel 6:6-7; Acts 5:1-11).

Note the contrast with Leviticus 9:24. There Yahweh had consumed with His fire the offerings on the altar which were dedicated to Him. They were pleasing to Him. Here he consumes with fire what is an insult to Him. The one was consumed with great pleasure, the other with great anger. God cannot be treated lightly, especially by those who have dedicated themselves. He must be obeyed.

Leviticus 10:3

‘Then Moses said to Aaron, “This what Yahweh spoke, saying, “I will be sanctified in those who come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” And Aaron held his peace.’

Moses then communicated to the grieving father a message from Yahweh, explaining why He had done what He had done. Those who approached Him as priests must do so in a way that reveals Him for what He is, (‘sanctifies’ Him, sets Him apart in His distinctive holiness) not in a way that disparages Him or reveals Him as just another local god looking for titbits, and they must do it in a way that glorifies Him before the people. It was a serious responsibility. Aaron did not reply. He had to recognise that what God had done was just. By their action his sons had at their very inauguration reduced the living God to a nonentity who flew around in the air looking for sweet odours (compare Jeremiah 44:25). They had demeaned God before the people.

Leviticus 10:4-5

‘And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Draw near, carry your relatives from before the sanctuary out of the camp.” So they drew near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said.’

But the priesthood, now established, had to continue unchecked. Moses therefore called on close relatives of the dead men to remove their bodies. Their bodies had to be taken outside the camp, the fate of all ‘devoted’ things, and had to be buried by close relatives. But this could not be by Aaron and his sons for it would have rendered them ‘unclean’. Thus he chose the best alternative.

They ‘carried them in their coats’. The question is whether this means the dead men’s coats, or the coats of the bearers. Either way it was possibly referring to a way of limiting ritual defilement by not touching the bodies, which were no doubt seen as ‘most holy’, possibly for fear of the consequences. They could be levered into the coats, or carried by the loose folds. All such detail confirms the genuineness of the account. Even so they would probably then have to go through a period of ‘cleansing’ (Numbers 19:11). This was why the serving priests could not do it.

Leviticus 10:6

‘And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads go loose, nor rend your clothes, so that you do not die, and that he be not wroth with all the congregation, but let your brothers and sisters, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which Yahweh has kindled.” ’

Then Moses warned Aaron and the two surviving brothers that in spite of their natural grief they must not show signs of mourning while still serving in the tabernacle, for to bring tokens of death into the tabernacle was forbidden. They must retain their caps and their robes in place, and fulfil their duties in the required way, lest they die. For they were now the anointed of Yahweh ministering in the Holy Place, and for them to fail to do such things would be to incur the holy wrath of God, not only on themselves, but on the whole of Israel. It would be to defile the Holy Place. Their unique ministry must continue at all costs. They must leave the mourning to the remainder of their family and to the people of Israel, each until his time of service was complete.

The fact that these were on duty may suggest that the two who died had been off duty and had come to the tabernacle deliberately in order to carry out their folly. For not all would necessarily be on duty at the same time, although as this was ‘the first day’ after the seven day consecration it is always possible that all were on duty. Leviticus 10:9 may suggest that they were indeed drunk.

Leviticus 10:7

“And you shall not go out from the door of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of Yahweh is on you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.’

“For the anointing oil of Yahweh is on you.” The point would seem to be that their time of duty must be completed because they were anointed priests and must fulfil their duties as such. These could not be broken into by outside circumstances. Those in special positions of privilege must live in accordance with the privilege, and not allow personal matters to interfere. Great privilege brings great responsibility. As men set apart to Yahweh by the holy oil their first duty was to His service. It came even before the demands of family.

It did not, of course, mean that they could never leave the tabernacle, only that they could not leave it while they were on duty. Now that they were mediators and representatives of Israel, there must always be priests on duty, for otherwise there would be no mediator or representative before God. And without God’s protection and care where would they be?

Fortunately, unlike their brothers they were determined to remain faithful to the command of Yahweh even though it might prove difficult in trying circumstances, and they remained to carry out their responsibilities. Sometimes God asks hard things of us, and by our faithfulness to Him and His service we will be assessed.

Because of what has happened Yahweh now speaks directly to Aaron about the priestly responsibility for the maintenance of the holiness of the Sanctuary. This, coming after what has happened, links the words back to the previous events and may serve to confirm that Nadab and Abihu had been drunk. His warning is threefold. The lesson that must be learned is that priests must never enter the tabernacle under the influence of alcohol and therefore in a state unworthy of being in the presence of Yahweh, they must be careful to distinguish the clean from the unclean, so that they do not enter the tabernacle unclean and defile it, and they must ensure that all the people are fully aware of all God’s requirements so that they also do not offend in these ways. Each of these instructions is to ensure the maintenance of the holiness of the Sanctuary and its precincts, stressing the holiness of God.

If we in our turn had more concern for the holiness of God there would be much that we now do which we would not do. Our great problem is that we fail to recognise how by our behaviour we defile the holy name by which we are called. But the consequences will not be less, they are merely delayed. That is why we must come to His light continually for cleansing through His blood (1 John 1:7).

Verse 8

‘And Yahweh spoke to Aaron, saying,’

This is the first time that God has spoken directly to Aaron, demonstrating his new status. From now on until Leviticus 15:0, God will speak sometimes ‘to Moses and to Aaron’ (Leviticus 11:1; Leviticus 13:1; Leviticus 15:1) and sometimes just ‘to Moses’ (Leviticus 12:1; Leviticus 14:1). The alternation suggests that the aim is to bring in Aaron while retaining the priority of Moses. But speaking solely to Aaron here, the only example, demonstrates the importance of the subject for Aaron. It is he and his remaining sons who are directly responsible for maintaining the holiness of the Sanctuary.

Verse 9

“Drink no wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, so that you do not die, it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations,”

The first important requirement is that priests do not enter the tent of meeting while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol dulls the senses and clearly makes someone ‘blemished’. Only those in full possession of their faculties must enter the Sanctuary, for anything less is not worthy of God. God requires the very best.

Thus to be under the influence of alcohol is clearly to be ‘unclean’. And the uncleanness remains until the total effects of the alcohol have worn off.

And if they do enter under the influence of alcohol they will be in danger of immediate death, for it will be seen as a direct insult to the holiness of God. This is a statute which is permanent for all time, stressing its seriousness. God does not find drunkenness amusing. Paul takes this up with respect to Christian worship when he says, ‘Do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, singing to yourselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things’ (Ephesians 5:18-20). This makes quite clear that a state of inebriation is dishonouring to God. To be in such a state is to be less than the best for God, and is to debar us from His presence.

In the Old Testament ‘wine and strong drink’ covers all liquids that cause inebriation especially those which lead men into folly (compare Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 29:6; Judges 13:4; Judges 13:7; Judges 13:14; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 31:4; Proverbs 31:6). However, it is accepted that men do desire it for themselves and that they may enjoy it in moderation (Deuteronomy 14:26). In this context it must be remembered that when fresh, drinkable water was not available, which was often, wine was the main alternative. But it was wine that brought Noah into folly and brought shame on his household (Genesis 9:21-27), an incident which was from the beginning a constant reminder of its dangers when taken in excess. In its best form wine makes glad the heart of man (Psalms 104:15), but not with the kind of gladness that being present in the tabernacle was intended to give, and misused it is pointed to as leading to disaster. In the light of this each must decide whether he or she wants to be always the best for God or not. But those who would be in His holy place must certainly not be so when under the influence of wine.

“Strong drink” may be a reference to beer brewed from dates or barley, or other such constituents, in contrast with fermented wine. It must be remembered that with water often undrinkable, except direct from springs and some oases, the ancients had to look for palatable alternatives. Variously produced wines and strong drinks provided a ready at hand solution.

But as Paul pointed out. While the world looks to wine for its enjoyment the people of God are to look to the fullness of the Spirit. They are to seek to manifest not vulgar behaviour but the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20).

Verse 10

“And that you may make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean,”

The next important point is the distinction between the holy and the common (the unholy), the clean and the unclean. This distinction will be taken up later in Leviticus in detail. But the point is being made by it that God is holy, and that nothing that comes short of that holiness is to be permitted into His presence. Nothing ritually unclean must enter the Sanctuary and its precincts, for it will defile it. So God enjoins that it is to be the responsibility of the priests to make the distinction and see that it is observed.

Uncleanness covers a wide variety of things and states, from differences between what may be eaten and what may not, and what may be touched and what may not, to bodily imperfections and discharges, to uncleanness resulting from contact with death, and so on, to uncleanness caused by disobedience to God’s commandments, and such uncleanness must be removed before men enter the Sanctuary. For God is holy, and it is the priest’s duty to discern whether men are clean or unclean, and to instruct them on all such matters so that they may themselves discern their own state. The stress is on the importance of keeping the Sanctuary and its precincts holy so as to bring home the holiness of God. It meant that the concern for holiness would become a daily concern for all the people, both physically and morally.

Verse 11

“And that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Yahweh has spoken to them by Moses.”

The idea here is that for anyone to come short of God’s requirements is to be rendered unclean. Thus it is the duty of the priesthood to make all aware of God’s statutes and requirements, both with regard to ritual and with regard to life. For to fall short of any would require cultic treatment in order to bring them back into a state where they can come to the Sanctuary and meet with God (that is partly what the guilt offerings were for). God’s people must seek at all times to avoid all possible sources of defilement. They too must be holy

For us the question must always be, how can we ensure that we are the best for God? What should we avoid that might make us less than the best? In our case it is spiritual cleanness that we must encourage, and spiritual uncleanness that we must avoid (2 Corinthians 7:1 compare Mark 7:20-23). And we should be daily concerned that we do so. We must not enter His presence unclean.

Verses 12-15

What The Priests May Partake of Concerning the Holy Things (Leviticus 10:12-15 ).

He now moves on to the portions of the Priests from grain offerings and from peace sacrifices and the distinctions concerning the holiness of them. It is again concerned with the question of the holiness of the Sanctuary. What is ‘most holy’ must be eaten before Yahweh. It must not be defiled by being taken from the Sanctuary. But what is merely ‘holy’ can be shared by the priests with their families in any ‘clean place’. For the people themselves are a holy nation.

Leviticus 10:12-13

‘And Moses spoke to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons who were left, “Take the grain offering that remains of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar, for it is most holy, and you shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your portion, and your sons' portion, of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire, for so I am commanded.”

The grain offering was ‘most holy’. It was an offering to God ‘made by fire’, that is wholly given to God. It was an offering from the people. And as such it must be contained and eaten within the Sanctuary. There it could be eaten by the priests ‘without leaven’ (for it must not be marred in any way) in the place where the altar was situated (thus they were seen as eating it as an offering) for it was given to them by God as a portion for their benefit, and they ate it in His name. Because they were God’s anointed priests this was seen as God receiving it through them.

So may we through coming to Him and believing on Him partake of Him Who is the bread of life (John 6:35). But we must recognise that what we partake of is ‘most holy’. That we can come to Him daily through faith, continually receiving His power and His fullness (Ephesians 3:16-19), and having Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20), is something which must never be treated lightly. When we so come we must ensure that there is no ‘leaven’ in our lives, nothing that is corrupting, no influence of the world, and we must recognise that He is ours through the altar, that is, through His offering Himself to death for us on the cross (Hebrews 13:10). Without that we could not know Him.

Leviticus 10:14-15

“And the wave breast and the contribution thigh shall you eat in a clean place, you, and your sons, and your daughters with you, for they are given as your portion, and your sons' portion, out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the children of Israel. The contribution thigh and the wave breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before Yahweh, and it shall be yours, and your sons' with you, as a portion for ever; as Yahweh has commanded.”

However, the wave breast and the contribution thigh of a peace sacrifice are holy but not ‘most holy’. They are the priest’s portion of what may be eaten by all who are clean, the flesh of the sacrifice. They must be waved before Yahweh, but then they can feed the priest’s family, both male and female as long as it is in a clean place (one not affected by defilement from anything unclean). ‘Your daughters’ is an overall reference to all their womenfolk.

In Israel whenever a clean animal, whether ox, or goat or sheep, were to be slain and eaten it had to be done by sacrifice (Leviticus 17:1-7), and if it were not to be a whole burnt offering, or a purification for sin or guilt offering, then it must be as a peace/wellbeing sacrifice. The offering of the fat by fire to Yahweh meant that it was an offering ‘made by fire’, but the type of offering, a peace sacrifice, ensured that the flesh could be eaten by those appointed by the offeror, with the priests receiving the breast and thigh, the latter for the officiating priest. The breast and thigh was the priests’ portion ‘for ever’ (into the distant future). And it could feed their whole families. The peace sacrifice was the way by which Israel could partake of the meat of clean animals in fellowship with each other and with God, while at the same time suitably expressing their love, penitence and gratitude to God, and contributing by it to the continuing atonement achieved by the priests on behalf of Israel, and it was one way by which the priests received their daily supplies.

These sacrifices would usually occur on special occasions. On the whole, apart from the very wealthy, the Israelites preferred to preserve their valuable livestock and use them to provide milk and clothing. They subsisted more on the milk, and on bread, fruit, honey, berries, and roots, and on what they could hunt, and while in the wilderness on manna and quails. This would be especially so in the wilderness. Note how when they grumbled in the wilderness for lack of food they did not immediately set about eating their livestock.

Verses 16-20

A Problem Arises Concerning the Purification for Sin Offering For The People (Leviticus 10:16-20 ).

This incident is quite remarkable, and is very unlikely to be a later invention, for it depicts Moses’ uncertainty in the face of a ritual situation. It confirms that here we are dealing with what actually happened. Presumably in the light of what had happened to Nadab and Abihu Moses was checking on Aaron and his sons to ensure that they had carried through the correct rituals. He was clearly quite satisfied until he came to the question of the disposal of the flesh of the goat offered as a purification for sin offering for the people. When he discovered that it had been burnt on the altar and not eaten by the priests he was angry.

Leviticus 10:16

‘And Moses diligently sought the goat of the purification for sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt, and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron who were left, saying,’

His anger centred on ‘the sons of Aaron who were left’, a deliberate reminder of what had happened earlier that day. They surely should have ensured the correct carrying out of the ritual. Were they being rebellious like their brothers?

Leviticus 10:17-18

“Why have you not eaten the purification for sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and he has given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before Yahweh? Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within. You should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.”

His question was specific. Why had they burnt the flesh of the purification for sin offering offered on behalf of the people, and not eaten it. They should have eaten it ‘in the place of the Sanctuary’, that is, within the tabernacle precincts, for that was all a part of bearing the iniquity of the offeror (Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 6:29; Leviticus 7:6). The purification for sin offering must be mainly burnt on the altar with the flesh eaten by the priests in order to bear the iniquity of the offerer and to make atonement for him. In this case the ‘him’ was the people of Israel. This description reveals how the holiness of the priests renders even the ‘sin’ content holy. It is neutralised through forgiveness and atonement, through ‘covering’.

The only exception allowed to this was in the cases where the blood was offered before the veil within the Holy Place. And that had not happened with this offering.

But we can understand their confusion as beginners in the priesthood. Usually when a purification for sin offering was made either for a priest or for ‘the whole congregation’ its blood was taken within the Holy Place and offered before the veil (Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 4:17), and the whole carcase apart from the fat and vital parts was burned outside the camp in a clean place. But in the case of the Priest’s offering this day that had not been done. Should they then have eaten of the Priest’s offering? The answer, even in Moses’ eyes was clearly, No. The priests could not eat of the purification for sin offering of one of their own. He was not questioning that.

But in Moses’ eyes the question seemed different when it came to the offering on behalf of ‘the people’. Possibly because the elders had brought the offering he did not consider that that offering must also include the two brothers, although they had not strictly been included in Aaron’s offering. Moses, however, probably considered that they had (compare Leviticus 8:14). He no doubt saw the priesthood as one. It was a matter of interpretation. Thus because unusually the blood had not been presented in the Holy Place (possibly because it was for the people and not the whole congregation) he considered that it could be eaten by the priests. Probably the two brothers had taken the opposite view, that because the purification for sin offering included themselves they should not eat of it, and had been terrified at the thought of eating the purification for sin offering wrongly. We may assume from what followed that they appealed to their father, whose decision it had probably been.

Leviticus 10:19

‘And Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this day have they offered their purification for sin offering and their whole burnt offering before Yahweh, and there have befallen me such things as these, and if I had eaten the purification for sin offering today, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of Yahweh?”

For Aaron, wiser and older, steps in to deal with the situation. He does not argue one case or the other. He points out that the two young men had this very day offered their purification for sin offering and their whole burnt offerings before Yahweh. They are concerned for their sin and dedication. He does not define which he sees as theirs. That is not the grounds on which he is going to argue.

Then he draws attention to his own invidious position. How does Moses see his case? After his offerings for himself he had endured unbearable events. He was in great grief. His heart was in mourning (compare Deuteronomy 26:14). That in itself made his position difficult. He could carry on his service, but he could not avoid what was in his heart, and the hurt and grief he felt. And Yahweh would be aware of it.

And what was more, it had been his own sons, the sons of his house, who had blasphemed Yahweh and endured His judgment and wrath. Was he then in any position to partake of the purification for sin offering of the people, and were his other sons in any better position. Was not their whole house in some sense guilty on this day? They would carry out their duty, but would the eating of the purification for sin offering by them have been pleasing in the sight of Yahweh when they were in a very real sense identified with those who had been slain? Would it not rather have made his family even more guilty? In that situation how could they profess to bear the sin of the people? Surely it were better on this day that the whole offering be offered by fire directly to Yahweh that He might absorb and neutralise through ‘covering’ the sin of the people, while he and his sons purged their sons/brothers’ offence?

Leviticus 10:20

‘And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight.’

Moses recognised the justice of what Aaron had said. He recognised their dilemma and was satisfied. This had been no rebellion against the will of Yahweh by Aaron and his remaining sons, but a recognition of their own mourning and their own indirect participation in the sin of their son and brothers. The house of Aaron had sinned that day, and were in mourning over the consequences of sin (for in Hebrew thought the sin of one in a family was in some sense the sin of all). How then could Aaron and his sons be seen as partaking of the purification for sin offering of the people, absorbing its holiness and rectifying their sin by ‘covering’ (atonement) and forgiveness? Would it not cause doubt in the people’s minds? Surely it was better that the holiness be absorbed by the altar, and the sin be covered and atoned for by God?

“It was well-pleasing in his sight.” Moses recognised that all was well. He recognised that this had not been done lightly, but had been done with a full consideration of the factors that had resulted in the decision. But no later writer would have accepted the possibility of Moses having to be taught by Aaron in this way unless it had happened. (Although the ingenuity of some modern scholars in inventing stories which have no evidence to support them in order to explain such things away is quite incredible. It appears to be a case of any story goes as long as we do not accept them to be what they claim to be).

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/leviticus-10.html. 2013.
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