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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 10

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

The death of Nadab and Abihu, and quieting of Aaron, Leviticus 10:1-3 . Orders given to bury them, and not to mourn, Leviticus 10:4-7 . A command not to drink wine or strong drink, and to distinguish between holy and unholy, Leviticus 10:8-11 . Directions concerning the parts of the burnt-offerings which were to be eaten, Leviticus 10:12-15 . Moses reproves the priests, but is pacified by Aaron, Leviticus 10:16-20 .

Verse 1

Leviticus 10:1. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron He had other sons; but these were the two eldest, Exodus 6:23. Took either of them his censer That is, a certain vessel, in which they put coals of fire for burning incense. This is supposed to have happened on the last day of their consecration, when fire came down from heaven, Leviticus 9:24. Their sin was that they offered incense with what is here called strange fire, that is, common fire, or fire not taken from the altar. Thus incense, which was not such as was prescribed, is called strange incense, Exodus 30:9. Which he commanded them not This is what we call a Meiosis, where more is understood than is expressed. It implies not only that they did it of their own proper motion, without any command or authority from God, but that they did it against his command; in which sense the expression is used Jeremiah 32:35. For though no express law is recorded, as having been already given, prohibiting to offer common fire, yet as it was forbidden implicitly Leviticus 6:12, especially when God himself made a comment upon that text, and by sending fire from heaven, declared of what fire he there spake; so it is more than probable it was forbidden expressly, though that be not here mentioned, nor was it necessary it should. Indeed, it is not to be supposed they would have been punished with death, if they had not done something which God had expressly forbidden, or omitted what he had expressly commanded. It is not easy to say how two such persons, who had the honour and happiness of being with God on the mount, (Exodus 24:1; Exodus 24:9-10,) could be guilty of this fatal error. Some think they had drunk too freely at the feast upon the peace-offerings, which made them forget themselves; because of the prohibition against drinking wine or strong drink, which immediately follows the relation of this event.

Verse 2

Leviticus 10:2. And there went out a fire from the Lord From heaven, or rather, from the sanctuary; and devoured them Not reduced them to ashes, as the word signifies at the end of the former chapter, but struck them dead in a moment, their bodies and garments remaining entire. Thus the sword is said to devour, 2 Samuel 2:26. Thus lightning often kills persons without injuring their garments. To take off from our surprise at this great severity, let it be considered, that the wisest legislators have always judged it necessary to inflict a heavy punishment upon the first transgressors of a law, especially in cases of great moment, in order to deter others from the like offence, Had this first irregularity been connived at in the inferior priests, it might have imboldened them, and much more the high-priests, to introduce further and more important innovations, to the total subversion of the order God had appointed. Thus Ananias and Sapphira, presuming to lie against the Holy Ghost, were punished in a way very similar, when the gospel law had been confirmed by the descent of a different fire from heaven.

Verse 3

Leviticus 10:3. Moses said unto Aaron This awful stroke having wounded Aaron with deep anguish, Moses endeavours to allay his sorrows, by representing to him how very faulty his two sons had been, and how agreeable their punishment was to the wisdom of the divine government, and what good ends it might answer. This is it that the Lord spake Though the words be not recorded in Scripture, where only the heads of discourses are contained, yet it is probable they were uttered by Moses in God’s name. Howsoever, the sense of them is in many places. I will be sanctified This may denote, either, 1st, Their duty to sanctify God, to demean themselves with such care, and reverence, and watchfulness, as became the holiness of the God whom they served; whence he leaves them to gather the justice of the present judgment. Or, 2d, God’s purpose to sanctify himself, to manifest himself to be a holy and righteous God by his severe and impartial punishment of all transgressors, how near soever they were to him. That come nigh me Who draw near to me, or to the place where I dwell, and are admitted into the holy place, whence others are shut out. It is a description of the priests. I will be glorified As they have sinned publicly and scandalously, so I will vindicate my honour in a public and exemplary manner, that all men may learn to give me the glory of my holiness by an exact conformity to my laws. And Aaron held his peace

In acknowledgment of God’s justice, and submission to it. He murmured not, nor replied against God, nor against Moses, wisely considering that their sin was directly against God, and in that which is most dear and honourable in God’s account, his worship; and that God’s honour ought to be dearer to him than his sons. The words are most beautiful and emphatical.

Verse 4

Leviticus 10:4. Moses called Mishael For Aaron and his sons were employed in their holy ministrations, from which they were not to be called for funeral solemnities. Brethren That is, kinsmen, as that word is often used. Out of the camp Where the burying-places of the Jews were, that the living might neither be annoyed by the unwholesome scent of the dead, nor defiled by the touch of their graves.

Verse 5

Leviticus 10:5. In their coats In the holy garments wherein they ministered; which might be done, either, 1st, As a testimony of respect due to them, notwithstanding their present failure; and that God in judgment remembered mercy, and when he took away their lives, spared their souls. Or, 2d, Because, being polluted both by their sin, and by the touch of their dead bodies, God would not have them any more used in his service.

Verse 6

Leviticus 10:6. Uncover not your heads That is, give no signification of your sorrow; mourn not for them; partly lest you should seem to justify your brethren, and tacitly reflect upon God as too severe; and partly lest thereby you should be diverted from, or disturbed, in your present service, which God expects to be done cheerfully. But let the whole house of Israel bewail the burning Not so much in compassion to them, as in sorrow for the tokens of divine displeasure.

Verse 7

Leviticus 10:7. Ye shall not go from the tabernacle Where at this time they were, because this happened within seven days of their consecration: for the oil of the Lord is upon you You are devoted and consecrated to the service of God and of his people, which, therefore, it is proper you should prefer before all funeral solemnities, and which must not be omitted out of respect to any person whatsoever. The ministers of religion ought to consider that this law is still binding upon them, as to the spirit and intention of it. They, of all men, ought to be so heavenly-minded, and of such elevated affections, as to maintain an unbroken manly fortitude, amid all the calamities and afflictions, both private and public, which are incident to humanity in its present state. Though religion does not require that they should divest themselves of their passions, yet they ought to be examples to others how to moderate those passions, and keep them within due bounds; especially they must not be so swallowed up in the sorrows of the world as to be incapacitated thereby for discharging their duty to God.

Verse 9

Leviticus 10:9. Do not drink wine nor strong drink It is certainly not improbable that the sin of Nadab and Abihu was owing to this. But if not, yet drunkenness is so odious a sin in itself, especially in a minister, and most of all at the time of his administration of sacred things, that God saw fit to prevent all occasions of it. And hence the devil, who is God’s ape, required this abstinence from his priests in their idolatrous service. By strong drink here, is meant such inflammatory, intoxicating liquors as were made in imitation of wine, as of dates, figs, honey, with many other sorts of liquors, particularly palm-wine, which was much used in those countries, and was reckoned the most intoxicating of any. The intention of this law was to be always in force: accordingly it is required of the ministers of the gospel, that they be sober, not given to wine.

Verses 10-11

Leviticus 10:10-11. Between holy and unholy Persons and things, which Nadab and Abihu did not, mistaking unholy or common fire for that which was sacred and appointed of God for their use. Ye may teach Which drunken persons are very unfit to do.

Verses 12-14

Leviticus 10:12-14. Moses spake unto Aaron Moses, being apprehensive that Aaron, in the confusion of his grief for the loss of his two sons, might forget or omit some part of his duty, here puts him in mind of it, repeating to him the order about eating the remains of the meat or meal-offering, (Leviticus 6:16-17,) and about the shoulder and breast, Leviticus 7:31. The former of which the priests alone might eat, and that only in the holy place, or court of the tabernacle. The other might be eaten in any clean place, that is, in any of their dwellings, or in any place in the camp which was decent, and kept clean from all ceremonial defilement; and where the women as well as the men might come; for the daughters of the priests might eat these as well as their sons, if they were maids, or widows, or divorced, Leviticus 2:11-13.

Verse 16

Leviticus 10:16. Behold, it was burnt This justified Moses’s suspicion that some mistake might be committed in the holy things; for upon inquiry he found that the priests had burned upon the altar those parts of the people’s sin-offering which they ought to have eaten, Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 6:29. He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar Moses, not willing to aggravate the sorrows of his brother Aaron, says nothing to him, but expostulates with his sons for their neglect. He knew, however, that the reproof, though directed to them, would concern him too.

Verse 17

Leviticus 10:17. God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation It was given them as an encouragement to, and a reward of the careful performance of that part of their duty, whereby they expiated, bore, and took away the sins of the people by offering those sacrifices, by which, as being typical of the sacrifice of the Messiah, God was reconciled to the penitent and believing offerers.

Verse 18

Leviticus 10:18. Behold the blood was not brought within the holy place And consequently it was not one of those sacrifices ordered to be burned, (Leviticus 6:30,) but should have been eaten in the court of the tabernacle, Leviticus 6:26.

Verse 19

Leviticus 10:19. Aaron said unto Moses Though Moses expostulates only with Eleazar and Ithamar, yet Aaron, taking the reproof to himself, makes an apology in his own and their behalf, the amount of which is, that he and his sons had performed the substance of their duty, offering the people’s sin- offering and burnt-offering in all respects according to the divine direction; only as to eating their share of the sin-offering, the death of his sons, happening at that juncture, had so overwhelmed him with grief, that he judged himself unfit for feasting at God’s table: Such things, says he, have befallen me; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted? Would God have been pleased with me if, in such heaviness and dejection, I had eaten the sacrifice? My sorrows unfitted me for that service; it being the voice of nature as well as of religion, that men ought to celebrate feasts upon joyous occasions, and with a cheerful heart, (Deuteronomy 12:7,) and not eat holy things in their mourning, Deuteronomy 26:14.

Verse 20

Leviticus 10:20. Moses was content He rested satisfied with Aaron’s answer, who, it appeared, had sincerely aimed at pleasing God; and those who do so, will find he is not extreme to mark what is amiss.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 10". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/leviticus-10.html. 1857.
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