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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Leviticus 10

 

 

Verses 1-20

Leviticus 10:1 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.

Leviticus 10:1Comments - The offering of Nadab and Abihu had not been commanded by God, and for this reason it was called "strange fire." The offense occurred over the procedures of offering the morning and evening offering on the altar of incense, which was before the mercy seat. The procedures for building and using the altar of incense are recorded in Exodus 30:1-10. It is interesting to note that the only warning passage in the description of the articles of the Tabernacle ( Exodus 25-30) is made in Exodus 30:9 regarding the procedure of the altar of incense, in which God warns Moses not to offer strange incense, or any burnt offerings, meat offerings or drink offerings upon this altar.

Exodus 30:9, "Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon."

Because the biblical text is not more specific about the offense of Nadab and Abihu, scholars debate over the details of this offering. There are a number of possibilities suggested by Jewish tradition that are carried into modern biblical scholarship.

(1) Drunkenness- Leviticus 10:8-9 implies that Nadab and Abihu may have been drunk when they offered strange fire on the altar of incense, having feasted on the peace offerings and wave offerings and drink offerings made that day. This view is mentioned by the medieval French rabbi Rashi (A.D 1040-1105). 16]

16] In his commentary on Leviticus 10:2, Jarchi [Rashi] says, "Rabbi Ishmael says: [They died because] they had entered the sanctuary after having drunk wine. The proof is that after their death, [Scripture] admonished the survivors that they may not enter the sanctuary after having drunk wine." See Rashi, Commentary on the Tanakh, in The Judaica Press Complete Tanach (Judaica Press, 1998) [on-line]; accessed 25 November 2010; available from http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16508/showrashi/true; Internet, comments on Leviticus 10:2.

Leviticus 10:8-9, "And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:"

(2) A Violation of Levitical Procedures- Leviticus 16:2 suggests that they made the offering on the altar of incense in violation of the Levitical procedures that God had given to Moses, such as the wrong time of day. This view is mentioned by the medieval French rabbi Rashi (A.D 1040-1105). 17]

17] In his commentary on Leviticus 10:2, Jarchi [Rashi] says, "Rabbi Eliezer says: Aaron's sons died only because they rendered halachi decisions [interpretations of the Law] in the presence of Moses, their teacher." See Rashi, Commentary on the Tanakh, in The Judaica Press Complete Tanach (Judaica Press, 1998) [on-line]; accessed 25 November 2010; available from http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16508/showrashi/true; Internet, comments on Leviticus 10:2.

Leviticus 16:2, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat."

(3) Wrong Source of Coals- In Leviticus 16:12-13 the Lord told Moses that the burning coals for the censer must be taken from the burnt altar. Perhaps Nadab and Abihu took "strange fire" from a source other than the burnt altar, which had just been ignited by fire from the Lord in Leviticus 9:24. This view is mentioned in The Targum of Jonathan. 18]

18] The Targum of Jonathan reads, "But the sons of Aharon, Nadab and Abihu, took each man his censer, and put fire therein, and laid sweet incense upon it, and offered before the Lord strange fire taken from (under) the hearth-pots, which had not been commanded them. [Jerusalem. Outside fire.] And a flame of fire came out from before the Lord (as) with anger, and divided itself into four streams, (or lines,) and penetrated their nostrils, and burned their lives (souls) without destroying their bodies; and they died before the Lord." See J. W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch; with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum: from the Chaldee (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1865), 173.

Leviticus 16:12-13, "And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:"

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Leviticus 10:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/leviticus-10.html. 2013.

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Monday, January 27th, 2020
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