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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 10

 

 

Verses 1-20

Lev X contains four appendices on the priests' duties, of which the first and the fourth are in the form of ideal narratives (a caution and a misunderstanding), like chs. 8f.

Leviticus 10:1-7. The Sin of Nadab and Abihu.—Nadab and Abihu, the eldest sons of Aaron (Exodus 6:23), had been privileged to "go up and see the God of Israel" with Moses and Aaron and seventy elders (Exodus 24:1 ff., J). Here, they offer fire which has not been taken from the altar "hearth" or was not in accordance with the proper receipt for the sacred incense, and are themselves at once consumed. The bodies are withdrawn from the camp by their father's cousins, and Aaron and his remaining sons are forbidden to mourn for them. The catastrophe is here described very briefly, in contrast to that of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 16; cf. Numbers 3:1-4; in 1 Chronicles 24:2, Nadab and Abihu are simply mentioned as dying before their father. Bertholet suggests that the narrative points back to a struggle with a class of priests in the N. Kingdom who attempted to become naturalised at Jerusalem, and who were recognised as previously existing, but illegitimate; cf. Ezekiel's insistence on the sole legitimacy of the sons of Zadok, the Jerusalemite priests, an insistence which could not be carried out after the Exile. This narrative would thus be intended to account for their illegitimacy. The fire which "consumed" them is probably thought of as overwhelming them with a sudden flash. Their bodies are still covered with their outer garments. For Mishael, etc., see Exodus 6:18-22. All the priests are here forbidden to show the ordinary signs of mourning. These would be regarded as an interference with their ritual condition which would mean general danger or disaster; here, too, all the priests are regarded as anointed. The reference to the tent of meeting obviously refers to the prohibition in Leviticus 8:35. In Leviticus 21:10 f. (H) and in Ezekiel 44:25, mourning is restricted, but not entirely prohibited, for all priests.

Leviticus 10:8-11. Prohibition of Alcohol.—The prohibition refers to periods when the priests are "on duty" (so Ezekiel 44:21); but the reason given, that the priests may be able to instruct the people, seems to imply a wider abstinence. The priestly excesses referred to in the earlier prophets (Isaiah 28:7, Ezekiel 22:26) are thus guarded against. In Rome, the Flamen Dialis was even prohibited from walking on a path between vineyards (p. 217). Yahweh does not elsewhere speak to Aaron alone.

Leviticus 10:12-15. The Eating of the Priests' Dues (cf. Leviticus 6:14-18, Leviticus 7:28-34). The meal offering is "most holy," i.e. it is to be eaten only by the priests themselves, and in a holy place; the flesh is "holy," and may be eaten by the priests' families, and in a clean place. The distinction is not easy to explain; but degrees of holiness are simply equivalent to degrees in restrictions surrounding the object or action. The thigh as well as the breast is to be waved (cf. Leviticus 7:32*); this statement may be intended to correct an earlier custom of waving only the breast; the distinction between the two, however, remains quite plain in this passage, as elsewhere.

Leviticus 10:16-20. Explanation of a Ritual Error.—Aaron and his sons had not eaten the sin offering. Moses is angered with the sons; but the reason is given that such an act would have been inapposite after the catastrophe of Leviticus 10:1-7. Moses accepts the explanation. But why should they have eaten the sin offering? Cf. Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 6:29; Leviticus 4:21 (cf. Leviticus 4:12) implies that the sin offering for the assembly is not to be eaten. Leviticus 4, however, must be looked upon as earlier. Leviticus 10 looks on the eating as a priestly duty on behalf of the community. According to Leviticus 6:23, the sin offering is not to be eaten when its blood is brought into the sanctuary; in this case (Leviticus 9:9) the blood is not so brought in. Thus, according to Leviticus 4 (probably earlier), no excuse was needed. Aaron's explanation is based on the fact that through the death of his sons, he feels himself to be under the wrath of God, and therefore unable to consume a holy thing. The representation of Aaron as correcting or reminding Moses is unique in P.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 10:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-10.html. 1919.

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Sunday, January 26th, 2020
the Third Sunday after Epiphany
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