Study Notes

Leviticus 10:1-20


Remember that last week, we saw that the priests were consecrated for the work of the ministry. Remember that there were five of them: Aaron the high priest, and his four sons: Nadab (Naw-DAWB), Abihu (Ah-bee-HOO), Ithamar (Eeth-aw-MAWR) and Eleazar (El-aw-ZAWR). But two of their ministries (and their lives) are going to end very shortly.

10:1-3 Nadab And Abihu's Offering

Nadab and Abihu take their firepans, put fire in them, put incense on the fire, and offer it to the Lord.But the Lord destroyed them. "What's so bad about what they did?" you might think. "Whatever it was, did they really deserve to die?" Let's look at what happened here - there are at least 5 major sins committed:

Drawing Attention To Self

As you may recall, we saw at the end of chapter 9 an awesome happening. The people and the priests were prepared for the glory of the Lord to appear. Moses and Aaron offered the offerings and blessed the people.

Lev. 9:23-24 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw {it} , they shouted and fell on their faces.

Oh, boy! You can imagine that Nadab and Abihu, all decked out in their new priest uniforms, wanted in on that action! "Why should Moses and Aaron get all the attention, after all, we're priests too, right?" That is the nature of the flesh - to draw attention to itself. We want recognition and admiration. It just gets disguised in the spiritual setting. We should always do our best not to draw attention to ourselves or an individual - God should be the center of attention. In their carnality, Nadab and Abihu saw Moses and Aaron, but the glory was really the Lord's. And the Lord won't share the stage with anyone. He won't divide up glory between Himself and a man. He is jealous. Moses will tell us in Deuteronomy 4,

Deut. 4:24 "...The LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."

Indeed, to provoke the Lord's jealousy is to provoke the consuming fire of His wrath.

Duplication Of A Move Of God

Another in in this matter was what Nadab and Abihu were trying to accomplish. They were trying to duplicate the miraculous thing that had just happened. But God is not a trained animal, jumping through hoops and leaping on command.

In Samaria, there was a sorcerer named Simon. He used to wow the people with his magic, but then Simon got saved. Simon followed Philip as he ministered, watching the incredible signs and miracles that were happening. Then Peter and John showed up from Jerusalem. They'd pray and lay their hands on people and they'd receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:18-19 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Simon wanted to be able to duplicate the miracle. Many people today spend their entire Christian lives trying to duplicate moves of God that they've seen or heard about.

One night at a church service, a person is overcome by the joy of the Holy Spirit and laughs out loud. "Certainly, this is an experience that God wants me to have too..." I make myself laugh, hoping it will make God give me that joy too. I fly all over the world to places I hear that God is making people laugh. And instead of pursuing God, I'm pursuing the laughter. Instead of living my life to serve God, I'm trying to force God to serve me. God will not be told what to do or allow a man to force His hand.

Strange Fire

Still another sin which Nadab and Abihu committed was that they offered "strange fire." What was so strange about the fire? The Hebrew word for strange is "zoor." It doesn't mean strange as in weird, but strange as in "stranger" or "foreign." They were offering foreign fire. You see, the fire which was to be offered was to come from a specific place:

Lev. 16:12 "And he shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring {it} inside the veil.

Any fire presented to the Lord must be from the altar of sacrifice. But Nadab and Abihu brought fire from elsewhere. This law still applies today, and this sin is still committed today. The fire in your heart must be because of the sacrifice that made atonement for your sins - Jesus Christ. But people get fired up about other things instead. "Wow! The worship band at this church is rockin'! I get so fired up when they play!" "The youth group at this church is so cool! I'm always fired up to go!"

But remember what the two disciples said when they were eating at Emmaus?

Luke 24:32 And they said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"

That's the fire that is acceptable before God - the fire from the altar of sacrifice.

He Had Not Commanded

Another sin which was committed by the two priests was that the Lord had not commanded He be worshiped in this way. Many people believe that where the Scriptures are silent, we are free to experiment. Not so. The Lord has given us the entire Bible to reveal Himself and His ways to us. We are not free to choose our own way to worship.

Yet, that has not stopped people from doing that which the Lord has not commanded. Today, they bark like dogs and hiss like snakes in "worship." They fall over backwards and lie frozen, doing "carpet time." God has not commanded these things.

The Scripture tells us,

1Sam. 15:22 ...Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.

God didn't want their sacrifice. He wanted their obedience.

I Will Be Treated As Holy

The fifth sin that is obvious in this incident is that those who come near to the Lord must treat Him as holy, and honor Him before all the people.

We are fortunate that God is not frying everyone who is not treating Him as holy and honoring Him before all the people. We would have a lot of cooked Christians if He were. We are to have the attitude that Ethan the Ezrahite had. He wrote,

Ps. 89:6-8 For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD, a God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him? O LORD God of hosts, who is like Thee, O mighty LORD?...

The Lord is to be revered with awe, publicly proclaimed as holy, and honored with dignity.

Aaron Kept Silent

Seeing the grievous sin that Nadab and Abihu had committed, Aaron could not protest. We would do well to follow his example. The world looks at God's judgments and cries, "Unfair! Unjust! God isn't loving! The Lord doesn't judge righteously!" How dare they? How dare we?

In Numbers 16, God judged Korah and his cronies for their rebellion against the leadership that God had established in Moses and Aaron. They were swallowed up alive into Sheol along with their entire households and all their possessions.

Num. 16:41-45 But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD'S people." It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly."...

God wasn't hip to the rebellion against His decision! Who are you to argue with God? As Romans 9 says,

Rom. 9:20 ...Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?...

We may not understand all that God does, but I can guarantee you that everything He does is based on love and justice. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 19:9 ...The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

In the book of Revelation, every one of the terrible judgments that God sends to the earth prompts those in heaven to say,

Rev. 16:7 ..."Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments."

Although we don't understand the ways of God, the thoughts of God, or the judgments of God, we must accept the fact that He is God. It is we who are corrupt and unrighteous, not Him. Aaron kept silent in the face of what he could have easily seen as too harsh a judgment.

10:4-7 Don't Mourn

Moses calls Nadab and Abihu's second cousins Mishael (Mee-shaw-ALE) and Elzaphan (El-tsaw-FAWN), the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel (Ooz-zee-ALE). They are to carry Nadab and Abihu's bodies outside the camp.

Then Moses instructs Aaron's two remaining sons not to mourn. They are priests of the most high God and are not to cease ministering because of their personal loss. Many believe that family comes first, and God comes second. But that is so wrong. Jesus told us,

Matt. 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

The masses can mourn, but we're called to minister to the mighty Master of the universe. If the priests began to murmur about the unfairness of it all, God's anger would be kindled and the whole congregation would have suffered for it.

They were not even to worry about the funeral arrangements. Remember when Jesus was calling people to follow Him...

Matt. 8:21-22 And another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead."

The reason these things sound so harsh and callous is because we don't have a clue about what it means to truly forsake the things of this world and follow Christ completely.

10:8-11 Do Not Drink

Here is our first indication that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking before they fell into their grievous sin. If the text is not telling us that, it is warning Aaron and his sons not to fall prey to the instinct that tells us to drown our sorrows in booze.

The Bible has so much to say about the destructiveness and stupidity of drinking.

Prov. 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.

Prov. 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, And your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. "They struck me, {but} I did not become ill; They beat me, {but} I did not know {it.} When shall I awake? I will seek another drink."

Amazing how people are drawn to this stuff.

The admonition here in Leviticus 10 is that priests are not to come into the tent of meeting after drinking. We are called by God as a kingdom of priests. Every Christian here is a priest of God. What are we to learn from this? Aside from the commandment in Ephesians 5:18 that forbids us to get drunk, there is an even stricter commandment regarding the house of God.

Lev. 10:9 "Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die..."

People, listen to me and listen well. If you've been drinking, and you're going to come to church... stay home. I don't care if you've downed a fifth of whiskey or just had a few sips of beer... stay at home. If you are a Christian, God doesn't want you in His house if there's alcohol in your system, and frankly, neither do I. You are a priest of God and need to be alcohol-free when you enter the house of God.

This is truly a deadly danger for those in the church. The Corinthian church would meet together for potluck dinners where they would take communion together. Paul rebuked them, pointing out that they were getting drunk at these gatherings. Because of this, they were not partaking of communion worthily.

1Cor. 11:29-30 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

The possibility of sickness or death is very real if you show up at God's house with booze on your breath.

10:12-15 Eat The Offering

In spite of the judgment that had just occurred, the ministry was to go on, the offerings were to be eaten. Moses gives Aaron instructions on how these things were to happen.

10:16-20 The Missing Goat

Whoops! Where's the goat for the sin offering? Remember that back in chapter 6 we read about the law of the sin offering:

Lev. 6:26 'The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting.

Lev. 6:30 'But no sin offering of which any of the blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy place shall be eaten; it shall be burned with fire.

So it was to be eaten by the priest who offered it, unless the blood was brought into the tent of meeting. This goat's blood hadn't been brought inside, so the meat was to be eaten. It wasn't - they burned it outside the camp.

Moses gets in Eleazar's and Ithamar's faces about this. But Aaron steps in and takes the blame for the wrongdoing.

Lev. 10:19 ..."Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the LORD?"

In other words, "Moses, don't blame my sons. They've done what they were supposed to do. It's me who should've eaten the offering, but frankly, I've completely lost my appetite. I know that the sin offering is supposed to be eaten with rejoicing, but I just don't have any joy in me today after all that's happened. Would that have been good in the sight of God if I just went through the motions hypocritically?"

Moses was okay with that. The Lord prefers your honesty over your hypocrisy any day of the week.

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