Leviticus 10


Nadab and Abihu offer strange fire before the Lord, and are

destroyed, 1-5.

Aaron and his family forbidden to mourn for them, 6, 7.

He and his family are forbidden the use of wine, 8-11.

Directions to Aaron and his sons concerning the eating of the

meat-offerings, &c., 12-15.

Moses chides Aaron for not having eaten the sin-offering, 16-18.

Aaron excuses himself, and Moses is satisfied, 19, 20.


Verse 1. And Nadab and Abihu-took either of them his censer]

The manner of burning incense in the temple service was,

according to the Jews, as follows:-"One went and gathered the

ashes from off the altar into a golden vessel, a second brought a

vessel full of incense, and a third brought a censer with fire,

and put coals on the altar, and he whose office it was to burn

the incense strewed it on the fire at the command of the

governor. At the same time all the people went out of the temple

from between the porch and the altar. Each day they burned the

weight of a hundred denaries of incense, fifty in the morning,

and fifty in the evening. The hundred denaries weighed fifty

shekels of the sanctuary, each shekel weighing three hundred and

twenty barleycorns; and when the priest had burned the incense,

he bowed himself down and went his way out. See Maimonides'

Treatise of the Daily Service, chap. iii. So when Zacharias, as

his lot fell, burned incense in the temple, the whole multitude

of the people were without at prayer while the incense was

burning, Lu 1:9,10. By this service God taught them that the

prayers of his faithful people are pleasing to him, whilst our

High Priest, Christ Jesus, by his mediation puts incense to their

prayers; (see Ps 141:2; Ro 8:34; Heb 8:1,2; 9:24; Re 8:3,4;) for

the priests under the law served unto the example and shadow of

heavenly things; Heb 8:5."

See Ainsworth in loco.

In the preceding chapter we have seen how God intended that

every part of his service should be conducted; and that every

sacrifice might be acceptable to him, he sent his own fire as the

emblem of his presence, and the means of consuming the

sacrifice.-Here we find Aaron's sons neglecting the Divine

ordinance, and offering incense with strange, that is, common

fire,-fire not of a celestial origin; and therefore the fire of

God consumed them. So that very fire which, if properly applied,

would have sanctified and consumed their gift, became now the

very instrument of their destruction! How true is the saying,

The Lord is a consuming fire! He will either hallow or destroy

us: he will purify our souls by the influence of his Spirit, or

consume them with the breath of his mouth! The tree which is

properly planted in a good soil is nourished by the genial

influences of the sun: pluck it up from its roots, and the sun

which was the cause of its vegetative life and perfection now

dries up its juices, decomposes its parts, and causes it to

moulder into dust. Thus must it be done to those who grieve and

do despite to the Spirit of God. Reader, hast thou this heavenly

fire? Hear then the voice of God, QUENCH not the SPIRIT.

Some critics are of opinion that the fire used by the sons of

Aaron was the sacred fire, and that it is only called strange

from the manner of placing the incense on it. I cannot see the

force of this opinion.

Which he commanded them not.] Every part of the religion of

God is Divine. He alone knew what he designed by its rites and

ceremonies, for that which they prefigured-the whole economy of

redemption by Christ-was conceived in his own mind, and was out

of the reach of human wisdom and conjecture. He therefore who

altered any part of this representative system, who omitted or

added any thing, assumed a prerogative which belonged to God

alone, and was certainly guilty of a very high offence against

the wisdom, justice, and righteousness of his Maker. This

appears to have been the sin of Nadab and Abihu, and this at once

shows the reason why they were so severely punished. The most

awful judgments are threatened against those who either add to,

or take away from, the declarations of God.

See De 4:2; Pr 30:6; and Re 22:18,19.

Verse 3. And Aaron held his peace.] vaiyiddom

Aharon, and Aaron was dumb. How elegantly expressive is this of

his parental affection, his deep sense of the presumption of his

sons, and his own submission to the justice of God! The flower

and hope of his family was nipped in the bud and blasted; and

while he exquisitely feels as a father, he submits without

murmuring to this awful dispensation of Divine justice. It is an

awful thing to introduce innovations either into the rites and

ceremonies, or into the truths, of the religion of Christ: he who

acts thus cannot stand guiltless before his God.

It has often been remarked that excessive grief stupefies the

mind, so that amazement and deep anguish prevent at once both

tears and complaints; hence that saying of Seneca, Curae leves

loquantur; graviores silent. "Slight sorrows are loquacious;

deep anguish has no voice. See Clarke on Le 10:19.

Verse 4. Uzziel the uncle of Aaron] He was brother to Amram

the father of Aaron; see Ex 6:18-22.

Verse 5. Carried them in their coats out of the camp] The

modern impropriety of burying the dead within towns, cities, or

places inhabited, had not yet been introduced; much less that

abomination, at which both piety and common sense shudder,

burying the dead about and even within places dedicated to the

worship of God!

Verse 6. Uncover not your heads, &c.] They were to use no

sign of grief or mourning, 1. Because those who were employed in

the service of the sanctuary should avoid every thing that might

incapacitate them for that service; and, 2. Because the crime of

their brethren was so highly provoking to God, and so fully

merited the punishment which he had inflicted, that their

mourning might be considered as accusing the Divine justice of

undue severity.

Verse 7. The anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.] They

were consecrated to the Divine service, and this required their

constant attendance, and most willing and cheerful service.

Verse 9. Do not drink wine nor strong drink] The

cabalistical commentator, Baal Hatturim, and others, have

supposed, from the introduction of this command here, that

Aaron's sons had sinned through excess of wine, and that they had

attempted to celebrate the Divine service in a state of


Strong drink.-The word shechar, from shachar, to

inebriate, signifies any kind of fermented liquors. This is

exactly the same prohibition that was given in the case of John

Baptist, Lu 1:15: οινονκαισικεραουμηπιη.

Wine and sikera he shall not drink. Any inebriating liquor, says

St. Jerome, (Epist. ad nepot.,) is called sicera, whether made of

corn, apples, honey, dates, or other fruit. One of the four

prohibited drinks among the Mohammedans in India is called

[Arabic] sakar, (see the Hedaya, vol. iv., p. 158,) which

signifies inebriating drink in general, but especially date wine

or arrack. From the original word probably we have borrowed our

term cider or sider, which among us exclusively signifies the

fermented juice of apples. See on Lu 1:15.

Verse 10. That we may put difference between holy and unholy]

This is a strong reason why they should drink no inebriating

liquor, that their understanding being clear, and their judgment

correct, they might be always able to discern between the clean

and the unclean, and ever pronounce righteous judgment.

Injunctions similar to this were found among the Egyptians,

Carthaginians, and Greeks. Indeed, common sense itself shows

that neither a drunkard nor a sot should ever be suffered to

minister in holy things.

Verse 14. Wave-breast and heave-shoulder]

See Clarke on Le 7:38 and see "Ex 29:27".

Verse 16. Moses diligently sought the goat] The goat which

was offered the same day for the sins of the priests and the

people, (see Le 9:15, 16,) and which, through the confusion

that happened on account of the death of Nadab and Abihu, was

burnt instead of being eaten. See Le 10:18.

Verse 17. To bear the iniquity of the congregation]

See on "Le 6:26", &c.

Verse 19. And such things have befallen me, &c.] The excuse

which Aaron makes for not feasting on the sin-offering according

to the law is at once appropriate and dignified; as if he had

said: "God certainly has commanded me to eat of the sin-offering;

but when such things as these have happened unto me, could it be

good in the sight of the Lord? Does he not expect that I should

feel as a father under such afflicting circumstances?" With this

spirited answer Moses was satisfied; and God, who knew his

situation, took no notice of the irregularity which had taken

place in the solemn service. To human nature God has given the

privilege to weep in times of affliction and distress. In his

infinite kindness he has ordained that tears, which are only

external evidences of our grief, shall be the outlets to our

sorrows, and tend to exhaust the cause from which they flow.

See on "Le 10:3".

Verse 20. When Moses heard that, he was content.] The

argument used by Aaron had in it both good sense and strong

reason, and Moses, as a reasonable man, felt its force; and as

God evidenced no kind of displeasure at this irregularity, which

was, in a measure at least, justified by the present necessity,

he thought proper to urge the matter no farther.

THOUGH the punishment of Nadab and Abihu may appear severe,

because the sacred text does not specify clearly the nature and

extent of their crime, we may rest assured that it was of such a

nature as not only to justify but to demand such a punishment.

God has here given us a full proof that he will not suffer human

institutions to take the place of his own prescribed worship. It

is true this is frequently done, for by many what is called

natural religion is put in the place of Divine revelation; and

God seems not to regard it: but though vengeance is not speedily

executed on an evil work, and therefore the hearts of the

children of men are set to do wickedness, yet God ceases not to

be just; and those who have taken from or added to his words, or

put their own inventions in their place, shall be reproved and

found liars in the great day. His long-suffering leads to

repentance; but if men will harden their hearts, and put their

own ceremonies, rites, and creeds, in the place of Divine

ordinances and eternal truths, they must expect to give an awful

account to him who is shortly to judge the quick and the dead.

Were the religion of Christ stripped of all that state policy,

fleshly interest, and gross superstition have added to it, how

plain and simple, and may we not add, how amiable and glorious,

would it appear! Well may we say of human inventions in Divine

worship what one said of the paintings on old cathedral windows,

Their principal tendency is to prevent the light from coming in.

Nadab and Abihu would perform the worship of God not according to

his command, but in their own way; and God not only would not

receive the sacrifice from their hands, but, while encompassing

themselves with their own sparks, and warming themselves with

their own fire, this had they from the hand of the Lord-they lay

down in sorrow, for there went out a fire from the Lord, and

devoured them. What is written above is to be understood of

persons who make a religion for themselves, leaving Divine

revelation; for, being wilfully ignorant of God's righteousness,

they go about to establish their own. This is a high offence in

the sight of God. Reader, God is a Spirit, and they who worship

him must worship him in spirit and truth. Such worshippers the

Father seeketh.

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