James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Leviticus 8:1-10:20
STRANGE FIRE AND CONSEQUENCES
In an earlier lesson the present chapters were outlined as The Law of the Priests, though we might better have said, The Law of the Consecration of the Priests. And yet in either case the phrase must be used in an accommodated sense, since we are not here dealing with the law itself but with the initial execution of the law in the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The law itself was considered in the Book of Exodus, so we may pass over chapters 8 and 9 of the present lesson since their contents were sufficiently dealt with previously.
THE AARONIC LINE
Before taking up chapter 10, however, let us consider the history of the priesthood which begins here.
The priesthood was originally appointed to remain in Aaron’s family through all generations, and no other could intrude into that office. Aaron was succeeded by Eleazar, his elder surviving son after the death of Nadab and Abihu, and the priesthood continued in this family through seven generations, until the time of Eli, named in the earlier chapters of First Samuel.
Because of the wickedness of Eli’s sons the priesthood was removed from that branch of the family and given to the descendants of Ithamar, Aaron’s other son; but in the time of Solomon it returned again to the line of Eleazar (1 Kings 2:27), in whose line it continued until the Babylonian captivity.
After the return of the Jews from captivity Joshua, the first high priest, was of the same family, but subsequent to this time the appointment became uncertain and irregular, and after Israel became a Roman province no regard was paid to this part of the original institution. As a matter of fact, the office became so desecrated in the corruption of later times, that it was often sold to the highest bidder, whether of the family of Aaron or not.
This was the case a long while before the coming of Christ.
What part the Aaronic line will play on the future return of the Jews to their land and their form of worship we cannot say, but there is reason to believe that in the millennial age God may restore it for the execution of His purposes through Israel in that dispensation.
THE EVIL CONDUCT OF AARON’S SONS (10:1-7)
Resuming here the text of the lesson, what was it that Nadab and Abihu did (Leviticus 10:1)? What was the immediate consequence (Leviticus 10:2)? How did Moses explain this awful circumstance (Leviticus 10:3)? And what was its effect on Aaron? What prohibition of mourning was laid on him and his remaining sons (Leviticus 10:6)? And what further command, and why (Leviticus 10:7)?
To understand the death of Aaron’s sons, notice the last verse of chapter 9, which speaks of the sacrifice on the brazen altar in the outer court and holy fire from the Lord consuming it. It was this fire that consumed the sacrifice, which should have been employed in the censers to burn the incense before the Lord. Nadab and Abihu neglected this, offered strange fire, and were instantly slain.
This looks like a terrible punishment for a slight offense. But the offense was not slight. It was a flagrant disobedience of a plain command; several commands. Not only did they disobey in the matter of the fire (Leviticus 16:12), but also in performing an office which belonged only to the high priest, for, as some think, they went into the Holy of Holies. Two went in where only one was permitted. Furthermore, the offense was committed at a critical moment in the history of the people, at the beginning of their covenant relationship with God. It suggests a somewhat similar occurrence in the opening era of the Church, Acts 5:1; Acts 5:3. In both cases a signal manifestation of the divine displeasure was necessary for the sake of impressing the lesson upon the whole nation in the one case and the whole Church in the other.
It need not be supposed that this punishment involved the eternal loss of the souls of these men. It was a case of God’s judging in the midst of His people, not a case of His actings among “them that are without.” It affords a solemn warning, however, to any within the visible church who would depart in worship from the plain revelation of God, and to any without who would seek to approach Him in some other way than the prescribed one (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
THE PROHIBITION OF STRONG DRINK (Leviticus 10:8-11)
From what are the priests to be prohibited, and when (Leviticus 10:10-11)? It is natural to infer from this that the offense of Aaron’s sons was occasioned by strong drink such as made it possible for impulse to get the better of judgment, from which we learn that it is not enough for the Christian to abstain from what is in its own nature sinful, but also from that which may heedlessly become an occasion of sin.
THE RENEWED WARNING (Leviticus 10:12-20)
The substance of these verses has been considered in a previous lesson, but in view of the occurrence of this day Moses is moved to renew the charge to Aaron and his sons upon the matter.
The explanation of the closing verses seems to be like this: On this day of special privilege when they had performed their priestly duties for the first time, God’s name had been profaned by the will-worship of Nadab and Abihu, and the wrath of God had broken out against them and their father’s house. Could it then be the will of God that a house in which such guilt was found should yet partake of the holy things in the sanctuary? In other words, Aaron and his remaining sons had been so awakened in their consciences as to the holiness of God and their own inborn evil that they associated themselves with Nadab and Abihu as under the displeasure of God. Thus, although they had disobeyed the law in the letter (v. 16-18) yet their offense grew out of a misunderstanding and showed how deeply they had been moved by the judgment that had fallen upon them. What was the result of their explanation upon the spirit of Moses (Leviticus 10:20)?
1. can you rehearse the history of the priesthood to the time of the captivity?
2. What do you know about it subsequent thereto?
3. What do you understand by the “strange fire”?
4. What was the real nature of the offense of Aaron’s sons?
5. What may have been the extent of their punishment?
6. What lessons does it teach us?
7. How do Aaron and his remaining family express a sense of their own responsibility for the offense of Nadab and Abihu?