Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
The eldest sons, as they are mentioned first, Exodus vi. 23. --- Censers. On the same evening of their consecration. --- Fire. Not taken from the altar of holocausts, chap. vi. 9. Whether they neglected to do so out of respect for the miraculous fire, or out of thoughtlessness and inattention, their fault was severely punished, however venial in itself; (Tirinus) that all might learn to comply exactly with God's commands, and not dare to explain them away. Thus we must carefully avoid the mixing of falsehood with the word of God. (Theodoret, q. 9.) (Worthington) --- Those in power, like priests, if they be negligent, shall suffer great torments, Wisdom vi. 7. They must expect to be treated with rigour. (St. Augustine, q. 21.) Estius infers, from the command to abstain from wine being given, (ver. 8,) that these priests had been rather intoxicated. Josephus says, they had not offered proper victims; and the Rabbins assert, that they were not clothed with the sacred garments: but the Scripture only condemns them for taking strange fire. Some imagine, that no formal precept had yet been given. But had not God commanded (chap. vi. 9, 12,) that the victims should be burnt with the perpetual fire on the altar, and were not these young priest guilty of rashness in doing any thing of their own head, without positive instructions? Hence some infer that their offence was mortal, and that their punishment a prelude of eternal torments; while others piously hope that their sin was only venial, and that it was expiated by their repentance and violent death, in which sense Philo explains they died before the Lord. Hence they were buried honourably.
Lord. Near the altar of incense, being stricken, as it were with lightning, so that their garments were not injured. (Calmet)
Spoken, by this exemplary judgment. (Haydock) --- We do not find the exact words recorded before: but there are some equivalent, shewing that God requires a particular sanctity in his ministers. (Chap. viii. 35; Exodus xix. 22.) The altar shall be sanctified by my glory; (Exodus xxix. 43,) may be considered as a prediction of what happened on this melancholy occasion. --- Peace. Excessive grief requires silence; curæ graviores silent. "He was filled with grief." Septuagint, adoring the judgments of God. The fortitude of Mino and Xenophon, who, upon hearing of the death of their sons, did not desist from sacrificing, is greatly admired. (Calmet)
Brethren; cousins. These were ordered to bury the priests, as Aaron and his family were employed about the altar, (Haydock) and could not perform the office without contracting a legal uncleanness. (Josephus) (Tirinus)
Uncover not. Take not off your mitres; (Septuagint) let not your hair grow long, (Chaldean) as the Egyptians do in mourning, nor, yet shave your heads, like the priests of Isis. This God forbids, chap. xxi. 5. And Ezechiel, (xliv. 20,) probably with reference to this law, says, Neither shall they shave their heads, nor wear long hair....and no priest shall drink wine when, &c. --- Garments, sacred vestments, which were worn only in the tabernacle or temple. (Calmet) --- The high priests are forbidden to tear their garments at funerals, (chap. xxi. 10,) as this would betray a want of fortitude. --- Perhaps. This does not imply any doubt. (Menochius) See Genesis iii. 3. --- Indignation of God, punishing the people, while there is none to entreat for them. --- Burning of the two priests.
On you. So that you cannot now join in the funeral, as there are so few anointed. (Haydock) --- On other occasions, priests are allowed to mourn, chap. xxi.
Drunk. Hebrew shekar; which the Septuagint and Vulgate commonly translate by sicera, any strong liquor, (St. Jerome) particularly palm-wine. (St. Chrysostom in Isai. v. 11.) Jonathan says old wine. Hecateus assures us, that the Jews drink no wine at all in the temple. But the Rabbins admit of some exceptions. This abstinence was prescribed by any other nations to their priests and magistrates in office. (Calmet) --- The intent of the law, is to prevent any mistake arising from the fumes of wine, (ver. 10,) as likewise all drowsiness or foolish mirth. As mourning and excessive grief are prohibited on the one hand; so are intoxicating liquors, on the other. (Haydock)
Sacrifice, of flour or bread. A tent was undoubtedly erected, where the priests might take the necessary refreshments of meat and sleep, during the days of their service.
Place, at home. The Septuagint translate, "in the holy place;" understanding that these sacrifices for sin were to be eaten in the court of the tabernacle. Malvenda allows, that the children of the priests, and their wives, might come thither to eat the parts of the peace-offerings allotted to them. But of this there is no proof.
Sons. Samaritan and Septuagint add, "and thy daughters." The male children were allowed to partake of the sin-offerings: those of peace, were given also to females.
While, &c. Hebrew, "and Moses sought diligently for," &c. This goat had been offered the same day, for the sins of the priest and of the people, chap. ix. 15. Aaron had not taken the parts allotted to his family, being too much grieved, and perhaps thinking that they could not eat all. (Calmet) --- Therefore, he judged it conformable to God's command to consume the whole, chap vii. 17. Moses fearing lest the thing had been done through negligence, finds fault with this two sons; but on hearing the remonstrance of Aaron, is satisfied. (Haydock)
People. Offering the sacrifices of expiation, as mediators between them and God.
Places. This is not a victim, the blood of which is to be poured out in the holy place, and the flesh consumed with fire. (Calmet) --- You ought, or might lawfully have eaten it, chap. vi. 25.
How, &c. My children are slain. Hebrew, "and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been agreeable to the Lord?" (Haydock)