Leviticus 10:19
And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering to day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?
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(19) And Aaron said.—Though, according to Leviticus 10:16, Moses only blamed Eleazar and Ithamar for this transgression of the law, yet there can hardly be any doubt that Aaron was included in this censure, and that the lawgiver abstained from expressing his anger against the pontiff because of the supreme dignity of his office, which he would not lower in the sight of the people. Aaron, however, was fully sensible of this, and hence replies to the charge brought against his sons.

They offered their sin offering.—Before proceeding to the transgression with which they are thus charged, Aaron adverts to the fact that all the other sacrificial duties in which he and his sons were engaged on the same day, prior to the great calamity, were performed in strict accordance with the prescribed ritual. His sons assisting him had offered “their”—i.e., the people’s—sin and burnt offerings (see Leviticus 9:15-16) thus far in due compliance with the requirements of the law, and hence could never have meant to transgress intentionally.

And such things have befallen me.—But whilst he, Eleazar, and Ithamar were thus duly performing the sacrificial rites, Nadab and Abihu, his other two sons, transgressed, and were suddenly struck down dead, thus overwhelming the survivors with sorrow, and rendering them unfit to partake of the sacrifices.

And if I had eaten.—Aaron submits that, unfitted as they thus were by mourning and the sense of their own sinfulness, if they had partaken of this solemn meal it would not have been acceptable to the Lord. In consequence of this declaration, the rule obtained during the second Temple, that when an ordinary priest heard of the death of a relative whilst on duty in the sanctuary, he had to cease from service, though he could not leave the precincts of the Temple otherwise he defiled the sacrifice; whilst the high priest, who could continue his sacred ministrations, was not allowed to partake of the sacrificial meal.

Leviticus 10:19. Aaron said unto Moses — Though Moses expostulates only with Eleazar and Ithamar, yet Aaron, taking the reproof to himself, makes an apology in his own and their behalf, the amount of which is, that he and his sons had performed the substance of their duty, offering the people’s sin- offering and burnt-offering in all respects according to the divine direction; only as to eating their share of the sin-offering, the death of his sons, happening at that juncture, had so overwhelmed him with grief, that he judged himself unfit for feasting at God’s table: Such things, says he, have befallen me; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted? — Would God have been pleased with me if, in such heaviness and dejection, I had eaten the sacrifice? My sorrows unfitted me for that service; it being the voice of nature as well as of religion, that men ought to celebrate feasts upon joyous occasions, and with a cheerful heart, (Deuteronomy 12:7,) and not eat holy things in their mourning, Deuteronomy 26:14.

10:12-20 Afflictions should rather quicken us to our duty, than take us from it. But our unfitness for duty, when it is natural and not sinful, will have great allowances made for it; God will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Let us profit by the solemn warning this history conveys. When professing worshippers come with zeal without knowledge, carnal affections, earthly, light, vain, trifling thoughts, the devices of will-worship, instead of the offering of soul and spirit; then the incense is kindled by a flame which never came down from heaven, which the Spirit of a holy God never sent within their hearts.That is: "Behold this very day, in which we have done our part in sacrificing sin-offerings and burnt-offerings to the Lord, this great calamity has befallen me. Could it have been well-pleasing to the Lord if those who have been so humbled as I and my sons have been by the sin of our relations and the divine judgment, had feasted on the most holy flesh of the sin-offering?" 16-20. Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt—In a sacrifice presented, as that had been, on behalf of the people, it was the duty of the priests, as typically representing them and bearing their sins, to have eaten the flesh after the blood had been sprinkled upon the altar. Instead of using it, however, for a sacred feast, they had burnt it without the camp; and Moses, who discovered this departure from the prescribed ritual, probably from a dread of some further chastisements, challenged, not Aaron, whose heart was too much lacerated to bear a new cause of distress but his two surviving sons in the priesthood for the great irregularity. Their father, however, who heard the charge and by whose directions the error had been committed, hastened to give the explanation. The import of his apology is, that all the duty pertaining to the presentation of the offering had been duly and sacredly performed, except the festive part of the observance, which privately devolved upon the priest and his family. And that this had been omitted, either because his heart was too dejected to join in the celebration of a cheerful feast, or that he supposed, from the appalling judgments that had been inflicted, that all the services of that occasion were so vitiated that he did not complete them. Aaron was decidedly in the wrong. By the express command of God, the sin offering was to be eaten in the holy place; and no fanciful view of expediency or propriety ought to have led him to dispense at discretion with a positive statute. The law of God was clear and, where that is the case, it is sin to deviate a hair's breadth from the path of duty. But Moses sympathized with his deeply afflicted brother and, having pointed out the error, said no more. This day have they offered; they have done the substance of the thing, though they have mistaken this one circumstance. Such things have befallen me; whereby, having been oppressed with grief, and almost bereft of my reason, it is not strange nor unpardonable if I have mistaken.

Should it have been accepted? because it was not to be eaten with sorrow, but with rejoicing and thanksgiving, as appears from Deu 12:7 26:14 Hosea 9:4; and I thought it fitter to burn it, as I did other sacred relics, than to profane it by eating it unworthily.

And Aaron said unto Moses,.... For what Moses had said was said in his presence, though not addressed to him directly, but to his sons; and he was sensible that he was pointed at, and that if there was any blame in this affair, it lay as much or more on him than on his sons; and therefore he takes it upon him to give an answer, and to excuse the fact as well as he could:

behold, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; that is, the people of Israel had brought a kid of the goats for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb for burnt offering, and he and his sons assisting him, had offered them for them, even on the very day his two eldest sons were removed by death in an awful manner:

and such things have befallen me; at this very time, soon after the above sacrifices were offered, happened the death of his two sons, which occasioned great anguish and distress, grief and sorrow, so that he could not eat of the sin offering; he had no appetite for it, and if he had, he thought in his present circumstances it would not have been right, as follows:

and if I had eaten the sin offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord? he being a mourner. The Jews say (u), an high priest may offer, being a mourner, but not eat; a common priest may neither offer nor eat; and which they illustrate by this passage, that Aaron offered and did not eat, but his sons did neither.

(u) Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day {g} have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering to day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?

(g) That is, Nadab and Abihu.

19. Aaron in his reply admits that he should have eaten the Sin-Offering, but gives as a reason for not doing so ‘there have befallen me such things as these.’ This is explained as a reference to the death of his sons. Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar were forbidden to mourn for them; but Aaron considered their death as a sign that God was displeased and refrained from eating the Sin-Offering. The whole incident presents difficulties which have not been satisfactorily explained, one of which is that the sacrifice to which Moses refers belongs to that class of which the priests were not to eat. The direction in Leviticus 6:26, that the priest who offers a Sin-Offering ‘shall eat it’ is there limited in Leviticus 6:30, by forbidding that this shall be done when any of the blood has been brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement. In accordance with this restriction, the rebuke by Moses in Leviticus 10:18 is justified, but on the other hand it should be noted that no blood has yet been brought into the Holy place, not even that of the calf for Aaron’s Sin-Offering (Leviticus 9:8 ff.), and yet no objection against the burning of it was made by Moses.

For one who desired to defend the burning of all the parts the argument would be fairly obvious that the rules for the Sin-Offering of the priest as laid down in Leviticus 4:3 ff. direct this course. Aaron’s line of defence, however, is wholly different. Dillm. suggests that the section as it now stands has arisen through the expansion of an older and simpler narrative in P, in which was set forth the original disinclination of the priests to partake of the flesh of the Sin-Offering.

The most probable explanation of the passage is that it is an attempt to account for a discrepancy between the earlier and later ritual. That the priests should abstain, in the contemplated case, from eating the victim whose blood had not been brought into the sanctuary, was opposed to the later custom, and thus needed special circumstances to justify it, and the consequent sanction of Moses.

Leviticus 10:19Aaron excused his sons, however, by saying, "Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering, and this has happened to me," i.e., the calamity recorded in Leviticus 10:1. has befallen me (קרא equals קרה, as in Genesis 42:4); "and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing to Jehovah?" וגו ואכלתּי is a conditional clause, as in Genesis 33:13, cf. Ewald, 357. Moses rested satisfied with this answer. Aaron acknowledged that the flesh of the sin-offering ought to have been eaten by the priest in this instance (according to Leviticus 6:19), and simply adduced, as the reason why this had not been done, the calamity which had befallen his two eldest sons. And this might really be a sufficient reason, as regarded both himself and his remaining sons, why the eating of the sin-offering should be omitted. For the judgment in question was so solemn a warning, as to the sin which still adhered to them even after the presentation of their sin-offering, that they might properly feel "that they had not so strong and overpowering a holiness as was required for eating the general sin-offering" (M. Baumgarten). This is the correct view, though others find the reason in their grief at the death of their sons or brethren, which rendered it impossible to observe a joyous sacrificial meal. But this is not for a moment to be thought of, simply because the eating of the flesh of the sin-offering was not a joyous meal at all (see at Leviticus 6:19).

(Note: Upon this mistaken view of the excuse furnished by Aaron, Knobel has founded his assertion, that "this section did not emanate from the Elohist, because he could not have written in this way," an assertion which falls to the ground when the words are correctly explained.)

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