Leviticus 10:20
And when Moses heard that, he was content.
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(20) And . . . he was content.—He acknowledged Aaron’s plea to be just, and that he had himself spoken hastily. This is a remarkable instance of Moses’ humility, and of the human side of his nature as a lawgiver. (See also Numbers 32:6, &c.) Hence Jewish tradition from time immemorial ascribes the mistake to Moses, and not to Aaron. The paraphrase of this verse in the Palestine Chaldee Version, which embodies the ancient opinions, is very instructive. It is as follows: “And when Moses heard it, he approved of this explanation. Whereupon he sent a herald through the whole camp of Israel, saying, It is I from whom the law had been hid, and my brother Aaron brought it to my remembrance.”

Leviticus 10:20. Moses was content — He rested satisfied with Aaron’s answer, who, it appeared, had sincerely aimed at pleasing God; and those who do so, will find he is not extreme to mark what is amiss.

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. He rested satisfied with his answer, either because he thought it reasonable, seeing the letter of the law ofttimes yields to necessities or great accidents, 2 Chronicles 30:18 Matthew 12:3,4; or at least because the things alleged were mitigations of his fault, and he would not add affliction to the afflicted, but rather defer the debate of it to a fitter opportunity.

And when Moses heard that, he was content. He said no more, he did not proceed in blaming him and his sons, but was satisfied with the answer returned; he considered the grief and trouble of mind that attended Aaron, which might not only cause him to disregard food, but even to forget what was commanded to be done in this case; and besides he might observe, that there was some difficulty attending it; in some cases the flesh of the sin offering was to be eaten, and not burnt; in others, to be burnt, and not eaten; and this being the first time of offering one, the mistake might be the more easily made; and fearing one might be made, and especially when Aaron was in such circumstances, might be the reason Moses so diligently sought after the goat of the sin offering: moreover, what Aaron had done appeared to be not out of any wilful neglect of the command of God, but with a good design, as judging it would be unacceptable to him, should he have eaten of it in his circumstances. Moses upon the whole thought him excusable, at least insisted no more upon the blame. The Jewish writers make the mistake to lie on the side of Moses and not Aaron; and which the former acknowledged, according to the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: see Deuteronomy 26:12. And when Moses heard that, he was {h} content.

(h) Moses bore with his infirmity, considering his great sorrow, but does not leave an example to forgive them that maliciously transgress the commandment of God.

Leviticus 10:20Aaron 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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