Leviticus 10:6
And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest you die, and lest wrath come on all the people: but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, mourn the burning which the LORD has kindled.
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(6) Uncover not your heads.—Better, let not your heads be dishevelled. It was the custom for mourners to let their hair grow long, and let it fall in a disorderly and wild manner over the head and face. (See Leviticus 13:45; Leviticus 21:10; 2Samuel 15:30; 2Samuel 19:4, &c.) For this reason the priests who are consecrated to the service of the Lord are even on ordinary occasions not to shave their heads nor suffer their locks to grow long. (Ezekiel 44:20.) On this occasion more especially Aaron and his two surviving sons are forbidden to give way to these manifestations of grief, since it might be considered as a reflection upon the justice of the punishment.

Neither rend your clothes.—This was another ordinary manifestation of sorrow and mourning. (See Genesis 37:29; Genesis 37:34; Joshua 7:6; 2Samuel 13:21, &c.) To this day the Jews observe this custom of mourning for the death of their near relations; they tear their garments, let their hair and nails grow, and do not wash.

And lest wrath come upon all the people.—The transgression of this command would not only bring down upon Aaron and his sons the same awful judgment, but would expose the whole community to the Divine wrath. In virtue of the intimate connection which subsisted between the representative of the nation and the people, a sin committed by the high priest in his official position involved the whole community, and they had to share the consequences of the offence. (See Leviticus 4:3.)

But let your brethren.—The afflicted relatives were, however, not to be deprived of all the customary expressions of mourning. The whole house of Israel, who are here designedly called “the brethren” of the bereaved, to show the depth of their sympathy, were allowed to mourn over the great calamity which had thus befallen them.

Leviticus 10:6. Uncover not your heads — That is, give no signification of your sorrow; mourn not for them; partly lest you should seem to justify your brethren, and tacitly reflect upon God as too severe; and partly lest thereby you should be diverted from, or disturbed, in your present service, which God expects to be done cheerfully. But let the whole house of Israel bewail the burning — Not so much in compassion to them, as in sorrow for the tokens of divine displeasure.10:3-7 The most quieting considerations under affliction are fetched from the word of God. What was it that God spake? Though Aaron's heart must have been filled with anguish and dismay, yet with silent submission he revered the justice of the stroke. When God corrects us or ours for sin, it is our duty to accept the punishment, and say, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Whenever we worship God, we come nigh unto him, as spiritual priests. This ought to make us very serious in all acts of devotion. It concerns us all, when we come nigh to God, to do every religious exercise, as those who believe that the God with whom we have to do, is a holy God. He will take vengeance on those that profane his sacred name by trifling with him.Aaron and his two surviving sons are forbidden to show the accustomed signs of mourning, or to leave the court of the tabernacle in order to attend the funeral, because, from their office, they were especially concerned as consecrated priests in outwardly maintaining the honor of Yahweh. They were to bear visible testimony to the righteousness of the punishment of Nadab and Abihu. The people, on the other hand, as not formally standing so near to Yahweh, were permitted to "bewail" as an acknowledgment that the nation had a share in the sin of its priests. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:26.)

Leviticus 10:6

Uncover not your heads - Or, "set free ... let go loose." It was a custom to let the hair grow long and fall loosely over the head and face Leviticus 13:45; 2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; and the substance of the command would thus be that they should not let the hair go disheveled. Ripping the clothes in front so as to lay open the breast was one of the most common manifestations of grief (see Genesis 37:29; Genesis 44:13; 2 Samuel 1:11; Job 1:20; Joel 2:13, etc.). The garments as well as the persons of the priests were consecrated; this appears to be the reason of the prohibition of these ordinary signs of mourning. Compare Leviticus 20:10.

Lest ye die - See Exodus 28:35 note.

6. Uncover not your heads—They who were ordered to carry out the two bodies, being engaged in their sacred duties, were forbidden to remove their turbans, in conformity with the usual customs of mourning; and the prohibition "neither rend your garments," was, in all probability, confined also to their official costume. For at other times the priests wore the ordinary dress of their countrymen and, in common with their families, might indulge their private feelings by the usual signs or expressions of grief. Uncover not your heads; either,

1. By putting off your mitres and bonnets, or ornaments, and going bare-headed, as mourners sometimes did. See Leviticus 13:45 Ezekiel 24:17,23. Or,

2. By shaving off the hair of your heads and beards, as mourners did. See Job 1:20 Jeremiah 7:29 41:5 Ezekiel 44:20 Micah 1:16. This latter may seem to be principally intended,

1. Because this ceremony of uncovering the head being used by the people as well as by the priests in case of mourning, as the places now alleged show; and the other ceremony here joined with it, of rending the clothes, being also common to the people; seems to imply that he speaks not of that uncovering of the head which was peculiar to the priests, but of that which was common both to priests and people, especially seeing that which is here forbidden to these priests is in the following words allowed to the people, to

bewail their death, which as at other times it was, so now probably might be performed by these same ceremonies.

2. Because the high priest is forbidden to uncover his head in way of mourning for the dead, not only at that time when he was in actual ministration, but at all times, even when he had neither his mitre nor any of the holy garments upon him, Leviticus 21:10.

Neither rend your clothes; give no signification of your sorrow; mourn not for them; partly lest you should seem to justify and approve of your brethren, and tacitly reflect upon God as too severe in his proceedings with them; and partly lest thereby you should be diverted from or disturbed in your present service, which God expects should be done cheerfully.

But let your brethren...bewail the burning, not so much in compassion to them against whom God hath showed such great and just indignation, as in sorrow for the tokens of Divine displeasure. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar, and unto Ithamar, his sons,.... His two younger sons, which yet remained; and so the Septuagint version adds, as in Leviticus 10:12.

uncover not your heads; that is, do not take off your mitre, as the Septuagint version; or the bonnets which they wore in the time of their ministry; for the Jewish priests always had their mitres and bonnets on when they sacrificed; in imitation of which, the Heathens had their heads covered when they offered their sacrifices (k): now it was the way, or custom of a mourner, as Ben Melech observes, to remove his mitre, bonnet, or tiara, from his head; but in this case, that no sign of mourning might be shown, Aaron and his sons are forbid to uncover the head: the Targum of Onkelos is,"do not increase the hair,''or nourish it, or suffer it to grow, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom interpret it: now in times of distress and mourning they used to let the hair grow, whether on the head or beard, see 2 Samuel 19:24 and in this the Jews were imitated by the Egyptians, contrary to other nations; the priests of the gods in other places, says Herodotus (l), took care of their hair (or wore their hair), in Egypt they are shaved; with others the custom is, for the head immediately to be shaved at funerals; but the Egyptians, at death, suffer their hair to grow in the parts before shaved; but this custom with the Jews, though at other times used, is here forbid Aaron and his sons:

neither rend your clothes, which was sometimes done at the report of the death of near relations, as children, in token of mourning, Genesis 37:34 but here it is forbid, that there might be no sign of it: it is a particular word that is here used: Ben Melech says, there is a difference between rending and tearing; tearing is in the body of a garment where there is no seam, but rending (which is what is here meant) where there is a seam: the priests rending their garments was after this manner, according to the Jewish canons (m),"an high priest rends below and a common priest above;''that is, as one of their commentators (n) interprets it, the former rends the extreme part of his garment next the feet, and the latter at the breast near the shoulder; but in this case no rent at all was to be made:

lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people; so very provoking to God would be any signs of mourning in Aaron and his sons, on this account:

but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled: though Aaron and his sons might not mourn on this occasion, the whole body of the people might, though not bewail so much the death of the persons, as the cause of it; and be concerned for the awful judgment of God, and for the wrath that was sone forth, lest it should proceed and destroy others also, all being sinners.

(k) "Purpureo velare comas", &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. Vid. Kipping. Rom. Antiqu. l. 1. c. 12. sect. 17. p. 495. (l) Euterpe sive, l. 2. c. 36. (m) Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5. (n) Bartenora in ib.

And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, {c} Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath {d} kindled.

(c) As though you lamented for them, preferring your carnal affection to God's just judgment; Le 19:18, De 14:1.

(d) In destroying Nadab and Abihu the chief, and menacing the rest, unless they repent.

6. The ordinary priest might defile himself for those near of kin (Leviticus 21:2) but the high priest was not allowed to do so (Leviticus 21:11). On this occasion Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar were all subject to the stricter rule. The whole house of Israel joined in the mourning.

Let not the hair of your heads go loose] It was said to Ezekiel when forbidden to mourn, ‘bind thy headtire upon thee’ (Ezekiel 24:17). On removing the headtire the hair would fall down, so that the prohibition ‘Uncover not your heads’ (A.V.), is in effect the same. To let the hair loose and to rend the garments were and still are signs of mourning among the Jews and Eastern nations.Verse 6. - Uncover not your heads. They are to abstain from all the conventional signs of mourning, in order to show that they acknowledged the justice of the punishment. The whole house of Israel, that is, the people in general, might mourn the death of their priests, but the high priest and his remaining sons must prove their submission to the Divine chastisement by crushing their individual feelings of sorrow. A murmur on their part would have brought God's wrath on themselves and on the whole congregation, which they represented (Leviticus 4:3). Uncover not your heads may be otherwise translated, Let not your hair fall disheveled (see Leviticus 21:10). After this Moses went with him into the tabernacle, to introduce him into the sanctuary, in which he was henceforth to serve the Lord, and to present him to the Lord: not to offer incense, which would undoubtedly have been mentioned; nor yet for the special purpose of praying for the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah, although there can be no doubt that they offered prayer in the sanctuary, and prayed for the blessing of the Lord for the right discharge of the office entrusted to them in a manner well-pleasing to Him. On coming out again they united in bestowing that blessing upon the people which they had solicited for them in the sanctuary. "Then the glory of Jehovah appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the face of Jehovah and consumed the burnt-offering and fat portions upon the altar" (i.e., the sin and peace-offerings, not the thank-offerings merely, as Knobel supposes, according to his mistaken theory). The appearance of the glory of Jehovah is probably to be regarded in this instance, and also in Numbers 16:19; Numbers 17:7, and Numbers 20:6, as the sudden flash of a miraculous light, which proceeded from the cloud that covered the tabernacle, probably also from the cloud in the most holy place, or as a sudden though very momentary change of the cloud, which enveloped the glory of the Lord, into a bright light, from which the fire proceeded in this instance in the form of lightning, and consumed the sacrifices upon the altar. The fire issued "from before the face of Jehovah," i.e., from the visible manifestation of Jehovah. It did not come down from heaven, like the fire of Jehovah, which consumed the sacrifices of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1).

The Rabbins believe that this divine fire was miraculously sustained upon the altar until the building of Solomon's temple, at the dedication of which it fell from heaven afresh, and then continued until the restoration of the temple-worship under Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:16; cf. Buxtorf exercitatt. ad histor. ignis sacri, c. 2); and the majority of them maintain still further, that it continued side by side with the ordinary altar-fire, which was kindled by the priests (Leviticus 1:7), and, according to Leviticus 6:6, kept constantly burning by them. The earlier Christian expositors are for the most part of opinion, that the heavenly fire, which proceeded miraculously from God and burned the first sacrifices of Aaron, was afterwards maintained by the priests by natural means (see J. Marckii sylloge diss. philol. theol. ex. vi. ad Leviticus 6:13). But there is no foundation in the Scriptures for either of these views. There is not a syllable about any miraculous preservation of the heavenly fire by the side of the fire which the priests kept burning by natural means. And even the modified opinion of the Christian theologians, that the heavenly fire was preserved by natural means, rests upon the assumption, which there is nothing to justify, that the sacrifices offered by Aaron were first burned by the fire which issued from Jehovah, and therefore that the statements in the text, with reference to the burning of the fat portions and burnt-offerings, or causing them to ascend in smoke (Leviticus 9:10, Leviticus 9:13, Leviticus 9:17, and Leviticus 9:20), are to be regarded as anticipations (per anticipationem accipienda, C. a Lap.), i.e., are to be understood as simply meaning, that when Aaron officiated at the different sacrifices, he merely laid upon the altar the pieces intended for it, but without setting them on fire. The fallacy of this is proved, not only by the verb הקטיר but by the fact implied in Leviticus 9:17, that the offering of these sacrifices, with which Aaron entered upon his office, was preceded by the daily morning burnt-offering, and consequently that at the time when Aaron began to carry out the special sacrifices of this day there was fire already burning upon the altar, and in fact a continual fire, that was never to be allowed to go out (Leviticus 6:6). Even, therefore, if we left out of view the fire of the daily morning and evening sacrifice, which had been offered from the first day on which the tabernacle was erected (Exodus 40:29), there were sacrifices presented every day during the seven days of the consecration of the priests (ch. 8); and according to Leviticus 1:7, Moses must necessarily have prepared the fire for these. If it had been the intention of God, therefore, to originate the altar-fire by supernatural means, this would no doubt have taken place immediately after the erection of the tabernacle, or at least at the consecration of the altar, which was connected with that of the priests, and immediately after it had been anointed (Leviticus 8:11). But as God did not do this, the burning of the altar-sacrifices by a fire which proceeded from Jehovah, as related in this verse, cannot have been intended to give a sanction to the altar-fire as having proceeded from God Himself, which was to be kept constantly burning, either by miraculous preservation, or by being fed in a natural way. The legends of the heathen, therefore, about altar-fires which had been kindled by the gods themselves present no analogy to the fact before us (cf. Serv. ad Aen. xii. 200; Solin. v. 23; Pausan. v. 27, 3; Bochart, Hieroz. lib. ii. c. 35, pp. 378ff.; Dougtaei analect. ss. pp. 79ff.).

The miracle recorded in this verse did not consist in the fact that the sacrificial offerings placed upon the altar were burned by fire which proceeded from Jehovah, but in the fact that the sacrifices, which were already on fire, were suddenly consumed by it. For although the verb תּאכל admits of both meanings, setting on fire and burning up (see Judges 6:21, and 1 Kings 18:38), the word literally denotes consuming or burning up, and must be taken in the stricter and more literal sense in the case before us, inasmuch as there was already fire upon the altar when the sacrifices were placed upon it. God caused this miracle, not to generate a supernatural altar-fire, but ut ordinem sacerdotalem legis veteris a se institutum et suas de sacrificio leges hoc miraculo confirmaret et quasi obsignaret (C. a Lap.), or to express it bore briefly, to give a divine consecration to the altar, or sacrificial service of Aaron and his sons, through which a way was to be opened for the people to His throne of grace, and whereby, moreover, the altar-fire was consecrated eo ipso into a divine, i.e., divinely appointed, means of reconciliation to the community. The whole nation rejoiced at this glorious manifestation of the satisfaction of God with this the first sacrifice of the consecrated priests, and fell down upon their faces to give thanks to the Lord for His mercy.

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