Leviticus 10:9
Do not drink wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:
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(9) Do not drink wine.—As the command that the priests are to abstain from any intoxicating liquors when performing their sacred functions follows so closely upon the death of Nadab and Abihu, the opinion obtained as early at least as the time of Christ that there is a connection between the specific sin and the general law, that the two sons of Aaron drank wine to excess when they offered strange fire, and that the present prohibition is based upon that circumstance. Accordingly, the Apostle enjoins that a bishop “must not be given to wine,” that “deacons must not be given to much wine” (1Timothy 3:2-3). A similar law existed among the ancient Greeks and Persians, enjoining the priests to abstain from wine.

Nor strong drink.—The word (shēchār) here rendered strong drink, is the general name of intoxicating drinks, whether made of wheat, barley, millet, apples, dates, honey, or other fruits. One of the four intoxicating drinks which are prohibited among the Mahommedans in India is called “Sachar.”

When ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation.—Better, when ye go into the tent of meeting. The Palestinian Chaldee adds here, “as thy sons did who died by the burning fire.” The same precept is repeated in Ezekiel 44:21, “Neither shall any priest drink wine when they enter into the inner court.” The injunction that on these particular occasions the priests are to abstain from taking it clearly implies that, ordinarily, when not going into the tent of meeting—that is, when not performing their sacred functions in the sanctuary—they were not forbidden to use it if required.

Leviticus 10:9. Do not drink wine nor strong drink — It is certainly not improbable that the sin of Nadab and Abihu was owing to this. But if not, yet drunkenness is so odious a sin in itself, especially in a minister, and most of all at the time of his administration of sacred things, that God saw fit to prevent all occasions of it. And hence the devil, who is God’s ape, required this abstinence from his priests in their idolatrous service. By strong drink here, is meant such inflammatory, intoxicating liquors as were made in imitation of wine, as of dates, figs, honey, with many other sorts of liquors, particularly palm-wine, which was much used in those countries, and was reckoned the most intoxicating of any. The intention of this law was to be always in force: accordingly it is required of the ministers of the gospel, that they be sober, not given to wine.10:8-11 Do not drink wine or strong drink. During the time they ministered, the priests were forbidden it. It is required of gospel ministers, that they be not given to wine, 1Ti 3:3. It is, Lest ye die; die when ye are in drink. The danger of death, to which we are continually exposed, should engage all to be sober.When the priest was on duty he was to abstain from wine and strong drink, lest he should commit excess (see Leviticus 10:1), and so become disqualified for carrying out the precepts of the ceremonial Law.

Leviticus 10:9

Strong drink - The Hebrew word is employed here to denote strong drinks of any kind except wine made from the grape.

8-11. Do not drink wine nor strong drink—This prohibition, and the accompanying admonitions, following immediately the occurrence of so fatal a catastrophe [Le 10:1, 2], has given rise to an opinion entertained by many, that the two disobedient priests were under the influence of intoxication when they committed the offense which was expiated only by their lives. But such an idea, though the presumption is in its favor, is nothing more than conjecture. This is here added, either because Nadab and Abihu had been led to their error by drinking too much, which might easily fall out when they were feasting and full of joy for their entrance into so honourable and profitable an employment; or at least because others might thereby be drawn to commit the same miscarriages, which they might now commit from other causes. Drunkenness is so odious a sin in itself, especially in a minister, and most of all in the time of his administration of sacred things, that God saw fit to prevent all occasions of it. And hence the devil, who is God’s ape in his prescriptions for his worship, required this abstinence from his priests in their idolatrous service. Do not drink wine or strong drink,.... This law following upon the affair of Nadab and Abihu has caused some to think, and not without some reason, that they were drunk with wine or strong drink, when they offered strange fire; and indeed it is hardly to be accounted for upon any other foot that they should do it; but having feasted that day upon the peace offerings, and drank freely, it being the first day of their entrance on their office, they were, it may be supposed, elated and merry, and drank more than they should; wherefore this law was given, to restrain from such a disorderly and scandalous practice; not only wine, which is inebriating, but strong drink also is forbidden, which, as Aben Ezra says, is made either of a sort of wheat, or honey, or dates: and so Kimchi (p) and Ben Melech on the place after him observe, that this includes whatsoever inebriates, besides wine; and that their doctors say, whosoever drinks milk or honey (they must mean some strong liquor extracted from thence), if he enters into the tabernacle he is guilty:

thou nor thy sons with thee; the Targum of Jonathan adds, as did thy sons, who died by the burning of fire; that is, he and his sons were to avoid drinking wine or strong drink to excess, as his two sons had done, which led them to offer strange fire, for which they suffered death:

when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; they might drink wine at other times, in a moderate manner; but it seems by this they were not to drink any at all when they were about to go to service, or to enter into the tabernacle in order to do it: indeed, according to the Jewish canons, every priest that is fit for service, if he drinks wine, it is forbidden him to enter in (to the tabernacle, and so) from the altar (of burnt offering) and inward (into the holy place); and if he goes in and does his service it is profane (unlawful and rejected), and he is guilty of death by the hand of heaven; and he that drinks the fourth part (of a log) of wine at one time, of wine forty days old; but if he drinks less than a fourth part of wine, or drinks a fourth part and stops between, and mixes it with water, or drinks wine out of the press within forty days (i.e. not quite so many days old), though more than a fourth part, he is free, and does not profane his service; if he drinks more than a fourth part of wine, though it is mixed, and though he stops and drinks little by little, he is guilty of death, and his service is profane (or rejected); if he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, he is forbidden to go into the sanctuary; but if he goes in and serves, and he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, whether of milk or of figs (a strong liquor made of them), he is to be beaten, but his service is right; for they are not guilty of death but on account of wine in the hour of service; and it does not profane service, but being drunken with wine (q): in imitation of this, Heathen priests were forbid wine, and abstained from it, particularly the Egyptian priests; at whom it is said (r), some of them never drink any wine, and others taste but a little of it, because it is said to harm the nerves, to fill the head, or make it heavy, to hinder invention and excite to lust:

it shall be a statute for ever throughout all your generations: even to the coming of the Messiah; and now under the Gospel dispensation, though wine in moderation is allowed Gospel ministers, yet they are not to be given to it; it is a shame to any Christian man to be drunk with wine, and more especially a minister, and still more so when in his service; see Ezekiel 44:21.

(p) Sepher Shorashim, Rad. (q) Maimon. Hilchot Biath Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 1. 2. (r) Chaeremon apud Porphyr. de Abstinentia, l. 4. c. 6.

Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:
Nadab and Abihu took their censers (machtah, Exodus 25:38), and having put fire in them, placed incense thereon, and brought strange fire before Jehovah, which He had not commanded them. It is not very clear what the offence of which they were guilty actually was. The majority of expositors suppose the sin to have consisted in the fact, that they did not take the fire for the incense from the altar-fire. But this had not yet been commanded by God; and in fact it is never commanded at all, except with regard to the incense-offering, with which the high priest entered the most holy place on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:12), though we may certainly infer from this, that it was also the rule for the daily incense-offering. By the fire which they offered before Jehovah, we are no doubt to understand the firing of the incense-offering. This might be called "strange fire" if it was not offered in the manner prescribed in the law, just as in Exodus 30:9 incense not prepared according to the direction of God is called "strange incense." The supposition that they presented an incense-offering that was not commanded in the law, and apart from the time of the morning and evening sacrifice, and that this constituted their sin, is supported by the time at which their illegal act took place. It is perfectly obvious from Leviticus 10:12. and 16ff. that it occurred in the interval between the sacrificial transaction in ch. 9 and the sacrificial meal which followed it, and therefore upon the day of their inauguration. For in Leviticus 10:12 Moses commands Aaron and his remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar to eat the meat-offering that was left from the firings of Jehovah, and inquires in Leviticus 10:16 for the goat of the sin-offering, which the priests were to have eaten in a holy place. Knobel's opinion is not an improbable one, therefore, that Nadab and Abihu intended to accompany the shouts of the people with an incense-offering to the praise and glory of God, and presented an incense-offering not only at an improper time, but not prepared from the altar-fire, and committed such a sin by this will-worship, that they were smitten by the fire which came forth from Jehovah, even before their entrance into the holy place, and so died "before Jehovah." The expression "before Jehovah" is applied to the presence of God, both in the dwelling (viz., the holy place and the holy of holies, e.g., Leviticus 4:6-7; Leviticus 16:13) and also in the court (e.g., Leviticus 1:5, etc.). It is in the latter sense that it is to be taken here, as is evident from Leviticus 10:4, where the persons slain are said to have lain "before the sanctuary of the dwelling," i.e., in the court of the tabernacle. The fire of the holy God (Exodus 19:18), which had just sanctified the service of Aaron as well-pleasing to God, brought destruction upon his two eldest sons, because they had not sanctified Jehovah in their hearts, but had taken upon themselves a self-willed service; just as the same gospel is to one a savour of life unto life, and to another a savour of death unto death (2 Corinthians 2:16). - In Leviticus 10:3 Moses explains this judgment to Aaron: "This is it that Jehovah spake, saying, I will sanctify Myself in him that is nigh to Me, and will glorify Myself in the face of all the people." אכּבד is unquestionably to be taken in the same sense as in Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:17; consequently אקּדשׁ is to be taken in a reflective and not in a passive sense, in the Ezekiel 38:16. The imperfects are used as aorists, in the sense of what God does at all times. But these words of Moses are no "reproof to Aaron, who had not restrained the untimely zeal of his sons" (Knobel), nor a reproach which made Aaron responsible for the conduct of his sons, but a simple explanation of the judgment of God, which should be taken to heart by every one, and involved an admonition to all who heard it, not to Aaron only but to the whole nation, to sanctify God continually in the proper way. Moreover Jehovah had not communicated to Moses by revelation the words which he spoke here, but had made the fact known by the position assigned to Aaron and his sons through their election to the priesthood. By this act Jehovah had brought them near to Himself (Numbers 16:5), made them קרבי equals ליהוה קרבים "persons standing near to Jehovah" (Ezekiel 42:13; Ezekiel 43:19), and sanctified them to Himself by anointing (Leviticus 8:10, Leviticus 8:12; Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:44; Exodus 40:13, Exodus 40:15), that they might sanctify Him in their office and life. If they neglected this sanctification, He sanctified Himself in them by a penal judgment (Ezekiel 38:16), and thereby glorified Himself as the Holy One, who is not to be mocked. "And Aaron held his peace." He was obliged to acknowledge the righteousness of the holy God.
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