Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.Nadab and Abihu offering strange fire, are devoured by fire from heaven, Leviticus 10:1,2; for God will be sanctified by them that draw near unto him, Leviticus 10:3. Their dead bodies carried without the camp, Leviticus 10:4,5. Aaron and his two other sons forbad to mourn, Leviticus 10:6; also to drink wine or any strong drink, Leviticus 10:8,9. Their duty to distinguish between holy and unholy; and to teach the people all the statutes of the Lord, Leviticus 10:10,11. Moses declares to them what of the burnt-offerings they might eat, Leviticus 10:12-15; is angry that the sin-offering was not eat, nor the blood carried into the holy place, Leviticus 10:16-18. He is appeased by Aaron, Leviticus 10:19,20.
Strange fire; so called, as not appointed for, nor belonging to, the present work; fire not taken from the altar, as it ought, but from some common fire.
Before the Lord; upon the altar of incense.
Which he commanded them not; for seeing Moses himself neither did nor might do any thing in God’s worship without God’s command, which is oft noted of him, for these to do it was a more unpardonable and inexcusable presumption. Besides, not commanding may be here put for forbidding, as it is Jeremiah 32:35. Now as this was forbidden implicitly, Leviticus 6:12, especially when God himself made a comment upon that text, and by sending fire from heaven declared of what fire he there spake; so it is more than probable it was forbidden expressly, though that be not here mentioned, nor was it necessary it should be.
And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.From the Lord; from heaven, or rather from the sanctuary. See Leviticus 9:24.
Devoured them; destroyed their lives; for their bodies and garments were not consumed, as it appears from Leviticus 10:4,5. Thus the sword is said to devour, 2 Samuel 2:26. Thus lightning many times kills persons, without any hurt to their bodies or garments.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.This is it that the Lord spake; though the express words be not recorded in Scripture, where only the heads of sermons are contained, yet it is probable they were uttered by Moses in God’s name. Howsoever, the sense and substance of them is in many places. See Exodus 19:22 29:43 Leviticus 8:35.
I will be sanctified: this may note either,
1. Their duty to sanctify God, i.e. to demean themselves with such care, and reverence, and watchfulness, as becomes the holiness of the God whom they serve, and of the worship in which they are engaged; whence he leaves them to gather the justice of the present judgment for their gross neglect herein. Or,
2. God’s purpose to sanctify himself, i.e. to declare and manifest himself to be a holy and righteous God by his severe and impartial punishment of all transgressors, how near soever they are to him.
In them that come nigh me, i.e. who draw near to me, or to the place where I dwell, and are admitted into the holy place, whence others are shut out. It is a description of the priests. See Exodus 19:22 Leviticus 21:7 Ezekiel 42:13,14.
Before all the people I will be glorified: as they have sinned publicly and scandalously, so I will vindicate my honour in a public and exemplary manner, that all men may learn to give me the glory of my sovereignty and holiness by an exact conformity to my laws.
Aaron held his peace, partly through excessive grief, which is sometimes signified by silence, as Isaiah 47:5 Lamentations 2:10, and principally in acknowledgment of God’s justice and submission to it. Compare Psalm 39:10 Ezekiel 24:17. He murmured not, nor replied against God, nor against Moses; wisely considering that their sin was directly against God, and in that which is most dear and honourable in God’s account, to wit, in his worship; and that God’s honour ought to be dearer to him than his sons; and that this being the first violation of the law newly given, and committed by those who should have been the strictest observers and assertors of it, did deserve a very severe punishment.
And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.For Aaron and his sons had scarce finished their consecration work, and were employed in their holy ministrations, from which they were not to be called for funeral solemnities. See Leviticus 21:1, &c.
The uncle of Aaron. See Exodus 6:18 Numbers 3:19.
Your brethren, i.e. kinsmen, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 13:8 24:27. Out of the camp, where the burying-places of the Jews were, that the living might neither be annoyed by the unwholesome scent of the dead, nor defiled by the touch of their graves.
So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.In their coats; in the holy garments wherein they ministered; which might be done either,
1. As a testimony of a respect due to them, notwithstanding their present failure; and that God in judgment remembered mercy, and when he took away their lives, spared their souls. Or,
2. Because being polluted both by their sin, and by the touch of their dead bodies, God would not have them any more used in his service.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, 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 kindled.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 ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.Ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle, where at this time they were, either because this happened within seven days of their consecration; see Leviticus 8:35; or because they were longer detained there about some other holy ministrations. Though the former may seem more probable, because the meat-offering here mentioned, Leviticus 10:12, and the sin-offering, Leviticus 10:16, were part of the consecration-offerings. The anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. You are persons consecrated peculiarly to God’s service, which therefore it is just and reasonable you should prefer before all funeral solemnities.
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
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: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.
And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;Persons and things, which Nadab and Abihu did not, mistaking unholy or common fire for that which was sacred and appointed by God for their use.
And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.That ye may teach; be apt to teach aright, which drunken persons are very unfit to do.
And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meat offering that remaineth of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy:Moses repeateth and re-enforceth the former command, partly lest their great loss and grief should cause them to forget or neglect their meat prescribed them by God, which abstinence would have been both a signification of their sorrow, which God had forbidden them, and a new transgression of a Divine precept; and partly to encourage them to go on in their holy services, and not to be dejected for the late severity, as if God would no more accept them or their sacrifices.
And ye shall eat it in the holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons' due, of the sacrifices of the LORD made by fire: for so I am commanded.In the holy place; in the court, near the altar of burntofferings. See Leviticus 6:26.
Because it is thy due. See Leviticus 2:3 6:16,17.
And the wave breast and heave shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they be thy due, and thy sons' due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel.In a clean place; in any of your dwellings, or any place in the camp, which he supposeth to be kept clean from all ceremonial defilement, as they ought to be; whence the lepers were put out of the camp. See Numbers 5:1-3. In any place where the women as well as the men might come, for the daughters of the priests might eat these as well as their sons, as it here follows.
And thy daughters, to wit, if they were maids, or widows, or divorced, Leviticus 22:11-13.
The heave shoulder and the wave breast shall they bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before the LORD; and it shall be thine, and thy sons' with thee, by a statute for ever; as the LORD hath commanded.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying,The goat of the sin-offering, to wit, for the people, mentioned Leviticus 9:15, to know what was done with that part of it which was the priest’s; which he inquired into more than into the other sacrifices, because a mistake there was easy and probable, because that matter might seem something doubtful, by reason of two laws concerning it seemingly contrary, the one Leviticus 4:21, where it is to be burned, the other Leviticus 6:26, where it was to be eaten. But they are thus reconciled: It was to be burnt when the blood of this sacrifice was brought into the holy place, Leviticus 4:16,17; and when that was not done, which Aaron this first time could not do, for the reason expressed in Leviticus 10:18, it was to be eaten, and here lay their mistake.
He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar: he spares Aaron at this time, as overwhelmed with sorrow, and because the rebuking of him before his sons might have exposed him to some contempt; but he knew that the reproof, though directed to them, would concern him too, as he also apprehended it.
Which were left alive, preserved from death when their brethren were destroyed, which is here mentioned as an aggravation of their sin.
Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?i.e. As a reward of your service and function, whereby you do expiate, bear, and take away their sins, by offering those sacrifices, and performing those rites, by which God through Christ is reconciled to the penitent and believing offerers.
Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded.The blood of it was not brought in within the holy place; the reason whereof was, because Aaron was not yet admitted into the holy place, whither that blood should have been brought, till he had prepared the way by the sacrifices which were to be offered in the court.
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?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 when Moses heard that, he was content.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.