The Sin of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3) (Part 3)

God’s Judgement

Leviticus 10:2 (KJV) “And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” The killing of Nadab and Abihu seemed too severe. Why not the exclusion of them from the Priest’s Office and excommunication of them from the Congregation of the LORD? Why the extreme penalty (death) for one act of error in Worship?  Is it thus a question of theodicy? The gravity of Nadab and Abihu’s sin was beyond human comprehension. The answer is manifold:

Point 1:

God instituted the “Divine Order” in Worship/Prayer and there was an infraction (breach) on the part of Nadab and Abihu.

Point 2:

Both Nadab and Abihu have “mountain-top” experience with God – Exodus 24:1(KJV) “And He (the LORD) said unto Moses, come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship afar off.” But that experience did not insulate them from this presumptuous act:

  • Furthermore, they were trained and anointed Priests.
  • Their deed was (as has been explained) an act of wilful and wanton disobedience.

Point 3:

Nadab’s and Abihu’s deed was committed by those who were in high position. It was the “sin of presumption” (Number 15:30) on the part of the Persons in the enjoyment of high privilege, and in the exercise of great influence.

Point 4:

The “sin of presumption” was done in the Holy Place before God and His people. It was disobedience in connection with the Public Worship/Prayer of Jehovah (the LORD). If judgement from God did not come forth, the attitude and Worship/Prayer, by the Leaders and People, of the Nation of Israel, would be adversely affected! This judgement reminds the Leaders and the People of God’s Holiness and thus, save many others from similar transgression!

Point 5:

The sin of Nadab and Abihu marred the full effect of the good purpose of God on the very day of the consecration of the Priests. This sin was a “sin of presumption” (Numbers 15:30).

The “Fire from the LORD” was the same Fire stated in Leviticus 9:24. The Fire was the same; the Source of Fire was the same; the effect was the same, and yet how different! In fact, the “Fire from the LORD” is mentioned 12 times in the Old Testament, six for advantage and six for disadvantage. Both Nadab and Abihu were struck dead at the door of the Tabernacle, and died before the LORD:

  • It was a sad reminder that both Nadab and Abihu have no children (Numbers 3:4; 1Chronicles 24:2) when they died. This was an indication of their youthful impulsiveness! Their ministry of assisting their father, Aaron, the high priest was taken over by their brothers: Eleazar and Ithamar (Numbers 3:4; 1Chronicles 24:2).
  • What a contrast between the two scenes! Aaron and Moses entered the Tabernacle and returned to bless the People (Leviticus 9:23). The People rejoiced because of the affirmation of Aaron’s Ministry by Fire of God consuming the Sacrifice (Leviticus 9:24). Nadab and Abihu approached the same sacred place were killed by the Fire from the LORD (Leviticus 10:1-3).

God’s Glory

Leviticus 10:3 (KJV) “Then Moses said unto Aaron, this is it that the LORD spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” Moses used the judgement of Nadab and Abihu to illustrate precisely what God meant by Holiness and Separation, in order that the bereaved father and the people might understand:

Point 1:

To the heathen of the land, in the time of the O.T., the concept of holiness meant nothing more than the Person or an Object being consecrated to the Service of the Deity.

Point 2:

For the Israelites holiness was an ethical attribute of the Divine Character which must be reflected in their own lives and behaviour since they were bounded by Covenant to their God. There are two basic aspects to this relationship which has always to be at the forefront of the Israelites’ minds:

  • The Covenant proceeds from God’s Love (hesed).
  • The Covenant demands a response from the Israelites of unqualified obedience.

The Lessons on the Judgement

Since Nadab and Abihu scorned God’s Word, now Moses pronounces it – it is the authority for Worship. The Lessons on the judgement of Nadab and Abihu are:

  1. God will not allow His Sanctity: “I will be sanctified in them that come near to Me.” (Leviticus 10:3b, KJV) to be violated or diminished by the Priest, that is, “those who draw near” (Leviticus 9:7,8, KJV):
    • God will be treated as Person set apart during Worship/Prayer. If not, God will defend His Own Honour, as He has done in the case of Nadab and Abihu,
    • God will be Sanctified either by the obedience or by the punishment of those “who comes near Him,” that is, His Priests.
  2. That God’s will vindicate His Law in unmistakable way: “And before all the people I will be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:3c KJV). The Priest has greater privilege and therefore greater responsibility (Matthew 11:21).
  3. That God’s will vindicate His Law in unmistakable way: “And before all the people I will be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:3c KJV). The Priest has greater privilege and therefore greater responsibility (Matthew 11:21).
  4. The conduct of Aaron under the bereavement was most instructive. He “held his peace.” He did not murmur against God for the judgement upon his sons (Nadab and Abihu). Moses soothed him by showing that it was a necessary act of justice – “Then Moses said unto Aaron, this is it that the LORD spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3a, KJV).   

Under the Old Testament, the forms of Worship/Prayer appointed by God are typical. The necessity of obedience to God’s Word – The questions which alone the Priests must ask were: “Does this injunction came from God? And did it affect us?” If so, they must obey it without respect to consequences, and they may not substitute for it a course of action which appeared to themselves better adapted to affect the end which they supposed to be in view. The necessity of obedience in Worship/Prayer – God knows how He wills to be worshipped, and why He should be worshipped. Under the New Covenant, God has appointed two rites – the Sacrament of Baptism (Matthew 28:18-20) and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28), which are beneficial in the observance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s