Tag: Leviticus

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.

The Sin of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3) (Part 2)

The Sin of Nadab & Abihu

Leviticus 10:1-3 (KJV) “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 command them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 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.” The judgement of Nadab and Abihu followed the solemn consecration of Aaron and his sons and the beginnings of the ministrations of the Aaronic Priesthood.

God often judges severely when He was instituting something new and there was an infraction (breach), as with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3); violation of the Sabbath day (Numbers 15:32-36); and even the lying of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). God wanted all to know the seriousness of presumption and disobedience. God made a graphic example of its results as a warning to others. Everything that Nadab and Abihu did were wrong.

Point 1:

Nadab and Abihu were the wrong people to handle the incense and presenting it to the LORD. This was the responsibility of Aaron, their father, the High Priest. Nadab and Abihu were usurping, in a blatant manner, the responsibilities of the High Priest in the Priestly Hierarchy:

  • Exodus 30:7 (KJV) “And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamp, he shall burn incense upon it.”
  • Exodus 30:8 (KJV) “And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at evening, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generation.”
  • Exodus 30:9 (KJV) “Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burn sacrifice, nor meal offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.”
  • Exodus 30:10 (KJV) “And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.”   

Nadab and Abihu presumed to do what God has not commanded them – Leviticus 10:1b (KJV) “Which He (God) commanded them not.” They tried to take over the responsibility of the High Priest.

Point 2:

Nadab and Abihu used the wrong censers, their own censers instead of the censer of the High Priest, sanctified by the special anointing oil – Exodus 40:9 (KJV) “And thou (Aaron) shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.”

Point 3:

Nadab and Abihu acted at the wrong time, for it was only on the annual Day of Atonement that the High Priest was permitted to take the incense into the Most Holy Place, and even them he has to submit to a special ritual – Leviticus 16:1 (KJV) “And the LORD spoke unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD and died.” The whole special ritual is recorded in Leviticus 16.

Point 4:

Nadab and Abihu acted on their own, – under “the wrong authority. They did not consult Moses or their father, Aaron, nor do they sought to follow the Word of God, which was given to Moses. The action of Nadab and Abihu comprised a blatant act of disobedience and constitutes an act of defiance towards God. This was the force of the words: “Which He (the LORD) commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1b, KJV).

  • Nadab’s and Abihu’s sin was not in doing what is forbidden, but in doing what was not enjoined (commanded) – “Which He (the LORD) commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1b, KJV).
  • Nadab and Abihu set Divinely Constituted Authority at naught, which amounted to the despising of God’s Authority.
  • This was the very sin of Korah and his Company (Number 16).
  • Nadab and Abihu introduced confusion by intruding into the Office of the High Priest.

The penalty of being “cut off,” prescribed in Numbers 15:30 for sins of deliberate intent against Covenantal Requirements, was put into dramatic effect – “But the soul that doeth anything presumptuously, whether he is born in the land, or a sojourner, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among His people” (Numbers 15:30 (KJV).

Point 5:

Nadab and Abihu wrongly access into – their offering of fire “before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1b, KJV) seems to imply that they tried to press “within the veil” into the Holy of Holies where the Shekinah Glory of God dwelt. This seems to be the explanation, given in Leviticus 16:1-2. None but the High Priest, and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement, has the right of access to the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16:12). Nadab and Abihu deliberately disobeyed God’s Word and asserted themselves in the process of handling Sacred Service.

Point 6:

Nadab and Abihu used the wrong fire (“strange fire,” KJV; “unauthorized fire,” NIV) to burn their incense:

  • Fire “from before the LORD” (Leviticus 9:24) has kindled the “Altar of Burnt Offering” (Brazen Altar) the flame which the Priests was to keep alive (Leviticus 6:12-13).
  • No commandment has yet been given on how the incense should be kindred. It was only given in Leviticus 16:12-13.
  • Nadab and Abihu offered “strange fire,” fire not taken from the “Altar of Burnt Offering” (Brazen Altar), but fire from the boiling of sacrificial flesh. This fire was not kindled by the LORD but by man.
  • Leviticus 16:12-13 (KJV) “And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil. And he (Aaron) shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD that the cloud of the incense may cover the Mercy Seat that is upon the testimony that he (Aaron) dies not.” It was ordered that on the Day of Atonement, the incense fire should be taken from the Brazen Altar (“Altar of Burnt Offering”), and this was no doubt the requirement on all occasions, though the Law has not been recorded.

The sin of Nadab and Abihu was in acting in the things of God without seeking the mind of God. It was “will worship” (Colossians 2:23). “Will-worship” is offensive to God. Two Prohibitions were given in Exodus 30:7-10, concerning Worship:

  • No “strange incense” was to be offered. This speaks of simulated or purely formal Worship – Exodus 30:9a (KJV) “Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon.”
  • No “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1-3) was permitted. This may refer to substitution for devotion to the LORD of any other devotion, as to religious causes or sects (1Corinthians 1:11-13; Colossians 2:8, 16-19; Exodus 30:38).
  • Exodus 30:9 teaches that no incense was to be offered on the Altar apart from the Daily Offering – thus, Nadab and Abihu were killed because they offer an additional Sacrifice – Exodus 30:9 (KJV) “Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, no meal (meat) offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.” Both Nadab and Abihu were making an offering in a different way from that which God has commanded.

Exodus 30:34-36 gave the prescription for incense. Incense was symbolic of Worship/Prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4; Luke 1:9-10), because its fragrance rises into the air as true Worship/Prayer rises to God. Exodus 30:37-38 sounds the warning about the incense (Worship/Prayer).  What was condemned in Exodus 30:37-38 was the making of Worship/Prayer a mere pleasure to the natural man – Exodus 30:37-38 (NIV) “Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people.” God seeks true Worshipper (John 4:23-24).

Point 7:

Nadab and Abihu acted from the wrong motive and did not seek to Glorify God – improper offering of incense on the part of the Priests would detract from God’s Glory, and this Glory of God was not to be robbed – 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.” The action of Nadab and Abihu did not:

  • Set God Apart: “I will be sanctified” (Leviticus 10:3b)
  • Glorified God: “I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3c).

We do not know the secret of their hearts, but we get the impression that what Nadab and Abihu did was a wilful Act of Pride. Their desire was not to sanctify and glorify the LORD but to promote themselves and their importance.

Point 8:

Nadab and Abihu may be under the influence of alcohol as implied in Leviticus 10:9-10 (KJV) “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, not thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations; and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” This is a reminder of Ephesians 5:18 (KJV) “And be not drunk with wine….but be filled with the Spirit.”

Point 9:

Nadab and Abihu did not do what was prescribed to be done as Priests, leading the people in Worship/Prayer. They acted independently of the Revelation of God regarding proper Worship/Prayer. Leviticus chapters 8 to 9, the refrain appears: “Just as Yahweh had commanded” (12 times – Leviticus 8:4a, 5b, 9b, 13b, 17b, 21b, 29b, 34b, 36b; 9:6b, 7b, 10b) and Nadab and Abihu did that “which the LORD had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1b, KJV). The point was clear: Nadab and Abihu drew near to God in an aberrant (deviant) manner, one that was not in accordance with God’s Word. It was, therefore, a deliberate disobedience. In place of God’s Word, they thrust self-will and personal caprice (whim).

To be continued….. Stay Tuned…..

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

The Statement

In the O.T., God repeatedly judged an Individual or the Nation of Israel who failed to Worship Him according to His Word. The Nation of Israel failed corporately (“Great Sin” – Exodus 32:21, 30, 31) when the Nation worshipped “the golden calf” – (Exodus 32). Moses’ intervention (Exodus 32:11-14, 31-32) resulted in God mercifully mitigated His initial Righteous Anger without destroying the whole Nation (Exodus 32:14). The sin of Nadab and Abihu was a stark reminder of how God feels about false Worship.

The Background

Throughout Leviticus chapters 1 to 9, God’s prescriptions and regulations for the Priesthood in Israel were quite detailed; expectations were very clear. Up to Leviticus chapter 9, Moses was the Person who offered sacrifices unto the LORD.  This responsibility was handed over to Aaron and his sons in Leviticus Chapter 9:

  1. Leviticus Chapter 9 recorded the first day of Aaron and his sons’ Priestly Ministry.
  2. Aaron has offered the sacrifices and blessed the people (Leviticus 9:22). He entered the Holy Place with Moses and returned to where the People have been standing in expectation – Leviticus 9:23 (KJV) “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.”
  3. God showed His approval and His confirmation of Aaron’s Priestly Ministry by consuming the sacrifices – Leviticus 9:24 (KJV) “And there came a fire out from before the LORD and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat, which, when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
  4. Nadab and Abihu were the eldest sons of Aaron, they were not Outsiders, and as such were highly respected and honoured in Israel.
  5. Nadab and Abihu were Anointed Priests and singled out to join Moses and Aaron on Mount Sinai who has seen God on the Mountain – 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.”
  6. God specifically selected them to be major Leaders of the Israelite Priesthood – Exodus 28:1 (KJV) “And take thou unto thee Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons,” and they have been installed into the Priest’s Office (Leviticus 9:1-24).
  7. Aaron, the High Priest, was the father of Nadab and Abihu. They were trained in the Service of the Lord:
    • Nadab and Abihu were to lead the Congregation in the Worship of Jehovah (the LORD).
    • Nadab and Abihu were trained to distinguish the sacred from the profane.
    • Yet Nadab and Abihu were killed for their “Sin of Presumption!” It was a serious thing to be God’s Servant, in those days.

      Service unto the God the Father and the Lord Jesus must be empowered by His Spirit and controlled by His Word, serving Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29, KJV).
  8. Nadab and Abihu appeared to be exalted from the events of the day (Leviticus Chapter 9), in which both have played a prominent part, a part felt bound, when God’s Fire came forth from the LORD, and the people shouted and fell on their faces (Leviticus 9:24b).
  9. Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle of the Congregation (Leviticus 9:23a) and must have parted from them (Nadab and Abihu). Nadab and Abihu were now facing the people and appeared to have regarded themselves as the Representative of the People.
  10. Without waiting for instruction, Nadab and Abihu rose from their prostration, and, preparing to make a return to God for His Gift of Fire by the offering of incense symbolical of Worship/Prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4).  
    • Nadab and Abihu lit their censers from one of the fires (“strange fire,” KJV – “unauthorized fire,” NIV) which has been made for boiling the sacrificial flesh and not the fire from the Brazen Altar.
    • Putting incense in them, started forward, with the intention of carrying the burning incense to the “Golden Altar” of Incense in the Holy Place.
    • Nadab and Abihu reached the door of the Tabernacle, where Moses and Aaron were standing, when they met by a blast from the Fire of God which has already on the Brazen Altar, and they (Nadab & Abihu) fell dead. They had acted presumptuously.
  11. Nadab and Abihu have not waited for the Divine Command, but, in their haste, they have irreverently broken the LORD’s Commandment (Leviticus 10:1b); they took the fire, not from the Brazen Altar, but the fire used to boil the sacrificial meat (“strange-fire”).
  12. Nadab and Abihu have, with whatever good intentions done, what God has not commanded, and in doing what God has not commanded (Leviticus 10:1b), and in doing it has done what God has forbidden.
  13. The day had not yet closed when Nadab and Abihu committed the rash act that changed the day of rejoicing into a day of mourning.

To be continued….. Stay Tuned…..