Leviticus 10

10 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered strange and unholy fire before the Lord, as He had not commanded them.

2 And there came forth fire from before the Lord and killed them, and they died before the Lord.

3 Then Moses said to Aaron, This is what the Lord meant when He said, I [a][and My will, not their own] will be acknowledged as hallowed by those who come near Me, and before all the people I will be honored. And Aaron said nothing.

4 Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Uzziel uncle of Aaron, and said to them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.

5 So they drew near and carried them in their undertunics [stripped of their priestly vestments] out of the camp, as Moses had said.

6 And Moses said to Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons [the father and brothers of the two priests whom God had slain for offering false fire], Do not uncover your heads or let your hair go loose or tear your clothes, lest you die [also] and lest God’s wrath should come upon all the congregation; but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled.

7 And you shall not go out from the door of the Tent of Meeting, lest you die, for the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you. And they did according to Moses’ word.

8 And the Lord said to Aaron,

9 Do not drink wine or strong drink, you or your sons, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, lest you die; it shall be a statute forever in all your generations.

10 You shall make a distinction and recognize a difference between the holy and the common or unholy, and between the unclean and the clean;

11 And you are to teach the Israelites all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.

12 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons who were left, Take the cereal offering that remains of the offerings of the Lord made by fire and eat it without leaven beside the altar, for it is most holy.

13 You shall eat it in a sacred place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the offerings made by fire to the Lord; for so I am commanded.

14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is offered you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and daughters with you; for they are your due and your sons’ due, given out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the Israelites.

15 The thigh that is offered and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave for a wave offering before the Lord; and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a portion or due perpetually, as the Lord has commanded.

16 And Moses diligently tried to find [what had become of] the goat [that had been offered] for the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up [as waste]! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron who were left alive, and said,

17 Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the Holy Place? It is most holy; and God has given it to you to bear and take away the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord.

18 Behold, the blood of it was not brought within the Holy Place; you should indeed have eaten [the flesh of it] in the Holy Place, as I commanded.

19 But Aaron said to Moses, Behold, this very day in which they have [obediently] offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, such [terrible calamities] have befallen me [and them]! If I [and they] had eaten the most holy sin offering today [humbled as we have been by the sin of our kinsmen and God’s judgment upon them], would it have been acceptable in the sight of the Lord?(A)

20 And when Moses heard that, he was pacified.


  1. Leviticus 10:3 Perhaps few believers have ever identified themselves with Nadab and Abihu, and yet few, if any, of us have not done exactly what they did in principle. Their sin, which God took so seriously and which proved fatal to them, was not a mere matter of failing to obey the letter of God’s law for priests. Their inexcusable folly was in trying to please the Lord their way instead of His way. Who of us cannot recognize himself as the offerer of this prayer, with only the details lacking: “O Lord, make me rich! Then I will make large donations to Your interests!” Yet our very poverty may be the means to the end which He has in love and wisdom planned for us, the ultimate purpose of our creation, perhaps, which substitution of our will for His will would utterly defeat. No wonder God removed Nadab and Abihu from the earth! They, like ourselves, had acted like the child of a great painter who attempted to work on his father’s priceless canvas instead of on the tablet assigned to him. They, like the child, were banished from the father’s presence. And every believer does well to recognize the importance of being entirely surrendered to “God’s will; nothing more; nothing less; nothing else; at any cost.” And that does not mean first making an unholy alliance in marriage, or in business, or in thought, and then adjusting it to God’s will. Remember Nadab and Abihu, who “offered strange and unholy fire before the Lord.” It does not pay.

Cross references

  1. Leviticus 10:19 : Hos. 9:4.

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