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Bible verses about Nadab and Abihu
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 10:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What did these men do that was so awful? They were priests, sons of Aaron, the High Priest, nephews of Moses. If anybody had a close relationship with God and would receive a measure of leeway in judgment, it was these two. Nevertheless, there was none; with God, there is no respect of persons in judgment (see Romans 2:11). He reacted swiftly and violently, wiping them out on the spot. This incident involved no Temple prostitutes, no human sacrifices, just "strange fire." Surely, such a little thing would not matter! God's reaction allowed no time for a trial; there was just a summary execution, a terrifying supernatural judgment by God.

Verse 6 contains an interesting sidelight to this violent event. Undoubtedly, Aaron was shocked into an emotional reaction that may have ranged from pitiful wailing to a consuming anger toward God, but Moses cautioned him to control himself and give no outward demonstration of his emotional state! Why? Moses understood that they had sinned grievously and got what they deserved. Aaron was told that, despite the shocking nature of what had happened, he should express no disagreement with God's judgment.

Consider this in a larger context. Beginning in Exodus 40:1, the Tabernacle, its altar, and the laver were erected and the interior furniture arranged, then all was consecrated in a solemn ceremony. At that point (verse 34), God came to dwell in the Tabernacle.

Leviticus 1 follows the sequence of events, showing God giving the sacrificial rituals to be performed at the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, Aaron and the priesthood are officially consecrated. In Leviticus 9:1, the priesthood's ministry formally begins. In verse 24, a startling occurrence takes place during that first offering: ". . . and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar." This signaled God's acceptance, showing that all had been done according to His will.

However, there is more to this story, giving us understanding of the term "strange fire" that follows in chapter 10. Within the instructions regarding the sacrifices, Leviticus 6:12-13 gives the priests an interesting charge:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The term strange means "what is alien to." Foreigners are called "strangers" in Scripture because they are aliens to Israel and to the covenant (Ephesians 2:12). In this case, the fire used by Nadab and Abihu was alien to what God had commanded regarding fire. Together with Exodus 30:7-9, their infraction becomes clear. The priests were to make the morning and evening incense offerings only with the special incense mixture God commanded, and they were to take the coals for these offerings only from the continually burning fire under the altar of burnt offerings, which He started in Leviticus 9:24.

Aaron was undoubtedly confused and displeased, not understanding what happened, but Moses gave him God's answer. In Leviticus 10:3, the Lord says, "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified." Nadab and Abihu were among those chosen to come near Him in service. They revealed their disrespect for Him by treating His command regarding the fire as something common. They simply did not follow His instructions.

They added or subtracted to what God said and did, attempting to get by with what they carnally assumed was acceptable to Him. By this incident, holiness is defined. Among those who are consecrated to serve God, His instructions must be explicitly followed. Thus, this example appears especially pointed toward the ministry.

The instructions are not ambiguous. Each step and instrument in the process is designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had been completely instructed, so they blatantly twisted God's teaching. In response to Moses, Aaron remained silent, knowing the judgment was correct. This incident is of special importance to us because of the context and because of who we are. The context is the consecration of the priesthood in service to God, and we are, according to I Peter 2, a royal priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices. By this incident, God shows, perhaps more clearly than in any other place, what holiness is in relation to Him.

Holiness is not merely consecration or dedication to a god, but it is both moral and ethical as well. True holiness is what results from His consecration, but the consecration must be combined with our submission to His commands. In pagan religions, a person could be dedicated but not moral, as is clearly shown by the ritual prostitution practiced at their temples. The prostitute was indeed consecrated to her god, but she most certainly was not moral—nor were they who used her services.

Today, a person may claim that his god is the Creator God, but if he is not obedient to the Creator God's commandments, he is merely deluding himself. Sincerity is only part of the picture. We are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). The closer one is associated with God's work, the more necessary it is to ensure that the relationship with God is not marred by spiritual blemishes. Otherwise, the person cannot function properly as a channel for God to work through. God will not be glorified before the people unless His servants submit to His commands.

A similar careless notion got Cain into trouble. If we add or omit with knowledge, it is presumption, and presumption springs from pride. It is as if we are telling God He does not know what He is doing. We have elevated ourselves to His level. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else than His will must be our attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Leviticus 10:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Surely these men did not deliberately intend to sin. However, notice how quickly God's sense of justice reacted, striking these men dead in their tracks and burning them to cinders. Obviously, they either did or failed to do something far more serious than ever entered their minds. Is not God's reaction a vivid warning, especially to those who come near Him? Are we not among those who come near Him?

Look at the evidence more closely and observe God's sense of justice. First, these men were the sons of Aaron, and Moses was their uncle. One would think that, if anybody among those two to three million Israelites had a close relationship with God, that family did. So one might think there may have been some leeway in God's judgment, but there was not! God reacted swiftly and violently.

Second, the charge against them was not because they consorted with prostitutes. No human sacrifices were planned or made. The charge was that they used "profane" (NKJV) or "strange" (KJV) fire.

But we need to look further. Just a few days before this startling event, Exodus 40 reveals the construction of the Tabernacle had been completed and its furniture arranged. Leviticus 1 begins listing the final procedures made for God to dwell in the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, the priesthood was consecrated, and in Leviticus 9, they made their first official offering using the Tabernacle and its furniture. Leviticus 9:22-24 says:

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This spectacular and serious event shows the offering's acceptance by God.

To this point, all was well, but we must consider a solemn command given by God to the Levites regarding their responsibilities in Leviticus 6:12-13:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The altar fire was to be rekindled continually from its own coals, which remained from God's acceptance of the original offering. What was Nadab and Abihu's sin? They used coals from a fire not ignited by God. It was not from His hand and therefore was foreign fire.

If we read between the lines here, we can easily see that Aaron was shocked. He went right to the top of human leadership to get this straightened out, and Moses gave him God's answer: Do not mourn. Do not show any agreement with Nadab and Abihu. Do not show any disagreement with God's judgment.

Why? God's judgments are never wrong. Nadab and Abihu got what they deserved. God saw every aspect of their act as it unfolded. They had added or subtracted to what God commanded and died. They had tried to get by with what they carnally felt was acceptable.

The instruction is clear: Among those consecrated by God to serve Him and His family, His instructions must be explicitly followed. They totally disregarded what He had commanded in Leviticus 6:12-13. There is no ambiguity in the instructions. They had been completely and adequately informed. Each step and each instrument in the process had been designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had thought that common fire was good enough, but in their careless, presumptuous neglect, they had blatantly twisted God's Word.

This incident vividly illustrates that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus 10:3 says Aaron held his peace; he knew the judgment was correct. It was a shocking demonstration, but we can be certain that, because God is love and is supremely sovereign in His judgment, His every decision will be as correct as His judgment of Nadab and Abihu, since He Himself is the standard.

God is not a holy terror lying in wait for us to do something wrong, but He provides us examples such as this and several others of what He can do in response to sin. When He responds like this, He is fully justified. He wants us to consider His justice so that we will be better prepared to evaluate our calling properly and then live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Leviticus 10:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This suggests that alcohol may have been the reason they did what they did. They may not have been drunk, but they may have been drinking. Remember, it was a time of great celebration. The Tabernacle had been erected, Aaron had been sanctified as High Priest, his sons were installed as priests, and the Levites had been set apart for their duties. Undoubtedly, a lot of celebrating was going on. The placement of these verses seems to indicate that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking. They were not thinking properly when they used common fire. Alcohol has a way of deluding a person into thinking that he is in control when he is not.

Perhaps all the other biblical references to drunkenness are nothing more than veiled references to this occasion. Someone under the influence of alcohol cannot serve God properly.

God describes the world as being drunk with the wine of Babylon's fornication. They are people who are in no condition to serve God because they cannot think straight spiritually. They think they are in control when they are not, so they cannot be holy. They attempt to serve Him in immorality and unethically.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice


 

Joshua 5:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to justify changing from the normal Pentecost counting pattern used when Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

Some, realizing their argument for always keeping Wavesheaf Day within the Days of Unleavened Bread is still quite weak, have leapt on another rationalization and conclusion from a series of assumptions read into Joshua 5:10-11. These assumptions have led them to the conclusion that, since Leviticus 23:14 states that the Israelites were not to eat bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain from their new spring harvest until they had brought their sheaf offering to God, and since Joshua 5:11 records that the Israelites ate of the produce of the land on the day after Passover, it means they must have made a wavesheaf offering.

However, major assumptions in their argument have led them to a wrong conclusion:

First Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites waved the sheaf following a harvest of Canaanite grain. This must be read into the context because this is nowhere stated. In fact, neither the words "wave," "waved," "waves" nor "wavesheaf" or "wave offering" appear in the entire book of Joshua. In addition, the context makes no mention of the burnt or meal offerings that were to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13). Finally, it does not mention the erection of an altar. This is no minor element because it would have been the first altar established after entering the Promised Land.

Second Assumption: This was a year Passover fell on a Sabbath. How do they know that? No one knows it! Nobody knows with absolute certainty what year Israel entered into the Promised Land, let alone the exact day this offering was supposedly made! They have no calendar date from which to offer proof. The argument is built on a series of "ifs" centered on the assumption that the Israelites were required to wave the sheaf before they could eat of the harvest of the land.

Third Assumption: Israel was required by God—forced by law—to make the wavesheaf offering before they could eat the grain from a Canaanite planting. This assumption is drawn from Leviticus 23:10, 14. Taken alone, these scriptures may lead one to think the wavesheaf had to be done immediately. However, where does God say that it had to be done immediately or that they could not eat of the produce of the land upon entering it? He says nothing of the sort as they approached the land. We will see that the Israelites not only did not have to make a wavesheaf offering of Canaanite grain before eating of the land's produce, but that they did not do so, and further, doing so would have been sin to them.

Fourth Assumption: God would accept an Israelite offering derived from crops they had not planted on their own land. Exodus 23:14-16 explicitly states that their offerings had to come from grain that the Israelites themselves had sown in the field. Any grains they would have harvested after entering the land would have come from what the Canaanites had sown. This makes all the difference in the world when we consider the spiritual significance of sowing and harvesting. Does God's Spirit produce the heathen—the unconverted—person's spiritual harvest?

II Samuel 24:24 shows that David clearly understood another principle involved here. The one making the offering must have done the labor and made the sacrifices necessary to produce the offering and render it acceptable to God. Offerings that cost the offerer nothing are not acceptable.

Where are the labor and sacrifice involved in Israel's supposed wavesheaf offering? Offering from Canaan's harvest was not acceptable for Israel to give because it cost them nothing. In short, God wants offered to Him what He has first given to us. When God loves us and we then return love to Him, it is acceptable because He first loved us (I John 4:19) and shed His Spirit abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). When we offer love to Him, it is His own love, providence, the fruit of His Spirit that we have labored to produce, returning to Him.

Fifth Assumption: God would accept an offering of polluted things. The context in Leviticus 22:19-25 specifically covers animal offerings, but the principle applies to grain offerings as well, as the explanation of the fourth assumption indicates. No animals with blemishes of explicit nature are permitted to be the food of God. In verse 25, God says that nothing from the foreigner's hand is acceptable "because their corruption is in them." God states, "They shall not be accepted on your behalf."

If one thinks this is of small consequence, then perhaps it would be good to review what happened to Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, when they foolishly used coals from a profane or common fire as they made the offering on the incense altar. God did not think it insignificant when they offered fire He considered unfit for His altar. He struck them dead as a lesson to all those who are less concerned about purity of worship than they should be.

Israel was symbolically under the blood of Jesus Christ and had made the covenant with God. This rendered them a holy people consecrated for God's use and glorification. Because they were chosen by God and holy, their offerings, as long as they were without blemish and not from the stranger's hand, were acceptable to Him.

Israel had no acceptable harvest to offer in Joshua 5. In fact, under the circumstance, Israel was required by law not to make an offering!

Sixth Assumption: Israel was permitted to make an offering of any kind. This is a big one, reinforcing all the other objections against the common interpretation that Joshua 5:10-11 permits or demands a First Day of Unleavened Bread waving of the sheaf and beginning of the count.

In reality, upon entering the land, offerings involved in the worship of God were specifically forbidden by Him until certain things were first accomplished. Through Moses, God instructs in Deuteronomy 12:1, 5-14:

These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. . . . [Y]ou shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His habitation; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (emphasis added)

This instruction supersedes Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29—and especially for the purposes of this article, Leviticus 23:10, 14, where God commands, "When you come into the land. . . ." From those two verses, one could easily assume that the Israelites were to begin keeping those days and all their offerings immediately upon entering. However, Deuteronomy 12, written within the last month before entering the Promised Land, puts a hold on doing these things immediately upon entering the land (Deuteronomy 1:3). Deuteronomy 12 makes clear that they were not free to follow the Leviticus 23 instructions until certain matters were accomplished.

Deuteronomy 12 paves the way for Israel, at God's command, to establish a headquarters, a national, central place for the worship of the Lord God at the site of His choosing. Further, God adds that they were actually to be dwelling in the land, to be at rest, and to be dwelling in safety from their enemies. Also included within these instructions, though not specifically mentioned, is that the Tabernacle, the altar, the laver, and all the interior furniture had to be erected and in place.

Please pay special attention to what Moses says while the Israelites are still in the wilderness: "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today" (verse 8), referring to making offerings any old place that was convenient. In addition, Israel actually had to be living in the land, not marching around it fighting wars. They had to be in a settled circumstance—so settled that they were in safety. Obviously, this eliminates a wavesheaf offering and its accompanying burnt and meal offerings from happening in Joshua 5.

The place God ultimately chose and in which Israel erected the Tabernacle was Shiloh. This was not accomplished until Joshua 18:1: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them." This was the first sign that things were almost ready so they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. However, some land had yet to be apportioned. The land for seven tribes plus the allocation of cities to the Levites and the cities of refuge had yet to be settled. The final apportioning is recorded in chapters 18-21. Thus, many of the tribes were not yet dwelling and at rest at the beginning of Joshua 18.

The official announcement that all was in place appears in Joshua 21:43-45:

So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

From the time they crossed the Jordan and entered the land, seven years passed before they were free to offer what Deuteronomy 12 forbade and what some claim occurred in Joshua 5.

Seventh Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites were so irresponsible as to disregard God's clear instruction given through Moses while they were still wandering. Does the Scripture anywhere speak badly of Joshua? In Joshua 1:6-9, God specifically seeks out Joshua to exhort him to be courageous, not turning to the right or left regarding what he had been instructed as Moses' right-hand man. That Joshua did just this is verified in Joshua 11:15: "As the Lord had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses." At the end of his life, he is as firm as ever (Joshua 23-24).

Joshua 22:25-30 provides a telling example of how deeply the command not to make any sacrifices except where God had placed His name was burned into all of Israel's heart at that time. When it was found that Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, which had settled on the east side of Jordan, had erected what appeared to be a sacrificial altar, the remaining tribes almost entered into civil war to stop them! A fuller explanation revealed they had erected, not an altar, but a monument dedicated as evidence of the East Bank tribes' unity with God and the other tribes of Israel on the west side. They were not about to make offerings anywhere except where God commanded.

The Israelites did not make the wavesheaf offering when they came into the land.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Psalm 92:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalmist encourages us to thank God for His justice upon His and our enemies. Is it right that we should be thankful for God's judgment and punishment upon them? We certainly should not gloat over their fate (Proverbs 24:17-18). However, we would be wise to remember the just punishments of Nadab and Abihu, of Eli's sons, of Uzzah, and of Ananias and Sapphira. We must beware of thinking of God as harsh or rash in His judgments. God's enemies are our enemies too, and His punishment of them is for our good (and ultimately theirs).

Staff
Thanksgiving


 

Romans 11:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul admonishes us to consider both God's goodness and severity. Both of these characteristics are part of what He is, and therefore we must respect both.

We can make the contrast between them very sharp: Until Adam and Eve sinned, they received all goodness from God. After their sin, it appears that His severity hit them immediately; they were ushered out of the Garden.

In Genesis 4, Cain sinned by killing Abel. At first, Cain received goodness from God in that he was permitted to live, but he also received severity in that he had to live as a marked vagabond.

In these two early examples, both sides of God's judgment appear, and a pattern has become especially clear: Severity results because of sin.

Whether we are immediately aware of it is not the issue. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned, their decline into death began immediately, regardless of whether they were physically aware of any deterioration of their health. Cain immediately became a vagabond separated from his family roots. The only real difference between the carrying out of the death penalty between Adam and Eve and Nadab and Abihu is the effect God desired to create by His immediate, shocking display of severity.

We who draw near to God must know that the God we serve is to be served as a holy God—especially because He is a holy God. He permitted no opportunity for them to repent because they should have known better. The wages of sin is always death.

In the days of Noah, the goodness of God spared only eight souls, but His severity terrifyingly destroyed the remainder of humanity. In a matter of a few days, perhaps billions of people, even innocent unborn and newborn babies, died because of sin.

Following King Saul's paranoia-driven reign, God showed His goodness to Israel by raising up David, a man after His own heart, to rule over Israel. Yet, then David committed a disastrous double sin by entering into adultery with Bathsheba and deliberately bringing about the death of the loyal Uriah. God mercifully forgave the sins, but that does not mean there was no painful punishment laid on David and his family. God's severity against David and his family was hard and long. First, the son born of that illicit union died shortly after its birth. Later, David's firstborn son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. Tamar's brother, Absalom, seeking revenge, killed Amnon and fled from David, not seeing him for two years.

Then Absalom revolted against David in his desire to take over the throne. Absalom arrogantly proceeded to defile David's concubines in the sight of all Israel. Several thousand were killed in this revolt, and eventually, Absalom himself was killed by Joab. The family's pain did not stop even then, washing over into Solomon's reign when he put Adonijah to death because he sought political power by asking for Abishag's hand in marriage.

David was a man of blood, as God Himself mentions, but his children carried a moral cancer until death stopped them. Have we ever noticed how much deceit and illicit sex was involved in David's family's sins? God was not present in that family's life as He had once been. He could have stepped in at any time and stopped the holocaust ripping through David's family, but He did not. Living as they did, despite being the progeny of a man God greatly loved, they felt the severity of His judgments.

Deeply consider how long God's severity lasted! He did not simply let David off the hook. He had been chosen to draw near to God. Much was required of him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

 




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