I have to apologize to my followers & readers. I’ve had some family issues that have prevented me from being on for awhile. Thank you for your understanding. Let’s get into it.
This chapter has to do with the death of Nadab & Abihu, who are Aaron’s sons. Ergo, priests of Israel. You can also find this in Numbers 3:4. They end up dying because they don’t know how to follow the rules. Plain & simple.
Aaron’s sons Nadab & Abihu, who were Aaron’s eldest 2 sons. That would make these 2 men Moses’ nephews. Now these men, because they are able to be priests (Which this chapter makes clear because they are doing ceremonies. And only men & priests could do ceremonies. Duh, they would be priests because at this time the priesthood was a hereditary position. Being Aaron’s sons makes them priests automatically. And it doesn’t hurt that in the previous chapters it says that the sons were consecrated with their dad, Aaron. And let’s not forget that being a man is VERY important in the Jewish culture. Let’s be honest, they have a whole ceremony around becoming a man (Bar/Bat mitzvah, respectively.).), have access to the tools of being a priest. This was the beginning of the end for Nadab & Abihu. Shame too. But there are consequences for breaking the rules.
They took their censers (these are the things you see if you’ve ever seen a Catholic church service, communion, ceremony that someone is swinging back & forth with smoke coming out of it.), put fire & incense in it. This was a no-no. The text says “they offered unauthorized fire before God, contrary to His command.” They get immediately punished. Fire comes out from the presence of God & consumed them. Yep! That TOTALLY happened. And the text says, “they died before God.” Moses says to Aaron, “God told me, ‘Anyone who approaches me, I’m gonna show myself holy. In the sight of all the people, I’m gonna be honored.'” Aaron remained silent. How heart wrenching for Aaron. He couldn’t do a thing. Or say anything. Look what happened to his sons.
Moses called Mishael & Elzaphan, Aaron’s 1st cousins (they’re the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel). Moses told them to take the bodies of Nadab & Abihu outside of the camp & away from the front of the sanctuary. They did as they were told by Moses.
Moses then says to Aaron & his remaining sons, Eleazar & Ithamar, “Don’t uncover your heads. Don’t tear your clothes. Or you’ll die & God will be angry with EVERYONE, the whole Jewish nation. But your relatives (wives, sisters, cousins, anyone whose NOT in the priesthood pretty much) & all the house of Israel can mourn for those that God has destroyed by fire. Don’t leave the entrance to the Tent. You’ll die. Because God’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.
God then talks to Aaron, “You & your sons aren’t allowed to drink wine or other fermented drinks whenever you go into the Tent. You’ll die if you do. This is an everlasting law for generations to come. You must distinguish between the clean & unclean. You’ve got to teach the Israelites all the laws that God has given them through Moses.”
Moses says to Aaron & his remaining 2 sons, Eleazar & Ithamar, “Take the grain offering left over from the offerings made to God by fire. Eat it prepared without yeast beside the altar. For it’s most holy. Eat it in a holy place. It’s because it’s your share & your sons’ share of the offerings made to God by fire. But you & your sons & daughters may eat the beast that was waved & the thigh that was presented. Eat them in a ceremonially clean place.”
Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering. He found out that it had been burned up & got angry with Eleazar & Ithamar. He asked them, “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area?! It’s most holy! This was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before God. Since its blood was not taken into the Holy of Holies, you should’ve eaten the goat in the sanctuary area.”
Aaron says to Moses, “Look, bro…my sons sacrificed their sin & burnt offering before God today. But I’ve been through a lot today. Would God have been pleased if I’d eaten the sin offering today?” When Moses heard this, he was satisfied. (Here’s what’s always got me. If the sons didn’t follow the rules, like their brothers, they should be punished. But on the other hand, if Aaron lost all of his sons, then there would be no hereditary priesthood. I’m sure God would’ve done some Abraham & Sarah stuff.)