15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one.
“presented the people’s offering” – Notice the order of these offerings. Warren Wiersbe stated, “We must first deal with our sins before we can dedicate ourselves totally to the Lord; then we can enjoy fellowship with Him.” Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 152–153.
16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule.
“burnt offering” – to atone for basic human sinfulness.
17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.
“grain offering” – also known as a cereal offering. to secure or retain God’s good will.
18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar.
“peace offering” – to render praise to Yahweh.
19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver—
20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar,
21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the Lord, as Moses commanded.
“wave offering” -a symbolic act where the pieces offered for sacrifice were literally waved before the Lord, symbolizing that this offering was for Him.
22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.
“glory” – The Hebrew word for glory…denotes “heaviness” or “weightiness” and hence the extended meaning of “significance, superior value, distinction, splendor.”… Manifestations of God’s glory demonstrate his desire to reveal himself and dwell among men. “God wishes to dwell with men, to have his reality and his splendor known to them.” F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 154.
24 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
“fire” – here symbolizing God’s presence and holiness/glory. In chapter 10, we see an added element of judgment.
“shouted” – this verb is often used in the context of ritual observances and seems to represent a liturgical practice rather than disorder or fear. However, the people could have shouted spontaneously. René Péter-Contesse and John Ellington, A Handbook on Leviticus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 139.
“fell on their faces” – this common biblical expression often causes amusement or misunderstanding when translated literally into other languages. It involved bowing in such a way that the face actually touched the ground. In the Old Testament this gesture was an indication of the most profound and deepest respect before a superior. In this case the superior is God himself. René Péter-Contesse and John Ellington, A Handbook on Leviticus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 139.
In chapter 10 ignorant or presumptuous action without divine directive resulted in fire from God consuming the violators in immediate judgment. F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 188–189.
This event is reported to have occured on the first official day the sacrificial system was employed – only highlighting man’s inability to obey the law.
Romans 3:20 – For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Galatians 2:16 -yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
1 Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.
“Nadab and Abihu” – the 2 eldest sons of Aaron.
“which he had not commanded them” – either through ignorance or presumption, offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. This incident interrupted the regular pattern of the previous two chapters in which everything was done in accord with the commands of the Lord (cf. Lev. 8:36). It is not stated what made their offering of incense “unauthorized” (“strange,” kjv).
- Perhaps they used coals in their censers that came from elsewhere than the altar (cf. 16:12) or
- they may have offered at the wrong time of day (Ex. 30:7–9).
- It may even be that they sought to go into the most holy place, and so usurped the prerogative of the high priest on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev. 16:12–13).
- The command prohibiting the priests from drinking “wine or other fermented drink” (10:9) may suggest that drunkenness was a possible factor in their sin.
In any event, they acted contrary to God’s will and their immediate judgment by God was a dramatic example of what it meant to be “cut off from his people” (cf. Num. 15:30). “The moral of the story” as summarized by Moses is that those who have the privilege of being nearest to God must bear special responsibility to exemplify His holiness and glory. F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 189.
Leviticus 16:1-2 suggests that they may have been killed because they entered the holy of holies, as Aaron is warned that he may enter only on the Day of Atonement. However the immediate contexts suggests they may have been killed because they offered the wrong coals, or they offered sacrifices with the wrong ingredients.
“unauthorized fire” – In contrast to Aaron’s sacrifices, which were offered, “according to the rule” in 9:16.
APP: Although we may not understand the exact nature of the disobedience of Aaron’s sons, the application is all to clear. Ignorance or presumption are not valid excuses to profane the name and/or character of God. God determines what is and is not righteous and defines the consequences for man’s failure to meet his expectations of righteousness.
2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
“fire” – often used as a symbol of God’s presence, His glory, or His judgment. All three may be assumed here. Because God was present and the sacrificed were offered a manner/means that was an affront to His glory, He responded with swift judgment toward the sons of Aaron.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.
“If we reflect how holy a thing God’s worship is, the enormity of the punishment will by no means offend us. Besides, it was necessary that their religion should be sanctified at its very commencement; for if God had suffered the sons of Aaron to transgress with impunity, they would have afterwards carelessly neglected the whole Law. This, therefore, was the reason of such great severity, that the priests should anxiously watch against all profanation.” John Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Books of Moses (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 2:431.