LEVITICUS 8-10, HEBREWS 9
Chapters 8 and 9 of Leviticus deal with the institution of and responsibilities of the office of the ministry of the priests. As you can see, there are clear guidelines placed before Aaron and his sons by God. But when we get to chapter 10, at first glance, it seems a bit confusing. Why would the Lord destroy the sons of Aaron so abruptly. The text uses the phrase "unauthorized fire". What does that mean, and why was it so bad?
God has made it clear what He expects from His people, especially those in leadership roles. The context shows that Nadab and Abihu didn't take the sacrifice seriously, and they even mocked the process the Lord had laid before them. The reality is that while the sacrifice is important, our heart in which we approach the sacrifice is much more important. We can't treat God flippantly and expect Him to be okay with that. He's the soverign God of creation that literally spoke us into existence. He deserves our utmost respect, not our mockery. God will not be mocked. Let's not make the same mistakes. Let's give God the honor He deserves.
ORDINATION OF AARON AND HIS SONS
1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Take Aaron, his sons with him, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull of the sin offering, the two rams, and the basket of unleavened bread, 3 and assemble the whole community at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” 4 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the community assembled at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 5 Moses said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded to be done.”
6 Then Moses presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. 7 He put the tunic on Aaron, wrapped the sash around him, clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him. He put the woven band of the ephod around him and fastened it to him. 8 Then he put the breastpiece on him and placed the Urim and Thummim into the breastpiece. 9 He also put the turban on his head and placed the gold medallion, the holy diadem, on the front of the turban, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it to consecrate them. 11 He sprinkled some of the oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, to consecrate them. 12 He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed and consecrated him. 13 Then Moses presented Aaron’s sons, clothed them with tunics, wrapped sashes around them, and fastened headbands on them, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
14 Then he brought the bull near for the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull for the sin offering. 15 Then Moses slaughtered it, took the blood, and applied it with his finger to the horns of the altar on all sides, purifying the altar. He poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it so that atonement can be made on it.,c 16 Moses took all the fat that was on the entrails, the fatty lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat, and he burned them on the altar. 17 He burned the bull with its hide, flesh, and waste outside the camp, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
18 Then he presented the ram for the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 19 Moses slaughtered it and splattered the blood on all sides of the altar. 20 Moses cut the ram into pieces and burned the head, the pieces, and the fat, 21 but he washed the entrails and legs with water. He then burned the entire ram on the altar. It was a burnt offering for a pleasing aroma, a fire offering to the Lord as he had commanded Moses.
22 Next he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 Moses slaughtered it, took some of its blood, and put it on Aaron’s right earlobe, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Moses also presented Aaron’s sons and put some of the blood on their right earlobes, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then Moses splattered the blood on all sides of the altar. 25 He took the fat—the fat tail, all the fat that was on the entrails, the fatty lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with their fat—as well as the right thigh. 26 From the basket of unleavened bread that was before the Lord he took one cake of unleavened bread, one cake of bread made with oil, and one wafer, and placed them on the fat portions and the right thigh. 27 He put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and presented them before the Lord as a presentation offering. 28 Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering for a pleasing aroma, a fire offering to the Lord. 29 He also took the breast and presented it before the Lord as a presentation offering; it was Moses’s portion of the ordination ram as the Lord had commanded him.
30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments, as well as on his sons and their garments. In this way he consecrated Aaron and his garments, as well as his sons and their garments.
31 Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the meat at the entrance to the tent of meeting and eat it there with the bread that is in the basket for the ordination offering as I commanded: Aaron and his sons are to eat it. 32 Burn up what remains of the meat and bread. 33 Do not go outside the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the time your days of ordination are completed, because it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 The Lord commanded what has been done today in order to make atonement for you. 35 You must remain at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days and keep the Lord’s charge so that you will not die, for this is what I was commanded.” 36 So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord had commanded through Moses.
THE PRIESTLY MINISTRY INAUGURATED
1 On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron, his sons, and the elders of Israel. 2 He said to Aaron, “Take a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and present them before the Lord. 3 And tell the Israelites: Take a male goat for a sin offering; a calf and a lamb, male yearlings without blemish, for a burnt offering; 4 an ox and a ram for a fellowship offering to sacrifice before the Lord; and a grain offering mixed with oil. For today the Lord is going to appear to you.”
5 They brought what Moses had commanded to the front of the tent of meeting, and the whole community came forward and stood before the Lord. 6 Moses said, “This is what the Lord commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Approach the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering; make atonement for yourself and the people.,a Sacrifice the people’s offering and make atonement for them, as the Lord commanded.”
8 So Aaron approached the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sin offering for himself. 9 Aaron’s sons brought the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and applied it to the horns of the altar. He poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 He burned the fat, the kidneys, and the fatty lobe of the liver from the sin offering on the altar, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 11 He burned the flesh and the hide outside the camp.
12 Then he slaughtered the burnt offering. Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it on all sides of the altar. 13 They brought him the burnt offering piece by piece, along with the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 He washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.
15 Aaron presented the people’s offering. He took the male goat for the people’s sin offering, slaughtered it, and made a sin offering with it as he did before. 16 He presented the burnt offering and sacrificed it according to the regulation. 17 Next he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar in addition to the morning burnt offering.
18 Finally, he slaughtered the ox and the ram as the people’s fellowship sacrifice. Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it on all sides of the altar. 19 They also brought the fat portions from the ox and the ram—the fat tail, the fat surrounding the entrails, the kidneys, and the fatty lobe of the liver—20 and placed these on the breasts. Aaron burned the fat portions on the altar, 21 but he presented the breasts and the right thigh as a presentation offering before the Lord, as Moses had commanded.
22 Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them. He came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the fellowship offering. 23 Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown.
NADAB AND ABIHU
1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do. 2 Then fire came from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has spoken:
I will demonstrate my holiness,s
to those who are near me,
and I will reveal my glory,u
before all the people.”
And Aaron remained silent.
4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here and carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and carried them in their tunics outside the camp, as Moses had said.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair hang loose and do not tear your clothes, or else you will die, and the Lord will become angry with the whole community. However, your brothers, the whole house of Israel, may weep over the conflagration the Lord ignited. 7 You must not go outside the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, for the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.
REGULATIONS FOR PRIESTS
8 The Lord spoke to Aaron: 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or beer when you enter the tent of meeting, or else you will die; this is a permanent statute throughout your generations. 10 You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, 11 and teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has given to them through Moses.”
12 Moses spoke to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar: “Take the grain offering that is left over from the fire offerings to the Lord, and eat it prepared without yeast beside the altar, because it is especially holy. 13 You must eat it in a holy place because it is your portion and your sons’ from the fire offerings to the Lord, for this is what I was commanded. 14 But you and your sons and your daughters may eat the breast of the presentation offering and the thigh of the contribution in any ceremonially clean place, because these portions have been assigned to you and your children from the Israelites’ fellowship sacrifices. 15 They are to bring the thigh of the contribution and the breast of the presentation offering, together with the offerings of fat portions made by fire, to present as a presentation offering before the Lord. It will belong permanently to you and your children, as the Lord commanded.”
16 Then Moses inquired carefully about the male goat of the sin offering, but it had already been burned up. He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s surviving sons, and asked, 17 “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? For it is especially holy, and he has assigned it to you to take away the guilt of the community and make atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Since its blood was not brought inside the sanctuary, you should have eaten it in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.”
19 But Aaron replied to Moses, “See, today they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord. Since these things have happened to me, if I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been acceptable in the Lord’s sight?” 20 When Moses heard this, it was acceptable to him.
OLD COVENANT MINISTRY
1 Now the first covenant also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was set up, and in the first room, which is called the holy place, were the lampstand, the table, and the presentation loaves. 3 Behind the second curtain was a tent called the most holy place. 4 It had the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 The cherubim of glory were above the ark overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.
6 With these things prepared like this, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry. 7 But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience. 10 They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of the new order.
NEW COVENANT MINISTRY
11 But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?
15 Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant,,m so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living. 18 That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. 19 For when every command had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.,q 21 In the same way, he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the articles of worship with blood. 22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23 Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves to be purified with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. 25 He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. 26 Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Heb 9:1–28.