and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering, and the fat; according to Aben Ezra, the burnt offering of Aaron, and of the people, and of the daily sacrifice, for so it is written, besides the burnt offering of the morning, Leviticus 9:17 and the fat of the calf and ram of Aaron, and of the goat, ox, and ram of the people, which though they were laid upon the altar at the time of their offering, yet it is thought by some they were not burnt till now: it is a conjecture of Bishop Patrick's, that this burnt offering was the burnt offering of the evening sacrifice, which was consumed by the fire from the Lord; he supposes that the offering of the above sacrifices had taken up the whole day, from the time of the morning sacrifice until the evening; and that all the other sacrifices were burnt with common fire, but this with fire from the Lord; but then, what was the fat that was consumed? however, this was a token of acceptance; in like manner as it descended on the sacrifice of Abel, as is thought, Genesis 4:4 and on the sacrifices offered at the dedication of the temple, 2 Chronicles 7:1 and on the burnt sacrifice of Elijah, 1 Kings 18:38 testifying the divine approbation and acceptance of them: for though in the mystery, the fire may design the wrath of God as a consuming fire, which was very distressing to Christ, and brought him to the dust of death; yet, with respect to the persons for whom this sacrifice was offered, it denotes acceptance of it, that it was an offering by fire, and of a sweet smelling savour to God, his law and justice being satisfied, and having honour done them: concerning this fire, and the perpetual burning of it; see Gill on Leviticus 6:12, Leviticus 6:13. The Heathens, in imitation of this, have pretended to have fire come down also from heaven on their altars, as the Brahmans, among the Indians, taken notice of in the above note. And so Solinus (h) speaks of the Vulcanian hill in Sicily, where they that serve in sacred things lay wood of vines on the altar, but put no fire; and if God is present (and so the sacrifice is approved) the branches, though green, will take fire of themselves, and a flame is kindled by the deity sacrificed to, no one setting them on fire. And Servius says (i), that with the ancients fires on altars were not kindled, but they procured a divine fire by their prayers, which kindled on the altars; but these were mere pretences, and juggling tricks, in which they were assisted by Satan to vie with this wonderful appearance of God in the acceptation of the sacrifice of his people:
which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces; Aaron blessing them, and the appearance of the glory of God unto them, no doubt, gave them joy and pleasure, as the spiritual blessings by Christ, and the gracious presence of God do to his people, Psalm 103:1 but what filled them with joy unspeakable was the acceptance of their sacrifices, as typical of the sacrifice of Christ, and atonement by it, which made them shout, and the court to ring with it; and yet fell down on their faces with all reverence and humility, under a sense of the divine Majesty being so near unto them, in this sensible token of his presence.
(h) Polyhistor. c. 11. (i) In Virgil. Aeneid. l. 12. ver. 200.
INTRODUCTION TO Leviticus 10
This chapter begins with the sin and punishment of two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 10:1 for whose death Aaron and his sons are commanded not to mourn, nor to depart from the tabernacle, Leviticus 10:6 and an order is given, prohibiting the priests from drinking wine when they went into it, Leviticus 10:8 the law of eating holy things, both those that were more, and those that were less holy, is enjoined, Leviticus 10:12 and the flesh of the sin offering not being eaten, but burnt, Aaron's sons are blamed for it, for which he makes an apology to the satisfaction of Moses, Leviticus 10:16.
took either of them his censer; a vessel in which coals of fire were put, and incense upon them, and burnt it, and so it follows:
and put fire therein, and put incense thereon; which, as Aben Ezra says, was on the eighth day, that is, of their consecration, the day after their consecration was completely finished, and the same day that Aaron had offered the offerings for himself and for the people, see Leviticus 9:1,
and offered strange fire before the Lord; upon the golden altar of incense, which stood in the holy place right against the vail, within which were the ark, mercy seat, and cherubim, the symbol and seat of the divine Majesty: this fire was not that which came down from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice, as related at the end of the preceding chapter Leviticus 9:24, but common fire, and therefore called strange; it was not taken off of the altar of burnt offering, as it ought to have been, but, as the Targum of Jonathan, from under the trivets, skillets, or pots, such as the flesh of peace offerings were boiled in, in the tabernacle:
which he commanded not; yea, forbid, by sending fire from heaven, and ordering coals of fire for the incense to be taken off of the altar of burnt offering; and this, as Aben Ezra observes, they did of their own mind, and not by order. It does not appear that they had any command to offer incense at all at present, this belonged to Aaron, and not to them as yet; but without any instruction and direction they rushed into the holy place with their censers, and offered incense, even both of them, when only one priest was to offer at a time, when it was to be offered, and this they also did with strange fire. This may be an emblem of dissembled love, when a man performs religious duties, prays to God, or praises him without any cordial affection to him, or obeys commands not from love, but selfish views; or of an ignorant, false, and misguided zeal, a zeal not according to knowledge, superstitious and hypocritical; or of false and strange doctrines, such as are not of God, nor agree with the voice of Christ, and are foreign to the Scriptures; or of human ordinances, and the inventions of men, and of everything that man brings of his own, in order to obtain eternal life and salvation.
and devoured them; not reduced them to ashes, for neither their bodies nor their clothes were burnt with this fire, as is clear from Leviticus 10:4 but their lives were destroyed, they were lifeless, their souls were separated from their bodies by it, and they died; which is often the case by the lightning, that the clothes of those who are killed with it are untouched, and scarce any marks of violence on their bodies; and so the Targum of Jonathan says of these, their bodies were not burnt:
and they died before the Lord; upon the spot where they were offering incense, in the holy place, over against the most holy place. This was very awful, like the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and may seem severe: it was for the terror of others in the priesthood, or who should come after, to take care that they performed their office according to the divine precepts, and brought in no innovation into their service. And when it is considered that these were the sons of the high priest, newly invested with an high and honourable office, and just had the laws of the priesthood delivered unto them, and yet deviated from them as soon as in their office, and very probably, from what follows, went drunk into their service, their sin will appear aggravated, and the punishment less severe. This shows there is nothing in carnal descent, these were the sons of Aaron the high priest, that acted this part, and came to this end; the proneness of men to transgress the laws of God as soon as given them; thus the people of Israel fell into idolatry as soon as the moral law was given; and here the priests, as soon as the ceremonial laws, relating to the priesthood, were delivered to them; and also that the law made sinful men priests, and that the Levitical priesthood was imperfect; and that no order of men are free from sin, or exempt from punishment: and the whole of the divine conduct in this affair may lead us to observe how jealous God is in matters of worship; how much he dislikes hypocrites, and formal professors; how severe he will be against such who bring in strange doctrines; what will be the fate of the contemners of Gospel doctrines and ordinances; and how much he resents those who trust in themselves, and their works, and bring in anything of their own in the business of salvation, which is strange fire, sparks of their own kindling, a burning incense to their own drag, and sacrificing to their own net.
this is it that the Lord spoke, saying; but when he spoke it, and where it is said and recorded, is not so very clear; it might have been said, and yet not recorded, or the substance of it may be recorded, though not in the express words here delivered; it may refer, as some think, to Exodus 19:22 or else to Exodus 29:43 which seems to come nearest to what follows, so Jarchi:
I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me; in the priests that drew nigh to him, and offered sacrifice and burnt incense to him; by these he expected to be sanctified, not to be made holy, but to be declared to be so, and obeyed and worshipped as such; as he is, when his commands and ordinances are observed, as he would have them be, in faith and fear, which were not done by these sons of Aaron; and therefore the Lord, by the punishment he inflicted, showed himself to be an holy, righteous, and jealous God:
and before all the people I will be glorified; as he is when he is believed and trusted in; when his worship is carried on in his own house, according to his will; when his ordinances are kept as they were delivered, and when he is reverenced in the assembly of his saints; all which were wanting in this case. And this may also have respect to the glory of divine justice, in the public punishment of the sin of those men, that since he was not glorified by them before the people in the way of their duty, he would glorify himself in their punishment:
and Aaron held his peace: was in a stupor, as the Septuagint, quite amazed, thunderstruck, as we say; he was silent, said not one word against what was done; murmured not at the providence, nor complained of any severity, but was patient under the hand of God, and resigned to his will; and since God was sanctified and glorified, he was contented.
and said unto them, come near; it is very probable they were in the court of the tabernacle, being Kohathites, of the tribe of Levi; but not being priests, had no right to go into the holy place, where the two sons of Aaron lay dead, without a special order for it, which they here had for this time, and upon this occasion:
carry your brethren from before the sanctuary, out of the camp; the sons of Aaron are called their brethren, though but cousins, it being usual to call any relations brethren, and even if only of the same tribe, yea, of the same nation. Now these were ordered to take the dead bodies of Aaron's sons out of the holy place, and out of the tabernacle, even from before it, which, as Aben Ezra says, was the court over against the camp; and they were to carry them out of the camp into some field, or place adjacent, and there bury them; it not being usual in those times to bury in cities and towns, and much less in places devoted to sacred worship, as the tabernacle was; and therefore they were carried from both the sanctuary and the camp: it is an observation of Aben Ezra, that"some say the incense was before the altar of burnt offering, and the Levites entered there;''but if by incense is meant the altar of incense, the place where these sons of Aaron offered theirs, that was in the holy place, and not in the court, where stood the altar of burnt offering: but they seem to mean as if their incense was offered in another place, and not on the altar, somewhere in the court, and before you come to the altar of burnt offering; and so the persons Moses called could come in thither, and take up their bodies there fallen: but the same writer observes, that others say, that"it was upon the altar of incense (i.e. that their incense was offered), and Moses brought them out of the tabernacle of the congregation,''and then called these men to carry them from thence without the camp.
and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said; or bid them do; they took them up in their clothes as they found them, and carried them in them; not that these men carried them in their own coats, but in the coats of the dead, as Jarchi expresses it; and had them without the camp, and there buried them, probably in their coats in which they had sinned, and in which they died: the Targum of Jonathan says, they carried them on iron hooks in their coats, and buried them without the camp.
uncover not your heads; that is, do not take off your mitre, as the Septuagint version; or the bonnets which they wore in the time of their ministry; for the Jewish priests always had their mitres and bonnets on when they sacrificed; in imitation of which, the Heathens had their heads covered when they offered their sacrifices (k): now it was the way, or custom of a mourner, as Ben Melech observes, to remove his mitre, bonnet, or tiara, from his head; but in this case, that no sign of mourning might be shown, Aaron and his sons are forbid to uncover the head: the Targum of Onkelos is,"do not increase the hair,''or nourish it, or suffer it to grow, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom interpret it: now in times of distress and mourning they used to let the hair grow, whether on the head or beard, see 2 Samuel 19:24 and in this the Jews were imitated by the Egyptians, contrary to other nations; the priests of the gods in other places, says Herodotus (l), took care of their hair (or wore their hair), in Egypt they are shaved; with others the custom is, for the head immediately to be shaved at funerals; but the Egyptians, at death, suffer their hair to grow in the parts before shaved; but this custom with the Jews, though at other times used, is here forbid Aaron and his sons:
neither rend your clothes, which was sometimes done at the report of the death of near relations, as children, in token of mourning, Genesis 37:34 but here it is forbid, that there might be no sign of it: it is a particular word that is here used: Ben Melech says, there is a difference between rending and tearing; tearing is in the body of a garment where there is no seam, but rending (which is what is here meant) where there is a seam: the priests rending their garments was after this manner, according to the Jewish canons (m),"an high priest rends below and a common priest above;''that is, as one of their commentators (n) interprets it, the former rends the extreme part of his garment next the feet, and the latter at the breast near the shoulder; but in this case no rent at all was to be made:
lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people; so very provoking to God would be any signs of mourning in Aaron and his sons, on this account:
but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled: though Aaron and his sons might not mourn on this occasion, the whole body of the people might, though not bewail so much the death of the persons, as the cause of it; and be concerned for the awful judgment of God, and for the wrath that was sone forth, lest it should proceed and destroy others also, all being sinners.
(k) "Purpureo velare comas", &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 3. Vid. Kipping. Rom. Antiqu. l. 1. c. 12. sect. 17. p. 495. (l) Euterpe sive, l. 2. c. 36. (m) Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5. (n) Bartenora in ib.
for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you; a learned man (o) infers from hence, that this affair happened within the days of consecration, they being every day afresh anointed with oil, at least had it, with the blood of the sacrifices, sprinkled on them, on their garments, taking it in the strict sense, for the oil being still upon them; whereas it seems only to signify, that inasmuch as they were consecrated with oil to the priest's office, they were under obligation to continue and perform their service without being let or hindered by what had happened:
and they did according to the word of Moses; they showed no tokens of mourning on account of the dead, and did not offer to go out of the tabernacle and leave their service.
(o) Clayton's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 353.
thou nor thy sons with thee; the Targum of Jonathan adds, as did thy sons, who died by the burning of fire; that is, he and his sons were to avoid drinking wine or strong drink to excess, as his two sons had done, which led them to offer strange fire, for which they suffered death:
when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; they might drink wine at other times, in a moderate manner; but it seems by this they were not to drink any at all when they were about to go to service, or to enter into the tabernacle in order to do it: indeed, according to the Jewish canons, every priest that is fit for service, if he drinks wine, it is forbidden him to enter in (to the tabernacle, and so) from the altar (of burnt offering) and inward (into the holy place); and if he goes in and does his service it is profane (unlawful and rejected), and he is guilty of death by the hand of heaven; and he that drinks the fourth part (of a log) of wine at one time, of wine forty days old; but if he drinks less than a fourth part of wine, or drinks a fourth part and stops between, and mixes it with water, or drinks wine out of the press within forty days (i.e. not quite so many days old), though more than a fourth part, he is free, and does not profane his service; if he drinks more than a fourth part of wine, though it is mixed, and though he stops and drinks little by little, he is guilty of death, and his service is profane (or rejected); if he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, he is forbidden to go into the sanctuary; but if he goes in and serves, and he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, whether of milk or of figs (a strong liquor made of them), he is to be beaten, but his service is right; for they are not guilty of death but on account of wine in the hour of service; and it does not profane service, but being drunken with wine (q): in imitation of this, Heathen priests were forbid wine, and abstained from it, particularly the Egyptian priests; at whom it is said (r), some of them never drink any wine, and others taste but a little of it, because it is said to harm the nerves, to fill the head, or make it heavy, to hinder invention and excite to lust:
it shall be a statute for ever throughout all your generations: even to the coming of the Messiah; and now under the Gospel dispensation, though wine in moderation is allowed Gospel ministers, yet they are not to be given to it; it is a shame to any Christian man to be drunk with wine, and more especially a minister, and still more so when in his service; see Ezekiel 44:21.
(p) Sepher Shorashim, Rad. (q) Maimon. Hilchot Biath Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 1. 2. (r) Chaeremon apud Porphyr. de Abstinentia, l. 4. c. 6.
and between unclean and clean; between unclean men and women, beasts and fowls, and clean ones; and between unclean things in a ceremonial sense, and those that are clean, which a man in liquor may be no judge of: hence, as the above writer observes, after this section follow laws concerning fowls clean and unclean, the purification of a woman after childbirth, the leprosy in men, garments and houses, and concerning profluvious and menstruous persons; all which the priests were to be judges of, and therefore ought to be sober.
which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses: particularly those delivered and recorded in Exodus 20:1 and as not the priests, so neither any other Israelite might instruct (s), nor indeed would be capable of instructing others when in liquor; and therefore excessive drinking, as it should be carefully avoided by all men, so more especially by those who by their office are teachers of others; see Proverbs 31:4.
(s) Maimon. Hilchot Biath Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 3.
take the meat offering that remaineth of the offerings of the Lord made by fire; for all but the handful that was burnt of that kind of offerings belonged to the priests, see Leviticus 6:14 this meat offering, according to Jarchi, was the meat offering of the eighth day, that is, of the consecration, or the day after it was finished, on which the above awful case happened, Leviticus 9:17 and also the meat offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, who offered his offering first at the dedication of the altar, on the day the tabernacle was set up, which he supposes was on this day, see Numbers 7:1, now these meat offerings were not as yet eaten, and which may be true of the first of them, wherefore Aaron and his sons, notwithstanding their mourning, are bid to take it:
and eat it without leaven beside the altar: the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle, as directed See Gill on Leviticus 6:16,
for it is most holy: and so might be eaten by none but holy persons, such as were devoted to sacred services, and only in the holy place, as follows; within hangings, where the most holy things were eaten, as Jarchi, that is, within the court of the tabernacle, which was made of hangings.
because it is thy due, and thy sons' due, of the offerings of the Lord made by fire; and not any others; neither his wife nor his daughters, nor any other related to him, or whom he might invite, as in other cases, might eat of it; this none but he and his sons might eat of, and nowhere else but in the sanctuary:
for so I am commanded; to make known and declare this as the will of God.
thou and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee; these were not restrained to him and his sons only, as the meat offerings, and the flesh of the sin offerings were, but were common to the whole family:
for they be thy due, and thy sons' due; for their service of the sanctuary, and by the appointment and direction of the Lord:
which are given out of the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel: of which see Leviticus 7:1 these are said to be "given out" of them, for the whole was not given, only the breast and shoulder; and after the fat was burnt, the rest belonged to the owners, with which they kept a feast of joy and thankfulness.
(t) Zebachim: c. 5. sect. 6. & Bartenora in ib.
with the offerings made by fire of the fat: upon the inwards, kidneys, and caul of the liver, which was all burnt:
to wave it for a wave offering before the Lord, the shoulder was lifted up, and the breast waved to and fro before the Lord of the whole earth, and towards the several parts of it, to show and own his right to all they had, and then they were given to the priests as a token of it:
and it shall be thine, and thy sons with thee; both the shoulder and the breast:
by a statute for ever, to be observed as long as the ceremonial law and Levitical priesthood lasted, even to the end of the Jewish age and economy, and the coming of the Messiah:
as the Lord hath commanded; Leviticus 7:33.
and, behold, it was burnt: as they had no appetite to it themselves, they burnt it, that it might not be eaten by any others, for none but they might eat it, and that it might not corrupt:
and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, which were left alive; when their two elder brothers were killed with lightning for doing what was not commanded, which should have made them more observant of the laws of God, to do that which was commanded them: and though they were spared, and survived their brethren, yet they transgressed, in burning the sin offering of the people, when they should have eaten it. Jarchi observes, that he expressed his anger not to Aaron, but to his sons, which he did for the honour of Aaron, laying the blame not on him, who was overwhelmed with grief, but on his sons:
saying; as follows.
and God hath given it to you, to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? for by eating the sin offering, or sin itself, as it is in the original text, see Hosea 4:8 they made the sins of the people, for whom the offering was, in some sense their own; and they bore them, and made a typical atonement for them; in which they were types of Christ, who was made sin for his people, took their sins upon him, and by imputation they were made his own, and he bore them in his own body on the tree, and made full satisfaction and atonement for them. Now since the eating of the sin offering of the people was of so great importance and consequence, the neglect of it by the priests was very blameworthy.
ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded, Leviticus 6:26.
behold, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; that is, the people of Israel had brought a kid of the goats for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb for burnt offering, and he and his sons assisting him, had offered them for them, even on the very day his two eldest sons were removed by death in an awful manner:
and such things have befallen me; at this very time, soon after the above sacrifices were offered, happened the death of his two sons, which occasioned great anguish and distress, grief and sorrow, so that he could not eat of the sin offering; he had no appetite for it, and if he had, he thought in his present circumstances it would not have been right, as follows:
and if I had eaten the sin offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord? he being a mourner. The Jews say (u), an high priest may offer, being a mourner, but not eat; a common priest may neither offer nor eat; and which they illustrate by this passage, that Aaron offered and did not eat, but his sons did neither.
(u) Misn. Horayot, c. 3. sect. 5. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.