- The death of Nadab and Abihu, and quieting of Aaron, verse 1-3.
- Orders given to bury them, and not to mourn, verse 4-7.
- A command not to drink wine or strong drink, and to distinguish between holy and unholy, verse 8-11.
- Directions concerning the parts of the burnt-offerings which were to be eaten, verse 12-15.
- Moses reproves the priests, but is pacified by Aaron, verse 16-20.
Strange fire - Fire so called, because not taken from the altar, as it ought, but from some common fire. Before the Lord - Upon the altar of incense. Which he commanded not - Not commanding may be here put for forbidding, as it is, Jeremiah 32:35. Now as this was forbidden implicitly; Leviticus 6:12, especially when God himself made a comment upon that text, and by sending fire from heaven declared of what fire he there spake; so it is more than probable it was forbidden expressly, though that be not here mentioned, nor was it necessary it should be.
From the Lord - From heaven, or rather from the sanctuary. Devoured them - Destroyed their lives; for their bodies and garments were not consumed. Thus the sword is said to devour, 2 Samuel 2:26. Thus lightning many times kill persons, without any hurt to their garments.
The Lord spake - Though the words be not recorded in scripture, where only the heads of discourses are contained, yet it is probable they were uttered by Moses in God's name. Howsoever the sense of them is in many places. I will be sanctified - This may note, either, 1. their duty to sanctify God, to demean themselves with such care, and reverence, and watchfulness, as becomes the holiness of the God whom they serve; whence he leaves them to gather the justice of the present judgment. Or, 2. God's purpose to sanctify himself, to manifest himself to be an holy and righteous God by his severe and impartial punishment of all transgressors, how near soever they are to him. That come nigh me - Who draw near to me, or to the place where I dwell, and are admitted into the holy place, whence others are shut out. It is a description of the priests. I will be glorified - As they have sinned publickly and scandalously, so I will vindicate my honour in a public and exemplary manner, that all men may learn to give me the glory of my holiness by an exact conformity to my laws. And Aaron held his peace - In acknowledgment of God's justice and submission to it. He murmured not, nor replied against God.
Moses called Mishael - For Aaron and his sons were employed in their holy ministrations, from which they were not called for funeral solemnities. Brethren - That is, kinsmen, as that word is oft used. Out of the camp - Where the burying-places of the Jews were, that the living might neither be annoyed by the unwholesome scent of the dead, nor defiled by the touch of their graves.
In their coats - In the holy garments wherein they ministered; which might be done, either, 1. as a testimony of respect due to them, notwithstanding their present failure; and that God in judgment remembered mercy, and when he took away their lives, spared their souls. Or, 2. because being polluted both by their sin, and by the touch of their dead bodies, God would not have them any more used in his service.
Uncover not your head - That is, give no signification of your sorrow; mourn not for them; partly lest you should seem to justify your brethren, and tacitly reflect upon God as too severe; and partly lest thereby you should be diverted from, or disturbed in your present service, which God expects to be done chearfully. But bewail the burning - Not so much in compassion to them, as in sorrow for the tokens of divine displeasure.
Ye shall not go from the tabernacle - Where at this time they were, because this happened within seven days of their consecration. The oil of the Lord is upon you - You are persons consecrated peculiarly to God's service, which therefore it is just you should prefer before all funeral solemnities.
Drink not wine - it is not improbable, that the sin of Nadab and Abihu was owing to this very thing. But if not, yet drunkenness is so odious a sin in itself, especially in a minister, and most of all in the time of his administration of sacred things, that God saw fit to prevent all occasions of it. And hence the devil, who is God's ape, required this abstinence from his priests in their idolatrous service.
Between holy and unholy - Persons and things, which Nadab and Abihu did not.
Ye may teach - Which drunken persons are very unfit to do.
Eat it - Moses repeats the command, partly lest their grief should cause them to neglect their meat prescribed by God, (which abstinence would have been both a signification of their sorrow which God had forbidden them, and a new transgression of a divine precept;) and partly to encourage them to go on in their holy services, and not to be dejected, as if God would no more accept them or their sacrifices.
In the holy place - in the court, near the altar of burnt-offerings.
In a clean place - In any of your dwellings, or any place in the camp, which was kept clean from all ceremonial defilement. In any place where the women as well as the men might come, for the daughters of the priest might eat these as well as their sons, if they were maids, or widows, or divorced, Leviticus 22:11-13.
He was angry with Eleazar - He spares Aaron at this time, as overwhelmed with sorrow, and because the rebuking him before his sons might have exposed him to some contempt; but he knew that the reproof though directed to them, would concern him too. Who were left alive - And therefore ought to have taken warning.
God hath given it to you - As a reward of your service, whereby you expiate, bear, and take away their sins, by offering those sacrifices, by which God through Christ is reconciled to the penitent and believing offerers.
The blood was not brought in - Because Aaron was not yet admitted into the holy place, whither that blood should have been brought, 'till he had prepared the way by the sacrifices which were to be offered in the court.
They have offered - They have done the substance of the thing, though they have mistaken this one circumstance. Such things - Whereby, haying been oppressed with grief, it is not strange nor unpardonable if I have mistaked. Should it have been accepted - Because it was not to be eaten with sorrow, but with rejoicing and thanksgiving.
He rested satisfied with his answer. it appeared, that Aaron sincerely aimed at pleasing God: and those who do so, will find he is not extreme to mark what is done amiss.