Leviticus 10

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Read Leviticus 10

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

10 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
    I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
    I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

12 Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering left over from the food offerings prepared without yeast and presented to the Lord and eat it beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 Eat it in the sanctuary area, because it is your share and your sons’ share of the food offerings presented to the Lord; for so I have been commanded. 14 But you and your sons and your daughters may eat the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. Eat them in a ceremonially clean place; they have been given to you and your children as your share of the Israelites’ fellowship offerings. 15 The thigh that was presented and the breast that was waved must be brought with the fat portions of the food offerings, to be waved before the Lord as a wave offering. This will be the perpetual share for you and your children, as the Lord has commanded.”

16 When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering and found that it had been burned up, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons, and asked, 17 “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Since its blood was not taken into the Holy Place, you should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.”

19 Aaron replied to Moses, “Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?” 20 When Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

Go Deeper

All throughout Leviticus, God is giving very specific instructions about what to do and how to do it. In Chapter 9, we see sacrifices offered, praises, and Moses and Aaron blessing the people. At the end of the chapter it says, “The glory of the Lord appeared to all people…and when all the people saw it they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (v. 23-24).

In Leviticus 10, we see two men who decide to do something God did not tell them to do. Aaron’s two oldest sons decide to make their own sacrifice after the one in the previous chapter seemed to go so well. Perhaps they wanted to repeat that holy moment and experience God’s glory. Or maybe they wanted the holy moment, but with themselves as the ones who created it with their offering. Their actions were rash and seemingly reckless.

Whatever their motive, it was explicit disobedience, and they were consumed by fire. They died by the same means by which they sinned. That seems crazy and unfair! But our God is the only one that does not cause confusion, while His ways may not be our ways (Isaiah 5:8), they are always best. In the Old Testament, we see how he speaks and the direction he gives his people to show them what is good and right. His will is explicitly laid out and we see his nature all throughout the Bible. He is a just God and his wrath needed to be satisfied. Luckily for us, we do not need to make ritual sacrifices or worry about the Lord punishing us. He wanted to be in a relationship with us so badly that he poured out his wrath on himself in Jesus. Praise the Lord! He saved us from what we deserve and gave us the gift of a relationship with him through Jesus.


  1. How did you first react to Aaron’s sons being consumed by fire?
  2. Do you think they got what they deserved? How does that make you think of Jesus getting what we deserve for our explicit disobedience?
  3. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about God in the past 10 days of reading Leviticus?

Keep Digging

Interested in learning more about Nadab and Abihu? Check out this article from GotQuestions.org to learn more about them!

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2 thoughts on “Leviticus 10”

  1. When what we read seems harsh and unreasonable, we need to remember that God was crafting a people set apart and holy. Through Moses, he carefully provided guidelines to distinguish right from wrong. Recall Moses’s backstory in Exodus 3 as he had been called to lead the Israelites through a burning bush-holy ground experience. Fire seems to characterize God’s holiness. Thinking of Nadab and Abihu as they had just been commissioned as priests, did pride subtlety creep in tempting them to steal God’s glory? Today as Christ-followers we get the privilege to represent him wherever we go, to shine the light on his character and make known his glorious eternal riches. We, too, are distinctly set apart, commissioned as ambassadors. What a true honor! May we never take it lightly.

  2. Honestly, I was shocked to read of Aaron’s sons death—seeing how they were of the chosen to be priests. But I was not shocked to read why, and the consequences from God. Jesus’ death gave us everlasting life, but his death did not forfeit us having consequences (even death) due to sins. One example is Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5–God struck them down because of lying.
    For me, this passage shows God as a just God. Whether it’s in the NT or OT, God is still sovereign, and doesn’t take lightly to us thinking we are above knowing how to bargain with Him when it comes going against His commandments (or doing what we want to do).
    Thank you, God, for being omnipresent.
    Thank you, for being universally everywhere where there is no veil to separate us from you. We delight in seeking your face beyond the riches of the world. May we go today without hiding our face from thee. In Jesus name

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