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The judgment of Nadab and Abihu: Leviticus 10
The judgment of Nadab and Abihu
Leviticus 10

In Leviticus 10 we read of a shocking incident in the life of Aaron and his family- for at the climax of his and his sons ordination ceremony, as priests for the nation of Israel (described in Leviticus 8-9 and culminating in a wonderful manifestation of the Lord's glorious presence), two of Aaron's sons are struck dead by the Lord.

At first blush, God's response seems a touch harsh-- for we think to ourselves "Isn't God a God of second and third and fourth and fifth chances?"

There is no doubt about God's mercy and love-- for His greatest expression of it was the sending of Jesus to Earth to die on the cross for our sins and to take upon Himself the punishment that we deserve-- that we might have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. However, every once in a while, in dramatic fashion-- and for good reason-- we are reminded in our Bibles that God is HOLY and that sin against Him is a very serious thing.

READ ACCOUNT-- noting once again that the events of Leviticus 10 come at the climax of Aaron and his sons ordinations as priests for the nation. (Note Lev. 9:4, 23-24)



What did they do that was so wrong?

In order to make sense of God striking Nadab and Abihu dead - by fire in front of the entire nation of Israel-- on what had otherwise been an awesome and inspiring day, we have to figure out what they did that was so wrong.

Verse 1 tells us! READ "unauthorized fire"

For weeks and months (it took 7 months to build the Tabernacle) Aaron and his sons had been instructed by Moses on how to conduct themselves as priests before the Lord. Over and over again it would have been reiterated how important it was to do everything just as God instructed.

Why in the world-- after all the teaching and instruction about how God was to be revered did two of Aaron's sons think that they could all of a sudden do their own thing and approach God as they wanted?

To make matters worse, Abihu and Nadab disobeyed and dishonored God publicly in full view of everybody. THIS IS A BIG POINT-- Abihu and Nadab's public and shameless disobeying of God's regulations for how to approach Him was a big sin. This leads us to the key verse of Leviticus 10. In this key verse the sin of Abihu and Nadab is made crystal clear.

Leviticus 10:3 says; ""Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored."


: A possible contributing factor to their willful disrespecting of God. Read: v.8-9

People do and say a lot of stupid things when they get drinking. The inference of the text is that Abihu and Nadab had been "in the sauce" a little too long.

Here in this text God specifically tells Aaron and his sons and all future generations of priests that the consumption of wine or other fermented drink was not to occur while on duty.

While the Bible doesn't condemn the drinking of alcohol-- it speaks strongly against being drunk (Eph. 5:18)-- for we are to be Spirit controlled people, not alcohol controlled people. The Bible also speaks very clearly about our example: We are not to cause someone to stumble into sin by the examples that we set. So, if you drink alcohol, be careful who you drink - no matter how moderately-- in front of. Further, if you know that drinking offends someone because of their convictions, past, etc, don't go out of your way to harass them with your liberty-- for this would be a sin.

Now that we've explored the sins of Abihu and Nadab I hope you can see that God was not out of line when he judged Abihu and Nadab. God was not overreacting!

Why do we think that God's judging of sin is an overreaction on his part? Why do we suppose that God is harsh?

-It's because we tend to miminize our actions.
-It's because our hearts are deceitful and we don't see how sinful we really are in the light of God's glory
-It could be because we have a warped view of what justice really is
-It's because we have a low view of God, His glory, His holiness, His standards.

We must remember that God is our judge. He is our Creator. He is our King. He is holy. He is our sustainer. God does not over react to sin. He cannot and does not and never will relax His holy Standards. Every judgment of His is true and just


As noted, the key verse of Leviticus 10 is verse 3. In verse 3 God speaks of his holiness.

The holiness of God is a core attribute of who God is. God is holy. God is without fault. He is pure in every way and without sin.

Psalm 99:5 says; "Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy."

Isaiah 6:1-3 says; "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

The scene of Isaiah 6:3 is mirrored in Revelation 4:8; which says; "Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Since God is holy: He expects us to be. This is his call "Be holy as I am holy" 1 Peter 1:15. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 likewise says; "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life."

3. The expected response to God's holiness is to HONOR Him v.3b

-respect, reverence,
-impacting the way we speak and act
-showing up in how we use our time, our giving, our serving, our treatment of others who bear His image
-seen in our seeking to be like Christ in our character, our conduct, our relationships


4. In the judgment of Abihu and Nadab we are also reminded that one cannot approach God however they feel

We live an age in which many paths to God are proclaimed, the mantra being "As long as one is sincere in what they are doing"

Sincerity and zeal when they are misplaced is still wrong. In Proverbs 19:2 it says; "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." Paul, In Romans 10:1-3 likewise says; "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."

The Bible teaches us that there is one way to be saved/one way to be reconciled to God/one way to come to have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life

The entire sacrificial system found its fulfillment in Jesus and his once for all sacrifice-- as a substitute in our place for our sin.

Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,"

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved"


KEY: These parallels reiterate God's declaration that; "Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all people I will be honored" Leviticus 10:3

a. Uzzah reaching out to try to stop the Ark from falling on the ground 2 Samuel 6

Issues: Ark was being transported the wrong way (God had given specific instructions on how to carry it). It would have been it fallen on the ground then have been touched directly by a sinful person (for the ground would not defile it)

b. Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11

The sin of lying to the Holy Spirit. Read text.



We are called to live a holy life. We need to take it seriously. We are also reminded, as C.S Lewis wrote in his children's story that God- therein portrayed as a lion, "is not a tame lion" (From The Chronicles of Narnia)

The amazing thing is: How seldom God acts in the way that our sins warrant. The irony is: When He does act: everyone's 'put out'


Let us thank God for His great mercy and the forgiveness of sins that can be had in Christ while

Let us be found giving him the worship and honor that He is worthy of--- not as slaves, but as His children and friends.