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Leviticus 10:1

Context
Nadab and Abihu

10:1 Then 1  Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan and put fire in it, set incense on it, and presented strange fire 2  before the Lord, which he had not commanded them to do.

Leviticus 10:9-11

Context
10:9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, you and your sons with you, when you enter into the Meeting Tent, so that you do not die, which is a perpetual statute throughout your generations, 3  10:10 as well as 4  to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 5  10:11 and to teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them through 6  Moses.”

1 tn Although it has been used elsewhere in this translation as an English variation from the ubiquitous use of vav in Hebrew, in this instance “then” as a rendering for vav is intended to show that the Nadab and Abihu catastrophe took place on the inauguration day described in Lev 9. The tragic incident in Lev 10 happened in close temporal connection to the Lord’s fire that consumed the offerings at the end of Lev 9. Thus, for example, the “sin offering” male goat referred to in Lev 10:16-19 is the very one referred to in Lev 9:15.

2 tn The expression “strange fire” (אֵשׁ זָרָה, ’esh zarah) seems imprecise (cf. NAB “profane fire”; NIV “unauthorized fire”; NRSV “unholy fire”; NLT “a different kind of fire”) and has been interpreted numerous ways (see the helpful summary in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 132-33). The infraction may have involved any of the following or a combination thereof: (1) using coals from someplace other than the burnt offering altar (i.e., “unauthorized coals” according to J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:598; cf. Lev 16:12 and cf. “unauthorized person” אִישׁ זָר (’ish zar) in Num 16:40 [17:5 HT], NASB “layman”), (2) using the wrong kind of incense (cf. the Exod 30:9 regulation against “strange incense” קְטֹרֶת זָרָה (qÿtoreh zarah) on the incense altar and the possible connection to Exod 30:34-38), (3) performing an incense offering at an unprescribed time (B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 59), or (4) entering the Holy of Holies at an inappropriate time (Lev 16:1-2).

3 tn Heb “a perpetual statute for your generations”; NAB “a perpetual ordinance”; NRSV “a statute forever”; NLT “a permanent law.” The Hebrew grammar here suggests that the last portion of v. 9 functions as both a conclusion to v. 9 and an introduction to vv. 10-11. It is a pivot clause, as it were. Thus, it was a “perpetual statute” to not drink alcoholic beverages when ministering in the tabernacle, but it was also a “perpetual statue” to distinguish between holy and profane and unclean and clean (v. 10) as well as to teach the children of Israel all such statutes (v. 11).

4 tn Heb “and,” but regarding the translation “as well as,” see the note at the end of v. 9.

5 sn The two pairs of categories in this verse refer to: (1) the status of a person, place, thing, or time – “holy” (קֹדֶשׁ, qodesh) versus “common” (חֹל, khol); as opposed to (2) the condition of a person, place, or thing – “unclean” (טָמֵא, tame’) versus “clean” (טָהוֹר, tahor). Someone or something could gain “holy” status by being “consecrated” (i.e., made holy; e.g., the Hebrew Piel קִדֵּשׁ (qiddesh) in Lev 8:15, 30), and to treat someone or something that was holy as if it were “common” would be to “profane” that person or thing (the Hebrew Piel הִלֵּל [hillel], e.g., in Lev 19:29 and 22:15). Similarly, on another level, someone or something could be in a “clean” condition, but one could “defile” (the Hebrew Piel טִמֵּא [timme’], e.g., in Gen 34:5 and Num 6:9) that person or thing and thereby make it “unclean.” To “purify” (the Hebrew Piel טִהֵר [tiher], e.g., in Lev 16:19 and Num 8:6, 15) that unclean person or thing would be to make it “clean” once again. With regard to the animals (Lev 11), some were by nature “unclean,” so they could never be eaten, but others were by nature “clean” and, therefore, edible (Lev 11:2, 46-47). The meat of clean animals could become inedible by too long of a delay in eating it, in which case the Hebrew term פִּגּוּל (pigul) “foul, spoiled” is used to describe it (Lev 7:18; 19:7; cf. also Ezek 4:14 and Isa 65:4), not the term for “unclean” (טָהוֹר, tahor). Strictly speaking, therefore, unclean meat never becomes clean, and clean meat never becomes unclean.

6 tn Heb “by the hand of” (so KJV).



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