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Leviticus 10:1-11

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. 10:2 So fire went out from the presence of the Lord 3  and consumed them so that they died before the Lord. 10:3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke: ‘Among the ones close to me I will show myself holy, 4  and in the presence of all the people I will be honored.’” 5  So Aaron kept silent. 10:4 Moses then called to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, Aaron’s uncle, and said to them, “Come near, carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 10:5 So they came near and carried them away in their tunics to a place outside the camp just as Moses had spoken. 10:6 Then Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his other two sons, “Do not 6  dishevel the hair of your heads 7  and do not tear your garments, so that you do not die and so that wrath does not come on the whole congregation. Your brothers, all the house of Israel, are to mourn the burning which the Lord has caused, 8  10:7 but you must not go out from the entrance of the Meeting Tent lest you die, for the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they acted according to the word of Moses.

Perpetual Statutes the Lord Spoke to Aaron

10:8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, 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, 9  10:10 as well as 10  to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11  10:11 and to teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them through 12  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 See the note on 9:24a.

4 tn The Niphal verb of the Hebrew root קָדַשׁ (qadash) can mean either “to be treated as holy” (so here, e.g., BDB 873 s.v. קָּדַשׁ, LXX, NASB, and NEB) or “to show oneself holy” (so here, e.g., HALOT 1073 s.v. קדשׁnif.1, NIV, NRSV, NLT; J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:595, 601-3; and J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 133-34). The latter rendering seems more likely here since, in the immediate context, the Lord himself had indeed shown himself to be holy by the way he responded to the illegitimate incense offering of Nadab and Abihu. They had not treated the Lord as holy, so the Lord acted on his own behalf to show that he was indeed holy.

5 tn In this context the Niphal of the Hebrew root כָּבֵד (kaved) can mean “to be honored” (e.g., NASB and NIV here), “be glorified” (ASV, NRSV and NLT here), or “glorify oneself, show one’s glory” (cf. NAB; e.g., specifically in this verse HALOT 455 s.v. כבדnif.3; J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:595, 603-4; and J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 126, 134). Comparing this clause with the previous one (see the note above), the point may be that when the Lord shows himself to be holy as he has done in 10:1-2, this results in him being honored (i.e., reverenced, feared, treated with respect) among the people. This suggests the passive rendering. It is possible, however, that one should use the reflexive rendering here as in the previous clause. If so, the passage means that the Lord showed both his holiness and his glory in one outbreak against Nadab and Abihu.

6 tc Smr has “you must not” (לֹא, lo’) rather than the MT’s “do not” (אַל, ’al; cf. the following negative לֹא, lo’, in the MT).

7 tn Heb “do not let free your heads.” Some have taken this to mean, “do not take off your headgear” (cf. NAB, NASB), but it probably also involves leaving one’s hair unkempt as a sign of mourning (see J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:608-9; cf. NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).

8 tn Heb “shall weep [for] the burning which the Lord has burned”; NIV “may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire.”

9 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).

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

11 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.

12 tn Heb “by the hand of” (so KJV).



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