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Leviticus 10:1-3

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.

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.



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