Relationships – Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu

Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

  • Exodus 6:23

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”
When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

  • Exodus 24:1-11

Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.
Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.’”

  • Leviticus 9:22-24

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.

  • Leviticus 10:1-7

The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.

  • Numbers 3:2-4

Aaron was the father of Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died when they made an offering before the Lord with unauthorized fire.)

  • Numbers 26:60-61

A Quote

[Challenge for Leviticus 9:24] ”We of the nonliturgical churches tend to look with some disdain upon those churches that follow a carefully prescribed form of service, and certainly there must be a good deal in such services that has little or no meaning for the average participant—this not because it is carefully prescribed but because the average participant is what he is. But I have observed that our familiar impromptu service, planned by the leader twenty minutes before, often tends to follow a ragged and tired order almost as standardized as the Mass. The liturgical service is at least beautiful; ours is often ugly. Theirs has been carefully worked out through the centuries to capture as much of beauty as possible and to present a spirit of reverence among the worshipers. Ours is often an off-the-cuff makeshift with nothing to recommend it. Its so-called liberty is often not liberty at all but sheer slovenliness. …
“ln the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear.”

  • A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man who Cares

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

We know that Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu were among those who went up the mountain to be in God’s presence.  Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron.  While Aaron was very busy dotting all his “I’s” and crossing all his “T’s”, Nadab and Abihu did some impromptu playing with fire and losing their lives in the process.

To the casual observer, or to those who do not understand the liturgical worship, it seems Aaron’s response to their deaths was cold.  He, Eleazar, and Ithamar could not mourn.  They could not get close to the body.  There were two reasons.  They would become ceremonially unclean, and they had work to do.  Even an emotional outburst toward God, like Aaron saying, “Really?!  For some incense burning?” would have resulted in Aaron being consumed by fire also.  Then the Israelites would have to prepare Eleazar.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

We could infer that the incense burning was more than just something casual.  The incense burning may have been reminiscent of Egyptian false god worship.  Thus the identification of unauthorized fire.  This term could strictly be that it was not the time in the Tabernacle dedication for that part of the liturgy, but there could have been other meanings for the afront to God.  God is also putting His foot down for future generations.  As He tells Moses, God is Holy.  That means He will not put up with sloppy worship.  Since we are as Rev. Tozer says, very sloppy these days, the lethal aspect of poor worship is probably awaiting Judgment Day.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

Everyone working at the Tabernacle remained in ceremonial, liturgical mode.  The people were allowed to mourn.  You wonder if the people made an outcry of “Boys will be boys!”

It seems that Nadab and Abihu were not exactly youngsters, just of the next generation.  Yet, there will be many on Judgment Day who have heard “Boys will be Boys” or to be inclusive “Young people will be young people” as if that is a legitimate excuse.  They will find that their excuse holds no water.  God is Holy.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

We must recognize sin as being sin.  We must confess our sin.  We must repent, and then we do not need to feel the guilt, for that sin has been forgiven.  If we do not truly repent, we will be right back where we were before.

This process of confession should be a part of our prayer life.  We need to realize that God is Holy.  Openly sinning before God and then going back to Him without acknowledging that we messed up is belittling the entire concept of sin.  But hanging onto the guilt is wrong in that once the sin is forgiven, God had forgotten it.  Us not forgetting it is pride on our part.  Remembering the stain may be helpful in not turning back toward that sin, just no guilt as God has forgiven us.

What Have We Learned thus far?

In shifting this section a bit, we have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.

A Closing Prayer

Thank you for being Holy, that attribute that we can never reach while in this earthly body.  You are indeed perfect in every way and we do not measure up.  Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus so that as we take this journey of faith, we can grow to be more like Jesus.  And part of that being more like Jesus is that we need to be serious when it comes to our journey of faith and our relationship with You.  It is indeed a life and death matter.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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