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Nadab and Abihu

Nadab and Abihu

Nadab and Abihu made a fatal, tragic mistake. They were worshipping God, and God struck them dead. What did they do wrong?

Nadab and Abihu's Season of Blessing

Nadab and Abihu could have been priests of God into old age, for they had God's blessing.

  • Later, God chose them for appointment to the priesthood, and made this ministry to him a perpetual statute for them and their progeny (Exodus 28:1, 29:9).
  • After that, God himself participated in their inaugural sacrifice, by sending fire down from heaven to burn the offering (Leviticus 9:1-2,22-24).

One Small Act Ruined Everything

No sooner had they enjoyed this season of blessing, but Nadab and Abibu ruined everything. Just as Adam and Eve were cast from Eden through one small act of eating a forbidden fruit, so Nadab and Abihu spoiled their estate by one small act. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He commanded them not.

And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD
."  

The same heavenly fire, that burst from God's glory in the tabernacle to consume the animal sacrifice, now fell upon the newly appointed priests and in violence they died. What did they do wrong?

Nadab and Abihu's Error is Made Clear

We are left in no doubt about what Nadab and Ahihu did wrong. Their error is clear: They "offered strange fire before the Lord which he had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1). It was a two-fold error:

  • Strange: They offered to God something profane, something not sanctified or made holy, something ordinary and unconsecrated.
  • Presumption: They presumed to do something in worship before God which God had not commanded them to do.

Nadab and Abihu's act was Inexcusable

There was no excuse for the profane act in worship committed by Nadab and Abihu. The censers (firepans) in their possession belonged to the altar, as part of its equipment, and therefore the censers were as sacred as the altar itself (Exodus 38: 3). Each should have guessed that, since his censer was a holy object, only fire from a holy object (the altar) would be suitable to put in the censer.

Mind you, as we shall now see, even had they guessed, they would have been wrong to act upon their guess. It should only have made them afraid to do anything but await the word of the Lord.

Nadab and Abihu's Presumption was Inexcusable

There was no excuse for the presumption that Nadab and Abihu showed in their worship. Nadab and Abihu acted on their own initiative, because they had no commandment or authority from God to act as they did.

They presumed to offer to God something "which he had not commanded them" (Leviticus 10:1).

What did they do wrong? They dared to worship God in a manner which God had not authorised, and for which they had no word from God. Let no one ever dare to act with such presumption!

 

 

Nadab and Abihu's Error Was Not Forgotten

The error of Nadab and Abihu not forgotten, nor should it be. In the census and genealogical records, when Nadab and Abihu are mentioned, a note is made of their error and its consequences. The lesson was to be remembered by future generations and, indeed, is "written for our learning" (Romans 15:4). "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning."

Let us worship God only as we have His word and authority to direct us. Let us not presume to add anything to our worship on our own initiative. (Revelation 22:18-19) Do not forget Nadab and Abihu. The wrath of God is upon all who presume to worship him in a manner has not He commanded.

Scriptures referring to Nadab and Abihu:  (KJV)

 

Exodus 28:1   And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.

  
Leviticus 10:1   And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.

  
Numbers 3:4   And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest's office in the sight of Aaron their father.

  
Numbers 26:61   And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD.

  1 Chronicles 24:2   But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.
 
Jimmy Mathews
Antioch church of Christ
03/02/11



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