Nadab and Abihu were two of the sons of Aaron – Moses brother. They occupied the highest positions in Israel and had many privileges. Although they heard the voice of the Almighty in the Holy mountain and were greatly blessed with Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership, they were not sanctified by these experiences and didn’t fully submit to God.
As they were preparing for the day when they should start their sanctuary service, they assisted their father as he offered sacrifices and brought the blood of the victims to him (Lev. 9:9). They had been fully instructed, and were aware of the sacredness of God’s work. But when the time came for them to officiate, they did that which the Lord their God “commanded them not.”
The two brothers brought a strange fire before God (Leviticus 10:1) which was not from the altar of burnt offering (Leviticus 16:12,13) that God Himself had Kindled. This was a clear disobedient act from their side and they had no excuse for doing it. “So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (v.2)
At the time of the evening sacrifice, when the people were present, God’s judgement took place. God struck Nadab and Abihu and they were found dead. The two brothers failed to heed Moses’ clear instruction in Ex. 19:22 which stated, “Let the priests … sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.” The brothers failed to be humble and obey God.
Aaron’s permissive nature, which was revealed few months previously when he build the alter of Baal, had been the root of his son’s problem. Although the Lord forgave him, the fruits of his sin were manifested in the actions of his sons. After the death of Nada and Abihu, Aaron and his remaining sons were instructed not to rend their clothes or show a disheveled appearance, which was a common custom exhibiting their sorrow. They were not to show displeasure at God’s fair judgment.
In His service,