What was the sin of Nadab and Abihu?


By BibleAsk Team

Nadab and Abihu were two sons of Aaron, the high priest of Israel, mentioned in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Leviticus. Their story is a cautionary tale that highlights the seriousness of approaching God with irreverence and disobedience. Their sin, as recorded in Leviticus 10:1-3 (NKJV), serves as a significant lesson for believers about the importance of honoring God’s commands and the consequences of deviating from them.

The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

The incident involving Nadab and Abihu occurs shortly after the consecration of the tabernacle and the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. Leviticus 10:1-3 recounts the event:

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.”’ So Aaron held his peace.”

At first glance, it may seem puzzling why Nadab and Abihu’s actions resulted in such severe consequences. To understand the gravity of their sin, it’s essential to examine the context and significance of their role as priests within the Israelite community.

Nadab and Abihu were not ordinary Israelites; they held the esteemed position of priests, serving in the tabernacle, the sacred dwelling place of God among His people. As priests, they were entrusted with performing rituals and sacrifices according to the precise instructions given by God through Moses. Their duties included offering incense before the Lord, but only in the manner prescribed by God.

However, Nadab and Abihu deviated from God’s commands by offering “profane fire” or “strange fire” before the Lord. This “strange fire” likely refers to fire that was not taken from the altar of burnt offering, as commanded by God (Leviticus 16:12), or it may have involved some unauthorized or inappropriate mixture of elements in their censers. Regardless of the specifics, their actions constituted a blatant disregard for God’s instructions regarding the sacred rituals of worship.

God’s Judgement

God’s response to Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience was swift and severe. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, resulting in their immediate death. This divine judgment demonstrated God’s uncompromising holiness and His expectation that His commands be followed meticulously, especially by those who serve in roles of spiritual leadership and responsibility.

The severity of the punishment meted out to Nadab and Abihu serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of reverence and obedience in approaching God. As the verse following their death emphasizes, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people, I must be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3b).

Additionally, the consequences of Nadab and Abihu’s sin extended beyond their own lives. Their actions not only brought judgment upon themselves but also affected their father Aaron, who was left to mourn the loss of his sons. 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. This tragic event underscored the solemn duty of priests to represent God faithfully and the sobering reality of the impact that disobedience can have on both individuals and the community as a whole.


In conclusion, the sin of Nadab and Abihu was their disobedience and irreverence in offering unauthorized fire before the Lord. This violation of God’s commands led to their untimely deaths and served as a powerful lesson for future generations about the importance of honoring God’s holiness and obeying His instructions, particularly in matters of worship and service.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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