11 June 2009

God burns Aaron's sons to death for offering "strange fire"

Here's a nice Bible story for Father's Day.
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. Leviticus 10:1-2
Aaron's sons offered some sort of strange fire to God, and it pissed God off so much that he burned them to death.

I guess the moral of the story is this: Don't play with fire or God will burn you to death. God fights fire with fire.

But I like Moses' explanation even better. Here's what he said to Aaron right after God burned Aaron's sons to death.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. Leviticus 10:3a
God burned Aaron's sons alive so that God would "be sanctified in them" and so that he would "be glorified."

That helps.

Moses warned Aaron not to mourn the death of his sons (by uncovering his head or tearing his clothes) or God would kill him too, along with all the people.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people. Leviticus 10:6
So Aaron did as he was told, and watched in silence as his sons were burned to death by God.
And Aaron held his peace. Leviticus 10:3b
In this story, who the biggest asshole: Moses, Aaron, or God?

Note: I revised this post to include the bit about Moses forbidding Aaron to mourn the death of his sons. Somehow I missed that, and I thank Wise Fool for pointing it out in the comments. (If I'd paid more attention to the Brick Testament story, I would have caught that!)

God's next killing: A blasphemer is stoned to death


Luke said...

Freaking hilarious. The Bible continues to surprise me!

twillight said...

The Lord do not exist, and well, it was "strange fire".
Aron couldn't do anything, and most probably didn't want an argue with his brother who was so arogant and powerful in the stories.
But Moses' reasoning is disturbingly unsympathetic towards Aron.

Brian_E said...

Well clearly God has got to take the asshole cake on this one. Moses and Aaron are simply going insane trying to figure out how this maniac works, so I don't completely blame them.

Anonymous said...

Score another point for god's "love"!


TWF said...

I'm surprised that you didn't include this little tidbit: In Leviticus 10:6 Moses tells Aaron and his sons that if they mourned for Nadab and Abihu, God would kill them.

I think that provides the answer to your final question right there; and the winner is God.

Matthew Blanchette said...

Mmmm-mmmm! Nothing like smoked brothers with a side of latkes cooked up by your favorite schizo tribal diety in time for Father's Day!

Jeepers, God was an angry bastard...

Steve Wells said...

Wise fool,

Yeah, I completely missed that! I'll add something about it later today. Thanks for catching that!

busterggi said...

Does anyone out there know what the apologists use for an explaination of just what was so strange about this fire?

Brendan said...


I think the Chabad site has a good explanation of it. I haven't really trusted them since the Manis Friedman incident (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1091469.html), but they do a great job of explaining some things. If you search "Nadav and Avihu" on their site, you might find something.

GotQuestions.org also has one, but it's downright awful and doesn't do much for me.

busterggi said...


So I clicked on your link and found the top story for today is about an Israeli rabbi who is calling for OT war against the Palestinians including killing their livestock.

I'll pass on the opinion of these loonies thank you.

I Am said...

Well, according to the NETBible, there are at least four possibilities as to why God went all Young-Frankenstein's-monster when he saw Aaron's sons' fire.

1) Using coals that weren't from the altar
2) Using the wrong incense
3) Doing an incense offering at the wrong time
4) Entering the Tabernacle at the wrong time

These are obviously perfectly reasonable excuses for God to kill someone! But seriously, you would think if what they did was really bad enough to be killed over, God or Moses would be more explicit as to what Aaron's sons did wrong to prevent it from angering God again in the future.

Maybe you're on to something, Brian_E. Maybe Moses and Aaron have no clue what's going to tick Yahweh off next. Reminds me a little of "It's a Good Life" from the Twilight Zone. Yahweh is like an omnipotent 6-year-old Billy Mumy who will destroy anything when he doesn't get his way or when everyone isn't praising him enough. Since Steve Wells has suggested that the Bible hints that God is (also) a redhead, I think it works well here!

Brendan said...


#1: Happened awhile ago.
#2: I know. I was pointing out that I don't trust Chabad because of that. That's a bit hypocritical on my part, as it's guilt by association, which I do not believe in, although the response by the rest of the rabbis there was lackluster.

Beyond that, Chaim ibn Attar, a rabbi from the 16&1700s, wrote this explanation of the story:
"[Nadav and Avihu's was] a death by Divine 'kiss' like that experienced by the perfectly righteous--it is only that the righteous die when the Divine 'kiss' approaches them, while they died by their approaching it.... Although they sensed their own demise, this did not prevent them from drawing near [to G-d] in attachment, delight, delectability, fellowship, love, kiss and sweetness, to the point that their souls ceased from them."

Matthew Blanchette said...

That's disturbing. They were being seduced to death?

"Yahweh, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?"

Also, I Am: You may be onto something there, as Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden sounds an awful lot like Billy Mumy sending someone "to the cornfield"... :-S

Brendan said...

Well, Matt, while I admit that's funny and, well, a pretty good response that I was stupid to not think of before I copy/pasted 300 year old Torah commentary... I feel obligated to continue (I can never walk away from something unfinished... sorry).

What it refers to is that Nadav and Avihu's souls were drawn to get closer to God. I'm not entirely clear on the details, but I believe they were unable to resist the desire because they were drunk. when they got too close to the fire, the sheer power of God was too much, and their souls left their body, killing them.

As for God being a redhead... Did it really take you this long to figure it out? Of course he is.

barriejohn said...

I will now amaze you all! I used to be a member of the Plymouth Brethren, and I can tell you that all evangelical Christians really get their knickers in a twist over "Paul`s" exhortation in I Thess. 4, "concerning them which are asleep" (ie dead, deceased, `gone to join the bleedin` choir invisible`, etc!),"that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope..." Now, this is clearly a command from "Paul" forbidding Christians from mourning for their deceased fellow-believers; but they (obviously) find this very human emotion quite impossible to ignore. (What it says about the writer of the original words I can`t imagine!!). Their usual way around it is to quote the verse this way: "That ye sorrow not... as others which have no hope", ie, we don`t mourn as unbelievers do, who have no hope of an afterlife. Sadly, this is not what is being said here at all! The words "sorrow not" represent one word in the original Greek, and well they know it, so the injunction is correct as it stands : "SORROW NOT"!!!

Joseph Michael said...

As I was perusing the above comments it occurred to me that America has become more bankrupt morally and spiritually than financially. Here's a verse from the Old Testament...

2Ch 7:1 ¶ Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.

The fire that was to be used was to be lit by God himself and no other or God is not going to share his glory with another -- especially one of his priests that was to give him glory alone. But this is the problem with people today they don't understand holiness. These sons of Aaron wanted to worship God their way and not God's way.

We see this all the time today so we don't see anything particularly wrong with what they did but they were warned ahead of time and considering all the things that they had seen God to up until that point you would think that they would have just a little bit more sense than to do what they did here.

Le 10:10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;

And this is another reason why these two were devoured by the fire from the Lord. The Lord said that those strange fire or incense shall be offered before the Lord and when he said that he meant it, so when strange fire came in God had no choice but to make that strange fire part of his fire.

As far as not mourning while in the presence of the Lord that is a long-standing commandment that even before Kings one could not appear as a mourner or of sorrow or a heavy heart and yes, the penalty was death. The Bible has plenty of examples and it where family members mourn for one another when they pass away and it's amazing how ignorant people are of something that they are quick to judge when it appears that they have never read that which they judged.

Pr 18:13 ¶ He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

barriejohn said...

Are you Jewish then, meesphht? The reason I ask is that you seem to be following Old Testament teaching here, and completely ignoring the commands of "The Apostle Paul" in the New Testament! Whoever it was who wrote those words in 1 Thess.4 was specifically instructing New Testament believers NOT to mourn those who "sleep in Jesus". The reason he gives is that the Lord was shortly to return, bringing those souls with Him, and so they would all be reunited - living and dead - for eternity. Hence, any believer who mourned the loss of a fellow-believer was demonstrating his lack of belief in the certainty of the Lord's imminent return. This is all quite clear from the passage in question (it can't possibly be interpreted any other way) and I have preached on it many times myself in the past! Where you get the idea that this does not apply to present-day believers I have no idea!!

John Notter Jr. said...

Your ignorance is showing. Skeptics always amaze me in their "know it all" foolishness. The strange fire meant that they used flames to offer incense from a source other than the brazen altar. It has a very simple and prophetic message. God accepts no prayer outside of the work of redemption at the cross. Jesus clearly said that He was the way (to the exclusion of all others) the truth (also to the exclusion of all others) and the life (via the cross alone!) All prayer outside of the priestly intercession of the cross of Christ is worthless and is the offering of "strange fire". So how is your heart with the resurrected one. In one thousand years, you will bless God for for hearing Him or you will remember this little note in sadness. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18

Alan Walters said...

Reading some of these comments all I will say is be very careful God is a Holy God and one day soon we will all stand before Him.

If god says we are to come before Him in a certain way then we had better or face the consequences

Steve Wells said...

... be very careful God is a Holy God and one day soon we will all stand before Him.

If we say the wrong thing, God will burn us to death -- and then he'll bring us back to life and burn us again, forever.

That's quite a God you've got there, Alan!

Jason Dasher said...

The thing about God being Holy is, He doesn't need your approval. He doesn't need you to understand why He does what He does. He gives you the choice of accepting Christ as your savior and having a relationship with Him or not, and His judgment is just because you have been given that choice. There are plenty of examples of things in the Bible that are outside of our 21st century human understand, but roasting God and anyone who believes in Him will not change the truth of His word and the choice you have to make for yourself. Your judgement will be just that, yours. I pray you all find Him, and something better to do with your time.

bshero22 said...

im leaving this forum. there is too much human philosophy, which is always pointless. u want to argue among yourselves about who is right and who is wrong fine, waist your time. But who are you to define what is good and what is evil? Job had his family killed, his business destroyed and his health carried to the doorsteps of death. He had way more reason than any of us to complain about gods decisions. And when he finally got his chance to do it face to face with god...god listend to job, and then....god spoke....and job proceeded to call curses on himself for ever thinking that he should question the will of god. So talk amongst yourselves all you want complaining about god's actions...but when it comes time for you to take your complaint to god face to face....you will be just like job...speechless and embarrassed, in complete awe of the being who gave life to all existence

keepin8s said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

This Story also means that God will destroy who does not obey him. He will give time to repent if not then he will act. So good luck to everyone ..!

jimcags said...

Turn ahead to Leviticus 16. All of the requirements God has for the high priest Aaron seem rather ridiculous. The point of these events is to illustrate how serious God is about His presence/holiness. Our initial reaction is to say how ridiculous God is for killing these two and threatening to kill Aaron if he mourned their deaths. Unfortunately, many people today don't take God's holiness very serious. These men were entering into the very presence of God, and they tried to do it THEIR way. James 4:8-10 says we need to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, and humble ourselves before the Almighty God. The only way to do this is through trusting in God's plan of salvation: Christ dying in our place on the cross. To understand how a holy God feels about sin, all we have to do is look at the brutality/humiliation Jesus suffered on the cross for you and for me. IN CHRIST, we can have COMFORT rather than CONCERN about entering God's presence. 1 John 5:12 - He who has the Son has lift; he who does not have the Son, does not have life. May God help us all as we objectively seek the truth.

Unknown said...

I'm a little late, but Busterggi: when they said "strange fire", they meant that the fire was tainted, unholy (like when they said strange flesh). The fire itself probably isn't the reason why they were killed - it's that they were irreverent of God.

busterggi said...

See above - what was 'strange' about the fire? Seriously, Yahweh is a petty bitch if using the wrong brand of charcoal is a mortal offense.

Unknown said...

I just finished my daily reading of the Bible In A Year study, and this passage was
included. On the surface, it does seem like God is dangerous and irrational. But,
as others above mentioned, God's holiness is not to be taken lightly, and He told them specifically what He wanted to have done. After this happened, and Moses told Aaron and his other sons not to mourn, God spoked directly to Aaron. You would think He would say something about why He killed his sons. The first thing He says is that Aaron and his remaining sons are not to drink before entering the temple to serve God.

After reading this, I wondered if the sons who were killed were drunk at the time.
That could explain why they didn't follow the instructions that they knew were supposed to be followed exactly. God's anger might have been over their attitude
towards the importance of their duties, more than the fact that they didn't follow His instructions. Aaron's other two sons didn't follow God's instructions shortly after the first two son's died, but they were not killed. That leads me to believe that God knew their hearts, and that witnessing the deaths of their brothers had affected their actions. That's just my thought about this passage.

Unknown said...

I feel so sorry for all these people mocking God, Moses and the seriousness of dis-Obeying God . Not doing what God told them to do is what got them killed. When allstand before God on Judgment Day, they will understand but to late.
These people that are making fun of God on here in the comments will see the same thing happen to them unless they get right.

Those making fun of God today are under grace of Jesus Christ or they to would be in the samev trouble now.
However, Because of Jesus sacrificing Himself on the Cross and being raised to life gives them a another chance.
However, Some people never learn. They are the ones that serve the evil one.

Gary2 said...

A few things.

If you read the Jewish oral tradition (the mishnas), these were good young men with a zeal for God (HaShem). The fact that they had no children implies they were in control of themselves sexually. They had a cosuming love for God. But part of their "sin" was entering into the holy of holies - something God doesn't even cover until 6 chapters later (oops).

God knew they would offer the strange fire (fire in the holy of holies not offered on Yom Kippur and not offered by the high priest), but didn't lay the rules out about that until 6 chapters later. So why did he rope-a-dope these young men in? Because that's what he did.

The answer (I believe) is found in Exodus 32 - Aaron was central to the plot to cast the golden calf as a replacement for Moses (or God, depending on interpretation). The death of Aaron's righteous sons is what permitted God (who dispenses justice and mercy to his will) to spare Aaron's life.

It's one thing to think about Nadab and Abihu, but if you think *that's weird, consider
Romans 8:36 - "For your sake we are killed all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.". Numbers 10 applies to two dudes who lived 3500 years ago; Romans 8:36 applies to *me*. Holy cow. Why would God do this to me? Doesn't he love me?

The answer is similar...I feel the death of the righteous works through the heavenly legal system (the kingdom of heaven, in existence now) to allow God to dispense extra grace and time for people who do not have a relationship with him - people like yourself - to reconsider and mend their relationship with him.

As an aside, I believe Nadab and Abihu stand before God's presence to this day and do not hold their deaths against him. This is also weird to think about.

Some final weird things to think about:

John 3:16
Romans 6:23
Romans 10:9-10

Unknown said...

It's frightening to see how our dear Lord is ridiculed by demons. Frightening because even though you blaspheme His holiness, God is with us, loves us, and ultimately judges us. Only He has that right. I do pray that you find God before you die and suffer eternal damnation.