Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 5: Harmony of the Law, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Leviticus 10:1-7, 12-20
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.
1. Acceperunt autem filii Aharon:, Nadab et Abihu quisque acerram sham, et posuerunt in ipsis ignem, et supposuerunt suffimentum, obtuleruntque eoram Jebova ignem alienum secus quam praeceperat eis.
2. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them; and they died before the Lord.
2. Tunc egressus est ignis a facie Jehova, et mortui sunt coram Jehova.
3. 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. And Aaron held his peace.
3. Et dixit Moses ad Aharon, Hoc est quod dixit Jehova, dicendo, In propinquis meis sanctificabor, et in conspectu totius populi glorificabor, et siluit Aharon.
4. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.
4. Et vocavit Moses, Misael et Elsapham filios Uziel patrut Aharon, et dixit illis, Accedite, exportate fratres vestros a conspectu sanctuarii extra castra.
5. So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.
5. Accesserunt ergo, et exportaverunt eos cum suis tunicis extra castra, quemadmodum praeceperat Moses.
6. 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: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled.
6. Dixit etiam Moses ad Aharon, et Eleazar, et Ithamar, filios ejus, Capita vestra ne nudetis, et vestes vestras ne scindatis, ut non moriamini, ac me in totam congregationem irascatur: fratres autem vestri, tota domus Israel, flebunt incendium qued incendit Jehova.
7. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.
7. Neque ab ostio tabernaculi conventionis egrediemini: ne moriamini: quia oleum unctionis Jehovae est super vos. Et fecerunt secundum verbum Mosis.
12. And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meat-offering that remaineth of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy.
12. Loquutus est autem Moses ad Aharon, et Eleazar et Ithamar filios ejus, qui reliqui erant, Tollite minha quae remansit ex oblationibus ignitis Jehovae et comedite illam cum azymis juxta altare: qnia sanctitas sanctitatum est.
13. And ye shall eat it in the holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons’ due, of the sacrifices of the Lord made by fire: for so I am commanded.
13. Comedetis, inquam, illam in loco sancto: quia in statutum tibi et in statutum iiliis tuis est de oblationibus ignitis Jehovae: quia sic jussus sum.
14. And the wave-breast and heave-shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they be thy due, and thy sons’ due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace-offerings of the children of Israel.
14. Et pectusculum agitationis, et armum elevationis comedetis in loco mundo, tu et filii tui, et filiae tuae tecum: quia in statutum tibi et in statutum filiis tuis data sunt de sacrificiis prosperitatum filiorum Israel.
15. The heave-shoulder and the wave-breast shall they bring, with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave-offering before the Lord; and it shall be thine, and thy sons with thee, by a statute for ever; as the Lord hath commanded.
15. Armurn elevationis, et pectusculum agitationis cure oblationibus ignitis adipum afferent, ut agites agitatione coram Jehova: et hoc erit tibi et filiis tuis tecum in statutum perpetuum, quemadmodum princepit Jehova.
16. And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt: and he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron which were left alive, saying,
16. Et hircum oblatum pro peccato requirendo requisivit Moses, et ecce, combustus erat: tum iratus est contra Eleazar et Ithamar filius Aharon relictos, dicendo:
17. Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?
17. Cur non comedistis oblationem pro peccato in loco sanctitatis? est enim sanctitas sanctitatum, quum illam dederit vobis ad portandum iniquitatem congregationis, et ad expiandum cos eoram Jehova.
18. Behold, the blood of it was not brought in within the holy place: ye should indeed have eaten in theholy place, as I commanded.
18. Ecce, nequaquam illatus est sanguis ejus in sanctitatem intrinsecus: comedendo comedere debueraris illam in sanctuario, quemadmodum praecepi.
19. And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Lord; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?
19. Loquutus est autem Aharon ad Mosen, Ecce, hodie obtulerunt oblationem suam pro peccato, et holocaustum suum coram Jehova: et evenerunt mihi talia, et, si comedissem oblationem pro peccato bodie, nunquid placuisset in oculis Jehovae?
20. And when Moses heard that, he was content.
20. Postquam id audivit Moses: placuit ei.
1. And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron A memorable circumstance is here recorded, from whence it appears how greatly God abominates all the sins whereby the purity of religion is corrupted. Apparently it was a light transgression to use strange fire for burning incense; and again their thoughtlessness would seem excusable, for certainly Nadab and Abihu did not wantonly or intentionally desire to pollute the sacred things, but, as is often the case in matters of novelty, when they were setting about them too eagerly, their precipitancy led them into error. The severity of the punishment, therefore, would not please those arrogant people, who do not hesitate superciliously to criticise God’s judgments; but if we reflect how holy a thing God’s worship is, the enormity of the punishment will by no means offend us. Besides, it was necessary that their religion should be sanctioned at its very commencement; for if God had suffered the sons of Aaron to transgress with impunity, they would have afterwards carelessly neglected the whole Law. This, therefore, was the reason of such great severity, that the priests should anxiously watch against all profanation. Their crime is specified, viz., that they offered incense in a different way from that which God had prescribed, and consequently, although they may have erred from ignorance, still they were convicted by God’s commandment of having negligently set about what was worthy of greater attention. The “strange fire” is distinguished from the sacred fire which was always burning upon the altar: not miraculously, as some pretend, but by the constant watchfulness of the priests. Now, God had forbidden any other fire to be used in the ordinances, in order to exclude all extraneous rites, and to shew His detestation of whatever might be derived from elsewhere. Let us learn, therefore, so to attend to God’s command as not to corrupt His worship by any strange inventions. But if He so severely avenged this error, how horrible a punishment awaits the Papists, who are not ashamed obstinately to defend so many gross corruptions!
3. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake Moses restrains his brother from giving way to excessive grief; for this was a very bitter stroke after their recent joy to see himself at once deprived of two sons on the same day, and at the same moment, he might, too, have been disposed to murmur against God for the cause of their death. Lest, therefore, He should give way to such want of self-control, Moses reminds him that he must submit to the just judgment of God. We shall, however, seek in vain for what is here referred to, 416 “I will be glorified in them that come nigh me.” He had often threatened the priests witlt death if they departed in the least degree from the prescribed rule: He had often set before them the sacredness of their office, lest they should defile themselves by any sacrilegious act; in a word, He had chosen them to be His ministers in holy things, on the condition that they should know themselves to be subject to greater guilt and punishment than the rest of the people. By this consolation, then, Aaron’s grief is quieted, that God had not dealt cruelly with his sons, but had shewn forth in them a just and profitable example, in order that their successors might be more attentive in their duties; for thus should the sentence be paraphrased: In order that I may be glorified before the whole people, I must be sanctified by those of the highest degree and consequence; or, When I shall have been sanctified by the priests themselves, whose dignity is the highest, my glory will shine forth before the whole people. And, in point of fact, although God may punish whole bodies of obscure persons, such lessons have but little effect; but the punishment of men of more noble and illustrious condition draws almost all eyes to the judgments of God. For God is said to be sanctified in us in many ways, whether He shews Himself to be a pitiful or a severe Judge. This declaration, then, is an exhortation to those whom he has dignified with peculiar honor, to walk in fear and trembling; for, since “judgment begins at the house of God,” the greater are the gifts and the higher the pre-eminence is with which any one is blessed, the greater is his obligation to God, and his ingratitude worthy of severer punishment.
3. And Aaron held his peace Much is this silence of Aaron to be applauded, whereby he confessed that his sons were slain by the just judgment of God; for Moses indicates that he yielded to his admonition, and was thus restrained from complaining against. God. Thus Paul teaches us that Scripture is given to teach us patience. (Ro 15:4.) Wherefore, whenever our passions are too much excited, let us learn that this is the best remedy for quieting and repressing them, to submit ourselves to God, and to humble ourselves beneath his mighty hand. David invites us to this by his own example when he says,
“I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.” (Ps 39:9.)
4. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan Lest Eleazar and Ithamar should carry 417 forth the corpses, Moses commanded these others to anticipate them. It may also have been the case that all were stupified by terror. He forbids the father and brothers to mourn their death, not so much in accordance with the law, whereby all except the high priest were permitted to mourn for their own brother, as to prevent this memorable lesson from being obscured by their grief, since thus was the sanctity of their religion magnificently asserted. Nevertheless, God allowed the dead men to be bewailed by the people, lest the recollection of their punishment should too soon be lost.
When he forbids (Aaron 418 and his sons) to go out from the door of the tabernacle, he does not mean so to fix them to that place as to banish them from their own private tents, but he withholds them from all pollution which might have compelled them to desert or interrupt their duty.
12. And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar Lest hereafter the priests should transgress through ignorance, Moses admonishes them of their duty; and perhaps he was moved by some immediate reason to give these particular injunctions rather than any others. As yet they were but little practiced in the observance of the rites; and what had happened to their brethren must have rendered them anxious. Now, this consternation at the death of their brethren might have so confounded their senses, that they could not apply themselves with so much composure as they ought to the service of God; and thus the offering would have been improperly made. Lest, therefore, their grief should so disturb them as to prevent the due performance of their office, he commands them to eat what remained of the meat-offering with the burnt-sacrifices. Whence we gather that he endeavored to prevent them from transgressing on that day in consequence of their minds being occupied by their recent grief. And in order to induce them to obedience, he sets before them the authority of God, to which it was fitting that the priesthood should be subject, as being founded upon it.
16. And Moses diligently sought the goat of the sin-offering Moses had not omitted to tell them what was to be done with the goat; and the sacrifice which he had himself performed, was a visible instruction to them. He had set before them what they should imitate, and this would have been enough even for children. But, as I have said, in such serious matters Moses had not spared labor and care, whereas the sons of Aaron, as if they had neither heard nor seen anything of the sort, pervert the whole order of them, although they had been just before reminded that they had been appointed to keep the charge of God. Perhaps they were impelled to this error by the trouble arising from their grief; but we gather from hence that however exquisite may be the ability of masters and teachers, it may be often fruitless unless they have obedient scholars with retentive memories. And hence also we learn that when God often inculcates the same thing, His labor is not superfluous, because we do not understand what we seem to understand; or what has been clearly shewn to us soon afterwards escapes.
Further from the anger of Moses, which is mentioned in his praise, we may infer that the transgression was no light one, although it was not so severely punished as the presumption of Nadab and Abihu. The excuse which some make for them, or allege in extenuation of their crime, that they thought they were deprived of the right before accorded to them, and therefore abstained through modesty, is refuted by the answer of Aaron himself. It was, therefore, grief alone which impelled them to this error. But the reason why God was more merciful to them than to their brethren, is only known to Himself. Conjectures may, indeed, be advanced; but at last we must come to this, that because God’s judgments are hidden, they are not therefore unjust; but that we must humbly adore their depth into which the minds of men cannot penetrate.
19. And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day Aaron replies that it arose from pious fear that they had not feasted before God, because they would in a manner have defiled the sanctuary by their tears and melancholy, as if he had said, Part indeed of the sin-offering was reserved for our food, but we could not properly partake of it except in cheerfulness and with thanksgiving. The grief arising from his sudden bereavement did not allow of this; but it was not a just defense; for he ought rather to have striven against the feelings of the flesh, so that his domestic calamity should not withhold him from the service of God. But, inasmuch as in his perplexity his fear was deserving of pity, Moses forgives him; and it is said that he was appeased, because he finds less of evil than he supposed.
A. V., “I will be sanctified;” and so also C.’s own version; but he embodies the two clauses. Some, as De Lyra, refer this to Ex 19:22; Others to Ex 29:43. “Some think it was spoken, but not written, as many things beside. Oleaster, Lorinus, Caietan; but,” adds Willet, “they are of this mind, that they may have here some show for their unwritten traditions. Therefore,” he concludes, “without any more circumstance, we find this to have been spoken, Le 8:35, ‘Keep ye the Lord’s charge, that ye die not;’ there they are commanded to observe the Lord’s ordinances, which he gave them, (Junius;) and because Nadab and Abihu did not so, they are punished with death.”
“Se polluassent en portant les corps morts de leurs freres;” should pollute themselves by carrying the dead bodies of their brothers. — Fr. Blunt has a very ingenious conjecture that Mishael and Elzaphan were the very persons “defiled by the dead body of a man,” mentioned in Num. 9:6, 7, and who therefore could not keep the Passover. “The Veracity of the Five Books of Moses.” Art. 14. But surely, out of such a large body of persons, there must have been many deaths daily, and consequently others would have been defiled besides Mishael and Elzaphan.
Added from Fr.