The Death of Nadab and Abihu (10:1–20)
8–11 In these verses Moses gives three important instructions to Aaron and his descendants, the future priests. The first was that they should not drink wine or other fermented drink28 when they were serving in the Tent of Meeting, the tabernacle (verse 9). Notice that alcohol was not totally forbidden to the priests, but only when they were serving within the tabernacle.
The second instruction was that they must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean (verse 10). It was these distinctions that set the Israelites apart from the ungodly nations around them. For further discussion of the distinction between holy and common, clean and unclean, see Leviticus 11:1,44–45 and comment.
The third instruction was that the priests were to teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord had given them (verse 11). This was the priests’ greatest responsibility: they were to teach the people about the character and values of God. In other words, the priests needed to teach the people to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), because God intended that the entire nation of Isarel be a light and blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).
12–15 These verses restate some of the previous instructions that have been given concerning the priests’ share of the various offerings (see Leviticus 7:28–36 and comment).
16–18 Moses found out that Aaron and his sons had not eaten the meat of the people’s sin offering that had been offered earlier (Leviticus 9:15) but had burned it all up. It was meant to be eaten by the priests (Leviticus 6:24–26,30), since the blood had not been taken inside the Holy Place (verse 18). So Moses rebuked Aaron and his sons for disobeying his instructions.
19–20 But Aaron, speaking for himself and his sons, explained to Moses that because such things as this had happened to him—that is, the death of his two oldest sons—he felt he and his remaining sons should fast out of respect for the dead and also for God. Because Aaron had given a sincere explanation and had not acted negligently, Moses accepted Aaron’s decision. This shows once again that God places greater importance on a person’s motivation that He does on the exact fulfillment of a ceremonial law.