Do not drink wine or strong drink
This law following upon the affair of Nadab and Abihu has caused some to think, and not without some reason, that they were drunk with wine or strong drink, when they offered strange fire; and indeed it is hardly to be accounted for upon any other foot that they should do it; but having feasted that day upon the peace offerings, and drank freely, it being the first day of their entrance on their office, they were, it may be supposed, elated and merry, and drank more than they should; wherefore this law was given, to restrain from such a disorderly and scandalous practice; not only wine, which is inebriating, but strong drink also is forbidden, which, as Aben Ezra says, is made either of a sort of wheat, or honey, or dates: and so Kimchi F16 and Ben Melech on the place after him observe, that this includes whatsoever inebriates, besides wine; and that their doctors say, whosoever drinks milk or honey (they must mean some strong liquor extracted from thence), if he enters into the tabernacle he is guilty:
thou nor thy sons with thee;
the Targum of Jonathan adds, as did thy sons, who died by the burning of fire; that is, he and his sons were to avoid drinking wine or strong drink to excess, as his two sons had done, which led them to offer strange fire, for which they suffered death:
when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die;
they might drink wine at other times, in a moderate manner; but it seems by this they were not to drink any at all when they were about to go to service, or to enter into the tabernacle in order to do it: indeed, according to the Jewish canons, every priest that is fit for service, if he drinks wine, it is forbidden him to enter in (to the tabernacle, and so) from the altar (of burnt offering) and inward (into the holy place); and if he goes in and does his service it is profane (unlawful and rejected), and he is guilty of death by the hand of heaven; and he that drinks the fourth part (of a log) of wine at one time, of wine forty days old; but if he drinks less than a fourth part of wine, or drinks a fourth part and stops between, and mixes it with water, or drinks wine out of the press within forty days (i.e. not quite so many days old), though more than a fourth part, he is free, and does not profane his service; if he drinks more than a fourth part of wine, though it is mixed, and though he stops and drinks little by little, he is guilty of death, and his service is profane (or rejected); if he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, he is forbidden to go into the sanctuary; but if he goes in and serves, and he is drunk with the rest of liquors that make drunk, whether of milk or of figs (a strong liquor made of them), he is to be beaten, but his service is right; for they are not guilty of death but on account of wine in the hour of service; and it does not profane service, but being drunken with wine F17: in imitation of this, Heathen priests were forbid wine, and abstained from it, particularly the Egyptian priests; at whom it is said F18, some of them never drink any wine, and others taste but a little of it, because it is said to harm the nerves, to fill the head, or make it heavy, to hinder invention and excite to lust:
[it shall be] a statute for ever throughout all your generations:
even to the coming of the Messiah; and now under the Gospel dispensation, though wine in moderation is allowed Gospel ministers, yet they are not to be given to it; it is a shame to any Christian man to be drunk with wine, and more especially a minister, and still more so when in his service; see ( Ezekiel 44:21 ) .
F16 Sepher Shorashim, Rad. (rkv) .
F17 Maimon. Hilchot Biath Hamikdash, c. 1. sect. 1. 2.
F18 Chaeremon apud Porphyr. de Abstinentia, l. 4. c. 6.