Leviticus 8-10
(Ordination of the First Priests)
January 30th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print-friendly version

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and told them to take a ritual bath. He put the shirt and the robe on Aaron and the sash round his waist. He put the ephod on him and fastened it by putting its finely woven belt round his waist. He put the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in it. He placed the turban on his head, and on the front of it he put the gold ornament, the sacred sign of dedication, just as the LORD had commanded him.

- Leviticus 8:6-9 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

As described in earlier chapters, the Israelites had escaped from their slavemasters in Egypt and had been living in the desert under the protective wing of their Creator. The LORD provided food, water, and instructions for living. He guided the people regarding how to build their first worship center, which was a mobile tabernacle with ornate furnishings. In yesterday's reading we read the manual for sacrifice. This orientation was an important milestone on the critical path for establishing priests because it was necessary to define these rules before ordaining the priests that would carry them out. Today's chapters represent one of the few sections of narrative in the book of Leviticus. Our first chapter begins with the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests while the last chapter for today ends with the death of two of the sons for not following the principles and rules of their role.

Chapter 8 describes how Moses dressed the priest candidates in their special clothing, anointed the tabernacle, and presented sacrifices on their behalf. Moses served as the interim priest appointed by God to ordain Aaron as the high priest and his sons as priests with a distinct separation of duties. The candidates were told to remain in the tabernacle for seven days to complete the ordination process. ďSo Aaron and his sons did everything the LORD commanded through Moses (Lev 8:36 - NIV).Ē

In chapter 9, the priests begin their ministry. Aaron offered sacrifices for himself and then for the people. In each case, he began with the sin offering followed by the burnt offering and the fellowship offering. When they were done, the LORD responded: "Fire blazed out from God and consumed the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the fat pieces on the Altar. When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence. (Lev 9:24 - MSG)."

God used fire to demonstrate his pleasure and to serve punishment as needed. Chapter 10 records the end of the short career of the priests Nadab and Abihu. The first two verses note that

    Aaronís sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers and, putting incense on the fire they had set in them, they offered before the LORD unauthorized fire, such as he had not commanded.

    Fire therefore came forth from the LORDís presence and consumed them, so that they died in the LORDís presence.

    - Leviticus 10:1-2 (NAB)

The set of rules that they broke was probably larger than what is initially gleaned from these verses. The ever-present flame was created by God and was not to be polluted with fire from some other source. Furthermore, the LORD had assigned the high priest specific roles for adding incense, as described in Exodus:

    ďAaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it"

    -Exodus 30:7-9 (NIV)

From that point forward, the other two sons of Aaron. Eleazar and Ithamar, carried the priestly responsibilities with their father, Aaron, and were careful to follow God's explicit instructions.

Reflection and Application

Note that in chapter 9 when the people saw the fire generated by God they bowed down (fell down) in reverence. The act of falling down in this type of situation is one of the biblical examples of demonstrating fear of the LORD. The people were in awe of God's power and showed proper reverence. We will see this same reaction by other people of faith in future chapters.

By contrast, Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron, showed no fear of the LORD and disregarded his instructions. Their punishment was commensurate with the expectations of a higher standard for spiritual leaders of the people. They had broken the chain of command by assuming the duties of the high priest and they had performed the duty the wrong way by using unauthorized fire. Moreover, itís possible that they made this grievous error while intoxicated. The rationale for this assumption is that the very next section describes a prohibition on drinking while on duty at the tabernacle (all the other rules for priestly duty had already been defined). The boys were drunk on wine or other spirits and were drunk with power. Their punishment served as a reminder of the seriousness of their job and the importance of total submission and obedience.

The garments worn by the priests symbolized their special role and were intended to represent the importance of God, not of the people wearing them. For example, the Ephod is a special ornamental apron. In Exodus we read that it was made with "gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen (Exodus 28:6 - NIV)." You can see an artistic depiction of Aaron with his Ephod in a painting by the British artist William Etty (10 March 1787 Ė 13 November 1849), which is currently on exhibit at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne & Wear, UK. If you can't make it there you can also view it on the Bridgeman Images website by clicking the following link: "Aaron the High Priest"

It's possible that Nadab and Abihu had an inflated sense of importance after being dressed in these finely crafted garments. It's important for all of us to remain humble; regardless of how well-dressed we might be at any moment. Note the order of sacrifices in chapter 9: The sin offering was first, then the others. When we approach God in prayer we can establish our humility by ensuring that our confessions occur early in the discussion. In this way we emulate our spiritual forefathers and approach God with the right attitude.

If we are in leadership roles we have a higher obligation to remember our humility and follow Godís instructions. The leaders are not above the people or the law, but are called to serve the people according to Godís rules and the rules of their organization or community. Leaders are not authorized to take short cuts or make their own rules without the proper authorization. Those who should know better may be subject to a greater punishment when caught, as happened with Nadab and Abihu. Through one of his parables, Jesus reminded his audience of the greater responsibility of those who have been specially trained:

    ďThe servant who knows the masterís will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

    - Luke 12:47-48 (NIV)

Chapter 10 is not the first or last mention of alcohol in the Bible. It's clear that God has provided it to us to enjoy. For example, In Genesis 27:28 we read Isaacís blessing for Jacob which included the following phrase:

    "May God give you heavenís dew
    and earthís richnessó
    an abundance of grain and new wine."

In the Gospel, we will read that Jesusí first miracle was the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Cana and a cup of wine became the symbol of the blood he shed for us. However, God expects us to enjoy alcohol responsibly or avoid it altogether if necessary. For instance, we can read warnings in the book of Proverbs and other sections of the Bible about the proper time and place to drink and the dangers of overindulgence. We have to discern the right times and amounts, but are well-advised to avoid it when we have an important responsibility, as with the priests serving in the tabernacle.

"Holiness," A peaceful rendition performed by Micah Stampley

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the most important leadership role that you currently have or have had?
    2. How fair is it for God to assign a greater punishment to leaders who disobey his laws?
    3. Why were Eleazar and Ithamar not punished when they failed to observe all the priestly duties (10:12-19)?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to carry out our responsibilities faithfully and according to your will

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Church leaders

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Leviticus 11-13 (Rules for Cleanliness)

    Comments and Questions

    If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at ted@listeningforGod.org, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)