The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

Plain Bible Study Guides

It is important to understand that the end of chapter 9 describes an exciting and awe-inspiring time for the nation. The tabernacle had been built, the priests had been anointed, sacrifices were being offered, and God showed His approval of all of this by sending fire from above and consuming the burnt offering on the altar. But the example of Nadab and Abihu reminds us that excitement and emotion do not eliminate the need to carefully follow God’s instructions.

Nadab and Abihu’s sin involved offering “strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (10:1). At first, “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering” (9:24), showing God’s approval of the proceedings. Then, “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them” (10:2), clearly showing God’s disapproval of their actions. Their sin was lawlessness – doing something for which they had no authority. Moses indicated that by acting in this way, they failed to treat God as holy (10:3).

Application for Us

Many will argue that as long as the Scriptures do not specifically condemn a particular practice, then we are permitted to do it. This argument has been used to justify instrumental music in worship, building “fellowship” halls, church support of human institutions, observing the Lord’s Supper on Saturday evenings, and so on.

However, we learn from the example of Nadab and Abihu that God’s silence should not immediately be interpreted as permission. When God has specified something to be done, everything else is prohibited. The “strange fire” was condemned because God “had not commanded them” to use it (10:1), not because there was a specific prohibition against the particular fire source they used. By not being careful to do what God said to do in the way He said to do it, Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy (10:3). We can be guilty of the same thing today.

We cannot allow emotions, convenience, or preference to determine what we do in religion. We must be able to cite book, chapter, and verse for our authority (cf. Colossians 3:17; Matthew 7:21-23).


The above post is an excerpt from the Leviticus Study Guide. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

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