Add parallel Print Page Options

Nadab and Abihu

10 Nadab and Abihu were two of Aaron’s sons, but they disobeyed the Lord by burning incense to him on a fire pan, when they were not supposed to.[a] Suddenly the Lord sent fiery flames and burned them to death. Then Moses told Aaron that this was exactly what the Lord had meant when he said:

“I demand respect
    from my priests,
and I will be praised
    by everyone!”

Aaron was speechless.

Moses sent for Mishael and Elzaphan, the two sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. Then he told them, “Take these two dead relatives of yours outside the camp far from the entrance to the sacred tent.” So they dragged the dead men away by their clothes.

Then Moses told Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar:

Don’t show your sorrow by messing up your hair and tearing your priestly clothes, or the Lord will get angry. He will kill the three of you and punish everyone else. It’s all right for your relatives, the people of Israel, to mourn for those he destroyed by fire. But you are the Lord’s chosen priests, and you must not leave the sacred tent, or you will die.

Aaron and his two sons obeyed Moses.

The Lord said to Aaron:

When you or your sons enter the sacred tent, you must never drink beer or wine. If you do, you will die right there! This law will never change. 10 You must learn the difference between what is holy and what isn’t holy and between the clean and the unclean. 11 You must also teach the people of Israel everything that I commanded Moses to say to them.

12 Moses told Aaron and his two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar:

The grain sacrifice that was offered to give thanks to the Lord[b] is very holy. So make bread without yeast from the part that wasn’t sent up in smoke and eat it beside the altar. 13 The Lord has said that this belongs to you and your sons, and that it must be eaten in a holy place. 14-15 But the choice ribs and the hind leg that were lifted up[c] may be eaten by your entire family, as long as you do so in an acceptable place.[d] These parts are yours from the sacrifices that the people offer to ask the Lord’s blessing.[e] This is what the Lord has commanded, and it will never change.

16 When Moses asked around and learned that the ram for the sin sacrifice had already been burned on the altar, he became angry with Eleazar and Ithamar and said, 17 “Why didn’t you eat the meat from this sacrifice in an acceptable place? It is very holy, and the Lord has given you this sacrifice to remove Israel’s sin and guilt. 18 Whenever an animal’s blood isn’t brought into the sacred tent, I commanded you to eat its meat in an acceptable place, but you burned it instead.”

19 Their father Aaron replied, “Today two of my sons offered the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice to please the Lord, and look what has happened to me! Would the Lord have approved if I had eaten the sacrifice for sin?”

20 Moses was satisfied with Aaron’s reply.


  1. 10.1 when they. . . to: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 10.12 grain sacrifice. . . to give thanks to the Lord: See the note at 2.1.
  3. 10.14,15 lifted up: See the note at 7.29,30.
  4. 10.14,15 acceptable place: See 6.24-30.
  5. 10.14,15 to ask the Lord’s blessing: See the note at 3.1.

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

10 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu(A) took their censers,(B) put fire in them(C) and added incense;(D) and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord,(E) contrary to his command.(F) So fire came out(G) from the presence of the Lord and consumed them,(H) and they died before the Lord.(I) Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me(J)
    I will be proved holy;(K)
in the sight of all the people
    I will be honored.(L)’”

Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan,(M) sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel,(N) and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp,(O) away from the front of the sanctuary.(P) So they came and carried them, still in their tunics,(Q) outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar,(R) “Do not let your hair become unkempt[a](S) and do not tear your clothes,(T) or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community.(U) But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn(V) for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting(W) or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil(X) is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine(Y) or other fermented drink(Z) whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance(AA) for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean,(AB) 11 and so you can teach(AC) the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.(AD)

12 Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering(AE) left over from the food offerings prepared without yeast and presented to the Lord and eat it beside the altar,(AF) for it is most holy. 13 Eat it in the sanctuary area,(AG) because it is your share and your sons’ share of the food offerings presented to the Lord; for so I have been commanded.(AH) 14 But you and your sons and your daughters may eat the breast(AI) that was waved and the thigh that was presented. Eat them in a ceremonially clean place;(AJ) they have been given to you and your children as your share of the Israelites’ fellowship offerings. 15 The thigh(AK) that was presented and the breast that was waved must be brought with the fat portions of the food offerings, to be waved before the Lord as a wave offering.(AL) This will be the perpetual share for you and your children, as the Lord has commanded.”

16 When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering[b](AM) and found that it had been burned up, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons, and asked, 17 “Why didn’t you eat the sin offering(AN) in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt(AO) of the community by making atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Since its blood was not taken into the Holy Place,(AP) you should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.(AQ)

19 Aaron replied to Moses, “Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering(AR) before the Lord, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?” 20 When Moses heard this, he was satisfied.


  1. Leviticus 10:6 Or Do not uncover your heads
  2. Leviticus 10:16 Or purification offering; also in verses 17 and 19

Bible Gateway Sponsors