The Bible – Old Testament
1 During this time Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers and, strewing incense on the fire they had put in them, they offered up before the LORD profane fire, such as he had not authorized.
2 Fire therefore came forth from the LORD’S presence and consumed them, so that they died in his presence.
3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is as the LORD said: Through those who approach me I will manifest my sacredness; In the sight of all the people I will reveal my glory.” But Aaron said nothing.
Then Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, with the order, “Come, remove your kinsmen from the sanctuary and carry them to a place outside the camp.”
4 So they went in and took them, in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses had commanded.
5 Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not bare your heads or tear your garments, lest you bring not only death on yourselves but God’s wrath also on the whole community. Your kinsmen, the rest of the house of Israel, shall mourn for those whom the LORD’S fire has smitten;
but do not you go beyond the entry of the meeting tent, else you shall die; for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” So they did as Moses told them.
The LORD said to Aaron,
“When you are to go to the meeting tent, you and your sons are forbidden under pain of death, by a perpetual ordinance throughout your generations, to drink any wine or strong drink.
You must be able to distinguish between what is sacred and what is profane, between what is clean and what is unclean;
you must teach the Israelites all the laws that the LORD has given them through Moses.”
Moses said to Aaron and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the cereal offering left over from the oblations of the LORD, and eat it beside the altar in the form of unleavened cakes. Since it is most sacred,
you must eat it in a sacred place. This is your due from the oblations of the LORD, and that of your sons; such is the command I have received.
With your sons and daughters you shall also eat the breast of the wave offering and the leg of the raised offering, in a clean place; for these have been assigned to you and your children as your due from the peace offerings of the Israelites.
The leg of the raised offering and the breast of the wave offering shall first be brought in with the oblations, the fatty portions, that are to be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. Then they shall belong to you and your children by a perpetual ordinance, as the LORD has commanded.”
6 When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering, he discovered that it had all been burned. So he was angry with the surviving sons of Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, and said,
“Why did you not eat the sin offering in the sacred place, since it is most sacred? It has been given to you that you might bear the guilt of the community and make atonement for them before the LORD.
If its blood was not brought into the inmost part of the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten the offering in the sanctuary, in keeping with the command I had received.”
Aaron answered Moses, “Even though they presented their sin offering and holocaust before the LORD today, yet this misfortune has befallen me. Had I then eaten of the sin offering today, would it have been pleasing to the LORD?”
On hearing this, Moses was satisfied.
1  Nadab and Abihu: the older sons of Aaron. Cf ⇒ Exodus 6:23-24.
2  Fire: perhaps after the manner of lightning.
4  In their tunics: they were buried just as they were, with no shroud or funeral solemnities.
5  Bare your heads: go without the customary head covering, as a sign of mourning. Some interpreters, however, understand it as the cutting off of one’s hair, which ordinarily all the Israelites, men as well as women, let grow long. Cf ⇒ Isaiah 15:2; ⇒ Jeremiah 7:29. Still others understand the verb to mean “to let one’s hair hang loose and wild.” Cf ⇒ Lev 13:45; ⇒ 21:10, where the same phrase is used.
6 [16-19] Eleazar and Ithamar burned the entire goat of the sin offering (⇒ Lev 9:15) instead of eating it in a sacred place (⇒ Lev 6:19) to bear the guilt of the community. Aaron defends this action of his sons against Moses’ displeasure by implying that they did not have sufficient sanctity to eat the flesh of the victim and thus perform the expiation of the people. They themselves still labored under the blow of the divine anger which struck their brothers Nadab and Abihu.