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The ways of sacrifice; The wrong incense

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posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:02 PM
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The story of the consecration of Aaron and his induction as priest is easy to miss, buried as it is in the middle of the laws of Leviticus (chs8-10).
Yet the occasion has to be counted as one of the great ceremonial events of the Old Testament, nearly as vital as the opening ceremony of the Temple.
The event was meant to include the consecration of all four sons ( Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar) for the same work.

At least the first day of the ceremonial went according to plan.
The congregation were assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.
Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons in front of them and washed them.
He clothed Aaron with the coat and the girdle, the robe, the ephod, the breast-piece with Urim and Thummim, the turban, and the crown.
He anointed the tabernacle, the altar and its instruments, and Aaron himself, in order to consecrate them.
He killed the bull of the sin offering (burning the fat and pouring out the blood), the ram of the burnt offering (burning the fat and pouring out the blood), and the ram of consecration (burning the fat, and anointing Aaron and his sons with the blood).

The second stage of the ceremonial came seven days later.
Once again, the congregation were assembled at the door.
Aaron and the sons appeared in front of them and entered into their duties by making a full sequence of offerings.
The programme was nearly complete, when there was an unwelcome interruption.

Nadab and Abihu approached again with their censers, dispensing an incense which they had prepared themselves.
The immediate response was that they were killed in an instant, struck down with fire direct from the presence of the Lord.

In this moment of crisis, when the scene might have dissolved in panic, Moses was the one who kept his head and took charge of events.
He saw what needed to be done and acted accordingly.
So he briefly explained to Aaron what was going on; “This is what the Lord has said, ‘I will show myself holy among those who are near me’”.
He called over two members of Aaron’s family (the sons of his uncle) and instructed them to carry the bodies out of the camp.
He commanded Aaron and the two surviving sons not to rend their clothes or show any other outward signs of mourning, knowing that the Lord would find this offensive.
Then he called them back to the intended programme and got them to carry it through to completion.
At this point he discovered a lapse in the ritual procedures.
Going through his mental checklist, he came to the item “Eat the goat of the sin offering” and was horrified to learn that the goat of the sin offering had already been burned on the altar.
Aaron’s explanation, when rebuked, was that after the untoward event which had taken place (affecting his state of mind), his eating of the sin offering would “not have been acceptable in the sight of the Lord”.
Moses saw the merit of this answer, and let the matter rest.

So why did the death of Nadab and Abihu need to be described?
What’s the intended lesson of the story?
Moses had said that the Lord was “showing himself holy”, which means that the Lord was vigorously rejecting something which clashed with his nature.
So what were the two men doing that needed to be rejected?
An incense offering, in itself, is an acceptable part of the ritual, and the story makes no comment on the ingredients they used.
The real objection is given in the phrase which describes their offering as “strange fire” or “unholy fire”.
The Hebrew word translated as “strange” carries the sense that something is “estranged” or “loathsome”.
In other words, it is disconnected from God and therefore loathsome to him; this is the same kind of thinking as calling an act of idolatry an “abomination”.

The same word is used in Exodus ch30 v8 when the priests are forbidden to use “strange incense” upon the incense altar,
One possible explanation is that the incense is “strange” in the sense of having ingredients which belong to the ritual of a completely different god.
So Nadab and Abihu would be guilty of the kind of idolatry which seeks to confuse the worship of the God of Israel with the worship of other gods.

But a simpler and more fundamental answer is given by the next phrase in the text.
What they were offering was a “strange fire” because it was ”not what God had commanded”.
So even in the act of honouring God, they were disregarding God’s will and substituting their own will (reproducing the offence of Adam and Eve).

There is a running theme in the Old Testament that this God values obedience more than sacrifice.
The people will be told on future occasions that sacrifice does them no good in God’s eyes if they’re disobedient in other aspects of their lives.
In which case, disobedience must be even more inappropriate in the sphere of worship, which is supposed to be celebrating the supremacy of God’s will.
A worship which is positively founded upon disobedience, as was the case in this episode, completely misses the point.
“Holiness” means “belonging to God”.
The action was made “unholy”, something to be rejected by God, by the disobedience that went into it.

So the intended moral is the importance of obedience.
The story is about the need to take God’s will seriously, with all due respect.
This requirement, frequently known as “God-fearing”, can be found all the way through the rest of the Bible.
In fact the principle of obedience to God is the first thing that he has to establish, because without that principle he could not get them to do anything else.

The Biblical God is not really looking for sacrifice, so much as the willingness to sacrifice.
And even the willingness to sacrifice is only a symbol of what he really wants from us.
Namely, the full offering of ourselves.




posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:11 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Rarely will a monotheist admit that all of mankind's half-measures are not really enough for their God. Thank you!



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:16 PM
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a reply to: Nechash
It's the same line of thought that I was developing in the series on the Laws, arguing that they had a mixed origin.

Having said that, it's the same viewpoint as the New Testament in general. The Epistle to the Hebrews makes much of the point that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were insufficient to achieve their goal.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:28 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI


Nadab and Abihu approached again with their censers, dispensing an incense which they had prepared themselves.
The immediate response was that they were killed in an instant, struck down with fire direct from the presence of the Lord.


I get it, but I'm not sure it's the same way you see it.

"dispensing an incense which they had prepared themselves..."

Intuition?

"The immediate response was that they were killed in an instant..."

Off to heaven it is then?

"...fire direct from the presence of the Lord."

Intuition...



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:32 PM
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a reply to: Wifibrains
The writers of the story don't believe that the two went to heaven.
It was meant as a warning, an event that the people should "bewail".



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:34 PM
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alchemy pitfalls



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:37 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: Wifibrains
The writers of the story don't believe that the two went to heaven.
It was meant as a warning, an event that the people should "bewail".



Intuition?



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:38 PM
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a reply to: Wifibrains
I was talking about the "fire from the Lord" which killed them.
The story sees it as a bad event, a punishment which the people should "bewail".



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 05:43 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Oh yeah! Look at this guy with his head chopped off! He was a saint! Lol.



Death is symbilic, life is eternal.


edit on 10-10-2014 by Wifibrains because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 06:16 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
The story of the consecration of Aaron and his induction as priest is easy to miss, buried as it is in the middle of the laws of Leviticus (chs8-10).
Yet the occasion has to be counted as one of the great ceremonial events of the Old Testament, nearly as vital as the opening ceremony of the Temple.
The event was meant to include the consecration of all four sons ( Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar) for the same work.

At least the first day of the ceremonial went according to plan.
The congregation were assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.
Then Moses brought Aaron and his sons in front of them and washed them.
He clothed Aaron with the coat and the girdle, the robe, the ephod, the breast-piece with Urim and Thummim, the turban, and the crown.
He anointed the tabernacle, the altar and its instruments, and Aaron himself, in order to consecrate them.
He killed the bull of the sin offering (burning the fat and pouring out the blood), the ram of the burnt offering (burning the fat and pouring out the blood), and the ram of consecration (burning the fat, and anointing Aaron and his sons with the blood).

The second stage of the ceremonial came seven days later.
Once again, the congregation were assembled at the door.
Aaron and the sons appeared in front of them and entered into their duties by making a full sequence of offerings.
The programme was nearly complete, when there was an unwelcome interruption.

Nadab and Abihu approached again with their censers, dispensing an incense which they had prepared themselves.
The immediate response was that they were killed in an instant, struck down with fire direct from the presence of the Lord.

In this moment of crisis, when the scene might have dissolved in panic, Moses was the one who kept his head and took charge of events.
He saw what needed to be done and acted accordingly.
So he briefly explained to Aaron what was going on; “This is what the Lord has said, ‘I will show myself holy among those who are near me’”.
He called over two members of Aaron’s family (the sons of his uncle) and instructed them to carry the bodies out of the camp.
He commanded Aaron and the two surviving sons not to rend their clothes or show any other outward signs of mourning, knowing that the Lord would find this offensive.
Then he called them back to the intended programme and got them to carry it through to completion.
At this point he discovered a lapse in the ritual procedures.
Going through his mental checklist, he came to the item “Eat the goat of the sin offering” and was horrified to learn that the goat of the sin offering had already been burned on the altar.
Aaron’s explanation, when rebuked, was that after the untoward event which had taken place (affecting his state of mind), his eating of the sin offering would “not have been acceptable in the sight of the Lord”.
Moses saw the merit of this answer, and let the matter rest.

So why did the death of Nadab and Abihu need to be described?
What’s the intended lesson of the story?
Moses had said that the Lord was “showing himself holy”, which means that the Lord was vigorously rejecting something which clashed with his nature.
So what were the two men doing that needed to be rejected?
An incense offering, in itself, is an acceptable part of the ritual, and the story makes no comment on the ingredients they used.
The real objection is given in the phrase which describes their offering as “strange fire” or “unholy fire”.
The Hebrew word translated as “strange” carries the sense that something is “estranged” or “loathsome”.
In other words, it is disconnected from God and therefore loathsome to him; this is the same kind of thinking as calling an act of idolatry an “abomination”.

The same word is used in Exodus ch30 v8 when the priests are forbidden to use “strange incense” upon the incense altar,
One possible explanation is that the incense is “strange” in the sense of having ingredients which belong to the ritual of a completely different god.
So Nadab and Abihu would be guilty of the kind of idolatry which seeks to confuse the worship of the God of Israel with the worship of other gods.

But a simpler and more fundamental answer is given by the next phrase in the text.
What they were offering was a “strange fire” because it was ”not what God had commanded”.
So even in the act of honouring God, they were disregarding God’s will and substituting their own will (reproducing the offence of Adam and Eve).

There is a running theme in the Old Testament that this God values obedience more than sacrifice.
The people will be told on future occasions that sacrifice does them no good in God’s eyes if they’re disobedient in other aspects of their lives.
In which case, disobedience must be even more inappropriate in the sphere of worship, which is supposed to be celebrating the supremacy of God’s will.
A worship which is positively founded upon disobedience, as was the case in this episode, completely misses the point.
“Holiness” means “belonging to God”.
The action was made “unholy”, something to be rejected by God, by the disobedience that went into it.

So the intended moral is the importance of obedience.
The story is about the need to take God’s will seriously, with all due respect.
This requirement, frequently known as “God-fearing”, can be found all the way through the rest of the Bible.
In fact the principle of obedience to God is the first thing that he has to establish, because without that principle he could not get them to do anything else.

The Biblical God is not really looking for sacrifice, so much as the willingness to sacrifice.
And even the willingness to sacrifice is only a symbol of what he really wants from us.
Namely, the full offering of ourselves.



Well that was pretty obvious...after it was explained.
Its funny how you can read the story and miss the point so often.

Thanks for sharing, it reminds me, though we dont understand God we do know he is Holy, sometimes these storys help remind us how Holy God is and how abhorrent sin is to Him.

Our lives are like a burning incense to God



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 06:24 PM
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originally posted by: borntowatch
though we dont understand God we do know he is Holy, sometimes these storys help remind us how Holy God is and how abhorrent sin is to Him.

Yes, and of course this continues into the New Testament (even up to the last chapters of Revelation), rather than stopping in the Old Testament as some people like to think.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 06:30 PM
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So, the lord can "show himself holy" to ancient hebrews, by zapping them to death with fire and yet the lord doesn't see fit to say a quick 'hello' today and do something actually worthwhile?

Seriously - this is one of the main reasons people don't give a monkey about the god of the bible.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 06:54 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI

originally posted by: borntowatch
though we dont understand God we do know he is Holy, sometimes these storys help remind us how Holy God is and how abhorrent sin is to Him.

Yes, and of course this continues into the New Testament (even up to the last chapters of Revelation), rather than stopping in the Old Testament as some people like to think.


Yes indeed, why I like to reflect on the epistle of James regularly, the book of straw.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 06:58 PM
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a reply to: borntowatch
I did a series of threads on James. Did you see it?



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 07:59 PM
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This should serve as a reminder that even though God provided us with a means to redemption, Jesus is in no way a "Get Out of Sin Free" card like some atheists like to accuse us of viewing Him. We are to take it seriously just as we are to take God seriously and do our best to live our lives according to His will as best we can.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 08:05 PM
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a reply to: ketsuko
That even comes in Paul, doesn't it, when he urges us to "live by the Spirit" and to "work out" our salvation.
We do what we can, Christ completes what we can't?




edit on 10-10-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 08:10 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Yep, and it's also another very good reason why Christ had to live a spotless life. If He hadn't, He would not have been an acceptable sacrifice for our sins.



posted on Oct, 10 2014 @ 11:09 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

No
but I have booked marked the index now and will read them over time.
I just read a comment about how Paul addressed mostly the Gentiles and James the Jews. Interesting how there has always been a (imagined or otherwise) conflict between the two.
Paul addresses the non believers and points them the way while James calls believers to action. Sorta like the simplicity of that description.



posted on Oct, 12 2014 @ 01:01 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
In fact the principle of obedience to God is the first thing that he has to establish, because without that principle he could not get them to do anything else.

Having said that, it's also true that faith is the necessary preliminary to any kind of obedience.
At the very least, we need to believe that God is there before we can even want to obey him, as Hebrews points out.
""For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him"- Hebrews ch11 v6



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 05:33 PM
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