Leviticus 10

1Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.

4Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near, carry your brethren from [a]before the sanctuary out of the camp.” 5So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said.

Doesn't the fire burn their tunics?

  • 1
    The text doesn't say that their tunics were intact; merely that they've suffered deadly burns.
    – Lucian
    Aug 29 at 14:48
  • 2
    Can a tunic sin? I suspect not.
    – alephzero
    Aug 29 at 18:11

This appears to be a similar fire to the burning bush.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” (Exodus 3:2–3, ESV)

"Consumed/devoured" וַתֹּ֣אכַל Lev. 10:2 is the common Hebrew word for eat that one learns in a beginning Hebrew class. So another question is why were there bodies to carry out?

In a normal fire clothes would be the first thing consumed at least to the point that they couldn't bear the weight of a body.

  1. An unsatisfactory secular answer would be that their unauthorized incense had poisonous smoke.

  2. It apparently was not normal fire, but some type of divine fire as with the burning bush.

What we know:

a) The fire killed them.

b) There was enough of their bodies left to be carried out by picking them up with their clothes. If only bones left, they would probably not slay together.

c) Their clothes were intact enough to support the weight of whatever was left of their bodies.

Thus, this was not a normal fire. A normal fire would even damage the tabernacle.


We could have expected verse 5 to simply say "So they did as Moses said".

Rashi asks your question and explains that a fire entered their nostrils and extinguished their souls while leaving their bodies and clothing intact:

enter image description here

  • I am new on this site, and would appreciate feedback for why my response was downvoted. Thanks.
    – diyImma
    Aug 29 at 11:56
  • Document the the reference. Maybe also quote.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 29 at 12:26
  • @diyImma I agree with Perry. You'll need to quote the assertions you've made. That might improve your response considerably. It's unfortunate that many will downvote answers in anonymity.
    – Xeno
    Aug 29 at 13:49
  • It's a fine answer, but instead of providing a screenshot, a link (e.g. sefaria) would be more helpful, or at least the title of a book and publication year. +1 to undo the -1.
    – Robert
    Sep 1 at 7:40

The fire that killed Nadab and Abihu was the same eternal fire that destroyed Sodom, that burned in the bush Moses saw, that burned the stones and the water of Elijah's offering on Mount Carmel, and that came in tongues of fire to the upper room on Pentecost. It was the fire of God.

As with the burning bush and the tongues of fire above the apostles' heads, this fire did not need to consume anything to be sustained. With or without combustible material, it is an eternal fire. This is because the fire was that of God Himself.

For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24, KJV)

Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 22:31, KJV)

For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29, KJV)

God's presence, as a consuming fire, was already present in the sanctuary. It was this fire which had lit the seven golden candlesticks--a fire which the priests were never to allow to burn out, and from this fire they were to light their censers. It was because Nadab and Abihu had not lit their censers from the fire of God, but had instead brought in "strange fire," that God's fire destroyed them--a fact repeated several times, as a lesson to all of the importance of carefully following God's instructions.

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. (Leviticus 10:1, KJV)

And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest's office in the sight of Aaron their father. (Numbers 3:4, KJV)

And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD. (Numbers 26:61, KJV)


It is a kind of lightning strike:

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 5. - They went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp. Their coats were the tunics which they had put on as their priestly attire (Leviticus 8:13). The lightning flash which had struck them down had not injured their clothes. As Mishael and Elzaphan became ceremonially defiled by contact with the corpses, and as the Passover was now at hand, it has been thought that it was in reference to their case that the concession was made, that those d, filed by a dead body might keep the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second instead of the first month (Numbers 9:6-11). The defilement caused by death ceased when Christ had died.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.