I feel like this is one of those “I told you so” speeches we have to give to our children sometimes after they do something really boneheaded that we warned them a thousand times not to do. The first sentence says that the Lord spoke to Moses “after the death of Aaron’s two sons.” So, Aaron is grieving, and he’s carrying a lot of the burden for his sons’ deaths. He is lead priest, teacher and father. He should have been watching and advising more closely. (At least I think that’s how I would feel as a mother sometimes.) So, in his grief and self-perceived failure, God needs to sit down and have a hard talk with him. The Lord needs to reiterate how important it is for the Israelites to follow the rules, of which Aaron already is painfully aware. It’s like rubbing salt in a wound (or these days, dousing it with alcohol). It burns like holy hell, but it’s got to be done.
I’m still a little perplexed myself as to what Nadab and Abihu did so wrong that God was inclined to kapowwy them on the spot, so I did a little sleuthing. I didn’t come up with much, but I did see a couple things that might have warranted God’s outrage. Chapter 10 (v. 1) says the boys put “coals of fire” in “their” incense burners. In Chapter 16, we read that the Lord has asked them to use “an” incense burner with “burning coals” from “the altar that stands before the Lord.” Chapter 10 doesn’t tell us where Nadab and Abihu retrieved their coals, but we see in Chapter 16 that they were supposed to gather it from the holy altar in a single incense burner, and perhaps it was only supposed to be smoldering – rather than flaming – when the incense was applied? That’s how I kind of read it anyway. And I fully believe with all my heart that after God poofed Aaron’s sons into thin air that He grieved right alongside him. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have given Aaron this “I told you so” chat that followed.
Let’s not overlook the scapegoat reference in this chapter, either. It’s beautiful and I feel so obvious that I don’t even want to elaborate! However, I would LOVE for others to elaborate.
Writing prompt: scapegoat
Write out your interpretation of the scapegoat metaphor we see in Chapter 16, or write about a time when you either were the scapegoat or used someone as a scapegoat.