Leviticus x: 1, to 11.
OON after the Tabernacle was set up in the middle of the camp of Israel, and the priests began the daily service of worship, a sad event took place, which gave great sorrow to Aaron the priest, to his family, and to all the people. The two older sons of Aaron, whose names were Nadab and Abihu, were one day in the Holy Place. It was a part of their work to take in a censer some burning coals from the great altar of burnt-offering in front of the Tabernacle, and with these coals to light the fire in the small golden altar of incense, which stood inside the Holy Place, near the vail.
These young men had been drinking wine, and their heads were not clear. They did not think of what they were doing; and instead of taking the fire from the altar of burnt-offering, they took some other fire, and with this went into the Holy Place to burn the incense upon the golden altar. God was angry with these young men for coming into his holy house in a drunken state, and for doing what he had forbidden them to do; for no fire except that from the great altar was allowed in the Holy Place.
While they were standing by the golden altar, fire came out from it, and they both fell down dead in the Holy Place. And when Moses heard of it, he said: "This is the sign that God's house is holy, and that God's worship is holy; and God will make people to fear him, because he is holy." And Moses would not allow Aaron, the father of these two men, to touch their dead bodies. He said, "You have on the robes of the high-priest, and you are leading in the service of worship. God's work must go on, and must not stop for your trouble, great as it is."
Then Aaron stood by the altar, and offered the sacrifice, though his heart was very sad. And the cousins of Aaron, by the command of Moses, went into the Holy Place and carried out the dead bodies of the two young men, dressed as they were in their priests' robes. And they buried these men outside the camp, in the desert.
And Moses said:
"After this, let no priest drink wine or strong drink before he enters the Tabernacle. Be sober, when you are leading the worship of the people, so that you will know the difference between the things that are holy and those that are common; and so that you may teach the people all the laws which the Lord has given them."
The rule that Moses gave to the priests to be kept when they were leading the worship of the people, not to drink wine or strong drink, is a good rule for every one to keep, not only when worshipping God, but at all times.
Besides these two sons of Aaron who had died, there were two other sons, named Eleazar and Ithamar. These young men took their older brothers' places in the services of the Tabernacle; and they were very careful to do exactly as the Lord had bidden them.
The Brazen Altar