“NADAB AND ABIHU…OFFERED STRANGE FIRE BEFORE THE LORD, WHICH GOD HAD NOT COMMANDED THEM: (then) FIRE CAME FORTH FROM BEFORE THE LORD AND CONSUMED THEM, AND THEY DIED.” (Leviticus 10:1-2)
Many self-centered people are drawn to the ‘inner enlightenment’ strange fire provides, and become even more self-absorbed, while claiming to become more spiritual and selfless.
Often they spend hours immerse in introspection in small groups, or alone; and loose sight of the larger community and its needs. This is what happened to Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron.
What did they do that led to their death? What is strange fire? Regular fire radiates warmth and lights up our surroundings. Strange fire is cool and enlightens one’s inner self. Strange fire is cool because it advocates being unemotional and dispassionate.
Distancing one’s self from the bonds of feelings and desires; strange fire calmly teaches one to disengage from commitments to personal relationships and community ideals before they eventually cause pain and suffering.
How do we know this? The preceding three verses tell us that “Aaron lifted up his hands to the people and blessed them. (then) Moses and Aaron went into the Meeting Tent, and came out and blessed the people and God’s glory appeared to all the people.”
Then the same exact phrase states “Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the offerings on the altar”
In Moses and Aaron’s case fire consumed the community’s offerings and the people beheld God’s glory.
In Nadab and Abihu’s case, they ignore the community; not blessing or even mentioning the community, so the fire consumed their own ‘strange fire’ private offering, and it consumes them too.
Aaron their father had urged them several times to balance community needs with their personal needs; but they thought they knew it all, and refused to stop.
That is why Aaron remains sad and silent.
Another form of strange fire is translating the Hebrew term KORBANOT as sacrifices. A much better translation is offerings.
The idea that Korbanot are sacrifices comes from the pagan practice of human sacrifice.
Any religious ritual killing of a human is sinful no matter how sincere the intention.
Pagans usually engaged in human sacrifice only in extreme circumstances. But food and drink offered to another is not a sacrifice. It is a sharing that brings another closer to the offerer.
The Korbanot were a selected group of foods (liquids, cereals and animals) that were offered to God as part of a religious ritual.
The food was usually shared; part of it offered to God, part of it to the priests, with most of it consumed by the offerer and his or her extended family.
The root meaning of Korbanot derives from the verb to bring close. Relatives and close associates are called krovim. (Leviticus 10:3)
The purpose of offering a Korban is to draw God and humans closer together.
Sin, and even a lack of appreciation and gratitude, distances humans from God. An offering is a meal of reconciliation or rapprochement. Most of a sin offering went to the priests.
The burnt offering is called that because it was totally burnt up, but the Hebrew name is clearly the uplift offering.
It was offered daily to uplift the whole community. The uplift offering was also an atonement for personal sins that offered a repentant person a chance to be uplifted and restored to Divine favor.
A burnt/uplift offering is worthless without an intentional contrite spirit. (Psalms 51:18-9) The guilt offering was oriented toward transgressions of holiness concepts.
The thanksgiving and peace/wholeness offerings are well named; they draw us close to God through gratitude and appreciation.
None of these is a sacrifice!