Strange Fire In The Bible

Strange Fire in the Bible refers to the fire that crackles with gods words. Strange Fire speaks of a fiery start that is going to take place with God’s message. There is an uncommon fire that is going to take hold from God’s Spirit which will spread all over the world as it did in Moses’ time. The main aim of this message is for the restoration of broken hearts and a people who have been worn down by sin, but have a longing for purity.

The Bible knows a lot about fire, but not all of this knowledge is related to its origin and nature, or to man’s method of controlling it. Scripture reveals that the Holy Spirit is like fire (Hebrews 12:29), that approaching the throne of God requires the anointing with holy fire (Revelation 4:5), and that the Lord Jesus Christ will have a “fiery trial” at His judgment seat.

Strange fire also called strange incense, is the offering of incense of an alien or unusual kind; and hence the name has come to denote any rite or ceremony which misrepresents or departs from the true.

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. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

Strange Fire In The Bible

These words are mentioned in connection with the fatal sin committed by the two oldest sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, in “offering strange fire before Yahweh,” on the occasion of the formal consecration of the Aaronitic priesthood (Leviticus 10:1,2). The fact is mentioned again in Numbers 3:4; 26:61. The greatest calamity of all befell them in that they were cut off childless, which for every true Israelite was the darkest fate imaginable. This fact is mentioned twice (Numbers 3:4; 1 Chronicles 24:2). The power which cut off the lives of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1,2) is the same as that which shortly before had consumed the consecratory burnt offering (Leviticus 9:24). What was its true character, whether, as Rosenmuller and Dachsel surmise, it was a lightning stroke or some other supernatural agency, is not worth while debating. It is enough for us to know that “there came forth fire from before Yahweh and devoured them.” Yet this latter word is not to be taken literally, since they were carried out for burial in their own linen garments (Leviticus 10:5). They were therefore merely killed, not incinerated.

What was their sin? The words “strange fire” have been explained either as common fire, which they placed in their censers, or as unholy incense, which they put thereon (Exodus 39:38). But the text plainly points to the former. The sacred fire, once kindled on the altar, was never to be permitted to go out (Leviticus 6:12). When later the temple was dedicated Yahweh again lighted the fire on the altar from heaven, as in the case of the dedication of the tabernacle. As, however, the injunction to take fire for the censers of the incense offering only from the coals of the altar is not found before (Leviticus 16:12), Rosenmuller’s observation would seem to be very much to the point: “Quamquam enim in iis quae praecedunt, non extat hoc interdictum, tamen est verisimile Mosem vetasse Aaroni et filiis eius ne ignem alienum altari imponerent.” (“For although his injunction does not hold in regard to the preceding cases, yet it is very probable that Moses had forbidden Aaron and his sons to place strange fire upon the altar.”) A verbal injunction of Moses must have preceded the fatal mistake. But the text leads us to believe there was more than a mistake here. Some find here the sin of drunkenness, from the enjoined abstinence from any intoxicating drink before the priests thereafter minister before Yahweh (Leviticus 10:9). The likeliest explanation is that, inflated with pride on account of the exaltation of the Aaronitic family above all Israel, they broke unbidden into the ritual of the consecration of the tabernacle and priesthood, eager to take part in the ceremony, and in their haste bringing strange fire into the tabernacle, and thus met their death (see Oehler, Old Testament Theol., 126, 282). The fire burning on the altar came from God, it might never go out, since it represented “the unbroken course of adoration of Yahweh, carried on in sacrifice.” And this course was interrupted by Nadab and Abihu. The fire on the altar was a symbol of holiness, and they sought to overlay it with unholiness. And thus it became to them a consuming fire, because they approached the Holy One in a profane spirit (compare Isaiah 33:14).

Strange Fire In The Bible

In order to understand the phrase “strange fire,” we must review the story in Leviticus in which it appears. The first tabernacle had been erected, and Aaron was doing a lot of sacrificing per God’s instructions (Leviticus 8—9). One day, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, came along and offered incense with “strange fire.” The Hebrew word translated “strange” means “unauthorized, foreign, or profane.” God not only rejected their sacrifice; He found it so offensive that He consumed the two men with fire.

After Nadab and Abihu were killed, Moses explained to Aaron why God had done such a harsh thing: “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored’” (Leviticus 10:3). The exact nature of the profane fire isn’t known, but, since it was the fire that was unauthorized, it could be that Nadab and Abihu were burning the incense with fire of their own making rather than taking fire from the altar, as specified in Leviticus 16:12. Or it could have been that the two men came into the tabernacle drunk and therefore could not remember what was a violation and what was not (Leviticus 10:8–9). Whatever it was the men did to render the offering profane, it was a sign of their disregard for the utter holiness of God and the need to honor and obey Him in solemn and holy fear. Their carelessness and irreverence were their downfall.

In judging Nadab and Abihu for their strange fire, God was making a point to all the other priests who would serve in His tabernacle—and later, in His temple—and to us, as well. Since this was the first time sacrifices were being offered on the altar and Israel was getting to know the living God better, when Aaron’s sons were disobedient and profane, God displayed His displeasure in no uncertain terms. God was not going to allow the disobedience of Aaron’s sons to set a precedent for future disregard of His Law. A similar story occurs in Acts 5:1–11, during the time of the early church. A husband and wife lie to Peter about some land given to the church, and they are judged with physical death because of their lie. As Peter puts it, “You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5:4).

God knows our hearts. He knows what we truly believe and our attitude toward Him. We cannot offer to Him proud “sacrifices” that are unworthy of Him. He seeks those who come to Him in humility, ready to sacrifice their pride and lay before Him humble and contrite hearts grieving for sin (Psalm 51:17). Certainly, there is grace and forgiveness and plenty of “second chances” for those who belong to Him. But God wants us to know that He is serious when it comes to His honor and glory. If there is willful disobedience in the life of a believer, then God disciplines us out of His great love for us (Hebrews 12:7–11). If such disobedience continues, God will take harsher measures until we understand how we are disappointing Him. If we continue in our disobedience even after that, then God has every right to remove us from this earth (see 1 Corinthians 11:29–30).

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