Their consecration completed, Aaron and his sons offer a sin offering and a burnt offering at Moses’ command on the eighth day (vv. 1-2; cf. Ezek. 43:27 for the same format at the millennial temple). Anticipating an appearance of the glory of God (v. 4), Israel also obediently brings sacrifices: a sin offering, two burnt offerings, two peace offerings, and a grain offering (vv. 3-6).
Following Moses’ direction, Aaron offers his personal sacrifices—the sin (vv. 8-11) and the burnt (vv. 12-14). Then he performs the people’s sacrifices—the sin (v. 15), the burnt (v. 16), the grain (v. 17), and the peace offerings (vv. 18-21)—, and completes the prescribed ritual with his sons’ help. After Aaron had finished his work, he blesses the people, and he and Moses enter the tabernacle of meeting. When they come out, the glory of the LORD appears to the people, and His fire consumes the sacrifices, causing Israel to shout and fall down in worship (vv. 22-24). [Just how many Israelites comprise the “congregation” that assembled before the LORD at this time?]
But not only does the fire of the LORD devour the animal carcasses, it also incinerates Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, for offering a profane sacrifice shortly thereafter (vv. 1-2). [Perhaps their sin stemmed from drunkenness; see the LORD’s prohibition of such conduct in 10:9]. To prevent undue complaint or sorrow, Moses admonishes his brother about how seriously God regards priestly holiness (v. 3).
Moses instructs his uncle’s sons to carry their cousins out of the camp (vv. 4-5). He also warns Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, not to show traditional outward signs of mourning, lest God judge both them and the people (v. 6a). Instead, the people (“the whole house of Israel”) themselves should weep bitterly for this “burning” (v. 6b). Obedient to the word of the LORD, the anointed priests stay at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and consequently do not die (v. 7).
God prohibits Aaron and his sons from drinking alcoholic beverages when they enter the tabernacle of meeting (vv. 8-9) for two reasons:
(1) Not imbibing wine enhances moral and religious discernment (v. 10), and
(2) Sobriety enables them to give moral and religious instruction to the people (v. 11).
Now Moses instructs Aaron and his sons to take and eat the food that remained from Israel’s sacrifices: the grain offering (vv. 12-13), the breast of the wave offering, and the thigh of the heave offering (vv. 14-15). Aaron must eat these portions in a clean place, and may share them with his sons and daughters (vv. 13, 14).
A minor controversy erupts over a certain sin offering, a goat, which Aaron’s sons burn up rather than eat (vv. 16-17). Moses points out that its blood was not brought inside the holy place, and they did not eat it in a holy place where they ought to have taken it (v. 18). Aaron’s reason for not eating the goat that day—the death of his sons—propitiates his brother (vv. 19-20).