Chapter 8- Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons as priests the way God commanded back in Exodus 29.
This time when they describe Aaron’s robes, they do include the Urim and Thummim, so that answers that question.
Aaron and his sons have to stay in the tabernacle for 7 days while they are being consecrated. Verse 35, “Therefore you shall stay at the door of the tabernacle of meeting day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, so that you may not die; for so I have been commanded.” Two thoughts- 1) God’s going to kill them for leaving the tabernacle? Really? That seems like undue punishment. 2) There weren’t any instructions for including a bathroom in the tabernacle. Are they allowed to leave to relieve themselves, or are they supposed to pee inside the holy place?
Chapter 9- On the 8th day after consecration, they do more burnt offerings. The glory of God appears before the people and consumes the offerings with fire.
If this tells you anything about how my brain works, when verse 24 says “When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” my first thought was “And there was much rejoicing.” Monty Python and the Holy Grail, ftw!
Chapter 10- Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offer profane fire to the Lord, so He kills them. Aaron’s nephews take their bodies outside the camp, but Aaron and his remaining sons are commanded to stay in the tabernacle and not mourn. They burn the sin offering instead of eating it, which makes Moses mad, but he forgives them when he realizes they’re sad about Nadab and Abihu.
“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (vs 1&2)
Okay, what in the world is “profane fire”? Is it just that making an incense offering that God doesn’t want will get you killed? Keep that in mind next time you consider doing something nice for God. If your idea of a nice gesture is something he doesn’t want, you may get burnt to crisp.
Verse 6, “And Moses said to Aaron, and Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled.” How awful is that? They aren’t allowed to mourn, or they’ll be killed too. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to lose 2 sons, tragically and unexpectedly, at the direct hand of God. To then not be allowed to mourn their passing? God’s just adding insult to injury here.
Another reason to be glad I’m not a priest in the tabernacle: verse 9, “Do no drink wine or intoxicating drink, you nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die.” Seeing as how they’re being commanded to not leave the tabernacle (8:33 and 9:7), I think it comes down to not drinking, ever. Mmm, wine.
Then Eleazar and Ithamar don’t do the sin offering properly. Instead of eating it, they just burn it all. How come they weren’t killed by God for not following orders? God is inconsistent, so good luck figuring out what will get you killed. (Or, if I’m feeling more generous, God was being merciful, since they were sad about their brothers. Although, if God wanted to be merciful, he could’ve skipped killing them in the first place.)
So, these chapters got me thinking. When reading the Bible, I (and probably most other readers) take for granted that burnt offerings are for forgiveness of sin. In the OT, you had to kill an animal for every sin. Then in the NT, Jesus comes along and offers one big sacrifice on behalf of everyone so that animal sacrifices are no longer necessary.
But you know what the Bible never explains? Why sacrifice is necessary in the first place. Why does God require death in exchange for forgiveness? If a sinner genuinely wants forgiveness, and God is willing to forgive, what makes the death bit necessary? As lowly humans, we’re capable of forgiving people who wrong us and ask forgiveness. Our justice system includes methods for restitution besides just the death penalty. Why can’t the almighty God just forgive? Why are his hands tied in requiring blood and death before he’ll forgive?