The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.
In my previous post, I noted that one of the greatest distinctions between the narrative of Leviticus and Exodus rests in Leviticus 8:15 and Exodus 29:36. It is important to grasp why these two passages are different because it may shed light on the climactic event of Nadab and Abihu’s deaths.
36 “And each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it; and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. – Exodus 29:36
15 Next Moses slaughtered it and took the blood and with his finger put some of it around on the horns of the altar, and purified the altar. Then he poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it, to make atonement for it. – Leviticus 8:15
The conflict between these two passage is, in short, the location of the purification of the altar. Leviticus places the purification prior to the consecration of the Tent of Meeting while Exodus places it following the rituals for consecration. Feder argues that the redactor of Leviticus removed anointing of the altar that consecrated from Exodus 29:36, likely the older of the two texts, and placed the consecration at the beginning of the consecration of the Tent of Meeting (See Feder, 2011, pg. 50-51).
In short, “Lev 8 reflects the view that the anointment of the altar is a prerequisite for its use in the cult; hence, the anointment takes place before the sacrifices” (Feder 2011, 51). Thus, for the redactor of Leviticus 8, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that, prior to use, the altar is anointed, thereby being consecrated. This simultaneously marks a point wherein Leviticus 9 and the remainder of Exodus 29 diverge on distinct paths. The distinction of anointment and consecration prior for Leviticus and following for Exodus is the crux and turning point for both narratives.
At this point, Leviticus 9-10:3 expands on the idea from Exodus 29:37-46, and also Exodus 30:1-7. The relationship between these two will be explored further in the next few posts. The following posts will also take into consideration the significance of Leviticus’ value of anointment and consecration prior to sacrifice, in contrast to Exodus.