Aaron and his two surviving sons are forbidden to show the accustomed signs of mourning, or to leave the court of the tabernacle in order to attend the funeral, because, from their office, they were especially concerned as consecrated priests in outwardly maintaining the honor of Yahweh. They were to bear visible testimony to the righteousness of the punishment of Nadab and Abihu. The people, on the other hand, as not formally standing so near to Yahweh, were permitted to “bewail” as an acknowledgment that the nation had a share in the sin of its priests. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:26.)
Uncover not your heads - Or, “set free let go loose.” It was a custom to let the hair grow long and fall loosely over the head and face Leviticus 13:45; 2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; and the substance of the command would thus be that they should not let the hair go disheveled. Ripping the clothes in front so as to lay open the breast was one of the most common manifestations of grief (see Genesis 37:29; Genesis 44:13; 2 Samuel 1:11; Job 1:20; Joel 2:13, etc.). The garments as well as the persons of the priests were consecrated; this appears to be the reason of the prohibition of these ordinary signs of mourning. Compare Leviticus 20:10.
Lest ye die - See Exodus 28:35 note.
The anointing oil is upon you - See Leviticus 8:12, Leviticus 8:30. The holy oil, as the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life and immortality and joy, was the sign of the priests being brought near to Yahweh. It was therefore by its meaning connected both with the general law which forbade the high priest ever to put on signs of mourning on account of death Leviticus 21:10-12, and with the special reason for the prohibition on this occasion.
Uncover not your heads, etc. - They were to use no sign of grief or mourning,
2. Because the crime of their brethren was so highly provoking to God, and so fully merited the punishment which he had inflicted, that their mourning might be considered as accusing the Divine justice of undue severity.
Christ's Heart Rent—How different was the true High Priest from the false and corrupted Caiaphas. Christ stood before the false high priest, pure and undefiled, without a taint of sin. 5BC 1105.1
Christ mourned for the transgression of every human being. He bore even the guiltiness of Caiaphas, knowing the hypocrisy that dwelt in his soul, while for pretense he rent his robe. Christ did not rend His robe, but His soul was rent. His garment of human flesh was rent as He hung on the cross, the sin-bearer of the race. By His suffering and death a new and living way was opened (The Review and Herald, June 12, 1900). 5BC 1105.2
(Leviticus 10:6.) A Positive Prohibition—It was the general custom for the garments to be rent at the death of friends. The only exception to this was in the case of the high priest. Even Aaron, when he lost his two sons because they did not glorify God as had been specified, was forbidden to show sorrow and mourning by rending his garments. The prohibition was positive [Leviticus 10:6 quoted] (Manuscript 102, 1897). 5BC 1105.3
The Condemned Pronounced Sentence on the Innocent—For thus rending his garment in pretended zeal, the high priest might have been arraigned before the Sanhedrin. He had done the very thing that the Lord had commanded should not be done. Standing under the condemnation of God, he pronounced sentence on Christ as a blasphemer. He performed all his actions toward Christ as a priestly judge, as an officiating high priest, but he was not this by the appointment of God. The priestly robe he rent in order to impress the people with his horror of the sin of blasphemy covered a heart full of wickedness. He was acting under the inspiration of Satan. Under a gorgeous priestly dress, he was fulfilling the work of the enemy of God. This has been done again and again by priests and rulers. 5BC 1105.4
The rent garment ended Caiaphas’ priesthood. By his own action he disqualified himself for the priestly office. After the condemnation of Christ he was unable to act without showing the most unreasonable passion. His tortured conscience scourged him, but he did not feel that sorrow that leads to repentance. 5BC 1105.5
The religion of those that crucified Christ was a pretense. The supposed holy vestments of the priests covered hearts that were full of corruption, malignity, and crime. They interpreted gain to be godliness. The priests were appointed, not by God, but by an unbelieving government. The position of priest was bought and sold like goods of merchandise. Thus it was that Caiaphas obtained the office. He was not a priest after the order of Melchisedec, by God's appointment. He was bought and sold to work wickedness. He never knew what it was to be obedient to God. He had the form of godliness, and this gave him the power to oppress (Manuscript 102, 1897). 5BC 1105.6Read in context »
The words of Christ startled the high priest. The thought that there was to be a resurrection of the dead, when all would stand at the bar of God, to be rewarded according to their works, was a thought of terror to Caiaphas. He did not wish to believe that in future he would receive sentence according to his works. There rushed before his mind as a panorama the scenes of the final judgment. For a moment he saw the fearful spectacle of the graves giving up their dead, with the secrets he had hoped were forever hidden. For a moment he felt as if standing before the eternal Judge, whose eye, which sees all things, was reading his soul, bringing to light mysteries supposed to be hidden with the dead. DA 708.1
The scene passed from the priest's vision. Christ's words cut him, the Sadducee, to the quick. Caiaphas had denied the doctrine of the resurrection, the judgment, and a future life. Now he was maddened by satanic fury. Was this man, a prisoner before him, to assail his most cherished theories? Rending his robe, that the people might see his pretended horror, he demanded that without further preliminaries the prisoner be condemned for blasphemy. “What further need have we of witnesses?” he said; “behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What think ye?” And they all condemned Him. DA 708.2
Conviction mingled with passion led Caiaphas to do as he did. He was furious with himself for believing Christ's words, and instead of rending his heart under a deep sense of truth, and confessing that Jesus was the Messiah, he rent his priestly robes in determined resistance. This act was deeply significant. Little did Caiaphas realize its meaning. In this act, done to influence the judges and secure Christ's condemnation, the high priest had condemned himself. By the law of God he was disqualified for the priesthood. He had pronounced upon himself the death sentence. DA 708.3
A high priest was not to rend his garments. By the Levitical law, this was prohibited under sentence of death. Under no circumstances, on no occasion, was the priest to rend his robe. It was the custom among the Jews for the garments to be rent at the death of friends, but this custom the priests were not to observe. Express command had been given by Christ to Moses concerning this. Leviticus 10:6. DA 708.4Read in context »
When the people journeyed, the ark of the covenant was borne before them. “And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.” 4aSG 11.1Read in context »
In our large cities there are saloons on the right hand and on the left, tempting passers-by to indulge an appetite which, once established, is exceedingly hard to overcome. The youth should be trained never to touch tobacco or intoxicating drink. Alcohol robs men of their reasoning powers.—The Review and Herald, June 15, 1905. Te 187.1
Nadab and Abihu Had Formed the Habit of Drinking—Anything that lessens the physical power enfeebles the mind, and makes it less clear to discriminate between good and evil, between right and wrong. This principle is illustrated in the case of Nadab and Abihu. God gave them a most sacred work to perform, permitting them to come near to Himself in their appointed service; but they had a habit of drinking wine, and they entered upon the holy service in the sanctuary with confused minds.... “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”—Fundamentals of Christian Education, 427, 428. Te 187.2
A Warning to Parents and Youth—Parents and children should be warned by the history of Nadab and Abihu. Appetite, indulged, perverted the reasoning powers, and led to the breaking of an express command, which brought the judgment of God upon them. Notwithstanding children may not have had the right instruction, and their characters not have been properly molded, God proposes to connect them with Himself as He did Nadab and Abihu, if they will heed His commands. If they will with faith and courage bring their will in submission to the will of God, He will teach them, and their lives may be like the pure white lily, full of fragrance on the stagnant waters. They must resolve in the strength of Jesus to control inclination and passion, and every day win victories over Satan's temptations. This is the way God has marked out for men to serve His high purposes.—The Signs of the Times, July 8, 1880. Te 187.3Read in context »