Priests of the Bible – 3. Nadab
We first find mention of Nadab, soon after we are introduced to Aaron: “And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar” Exodus 6:23. The one thing anyone who recognises the name will know about Nadab is, along with Abihu, his untimely death: “Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father” Numbers 3:4 and “Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the Lord” Numbers 26:61. There is little else known about Nadab other than he did what sons of High Priests sons did after Aaron and that was to assist his father in the priestly duties and along with it enjoy the privileges as well as the responsibilities.
As for other Bible mentions of Nadab (and Abihu), besides in the Books of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers), we only have what is said in the Book of Chronicles regarding chronology, and notably when looking back on the strange fire incident: “But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office” 1 Chronicles 24:2. While alive the two times he is spoken of are “And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off” Exodus 24:1 and “And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons” Exodus 28:1.
In the Leviticus 10 account of Nadab’s death, there is no explanation of what “strange fire” was (the Amplified version adds “unauthorized, unacceptable”) and it has led scholars to try to figure out what it was they did that the Lord “commanded them not” such that as a result “there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord”. It is salutary to note that Aaron was not allowed to (and did not) mourn the death of his first two sons and nor his two remaining sons: Eleazar and Ithamar. The lesson is clear: God is holy and is not to be trifled with. There are many Old Testament examples of what happened when God was displeased, especially when people failed to worship Him in the right way, and in the New Testament, the story of Ananias and Sapphira springs to mind. It is a lesson we do well to learn, especially those who profess to follow the Lord and have ministerial responsibility, and when God does visit us in revival as opposed to today’s mediocrity, it is something we do well to remember and take heed.