Later, Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up. He was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's surviving sons, and asked,
Luke 16:29; Acts 15:21). Hence the "body of Moses," about which Michael disputed with Satan, is by some supposed to denote the substance of the Law (Jude 1:9). In this view he appeared upon the mount of transfiguration, surrendering to Christ, who, in like manner, impersonated his gospel (Matthew 17:3-5). So the vail over Moses' face represented the shadows in which the Law invested the glory of the Lord until the death of Christ, when the darkness passed away and the true light shined forth. Hence, when the vail, that is to say, the flesh of Christ, was tom in death, the vail of the temple was rent from the top throughout (Matthew 27:50, 51; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Hebrews 9:3, 8; Hebrews 10:19, 20). Aaron's function was to bring out the spiritual meaning of the Law; and so he was a type of Christ, who came not to destroy but to fulfill it. Bearing these things in mind, light may be let in upon the remarkable passage before us. We have here -
I. THE ANGER OF MOSES.
1. Look at the history in the letter.
(1) Moses had given instructions to Aaron and his sons respecting the goat which was to be offered for the sin of the people (see Leviticus 9:15, 16).
(2) These instructions were not fully carried out. The goat was killed and its fat burnt upon the altar; but the flesh was not eaten in the holy place.
(3) Moses made search, and behold the goat was burnt, probably without the camp (Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:11). This angered him, and led him to question the "sons of Aaron who were left," or had escaped the fire that consumed their brethren, as to why they had deviated from his directions.
2. Now look at the moral.
(1) It should have been eaten in the holy place, because it was "most holy," that is to say, the "bread of God' (Leviticus 6:16, 17; Leviticus 21:22); that which wrath was to feed upon. This significantly pointed to Christ. After declaring himself to be the "bread of God which cometh down from heaven," he explains, "the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). How remarkably the mysteries of the bread offering and the "flesh" of the sin offering, associated on the Levitical altar, are again associated in this gospel explanation!
(2) By the fire of God feeding upon the sin offering, it bore "the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord" (verse 17). But this is said of the eating of the flesh by Aaron and his sons. By eating the flesh of the sin offering, then, Aaron was to appear as in the place of it (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:7). This significantly indicated that the true sin offering was not to be an animal, but a man.
(3) The rule is laid down that if the blood was not brought in within the holy place, the flesh should be eaten in the holy place (verse 18). That rule showed that the Law priests were typically to bear the iniquity of the people, until that High Priest should come who would carry his own blood into the holy place not made with hands. In that event their functions were destined to cease.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF AARON.
1. The anger of Moses was with the sons of Aaron.
(1) We are not told that he felt any anger towards Aaron. We see a propriety in this when we consider that Aaron was a type of Christ. Moses directed Aaron all through the ceremonials of his consecration, and so Christ in this world, in which he was consecrated to his priesthood, was "made under the Law." But the Law could have no anger against Christ, "who fulfilled all its righteousness," and in every way "magnified and made it honourable."
(2) But against the sons of Jesus, who are far from being as perfect as their Head, the Law may have occasion for anger.
2. But Aaron speaks in his own person for his sons.
(2) And speaking for them thus, Aaron was able to appease Moses. Not only was Moses "satisfied," as in the text, but what Aaron urged was "well pleasing in his eyes," as in the Hebrew. So triumphantly is Jesus able to deliver us from the anger of the Law (Romans 5:9, 20, 21).
3. But what is the import of Aaron's words (verse 19)?
(1) Here he concedes that the sin offering had been offered, and that, under usual conditions, to have complied with all the directions of Moses would have been proper. But he explains, "such things have befallen me," referring to his parental sorrow in the loss of his sons under most distressing circumstances. He was, therefore, a mourner, not outwardly (see verses 4-7), but in spirit, so, had he eaten the sin offering, would it have been accepted by the Lord, viz. who looketh upon the heart? Moses had nothing to reply to this (comp. Deuteronomy 12:7; 1 Samuel 1:7, 8; Hosea 9:4).
(2) But was there not a prophetic meaning in these words of Aaron? As Caiaphas "spake not of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation" (John 10:50, 51), does not Aaron as truly in the spirit of prophecy here say that the death of the priest sets aside the type (see Colossians 2:14)?
(3) The consent of Moses shows how the Law bears testimony to Christ, and is itself to vanish as a shadow when the substance takes its place.
(4) It also shows that it is proper to break the Law in the letter, when to do so is necessary to its observance in the spirit. The spirit of the Law is the gospel. - J.A.M.
Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering?
Such things have befallen meI. THAT SORE AFFLICTIONS SOMETIMES BEFALL THE SERVANTS OF GOD.
1. The death of two sons by one stroke.
2. The distressing character of their death.
3. The prohibition of any expression of grief.
II. THAT UNDER THE PRESSURE OF SORE AFFLICTIONS THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE REQUIRED TO ATTEND TO RELIGIOUS DUTIES.
1. The obligatoriness of such duties is not annulled by trial. Trust in God, and prayer and praise to him, are binding in sickness as in health, in sorrow as m joy. So are all religious duties.
2. The need of the help which attention to such duties affords is not diminished by trial, but rather increased.
III. THAT UNDER THE PRESSURE OF SORE AFFLICTIONS THE MIND AND HEART OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD OFTEN SEEM UNEQUAL TO A PROPER DISCHARGE OF RELIGIOUS DUTIES. On the day when this calamity befell them, Aaron and his surviving sons did not accurately discharge their sacred duties. It was expressly commanded that the flesh of those sin offerings, the blood of which was not carried into the Tabernacle of the congregation, should be eaten by the officiating priests (Leviticus 6:24-30). Instead of doing this, Aaron and his sons burnt the flesh of the sinoffering (vers. 16-18). The error may be viewed as —
1. An oversight caused by the things which had befallen them. In great griefs the heart seems dead to every feeling but the predominant one, and the mind seems incapable of sustained attention to anything except what is related to its griefs. Meditation upon the holy Scriptures, prayer, spiritual aspirations, communion with God — these seem impossible to the sorrow-stricken soul. Needing them so urgently, yet the soul seems unable properly to attend to them.
2. Intentional because of felt unfitness to eat of the "most holy" flesh. This seems to receive most support from the words following the text: "Such things have befallen me, and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?" The bereaved father seems to have been not only sorrowful, but deeply awed and humbled by the things which had befallen him, and to have felt that if he had eaten the "most holy" flesh in such a frame of mind it would not have been acceptable to God. His case reminds us of some who absent themselves from the sacrament of the Lord's supper because of a sincere feeling of unworthiness. But let such persons remember that Aaron's sense of unworthiness did not disqualify him for eating the flesh of the sin-offering; he rather erred in not doing so.
IV. THAT WHEN THE MIND AND HEART OF THE SUFFERING SERVANTS OF GOD SEEM THUS UNFITTED FOR RELIGIOUS DUTIES, GOD DOES NOT ACCOUNT SUCH UNFITNESS AS SIN. When Moses heard the apology of Aaron "he was content"; and we are warranted in regarding his "content" as an evidence that God also was satisfied with the reason assigned by the high priest for his deviation from the line of duty. Surely the Lord knew the intense anguish which His servant was suffering, and regarded him with deepest, tenderest pity. "The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." Here is consolation for the sorrow-stricken soul. If in the day of your sore afflictions you seem to have no heart for worship, your efforts to pray end in what seems to you to be utter failure, and religious thought and emotion seem to have entirely departed from you, remember the touching words of Aaron in his great calamity, "Such things have befallen me"; remember also those other words, "And when Moses heard that, he was content."
When Moses heard that, he was content. —
(J. Parker, D. D.).
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