Nadab and Abihu

I was asked about the relationship between Nadab and Abihu’s death and the Day of Atonement ceremony.  I responded as follows:

Remember that these two saw the Lord in sacred space (on top of Sinai with Moses) earlier in their lives. (Exo. 24: 9-11)
Despite their earlier audience with the Lord, they were not authorized to enter the Holy of Holies.  Only the chosen High Priest, and then once an year, only on the Day of Atonement.  (Lev. Chapter 16; 23: 26-32.)
They entered into the Holy of Holies when they were not authorized, and burned incense contrary to the Day of Atonement ceremony.  They were not authorized to be there nor to do what they did.  Therefore they were struck down.  (Lev. 10: 1-3.)  The Lord reminded Moses after their death that those who are going to enter into that place must be “sanctified” before entering, hence the Day of Atonement ceremony being a prerequisite for entry.
Later Jewish tradition required the High Priest to have a rope tied to his ankle when he entered the Holy of Holies, so that his body could be recovered if he were struck down without the necessity of others entering the room.

2 thoughts on “Nadab and Abihu

  1. This comment opens a new question. When did the Jewish tradition of wearing a rope tied to the ankle get instituted? Did Zacharias wear such a rope when he was delayed by the Angel Gabriel? Where do you research this kind of information? Hugh Nibley’s books or other books or other sources?

  2. Anonymous,

    Wearing a rope was Second Temple, at least.

    Zacharias was not in the Holy of Holies, but in the Holy Place, outside the veil. They did not need a rope there. In that room at least three priests entered morning and evening every day; and more once a week when the shewbread was replaced. Also when the menorah was serviced more would have been required for that duty, as well. All of whom were in the Holy Place, not the Holy of Holies.

    I can remember a lot more than I can keep in a bibliography. The source would require me to rummage about in my library. That’s inconvenient. I can make the comment to stimulate thought, but you’ll need to go research it to locate a source. (It may be in Edersheim’s book on the Temple, but I’d have to check.) I don’t recall Nibley making any comment on this, but he may have. His books are indexed well enough you may be able to search just the index and see if he commented on it.

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