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    Strange fire – Sh’mini

    Nadab and Abihu destroyed by fire, by Matthäus Merian, c. 1625

    At the moment of their father’s great happiness, his induction as kohen gadol, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, are struck dead because “they offered strange fire which God had not commanded them”.

    Amongst the suggestions as to what the strange fire was, comes the view that the young men were burning with intoxication. Others say that they were puffed up with egotism and gave rulings in the presence of their master.

    Further views argue that they were so full of self-pride that they refused to marry and said that no woman was good enough for them, and that they looked at Moses and Aaron and said, “When will these old men die so that we can be the leaders?”

    We cannot be certain which view is the real truth, but they all illustrate our sad experience with people in high positions who abandon integrity and responsibility and let strange fire – of whatever kind – take over their minds, hearts and lives, to the detriment of their people and their task.

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