Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” (Leviticus 10:8-10)
Because this prohibition against strong drink is given to the priests immediately after the deaths of Aaron’s sons, it has been argued that this was why they offered “strange fire.” In other words, it strongly infers they were intoxicated which would have dulled their physical and spiritual senses. If this is the case it is very possible, if not likely, that they were rendered careless and possibly unaware that they were offering “strange fire.”
It is indeed tragic to think that carelessness due to too much wine caused their deaths. It brings to mind what happened to Uzzah when he went to steady the ark of the covenant as it made its way to Jerusalem. As far as we can detect from the text, he bore no ill intent but simply acted, albeit, thoughtlessly and inconsiderate of the consequences. Regardless of the motive, the end result was the death of someone who reacted, in this case, out of emotion.
While some might regard this as too rigid and a bit cruel (even David got angry about the death of Uzzah), service to God cannot be based on sheer emotion, at least not exclusively. Service to God must be entered into with sobriety and clear understanding. Anything, whether tangible or not, that could confuse our thinking and inhibit our ability to discharge our duties as “priests” needs to be avoided. Being sober minded and spiritually alert is a must if we are to effectively execute our responsibility to distinguish between clean and unclean.
This is a duty we have to fulfill for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. We must have a clear and sound mind so that we may teach others about the One True God and His ways. So then, we will close with the words of Micah who said, “The lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:7)
Blessings and Shalom,