The Strange Fire of Nadab and Abihu

Dr. Mike Johnston

And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD (Numbers 26:61).  The account of Aaron’s two apostate sons serve for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Corinthians 10:11). 

            Looks are deceiving. All that passes for worship is not from God; neither are those partaking in it. To look at Aaron’s sons, you’d never know the evil lurking behind their otherwise religious façade. Nadab (generous, giving) and Abihu (Yahweh is my Father) were priests by birth who grew up in a privileged home as sons of ministry service. Along with Moses, the 70 elders of Israel, and their father Aaron, these two boys experienced the presence of God as few ever have (Exo_24:1) and were called and consecrated for priestly ministry as few ever are. They received personally specific instructions on anointing all that was holy, presenting offerings to God, burning incense, and maintaining God’s holy and perpetual fire (Ex 29-30). And yet, their evil heart one day caused them to desecrate the eternal flame by offering a fire of worship that dishonored the Spirit of God. And while one might muse- as many do today- that all fire used in worship is holy fire- the grievousness of this act will become evident once I explain the significance of divine fire and how it’s being misused in churches around the world today disguised as anointing. 

Defining Fire

Fire is represented as the symbol of Jehovah’s presence and the instrument of his power, in the way either of approval or of destruction. Exo_3:2; Exo_14:19; etc. There could not be a better symbol for Jehovah than this of fire, it being immaterial, mysterious, but visible, warming, cheering, comforting, but also terrible and consuming. Parallel with this application of fire and with its symbolical meaning are to be noted the similar use for sacrificial purposes and the respect paid to it, or to the heavenly bodies as symbols of deity, which prevailed among so many nations of antiquity, and of which the traces are not even now extinct; for example, the Sabean and Magian systems of worship (groves, images, etc. Isa_27:9). Fire for sacred purposes obtained elsewhere than from the altar was called “strange fire,” and for the use of such Nadab and Abihu were punished with death by fire from God. Lev_10:1-2; Num_3:4; Num_26:61. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

The Fire God Ordained

Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon. Exodus 30:37  The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out (Leviticus 6:13).

Old Scofield Reference Bible: [1]

Fire is essentially a symbol of God’s holiness. As such it expresses God in three ways:

  1. In judgment upon that which His holiness utterly condemns (for example) (Gen_19:24); (Mar_9:43-48); (Rev_20:15).


  1. In the manifestation of Himself, and of that which He approves (Exo_3:2); (1Pe_1:7); (Exo_13:21); and …


  1. In purification (e.g) (1Co_3:12-14); (Mal_3:2); (Mal_3:3). So, in Leviticus, the fire which only manifests the sweet savour of the burnt-, meal-, and peace-offerings, wholly consumes the sin-offering. 

The Strange Fire of Worship Nadab and Abihu Offered 

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire [1] before the LORD, which he commanded them not.  (2)  And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD  (Lev 10:1-2).

Compare (Lev_10:1-3); two prohibitions was given concerning worship:

(1) No “strange” incense [2] is to be offered. This speaks of simulated or purely formal worship.

(2) No “strange” fire was permitted. This refers to the excitation of “religious” feelings by merely sensuous means, and to the substitution for devotion to Christ of any other devotion, as to religious causes, or sects.

In essence, Nadab and Abihu substituted the presence of God represented by God’s fire- apparently in the spirit of drunkenness– by rejecting God’s fire from the perpetual altar flame (Lev. 6:13; Lev. 10:1-10) and replacing it with a manifestation of their own. As a result of offering strange- unauthorized- fire, [2] God struck them dead with the very fire they refused to include in their worship service.

Strange Fire in Churches Today

Seducing spirits are everywhere. They look good on the outside, but their hearts are filled with deception. Strange fire today is being offered under the guise of “new moves of God” by false apostles and prophets  claiming an “anointing” often manifest through a spirit of drunkenness. As I’ve disclosed in my my trilogy of books [3], these are the last days where evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).

Please hear me beloved friend: When the fire of God falls on these pernicious “prophets”- as it one day will- you do not want to be standing anywhere near them.

[1] The word strange implies an act of spiritual adultery. The Hebrew word is zoor. Strong’s offers this: A primitive root; to turn aside (especially for lodging); hence to be a foreigner, strange, profane; specifically (active participle) to commit adultery.

[2] At least two problems here: Men kindled it, and God hadn’t authorized it.

[3] Charismatic Seed of Corruption. Last Days False Prophets, Latter Rain Manifest Sons of God Heresy

[1] We have these Old Scofield Study Bibles in bonded leather, KJV, available for a gift to PMI of $30 to help us minister to you and others. Please remember, when you order from us, you help support us. Stamps are welcome.

[2] Incense is a type of prayer and while I agree with the broader implication Dr. Scofield makes here, I believe there’s a greater application for strange incense involving Charismatics stubbornly insist on offering the strange incense of ecstatic gibberish when they should be rendering intelligible devotion to our Holy Lord.

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