The Covenant of God’s Justice

Leviticus 10:2 & Numbers 16:35

This covenant is unusual, in that it differs from the other six and the general discussions on covenant in several ways:

  • this covenant is out of sequence
  • there are two examples and reference texts, and
  • it is a negative covenant dealing with God’s judgment.

Though unusual, it is present in the text and needs to be acknowledged.

In Leviticus 10:1–3, the sons of Aaron (Nadab and Abihu) had recently participated in the first day of atonement for the whole community and witnessed the precision and meticulous detail in coming before the Lord to make sacrifice. Yet they showed contempt for the Lord God and presumptuously brought unauthorised fire before him. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them and their offerings.

The incident in Numbers 16:35 concerns the sin of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On and a further 250 chiefs among the congregation; men of note, high standing and probably politically ambitious. They rebelled against Moses and Aaron and accused them of lording it over the people (Num 16:1–3), and assuming undeserved authority upon themselves. Moses then challenged them to let the Lord decide by each man bringing censers with fire before the Lord and He shall choose who is holy (Num 16:6–7).

When the glory of the Lord appeared at the entrance to the tent of meeting, Korah and his followers were swallowed up by an earthquake in the way Moses predicted (Num 16:31–33). However, the 250 chiefs who were offering incense were consumed by fire coming out from the presence of the Lord.

Here we see evidence of the justice of God; whoever would reject the Lord’s provision for sin, his son Jesus Christ, either in contempt or rebellion will fall under the covenant of God’s justice, the wages of sin is still death (Rom 6:23). Again, this covenant is unilateral and immutable and results from man rejecting the sovereign grace of God.

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