Bible Question:

I remember reading once that no one but God's holy priests, that is, Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's sons could enter the Tent of Meeting. Were the Israelites allowed to enter it? Isn't there a story about two boys who entered the Tent of Meeting in order to give God a sacrifice but since they weren't allowed in there God killed them? Can you please tell me if I am remembering this right and if so can you tell me where to find it in the Bible?

Bible Answer:

The Tent of Meeting contained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

Tent of Meeting

The Tent of Meeting was draped with coverings of various materials (Exodus 26:1-14; 36:8-19). The furnishings of the Tent of Meeting were pictures of Jesus Christ. The sacrifices were offered outside the Tent of Meeting in the court of the Tabernacle (Exodus 29:11). Numbers 3:25-26 indicates that the terms Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting were used interchangeably on occasions, but Exodus 40:6, 24, and 26 seems to indicate that the Tabernacle sometimes referred to the Holy of Holies. The court outside the Tent of Meeting included the altar and the laver (Exodus 30:18).


This background was important in order to understand Numbers 18:21-22 where the Israelites were warned not to enter the Tent of Meeting.

To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die. Numbers 18:21-22 (NAS95S)<

Only the priests were allowed to come near the Tent of Meeting and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Tent of Meeting. They were warned to wash themselves first before entering (Exodus 30:19-21) and to put on the priestly clothes (Exodus 28:35). The priests were warned to hide their genitals with clothing (Exodus 28:42-43). They were not allowed to drink wine or “strong drink” before entering the Tent of Meeting (Leviticus 10:9). Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:2).

The two men that you mention were priests. They were two adult sons of the high priest Aaron: Nadab and Abihu (Exodus 24:1,9; 28:1). Leviticus 10:2 tells us that they offered strange fire on the altar outside the Tent of Meeting and consequently, God took their lives due to their disobedience.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Leviticus 10:1-2 (NAS95S)

Other references to their sin are recorded in Numbers 3:4 and 26:61.


God’s standards of holiness were and are high. While today God does not demand that we observe the priestly rules of dress and conduct, it is clear that God’s standards of holiness are much higher than ours. God still hates sin and when we decide to ignore His call to holiness, He will discipline His own. 1 Peter 1:14-16 reveals God’s will for us,

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Pet 1:14-16 (NAS95S)

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