NADAB (Heb. נָדָב; "[God] has been generous"), eldest son of *Aaron and Elisheba daughter of Amminadab (Ex. 6:23; Num. 3:2, et al.). For details see *Abihu. (The two are always mentioned together and what applies to Abihu is also true of Nadab.) Nadab too left no sons (Num. 3:4; i Chron. 24:2).
[Morris M. Schnitzer]
Nadab and Abihu in the Aggadah
Apart from the one sin which brought about their mysterious deaths, Nadab and Abihu were righteous men. As to the nature of the sin – the "strange fire" which they offered up – there are various interpretations. The most obvious explanation bases itself on the injunction against the priests' partaking of wine and strong drink before entering the sanctuary (Lev. 10:9), which immediately follows this episode. It is therefore suggested that Nadab and Abihu were in a state of intoxication when they offered up the "strange fire." A number of interpretations suggest that they neglected the various ritual requirements connected with the offerings (Lev. R. 20:8–9).
It is also suggested that their overbearing haughtiness was responsible for their deaths. They did not marry because they considered no woman good enough for themselves, saying, "Our father's brother [Moses] is a king, our mother's brother [Nahshon] is a prince, our father [Aaron] is a high priest, and we are both deputy high priests – what woman is worthy of us?" (Lev. R. 20:10). They even went so far as to wish for the death of Moses and Aaron so that they could assume the mantle of leadership (Sanh. 52a; Lev. R. 20:10). Even in the performance of the sacrifice they displayed their haughtiness by refraining from consulting with one another and by neglecting to ask Moses and Aaron whether they might offer such a sacrifice, depending instead upon their own judgment. The sages deduce from this episode that it is forbidden for a disciple to render a legal decision in the presence of his master (Lev. R. 20:7). It is, however, also suggested that their death was a vicarious punishment for their father's sin with regard to the golden calf. Moses relates: "Moreover the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him" (Deut. 9:20), and "destruction" means extinction of offspring (Lev. R. 10:5). Moses attempted to comfort his brother by assuring him that his two remaining sons were greater than Nadab and Abihu. At Sinai, Moses was told that he would sanctify the Tabernacle through the death of a great man. He thought that the reference was to himself or Aaron, but now he realized that Nadab and Abihu were nearer to God (Lev. R. 12:2).
Their deaths were caused by "two streams of fire,… branched off into four, and two entered into each of the nostrils of Nadab and Abihu." Their souls were burnt, although no external injury was visible (Sanh. 52a). The whole House of Israel was bidden to bewail the death of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. R. 20:12) for "the death of a pious man is a greater misfortune to Israel than the destruction of the Temple" (Sif. Deut. 31).
H. Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit (1913), 257–9; Noth, Personennamen, 193, 251; T.J. Meek, in: ajsll, 45 (1929), 157; K. Moehlenbrink, in: zaw, 52 (1934), 214–5; G. Ryckmans, Les noms propres sud-sémitiques, 1 (1934), 136; F. Dornseiff, in: zaw, 53 (1935), 164; Kaufmann, Y., Toledot, 2 (1938), 264, 276; S. Feigin, Mysteries of the Past (1953), 430; L.A. Snijders, in: ots, 10 (1954), 116–23; M. Haran, in: Tarbiz, 26 (1956/57), 116 idem, in: vt, 10 (1960), 115, 127; J. Liver, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 207, 216; R. Gradwohl, in: zaw, 75 (1963), 288ff.; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (1967), 310–5. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index.