Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu each took his pan, put fire in them and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the L‑rd foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. Fire went forth from before the L‑rd and consumed them . . .(Leviticus 10:1–2)
At the inauguration ceremony of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), a “fire of favor” came down from heaven as the people sang praises. In stark contrast to this joyous event was the unauthorized incense which Nadav and Avihu offered up, and in their spiritual intoxication they were consumed in a “counter-fire” from heaven.
In the painting, their ethereal figures seem to be ascending, as if encompassed in the heat of their fervor. The tension of conflicting energies is reflected in the contrast of primary colors (red, yellow, blue) as well as in the flames that surround them.