8 The Lord then spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations— 10 and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.”
12 Then Moses spoke to Aaron, and to his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from the Lord’s offerings by fire and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it, moreover, in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due out of the Lord’s offerings by fire; for thus I have been commanded. 14 The breast of the wave offering, however, and the thigh of the offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you; for they have been given as your due and your sons’ due out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. 15 The thigh offered by lifting up and the breast offered by waving they shall bring along with the offerings by fire of the portions of fat, to present as a wave offering before the Lord; so it shall be a thing perpetually due you and your sons with you, just as the Lord has commanded.”
16 But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, 17 “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and [f]He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” 19 But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the Lord?” 20 When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight.
After the first passage, one might have expected the other two sons to drop dead also, but after Aaron’s explanation, it seems the situation is diffused. It’s difficult to be sure what the difference is here, but I think the likely explanation is that the first passage deals with willful disobedience. The second passage is then a simple accident. The sons of Aaron, having to try and remember a hundred (or more) rules, had forgotten one, and accidentally burned the sin offering. This seems the opposite of “to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, it is sin.” God is the ultimate judge, because he knows our hearts. It isn’t for us to judge in such matters, no more than it was for Moses here. Moses was certainly upset, but then appeased by Aaron’s explanation. God, however, needed no explanation, because he knew their hearts.
That doesn’t let us off the hook of keeping our brother (and sister) accountable though. While we aren’t responsible for their ultimate judgement, we are responsible to help them “pick the speck out of their eye”, but only once we’ve got the log out of our own.