Getting on his high horse one day, Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, along with a few Reubenites - Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth -
rebelled against Moses. He had with him 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel, prominent men with positions in the Council.
They came as a group and confronted Moses and Aaron, saying, "You've overstepped yourself. This entire community is holy and God is in their midst. So why do you act like you're running the whole show?"
On hearing this, Moses threw himself facedown on the ground.
Then he addressed Korah and his gang: "In the morning God will make clear who is on his side, who is holy. God will take his stand with the one he chooses.
"Now, Korah, here's what I want you, you and your gang, to do: Tomorrow, take censers.
In the presence of God, put fire in them and then incense. Then we'll see who is holy, see whom God chooses. Sons of Levi, you've overstepped yourselves!"
Moses continued with Korah, "Listen well now, sons of Levi.
Isn't it enough for you that the God of Israel has selected you out of the congregation of Israel to bring you near him to serve in the ministries of The Dwelling of God, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them?
He has brought you and all your brother Levites into his inner circle, and now you're grasping for the priesthood too.
It's God you've ganged up against, not us. What do you have against Aaron that you're bad-mouthing him?"
Moses then ordered Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, to appear, but they said, "We're not coming.
Isn't it enough that you yanked us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you keep trying to boss us around!
Face it, you haven't produced: You haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, you haven't given us the promised inheritance of fields and vineyards. You'd have to poke our eyes out to keep us from seeing what's going on. Forget it, we're not coming."
Moses' temper blazed white-hot. He said to God, "Don't accept their Grain-Offering. I haven't taken so much as a single donkey from them; I haven't hurt a single hair of their heads."
Moses said to Korah, "Bring your people before God tomorrow. Appear there with them and Aaron.
Have each man bring his censer filled with incense and present it to God - all 250 censers. And you and Aaron do the same, bring your censers."
So they all did it. They brought their censers filled with fire and incense and stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron did the same.
It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God.
God said to Moses and Aaron,
"Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them."
They threw themselves on their faces and said, "O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?"
God spoke to Moses:
"Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of Israel followed him.
He then spoke to the community: "Back off from the tents of these bad men; don't touch a thing that belongs to them lest you be carried off on the flood of their sins."
So they all backed away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram by now had come out and were standing at the entrance to their tents with their wives, children, and babies.
Moses continued to address the community: "This is how you'll know that it was God who sent me to do all these things and that it wasn't anything I cooked up on my own.
If these men die a natural death like all the rest of us, you'll know that it wasn't God who sent me.
But if God does something unprecedented - if the ground opens up and swallows the lot of them and they are pitched alive into Sheol - then you'll know that these men have been insolent with God."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Earth split open.
Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned.
And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.
At the sound of their cries everyone around ran for dear life, shouting, "We're about to be swallowed up alive!"
Then God sent lightning. The fire cremated the 250 men who were offering the incense.
God spoke to Moses:
"Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, Gather up the censers from the smoldering cinders and scatter the coals a distance away for these censers have become holy.
Take the censers of the men who have sinned and are now dead and hammer them into thin sheets for covering the Altar. They have been offered to God and are holy to God. Let them serve as a sign to Israel, evidence of what happened this day."
So Eleazar gathered all the bronze censers that belonged to those who had been burned up and had them hammered flat and used to overlay the Altar,
just as God had instructed him by Moses. This was to serve as a sign to Israel that only descendants of Aaron were allowed to burn incense before God; anyone else trying it would end up like Korah and his gang.
Grumbling broke out the next day in the community of Israel, grumbling against Moses and Aaron: "You have killed God's people!"
But it so happened that when the community got together against Moses and Aaron, they looked over at the Tent of Meeting and there was the Cloud - the Glory of God for all to see.
Moses and Aaron stood at the front of the Tent of Meeting.
God spoke to Moses:
"Back away from this congregation so that I can do away with them this very minute." They threw themselves facedown on the ground.
Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and fill it with incense, along with fire from the Altar. Get to the congregation as fast as you can: make atonement for them. Anger is pouring out from God - the plague has started!"
Aaron grabbed the censer, as directed by Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation. The plague had already begun. He put burning incense into the censer and atoned for the people.
He stood there between the living and the dead and stopped the plague.
Fourteen thousand seven hundred people died from the plague, not counting those who died in the affair of Korah.
Aaron then went back to join Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The plague was stopped.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)