Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites--Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth--became insolent
and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.
They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?"
When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.
Then he said to Korah and all his followers: "In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him.
You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers
and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!"
Moses also said to Korah, "Now listen, you Levites!
Isn't it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD's tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?
He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.
It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?"
Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, "We will not come!
Isn't it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us?
Moreover, you haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!"
Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, "Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them."
Moses said to Korah, "You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow--you and they and Aaron.
Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it--250 censers in all--and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also."
So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly.
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
"Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once."
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, "O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?"
Then the LORD said to Moses,
"Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.' "
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him.
He warned the assembly, "Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins."
So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea:
If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me.
But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt."
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart
and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions.
They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!"
And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
The LORD said to Moses,
"Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy--
the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites."
So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar,
as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. "You have killed the LORD's people," they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared.
Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting,
and the LORD said to Moses,
"Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once." And they fell facedown.
Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started."
So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.
He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.
But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.
Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.
The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff.
On the staff of Levi write Aaron's name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe.
Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you.
The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites."
So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron's staff was among them.
Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony.
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.
Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD's presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff.
The LORD said to Moses, "Put back Aaron's staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die."
Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.
The Israelites said to Moses, "We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!
Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?"