Numbers 16

1 And Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, made bold, and [with him] Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, the sons of Reuben;
2 and they rose up against Moses, with two hundred and fifty men of the children of Israel, princes of the assembly, summoned to the council, men of renown;
3 and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, It is enough; for all the assembly, all of them are holy, and Jehovah is among them; and why do ye lift up yourselves above the congregation of Jehovah?
4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.
5 And he spoke to Korah and to all his band, saying, Even to-morrow will Jehovah make known who is his, and who is holy; and he will cause him to come near to him; and him whom he has chosen, him will he cause to come near to him.
6 This do: take you censers, Korah, and all his band,
7 and put fire therein, and lay incense thereon before Jehovah to-morrow; and it shall be that the man whom Jehovah doth choose, he shall be holy. It is enough, ye sons of Levi!
8 And Moses said to Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi!
9 Is it too little for you, that the God of Israel has separated you from the assembly of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the work of the tabernacle of Jehovah, and to stand before the assembly to minister to them?
10 -- that he has brought thee near, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee; and seek ye now the priesthood also?
11 For which cause thou and all thy band are banded together against Jehovah; and Aaron, who is he that ye murmur against him?
12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, We will not come up!
13 Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that thou must make thyself altogether a ruler over us?
14 Moreover, thou hast not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up!
15 Then Moses was very wroth, and said to Jehovah, Have no regard to their oblation: not one ass have I taken from them, neither have I hurt one of them.
16 And Moses said to Korah, Be thou and all thy band before Jehovah, thou, and they, and Aaron, to-morrow.
17 And take each his censer, and put incense thereon, and present before Jehovah every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; and thou, and Aaron, each his censer.
18 And they took each his censer, and put fire on them, and laid incense thereon, and stood before the entrance to the tent of meeting, as well as Moses and Aaron.
19 And Korah gathered the whole assembly against them to the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of Jehovah appeared to all the assembly.
20 And Jehovah spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
21 Separate yourselves from the midst of this assembly, and I will consume them in a moment.
22 And they fell on their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh! shall *one* man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with the whole assembly?
23 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the assembly, saying, Get you up from about the habitation of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
25 And Moses rose up and went to Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
26 And he spoke to the assembly, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye perish in all their sins.
27 And they got up from the habitation of Koran, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side. And Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the entrance of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little ones.
28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that Jehovah has sent me to do all these deeds, for they are not out of my own heart:
29 if these men die as all men die, and are visited with the visitation of all men, Jehovah has not sent me;
30 but if Jehovah make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, and all that they have, and they go down alive into Sheol, then ye shall know that these men have despised Jehovah.
31 And it came to pass when he had ended speaking all these words, that the ground clave apart that was under them.
32 And the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that belonged to Korah, and all their property.
33 And they went down, they and all that they had, alive into Sheol, and the earth covered them; and they perished from among the congregation.
34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up!
35 And there came out a fire from Jehovah, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that had presented incense.
36 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
37 Speak to Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning; and scatter the fire afar; for they are hallowed,
38 the censers of these sinners who have forfeited their life; and they shall make them into broad plates for the covering of the altar; for they presented them before Jehovah, therefore they are hallowed; and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
39 And Eleazar the priest took the copper censers, which they that were burnt had presented; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
40 as a memorial to the children of Israel, that no stranger who is not of the seed of Aaron come near to burn incense before Jehovah, that he be not as Korah, and as his band, -- as Jehovah had said to him through Moses.
41 And the whole assembly of the children of Israel murmured on the morrow against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of Jehovah.
42 And it came to pass, when the assembly was gathered together against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of Jehovah appeared.
43 And Moses and Aaron went before the tent of meeting.
44 And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying,
45 Get you up from the midst of this assembly, and I will consume them in a moment. And they fell on their faces.
46 And Moses said to Aaron, Take the censer, and put fire thereon from off the altar, and lay on incense, and carry it quickly to the assembly, and make atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from Jehovah: the plague is begun.
47 And Aaron took as Moses had said, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and behold, the plague had begun among the people; and he put on incense, and made atonement for the people.
48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides them that had died because of the matter of Korah.
50 And Aaron returned to Moses to the entrance of the tent of meeting; and the plague was stayed.

Numbers 16 Commentary

Chapter 16

The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram Korah contends for the priesthood. (1-11) Disobedience of Dathan and Abiram. (12-15) The glory of the Lord appears The intercession of Moses and Aaron. (16-22) The earth swallows up Dathan and Abiram. (23-34) The company of Korah consumed. (35-40) The people murmur A plague sent. (41-50)

Verses 1-11 Pride and ambition occasion a great deal of mischief both in churches and states. The rebels quarrel with the settlement of the priesthood upon Aaron and his family. Small reason they had to boast of the people's purity, or of God's favour, as the people had been so often and so lately polluted with sin, and were now under the marks of God's displeasure. They unjustly charge Moses and Aaron with taking honour to themselves; whereas they were called of God to it. See here, 1. What spirit levellers are of; those who resist the powers God has set over them. 2. What usage they have been serviceable. Moses sought instruction from God. The heart of the wise studies to answer, and asks counsel of God. Moses shows their privileges as Levites, and convicts them of the sin of undervaluing these privileges. It will help to keep us from envying those above us, duly to consider how many there are below us.

Verses 12-15 Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram to bring their complaints; but they would not obey. They bring very false charges against Moses. Those often fall under the heaviest censures, who in truth deserve the highest praise. Moses, though the meekest man, yet, finding God reproached in him, was very wroth; he could not bear to see the people ruining themselves. He appeals to God as to his own integrity. He bade them appear with Aaron next morning, at the time of offering the morning incense. Korah undertook thus to appear. Proud ambitious men, while projecting their own advancement, often hurry on their own shameful fall.

Verses 16-22 The same glory of the Lord that appeared to place Aaron in his office at first, ( Leviticus 9:23 ) , now appeared to confirm him in it; and to confound those who set up against him. Nothing is more terrible to those who are conscious of guilt, than the appearance of the Divine glory. See how dangerous it is to have fellowship with sinners, and to partake with them. Though the people had treacherously deserted them, yet Moses and Aaron approved themselves faithful shepherds of Israel. If others fail in their duty to us, that does not take away the obligations we are under to seek their welfare. Their prayer was a pleading prayer, and it proved a prevailing one.

Verses 23-34 The seventy elders of Israel attend Moses. It is our duty to do what we can to countenance and support lawful authority when it is opposed. And those who would not perish with sinners, must come out from among them, and be separate. It was in answer to the prayer of Moses, that God stirred up the hearts of the congregation to remove for their own safety. Grace to separate from evil-doers is one of the things that accompany salvation. God, in justice, left the rebels to the obstinacy and hardness of their own hearts. Moses, by Divine direction, when all Israel were waiting the event, declares that if the rebels die a common death, he will be content to be called and counted an imposter. As soon as Moses had spoken the word, God caused the earth to open and swallow them all up. The children perished with their parents; in which, though we cannot tell how bad they might be to deserve it, or how good God might be otherwise to them; yet of this we are sure, that Infinite Justice did them no wrong. It was altogether miraculous. God has, when he pleases, strange punishments for the workers of iniquity. It was very significant. Considering how the earth is still in like manner loaded with the weight of man's sins, we have reason to wonder that it does not now sink under its load. The ruin of others should be our warning. Could we, by faith, hear the outcries of those that are gone down to the bottomless pit, we should give more diligence than we do to escape for our lives, lest we also come into their condemnation.

Verses 35-40 A fire went out from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense, while Aaron, who stood with them, was preserved alive. God is jealous of the honour of his own institutions, and will not have them invaded. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The censers are devoted, and, as all devoted things, must be made serviceable to the glory of God. This covering of the altar would remind the children of Israel of this event, that others might hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously. They brought destruction on themselves both in body and soul. Thus all who break the law and neglect the gospel choose and love death.

Verses 41-50 The gaping earth was scarcely closed, before the same sins are again committed, and all these warnings slighted. They called the rebels the people of the Lord; and find fault with Divine justice. The obstinacy of Israel notwithstanding the terrors of God's law, as given on mount Sinai, and the terrors of his judgments, shows how necessary the grace of God is to change men's hearts and lives. Love will do what fear cannot. Moses and Aaron interceded with God for mercy, knowing how great the provocation was. Aaron went, and burned incense between the living and the dead, not to purify the air, but to pacify an offended God. As one tender of the life of every Israelite, Aaron made all possible speed. We must render good for evil. Observe especially, that Aaron was a type of Christ. There is an infection of sin in the world, which only the cross and intercession of Jesus Christ can stay and remove. He enters the defiled and dying camp. He stands between the dead and the living; between the eternal Judge and the souls under condemnation. We must have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins. We admire the ready devotion of Aaron: shall we not bless and praise the unspeakable grace and love which filled the Saviour's heart, when he placed himself in our stead, and bought us with his life? Greatly indeed hath God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, ( Romans 5:8 ) .

Footnotes 7

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 16

This chapter gives an account of a sedition of Korah and others against Moses and Aaron, Nu 16:1-4, with whom Moses expostulates, and shows the unreasonableness of their clamour against Aaron, Nu 16:5-11; sends for Dathan and Abiram, who were in the confederacy, but refused to come, which greatly angered Moses, Nu 16:12-15; orders Korah and his company to appear before the Lord the next day, with Aaron, to have the controversy decided, Nu 16:16-18; when all the congregation gathered together would have been, consumed had it not been for the intercession of Moses and Aaron, Nu 16:19-22; and who, being separated from the rebels by the command of the Lord, some of the rebels were swallowed up in the earth, and others destroyed by fire from heaven, Nu 16:23-35; and their censers were made a covering for the altar, as a memorial of their sin, Nu 16:36-40; on which there was a new insurrection of the people, which brought a plague upon them, and destroyed 14,700 persons, and which was stopped at the intercession of Aaron, Nu 16:41-50.

Numbers 16 Commentaries