Numbers 16:38

38 Take the incense burners of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, and hammer the metal into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. Since these burners were used in the LORD ’s presence, they have become holy. Let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel.”

Numbers 16:38 Meaning and Commentary

Numbers 16:38

The censers of these sinners against their own souls
Who by burning incense in them sinned, and by sinning hurt and ruined their souls:

let them make them broad plates [for] a covering of the altar;
the altar of burnt offering, which, though it had a covering of brass, another made of these were to be over it, for the further security of it, being of from the fire continually burning on it; these censers were to be beaten into broad plates, by the workmen who understood how to do it:

for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are hallowed;
they offered them in his presence, they burned incense in them, and to him, though it was not their business, but the business of the priests; yet these being done, and by his orders, for an open trial who were his priests and who not, they were not to be put to common use:

and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel;
a memorial sign, a sign bringing this affair to remembrance, as it is explained in ( Numbers 16:40 ) ; this was a sign to the priests, that they only were to offer every kind of offerings, and to the Levites, who attended the priests at the altar continually, and so had every day a sight of it and of those plates upon it, which would remind them of this fact, and teach them not to usurp the priest's office; and to all the children of Israel, to learn from hence that none were to burn incense but the priests of the Lord, for doing which Uzziah, though a king, was punished, ( 2 Chronicles 26:18-23 ) .

Numbers 16:38 In-Context

36 And the LORD said to Moses,
37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to pull all the incense burners from the fire, for they are holy. Also tell him to scatter the burning coals.
38 Take the incense burners of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, and hammer the metal into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. Since these burners were used in the LORD ’s presence, they have become holy. Let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel.”
39 So Eleazar the priest collected the 250 bronze incense burners that had been used by the men who died in the fire, and the bronze was hammered into a thin sheet to overlay the altar.
40 This would warn the Israelites that no unauthorized person—no one who was not a descendant of Aaron—should ever enter the LORD ’s presence to burn incense. If anyone did, the same thing would happen to him as happened to Korah and his followers. So the LORD ’s instructions to Moses were carried out.