Numbers 16

Listen to Numbers 16
1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]:
2 and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred fifty princes of the congregation, called to the assembly, men of renown;
3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, You take too much on you, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them, and Yahweh is among them: why then lift you up yourselves above the assembly of Yahweh?
4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face:
5 and he spoke to Korah and to all his company, saying, In the morning Yahweh will show who are his, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him: even him whom he shall choose will he cause to come near to him.
6 This do: take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
7 and put fire in them, and put incense on them before Yahweh tomorrow: and it shall be that the man whom Yahweh does choose, he [shall be] holy: you take too much on you, you sons of Levi.
8 Moses said to Korah, Hear now, you sons of Levi:
9 [seems it but] a small thing to you, that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do the service of the tent of Yahweh, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them;
10 and that he has brought you near, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? and seek you the priesthood also?
11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against Yahweh: and Aaron, what is he who you murmur against him?
12 Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; and they said, We won't come up:
13 is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, but you must needs make yourself also a prince over us?
14 Moreover you haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: will you put out the eyes of these men? we won't come up.
15 Moses was very angry, and said to Yahweh, "Don't respect their offering: I have not taken one donkey from them, neither have I hurt one of them."
16 Moses said to Korah, You and all your company go before Yahweh, you, and they, and Aaron, tomorrow:
17 and take every man his censer, and put incense on them, and bring you before Yahweh every man his censer, two hundred fifty censers; you also, and Aaron, each his censer.
18 They took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood at the door of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron.
19 Korah assembled all the congregation against them to the door of the tent of meeting: and the glory of Yahweh appeared to all the congregation.
20 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
22 They fell on their faces, and said, God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?
23 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
24 Speak to the congregation, saying, Get away from around the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
25 Moses rose up and went to Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
26 He spoke to the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.
27 So they got them up from the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood at the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little ones.
28 Moses said, Hereby you shall know that Yahweh has sent me to do all these works; for [I have] not [done them] of my own mind.
29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then Yahweh hasn't sent me.
30 But if Yahweh make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain to them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then you shall understand that these men have despised Yahweh.
31 It happened, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground split apart that was under them;
32 and the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who appertained to Korah, and all their goods.
33 So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol: and the earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly.
34 All Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up.
35 Fire came forth from Yahweh, and devoured the two hundred fifty men who offered the incense.
36 Yahweh 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 you the fire yonder; for they are holy,
38 even the censers of these sinners against their own lives; and let them be made beaten plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before Yahweh; therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.
39 Eleazar the priest took the brazen censers, which those who were burnt had offered; and they beat them out for a covering of the altar,
40 to be a memorial to the children of Israel, to the end that no stranger, who isn't of the seed of Aaron, comes near to burn incense before Yahweh; that he not be as Korah, and as his company: as Yahweh spoke to him by Moses.
41 But on the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, You have killed the people of Yahweh.
42 It happened, when the congregation was assembled against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of Yahweh appeared.
43 Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting.
44 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
45 Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. They fell on their faces.
46 Moses said to Aaron, Take they censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon, and carry it quickly to the congregation, and make atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from Yahweh; the plague is begun.
47 Aaron took as Moses spoke, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on the incense, and made atonement for the people.
48 He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
49 Now those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, besides those who died about the matter of Korah.
50 Aaron returned to Moses to the door 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 ) .

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