-The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram along with 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel is detailed in this informative and very productive chapter of Scripture. They took action by rising up before Moses with basically three complaints. They stated that Moses had gone far enough in that 1) They insisted the entire congregation was chosen and holy, 2) He was not better than anyone else, and 3) The people don’t need to obey him necessarily. The first two of these were true and Moses would have more than likely fully agreed with them. However, the third accusation called into question his call by Yahweh to lead the people through this time of escaping from Egypt, giving of the Law, and journeying through the wilderness under the command of God. Moses fell on his face when he heard these indictments and then spoke to Korah and all his company, saying “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself (Numbers 16:1-5).” The command was issued to Korah and his company to take the censors for themselves and put fire in them and lay incense upon them in the presence of the LORD. Moses told them that they had “gone far enough” in their rebellion against his God-given authority. The test would be conducted to see who the LORD would choose as holy in this matter. Moses further chastised them for being discontent. They had been separated with distinction in the congregation of Israel as leaders to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to minister to the people. Moses proclaimed that they were trying to usurp authority now by trying to rise up to priesthood status. He railed on them for gathering together “against the LORD” and for bringing innocent Aaron into the accusations. Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram to come up to the tabernacle, but they denied him. They complained once again, “Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up (Numbers 16:6-14)!”
-Moses anger burned at this point, and he said to the LORD, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.” Moses commanded that Korah and all his company, along with Aaron, present themselves before the LORD on the next day. Korah did assemble all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. “And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.” God spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” But the men of God fell on their faces and cried out for the rebels’ mercy, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?” The LORD relented to a degree and commanded that they, “Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, who had refused to come to him, and the elders of Israel followed him. He issued a warning for those inside to depart from the tents of the wicked men and to touch nothing that belonged to them; else they would be swept away in all their sin (Numbers 16:15-26). Once the clearing was complete from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram these individuals with their families came out and stood at their tent doorways with their wives and children. Moses now gets to the pinnacle of this situation by saying, “By this you shall KNOW (emphasis mine) that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and the descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned (na'ats- spurn, contemn, reject with contempt and derision, scorn, abhor, blaspheme, despise, provoke) the LORD (Numbers 16:27-30).” The Bible says that as Moses was finishing these words the ground split open and swallowed them up along with their households and all those who belonged to Korah plus their possessions. They went alive to Sheol and the earth closed over them. They had perished from the assembly in a miraculous act of Almighty God demonstrating Moses authority and choosing by Him. All of Israel found around them fled at their outcry thinking that the earth may indeed swallow them up too. At the same time, fire came forth from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering their rebellious incense (Numbers 16:31-35). The LORD spoke to Moses telling Eleazar, Aaron’s son, to take up the bronze censers out of the midst of the blaze as holy instruments and scatter the burning coals abroad. The censers were to be made into hammered sheets for a plating of the altar, since they were holy. They would become a sign for the sons of Israel that no layman who is not of the descendants of Aaron should come near to burn incense before the LORD (Numbers 16:36-40).
-“But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’s people (Numbers 16:41).’” This is an unbelievable display of disunity and complaining after God had made the most profound of statements. As the congregation assembled against Moses and Aaron came near the tent of meeting, the cloud that contained the glory of the LORD appeared. God told His servants to get away from among the congregation because He was going to “consume them instantly.” After falling on their faces in awe, Moses told Aaron to “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun (Numbers 16:42-46)!” Aaron acted quickly as prescribed taking his stand between the living and the dead, and the plagued was indeed checked. However, 14,700 plus the ones killed on account of Korah perished in this episode. Now that the plague had been checked, Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting (Numbers 16:47-50).
-*Application* There is a definite pecking order to God’s command chain as we see here in the text of Scripture. Be content with where God has ordained and placed you in the service of His Kingdom. Don’t try to usurp or rebel against those who the LORD has put over you for protection, grace, and well-being. Don’t fire up your Maker by trying to rise above His call (2 Corinthians 12:10, Philippians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Hebrews 13:5). Disaster can happen when you do. Again we see the need to humble ourselves before God and not question His mysterious ways. His grace will be sufficient when we do that (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Verses to Memorize: Numbers 16:30, 48