Proud and ambitious men projecting their own advancement
by thrusting themselves into a place to which God has not appointed them,
hurry on to a shameful fall.
1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and 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 and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.
6 This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
7 And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.
8 And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?
10 And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
11 For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?
12 ¶ And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:
13 Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?
14 Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth 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 And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.
16 And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:
17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer.
18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.
19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.
20 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?
23 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
25 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of their’s, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.
27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.
28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine 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 the LORD hath not sent me.
30 But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.
31 ¶ And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:
32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.
33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.
35 And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
36 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.
38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.
41 ¶ But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.
42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.
43 And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
44 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.
46 ¶ And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.
47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an 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 and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.
50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.
Numbers 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Numbers 16:1-19 – The Rebellion of Koran
This was a very serious revolt, because so many princes associated themselves with the Levites. Jealousy was at the root of the entire movement. “All the congregation are holy,” they said (Numbers 16:3). “Wherefore then lift ye up yourselves?” There is no root of bitterness that needs such careful watching as jealousy! If it is in your heart you must, like Samuel of old and General Gordon in our own times, “hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD” (1 Samuel 15:33).
The record of Moses’ meekness precedes this story of his testing. Whatever is strongest and best in us will be searched as by fire. Even Moses was ruffled by these gross charges. See Numbers 16:15. The best of men are but men at the best. Only Jesus was without a flaw.
What a beautiful thought is expressed in Numbers 16:5, 7, 9. There are holy and blessed souls who have an especial right of access into God’s presence-chamber. See Zechariah 3:7. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 16:5—The LORD will shew… who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him.
It was on these words that the Psalmist founded his exclamation, “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee” (Psalm 65:4). This is what we all need. We often endeavor to approach unto God, but meet with many disappointments. Thomas Welsh said, on one occasion, that he had been wrestling to obtain access from six in the morning until nine! There is something better. If you are His, you may humbly count on God to cause you to come near; believing His promise: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).
In your morning prayer, or at any other time which you set apart for devotion, let this be the cry of your soul: “My God, cause me to come near.” When for long you have been dwelling afar off, and the distance threatens to become chronic or permanent, let this again be your petition: “Cause me to come near.” And throughout the rush of daily life, let your dependence be on Him who alone can cause you to come near so that you may dwell in His courts.
But God cannot do this unless the soul is utterly surrendered to be His; for “if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). We must be unanchored and unbeached if the tide is to bear us on its bosom. We must be free from the touch of other hands if we are to respond to His. We must sit loosely by the things of the earth to feel the drawing of heaven. This is, in part, the meaning of holiness. “Who are his, and who is holy”? Those who have experienced separation to God and sin. Give us this, O Lord; then draw us near to Thyself, and we will run after Thee! —Our Daily Homily
Numbers 16:20-35 – Divine Judgment upon the Rebels
It was wise of Moses not to attempt to vindicate himself, but to leave God to maintain His cause. He is not slow to undertake the vindication of those who entrust their reputation with Him. To take the sword is to perish by the sword. “Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34).
The doom of Korah and his fellow-conspirators was very terrible; but if they had been spared, the whole camp would have been infected, and God’s purposes frustrated. Those who suffer from the bubonic plague must be instantly separated from their fellows, for the sake of society! Remember, as Jude says, that the pit still devours, Jude 11. In these last days of the present age, and in view of the terrible records of this chapter, we may well ponder the summons of Revelation 18:4. The congregation was spared, because of the divine compassion of which Moses had a true conception. His prayer only reflected the divine thought, Numbers 16:22. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 16:36-50 – “Between the Dead and the Living”
The censers served as plates for the altar. Even evil men and evil things will be made to subserve the divine purposes. See Acts 2:23. What a wonderful anticipation of our Lord’s eternal priesthood and intercession is furnished by this picture of Aaron waving his censer between the living and the dead, and arresting the plague! On which side do you stand? Are you among the living, or among the dead? Is Christ to you a savor of life unto life or of death unto death? Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten thee.
The priesthood and the incense-offering had been usurped by Korah to his destruction; but as exercised by God’s appointed priest, they brought life. It is an awful thing for mortal man to intrude into the sacred prerogatives of Christ. See I Timothy 2:5. —Through the Bible Day by Day