Numbers 16:1-17:11 Reading the Passage

What’s Your Attitude towards Authority? – Numbers 16:1-17:11

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, together with several of the sons of Reuben, namely, Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, became insolent (2) and rebelled against Moses. With them were some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty men, well-known leaders of the congregation, who had been chosen by the assembly. (3) They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, You take too much authority for yourselves, seeing that the whole congregation is holy, every one of them, and Jehovah is among them. Why then do you elevate yourselves above the assembly of Jehovah? (4) When Moses heard this, he fell face down. (5) Then he spoke to Korah and all his followers, saying, In the morning Jehovah will reveal who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will cause that man to come near to him. The man whom he chooses he will cause to come near to him. (6) Do this, Korah, and all those who are his followers: Take censers (7) and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before Jehovah. The man whom Jehovah chooses will be the one who is holy. You have sought to take too much authority, you sons of Levi! (8) Furthermore, Moses said to Korah, Listen now, you sons of Levi, (9) does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel and brought you near to himself in order to perform the service of Jehovah’s tabernacle and to stand before the congregation and minister to them? (10) He has brought you near to himself, and all your brothers, the sons of Levi, with you. Now are you also seeking the priesthood? (11) You and all your followers have banded together against Jehovah. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?

(12) Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, We will not appear before you. (13) Is it an insignificant matter that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey in order to kill us in the wilderness? Must you also make yourself a ruler over us? (14) Furthermore, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you caused us to inherit fields and vineyards. Will you try to deceive these men*? We will not appear before you. (15) Then Moses became very angry and said to Jehovah, Do not accept their offering. I have not taken even one donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them. (16) Moses said to Korah, You and all your followers are to appear before Jehovah tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. (17) Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it, —two hundred and fifty censers—then let each man present his censer to Jehovah. You and Aaron are to present your censers also. (18) So each man took his censer, put fire and incense into it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (19) Korah assembled the whole congregation against Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Then the glory of Jehovah appeared to the whole congregation. (20) Jehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, (21) Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I may consume them in an instant. (22) But they fell upon their faces and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the whole congregation, although only one man has sinned?

(23) Then Jehovah said to Moses, (24) Say to the congregation, Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (25) Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. (26) He warned the congregation, I plead with you, move away from the tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that belongs to them, or else you will be consumed with all their sins. (27) So in every direction they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance to their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little children. (28) Then Moses said, This is how you will know that Jehovah has sent me to do all these things, for I have not done all this on my own initiative. (29) If these men die a natural death, or if they suffer the fate of all men, then Jehovah has not sent me. (30) But if Jehovah causes something totally different to happen, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive to Sheol, then you will know that these men have treated Jehovah with contempt. (31) As soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground underneath them split apart (32) and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, as well as all Korah’s followers and all their possessions. (33) So it was that they, and all who were aligned with them, went down alive into Sheol; the earth closed over them, and they disappeared from the midst of the assembly. (34) At their cries, all the Israelites who were around them fled, shouting, Let us flee, or else the earth will swallow us up, too!

(35) Then fire came forth from Jehovah and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who had offered the incense. (36) Jehovah said to Moses, (37) Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy—(38) the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to be a covering for the altar, for they were presented before Jehovah, so they are holy. They shall be a sign for the children of Israel. (39) So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers that had been offered by those who were burnt up, and had them hammered out to be a covering for the altar, (40) as Jehovah had instructed him through Moses. This was to serve as a reminder to the children of Israel, so that no stranger, that is, no one who does not belong to Aaron’s household, should come near to burn incense before Jehovah, and, consequently, suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

(41) The next day the whole congregation of the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, You have killed the people of Jehovah! (42) But when the congregation that had assembled against Moses and against Aaron looked toward the Tent of Meeting, they saw the cloud cover it and the glory of Jehovah appeared. (43) Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, (44) and Jehovah said to Moses, (45) Get away from this congregation so that I may consume them in an instant. Then they fell upon their faces. (46) Moses said to Aaron, Take your censer and put fire in it 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 Jehovah, the plague has begun! (47) Aaron took the censer as Moses had instructed and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had begun among the people, but he offered the incense and made atonement for them. (48) He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped. (49) Now those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred people, in addition to those who died because of Korah. (50) Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had ceased.

17 Then Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, (2) Speak to the children of Israel and get staffs from them, one for each of the tribes, get a staff from the leaders of each of the tribes, a total of twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff. (3) You shall write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi, for there must be one staff for the head of each tribe. (4) You shall then place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. (5) The staff belonging to the man I choose shall sprout, and so I will rid myself of the complaining against you by the children of Israel. (6) So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a staff, one for each leader according to their tribes, a total of twelve staffs; and Aaron’s staff was among their staffs. (7) Then Moses placed the staffs before Jehovah in the Tent of the Testimony.

(8) The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had sprouted. It had even budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds. (9) Moses brought out all the staffs from Jehovah’s presence and presented them to all the children of Israel. They examined them, and each man took his staff. (10) Jehovah said to Moses, Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the Testimony, to be preserved as a sign witnessing against those who are rebellious; in order that they may stop grumbling against me, so that they will not die. (11) This is what Moses did; he did just as Jehovah commanded him.

*Literally, “Will you put out the eyes of these men?”

Now proceed to the next section of this study, entitled, Exploring the Passage.