7 Apr. Numbers 16:1-40

7 Apr. Korah leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron

“Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On turned against Moses… These men gathered 250 other Israelite men, well known leaders chosen by the community, and challenged Moses.”

“They came as a group to speak to Moses and Aaron and said, ‘You have gone too far. All the people are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. So why do you put yourselves above all the people of the LORD?’”

“When Moses heard this, he bowed face down. Then he said to Korah and all his followers, ‘Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who belongs to him. He will bring the one who is holy near to him; he will bring to himself the person he chooses. So Korah, you and all your followers do this: get some pans for burning incense. Tomorrow put fire and incense in them and take them before the LORD. He will choose the man who is holy. You Levites have gone too far.’”

“Moses also said to Korah, ‘Listen, you Levites. The God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelites… He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near to himself, yet now you want to be priests. You and your followers have joined together against the LORD. Your complaint is not against Aaron [the High Priest, but against the LORD].'”

“Then Moses called Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, ‘We will not come. You have brought us out of a fertile land [Egypt] to this desert to kill us, and now you want to order us around… No! We will not come!’”

“Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, ‘Don’t accept their gifts. I have not taken anything from them, not even a donkey, and I have not done wrong to any of them.’”

"Then Moses said to Korah, ‘You and all your followers must stand before the LORD tomorrow. And Aaron will stand there with you and them. Each of you must take your pan and put incense in it; present these 250 pans before the LORD. You and Aaron must also present your pans.’”

“So each man got his pan and put burning incense in it and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Meeting Tent… Then the glory of the LORD appeared to everyone. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Move away from these men so I can destroy them quickly.’…”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell everyone to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abirim… ' Then Moses said, ‘If these men die a normal death – the way men usually die – then the LORD did not really send me. But if the LORD does something now, you will know they have insulted the LORD.’…”

“When Moses finished saying thses things, the ground under the men split open. The earth opened and swallowed them and all their families. All Korah’s men and everything they owned went down. They were buried alive, going to the place of the dead, and everything they owned went with them. Then the earth covered them…”

”Then a fire came down from the LORD and destroyed the 250 men who had presented the incense… So Eleazar the priest [the son of Aaron] gathered all the bronze pans that had been brought by the men who were burned up. He had the pans hammered into flat sheets to put on the altar, as the LORD had commanded him through Moses.”

“These sheets were to remind the Israelites that only descendants of Aaron should burn incense before the LORD. Anyone else would die like Korah and his followers.”

          (Numbers 16:1-40)

 


 

This incident is usually known as ‘Korah’s rebellion against Moses’, but it could more accurately be called ‘The Levites’ rebellion against Aaron’.

The Bible makes it clear that, after Moses and Aaron had told the people about God’s judgement – and his punishment that they would stay in the desert for 40 years – it was the Levites, led by Korah, who decided to question if Moses’s words really came from God, and whether Aaron and his sons (the priestly family) were the only ones ‘holy’ enough to approach God personally in the Tent of Meeting with the daily incense offering.

Their argument that ‘everyone is holy’ (Numbers 16:3) was similar to today’s widely held opinion that all people are ‘naturally good’, and therefore no one is in need of God’s forgiveness.

Moses quickly assessed their claim: “[God] has brought you and all your fellow Levites near to himself, yet now you want to be priests. You and your followers have joined together against the LORD. Your complaint is not against Aaron [the High Priest, but against the LORD].” (Numbers 16:10-11)

Moses issued a direct challenge to the Levites to bring their incense pans to the Tent of Meeting, and to see whose incense offering was acceptable to the LORD – the offering of Korah and his followers (Levites who helped with the religious rituals but were not allowed to burn incense) or that of Aaron and his sons (priests whom God had appointed to burn the daily incense offering).

When they all gathered, events were overshadowed by the appearance of God in all his radiant glory. God ordered the people to move away from the tents of the rebellion’s ringleaders just as the earth opened up and consumed their homes, their families and all their belongings. Moments later, the fire of the LORD burned down and consumed the 250 men who had joined in the rebellion.

Eleazar the priest (Aaron’s son) gathered up all the bronze incense pans and made a covering for the altar to commemorate the incident and “to remind the Israelites that only descendants of Aaron should burn incense before the LORD".

The photo shows a painting by Sandro Botticelli (1480–1482) depicting The Punishment of Korah and his fellow Levites (a detail from the fresco 'Punishment of the Rebels' in the Sistine Chapel, Rome).

You can read more about the rebellion against Moses and Aaron @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/korah-leads-a-rebellion-against-moses/


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