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:
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:
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?
And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will show 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.
This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
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.
And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
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?
And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?
And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:
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?
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.
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.
And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:
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.
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.
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.
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
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?
And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.
And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
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.
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.
And Eleazar the priest took the brazen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
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.
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.
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.
Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.
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.
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.
And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
Now they that died in the plague were fourteen ° thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.
And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.
 

16:1 son of Kohath. Korah wanted to be a priest, like Aaron and his sons, not appreciating the fact that the Kohathites had been given the high privilege of serving in God’s tabernacle (see Numbers 4:4-15). Dathan, Abiram and On were not Levites, but descendants of Reuben (note Numbers 26:5-9). Possibly they thought they should be leaders instead of Moses, since Reuben had been Israel’s first son. Korah was the ringleader of this rebellion, assisted by Dathan and Abiram. Both the Kohathites and Reubenites were encamped close together on the south side of the tabernacle (Numbers 2:10; 3:29), providing easy opportunity for them to discuss grievances and foment rebellion together. Somehow they also persuaded 250 others, all prominent in the assembly and possibly at least some from the other tribes (though most were probably Levites and Reubenites) to go along with them. But all these rebels soon “perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11).

16:3 lift ye up yourselves. This charge was not only false but bitterly ironic. Moses, in fact, had not wanted his position of leadership at all, and had been so discouraged in it that he wanted God to take his life (Exodus 4:11-15; Numbers 11:15).

16:6 censers. That is, “incense burners.”

16:7 put incense in them. Since the offering of incense at the altar was a specific responsibility of the priest, this test of the censers would give a clear decision as to whose offering was acceptable to God.

16:14 put out the eyes. This gratuitous insult to Moses, suggesting that he would put out the eyes of the men to keep them from seeing they were in a wilderness instead of a fruitful land, angered him greatly. He reminded the Lord (probably the people also heard his prayer, that he had never hurt anyone nor taken anything from them. All their suffering and losses had been their own doing.

16:19 all the congregation. Although only 250 men joined Korah’s active rebellion, evidently the bulk of the people were somewhat sympathetic. They were the same people (at least the adults) who had resisted going on with the conquest, and thus had been consigned to stay in the wilderness until they died.

16:22 fell upon their faces. On more than one occasion, Moses interceded for God to spare Israel; when He seemed ready to consume the entire congregation, even though their rebellion had been directed against Moses and Moses might personally have benefited from their destruction (Deuteronomy 9:18-19, 23-29). See also Numbers 16:44-45.

16:27 and their wives. Apparently the entire families of Dathan and Abiram stayed with them, but not all of Korah’s family. “The sons of Korah” were a singing group during the times of David and Solomon, even writing eleven of the psalms later incorporated in the book of Psalms.

16:30 the pit. The word for “pit” here is sheol, which is the equivalent of hades (commonly translated “hell”) in the New Testament, so that this event was no ordinary earthquake, but was indeed a “new thing.” Korah and his followers descended “quick” (that is, “alive”) deep into the great cavity at the center of the earth where the spirits of the lost–both men and angels–are now confined (note also Psalm 55:15).


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