New Defender's Study Bible Notes
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).