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Revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram


Now Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben—took 2two hundred fifty Israelite men, leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men, and they confronted Moses. 3They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the L ord is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the L ord?” 4When Moses heard it, he fell on his face. 5Then he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the L ord will make known who is his, and who is holy, and who will be allowed to approach him; the one whom he will choose he will allow to approach him. 6Do this: take censers, Korah and all your company, 7and tomorrow put fire in them, and lay incense on them before the L ord; and the man whom the L ord chooses shall be the holy one. You Levites have gone too far!” 8Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you Levites! 9Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to allow you to approach him in order to perform the duties of the L ord’s tabernacle, and to stand before the congregation and serve them? 10He has allowed you to approach him, and all your brother Levites with you; yet you seek the priesthood as well! 11Therefore you and all your company have gathered together against the L ord. What is Aaron that you rail against him?”

12 Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab; but they said, “We will not come! 13Is it too little that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also lord it over us? 14It is clear you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come!”

15 Moses was very angry and said to the L ord, “Pay no attention to their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed any one of them.” 16And Moses said to Korah, “As for you and all your company, be present tomorrow before the L ord, you and they and Aaron; 17and let each one of you take his censer, and put incense on it, and each one of you present his censer before the L ord, two hundred fifty censers; you also, and Aaron, each his censer.” 18So each man took his censer, and they put fire in the censers and laid incense on them, and they stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19Then Korah assembled the whole congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the L ord appeared to the whole congregation.

20 Then the L ord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 21Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment. 22They fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one person sin and you become angry with the whole congregation?”

23 And the L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 24Say to the congregation: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 25So Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram; the elders of Israel followed him. 26He said to the congregation, “Turn away from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, or you will be swept away for all their sins.” 27So they got away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrance of their tents, together with their wives, their children, and their little ones. 28And Moses said, “This is how you shall know that the L ord has sent me to do all these works; it has not been of my own accord: 29If these people die a natural death, or if a natural fate comes on them, then the L ord has not sent me. 30But if the L ord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the L ord.”

31 As soon as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them was split apart. 32The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, along with their households—everyone who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33So they with all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34All Israel around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth will swallow us too!” 35And fire came out from the L ord and consumed the two hundred fifty men offering the incense.

36 Then the L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 37Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to take the censers out of the blaze; then scatter the fire far and wide. 38For the censers of these sinners have become holy at the cost of their lives. Make them into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they presented them before the L ord and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the Israelites. 39So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers that had been presented by those who were burned; and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar— 40a reminder to the Israelites that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, shall approach to offer incense before the L ord, so as not to become like Korah and his company—just as the L ord had said to him through Moses.

41 On the next day, however, the whole congregation of the Israelites rebelled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the L ord.” 42And when the congregation had assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting; the cloud had covered it and the glory of the L ord appeared. 43Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44and the L ord spoke to Moses, saying, 45“Get away from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. 46Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, put fire on it from the altar and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them. For wrath has gone out from the L ord; the plague has begun.” 47So Aaron took it as Moses had ordered, and ran into the middle of the assembly, where the plague had already begun among the people. He put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. 48He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. 49Those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. 50When the plague was stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

1. Now Korah, the son of Izhar. The impious conspiracy is here related of a few men, but these of the highest rank, whose object was to subvert and destroy the divinely-appointed priesthood. They make their attack, indeed, upon Moses, and accuse him of ruling unjustly; for thus it is that turbulent persons are carried away without reason or discrimination; but, the only cause why they are set against him is because they suppose him to be the originator of the priesthood, as we easily collect from his reply. For he does not command them to stand forth, in order that they may decide respecting the political government or chieftainship, but that it may be made plain whether God acknowledges them as priests; nor does he reproach the Levites with anything but that, not content with their own lot, they have an unreasonable ambition to obtain the honor of the high-priesthood. It was jealousy, then, that instigated Korah and his companions to set on foot first a quarrel, and then a tumult; respecting the priesthood, because they were indignant that the hope of attaining that honor was taken away from themselves and their posterity for ever. Thus there never was any more deadly or abominable plague in the Church of God, than ambition; inasmuch as it cannot be that those who seek for pre-eminence should range themselves beneath God’s yoke. Hence arises the dissolution of legitimate authority, when each one neglects the duties of his position, and aims at his own private advancement.

Now, this conspiracy was the more formidable, because the sedition did not arise from the dregs of the people, but amongst the princes themselves, who were of high dignity, and held in the greatest estimation. For although there were only four leaders of the faction, there is but little room to doubt but that the purpose of the two hundred and fifty was the same; for they would never have eagerly embarked in a grave and invidious contest for the sake of four men; but the fact was, that all unholy covetousness misled them all, for there was none of them who did not expect some prize as a reward of victory. They not only, then, dissemble their mental disease, but conceal it under an honorable pretext; for they pretend that they are instigated by zeal for the public good, and that their object is the defense of liberty. For, inasmuch as ambition is crafty, it is never destitute of some specious excuse: thus, whilst schismatics are influenced by nothing but pride to disturb the peace of the Church, they always invent plausible motives, whereby they may conciliate in some degree the favor of the ignorant, or even of the unstable and worthless. We must, therefore, cautiously weigh the designs of those who seek to make innovations, and to overthrow a state of things which might be endured; for thorough investigation will make it plain that; they aim at something besides what they pretend. By the, fact of their so speedily engaging such a multitude of persons in their party, we perceive how disposed man’s nature is to the most unpromising and unreasonable revolts in the world. Four worthless men wickedly endeavor to overthrow Moses and Aaron; and straightway two hundred and fifty persons are ready to follow them, not of the populace, but chiefs of the tribes, whose reputation might dazzle the eyes of the simple. Hence we must be the more cautious, lest any bugbears (larvae) should deceive us into making rash innovations.

With respect to the wording of the passage, some refer the verb “he took,” 8686     A.V., “took men.” There has been very much discussion among the commentators respecting this word. Holden says, “There is nothing in the Hebrew answering to the word men, and the verb is in the singular number; the received version, therefore, can scarcely be correct. The most easy and natural construction of the original is, ‘And Korah took (i.e., won over, or drew into a conspiracy with him) both Dathan and Abiram,’ etc. This agrees with other parts of Scripture which attribute this rebellion to Korah, chap. 27:3; Jude 11.” And this appears to be the general opinion. to the other conspirators, as if it were said that Korah stirred them up. Others explain it that he instigated himself, and hurried himself onwards by his evil passions. I do not, however, assent to either signification, but take it for “he set to work” (aggressus est.) When it is afterwards said that “they rose up before Moses,” some understand the words according to their simple meaning, others in a bad sense; and undoubtedly here the expression “before the face of,” is equivalent to “against,” and thus indicates the wantonness of their aggression. There is more difficulty in the words קראי מועד, 8787     A.V., “famous in the congregation.” S.M. Vocabantur ad concilium. — W. kerei mogned. All, however, almost with one consent, translate them “great in the congregation;” but since the word קריים, keriira, generally signifies persons called or invited, and מועד, mogned, not only an assembly, but also an appointed time, or convention, it seems probable to me that these princes and men of high name are stated to have been present, because they were called according to appointment: as if Moses had said that they were called at a fixed time, or by agreement. For neither do I see any reason why, after the word עדה, 8888     עדה, A.V., “of the assembly.” gnedah, מועד, mogned, should be used with the same meaning.

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