Study Guide

Book of Numbers Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

Rebels With A Pretty Good Cause

  • Time for some more rebellions. Of course.
  • Korah (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (guys from Reuben's tribe), and 250 other men from the community confront Moses and Aaron one day.
  • They want to know what makes Moses and Aaron so special. After all, aren't all the Israelites God's holy, chosen people? Why do only Moses and Aaron get to be in charge? Wah!
  • Moses tells Korah that God will sort all this out for them. Oh, this sounds good.
  • He tells Korah and his fellow complainers to take incense and offer it to God tomorrow. If God thinks they're worthy to approach the tabernacle, then he'll let everyone know. If not, then he'll probably strike them dead on the spot. Hey—you win some, you lose some.
  • Moses tells Korah and the Levites that they should just be glad they're able to help out with the tabernacle. They shouldn't be trying to get their grubby hands on the priesthood, too.
  • But when Moses tries to talk it out with Dathan and Abiram, they won't even come see him. Hey, they were promised a land flowing with milk and honey and they're pretty ticked about not getting it.
  • The next day, all the naysayers take their incense and stand at the entrance to the tabernacle. Suddenly, "the glory of the Lord" appears to everyone. Oh!
  • God tells Moses and Aaron to stand aside. He's gonna smite these evildoers once and for all. Oh, no!
  • Moses and Aaron realize that God plans to kill off everyone in the community, so they beg him not to hold everyone responsible for a few bad apples.
  • Okay, fine, God says. But I'm seriously gonna bring down my wrath on Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, so everyone else better back up.
  • Just then, the ground splits open and those three guys, their wives, children, and homes all sink down into Sheol (where dead people live. It's not a nice spot to visit).
  • Naturally, everyone else starts freaking out and running around when they see this.
  • Meanwhile, God burns up the 250 men with their little incense offerings. But all is not lost. God tells Moses to get Eleazar to take their bronze censers (the small trays that held the incense) and pound them into plates to cover the altar. This should serve as a little reminder to the people that only Aaron and sons can approach the altar. Waste not, want not.
  • The next day, everyone is still in chaos. And they blame Moses and Aaron for killing these 253 rebels (plus innocent women and children).
  • God is annoyed, so he starts a plague.
  • Moses thinks quick and tells Aaron to perform a ritual with incense to atone for the sins of the people. Hurry!
  • The plague stops, but not before 14,700 people had died. It is not shaping up to be a good couple of days for Israel.

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