Numbers 16

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Read Numbers 16

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followersare to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumbleagainst him?”

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assemblywhen only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israelfollowed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me.30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

Go Deeper

Numbers 16 is loaded with action. As you read it, you might be thinking What just happened?! Ground that opens and swallows people, fire from heaven, and plagues? This all seems so intense! Right now we may be asking ourselves, “Why did God respond this way?” If we trace the story back to the very beginning, hidden behind all the action and the yelling and the fire, we see a man choose to operate in the sin every single one of us today are so prone to choose. It’s the sin of pride. 

C.S Lewis once said, “The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” And this sin is the sin in which the Bible strictly warns us in James 4:6, that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” We see Korah and his men approach Moses and Aaron and say in verse 3, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” In other words, “We are just as great as you Moses! We are holy and deserve more.”  

For further context, Korah and his followers were already set apart from the rest of Israel. They were Levites, God’s chosen tribe out of the 12 tribes to minister unto the Lord and attend His dealings and His presence. And instead of operating in gratitude, entitlement is the song they sing. The pride in their rebellion is great against a God who has already shown them so much grace and favor and love to get to be with Him. 

As much as we hate to admit it, we’ve all had our “Korah” moments in life. Maybe it wasn’t to a leader that you shouted against, but what about shouting against God? Have you ever told God, “I deserve more. I want more!”? As Christians, it’s very tempting to lose sight of what God has already given to us and done for us in Jesus. He has made a way for us to be with Him forever in Heaven. That is worth celebrating! Today, take a moment to preach the Gospel to yourself. As Charles Spurgeon famously said, “Pride cannot live beneath the cross.”


  1. Where do you see pride creeping up in your life? If it’s there, and James 4:6 tells us “God opposes the prideful,” what do you need to do to get rid of it? 
  2. What was a time in your life, that if written down, would title: “_______’s Rebellion.” Insert your name. What did you learn from that experience?
  3. What can you do today to be marked by humility and not pride? Once you find one or two ways, think about them and do them!

Keep Digging

For more information on Korah, check out this article. See how God uses the line of Korah for redemption and restoration. 

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5 thoughts on “Numbers 16”

  1. What a sad and tragic narrative we read today, one that shines a searchlight on our sinful natures and how destructive they can be—jealousy, bitterness, pride, and greed left unattended in our hearts will destroy us. The enemy of our souls is crafty in this ploys. First, he stirs discontent in our minds blurring the lines between truth and lies. Then we start to whine about our circumstances and feel unjustly treated. Next comes disdain and bitterness towards others, followed by open rebellion against God. All the while we are duped into thinking we are completely justified in our actions. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. The next time pride rears its ugly head and comes knocking at our door, let’s send humility to answer it. Only then can God transform us by renewing our minds, so that we do not lean on our own understanding, but know the good and perfect will of God.

  2. First reactions for me are usually harmful to the situation going on. Moses’s was to fall down on his face and pray. THAT is how and what I would like to solve my life. What spews out of my mouth during confrontational situations are not what I truly wanted or needed to say during hindsight. Pride seems to rear its head often. Until Regen I never realized I was prideful. BUT GOD in His great mercy towards me showed me, loved me, helped me to resolve all troubles with this but me and my worldly thought processing has kept some of that nasty pride hanging around. Pray, love, serve people. Pray, pray, and pray some more for God to direct my path towards Him minutely.

    God You are so awesome!! I praise You for loving me. Thank You for directing my path. God show me, help me to be a better servant towards Your people. As You continue to open doors for service help me to step through not for anything other than to be of service, glorifying You in all I do and say for this day in these minutes in Jesus name amen

  3. So many rich takeaways from this chapter!

    Of all the grumbling and complaining by the people, this latest rant is really surprising. A set-apart people, called by God, for God, to God-honoring work — and still they were not satisfied. They grumble for more. More position. More privilege. Perhaps they assumed such things would secure for them more protection and provision?

    As if God had not proven abundantly faithful in such things.

    In our church today, we also get to witness a set-apart people, invited by God into God-honoring service, all on God’s behalf. Everyone — from the lead teaching pastor delivering God’s message from the stage, to the gentleman rolling trashcans through the lobby — has a job to do.

    And every task is sacred and significant.

    It reminds me of the beautiful design laid out in 1 Corinthians 12:

    “God has meticulously put this body together; He placed each part in the exact place to perform the exact function He wanted. If all members were a single part, where would the body be?”
    -1 Cor. 12:18-19 The Voice)

    Lord, keep me from the pride and entitlement that would have me turn up my nose at humble service, or turn my back on serving you! Anything You ask me to do in Your name is meaningful and holy.

  4. Diane Frances Rogers

    Wow. This was enlightening to read. The discernment of Moses comes from him abiding in God 100%. Any choice to side against God intentionally or unintentionally, is a step in the direction of letting go of Him and completely making your own way in life. Lord, I pray to hold tight to your commands. In Jesus name, amen.

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