Numbers 16


The rebellion of Korah and his company against Moses, 1-3.

He directs them how to try, in the course of the next day, whom

God had called to the priesthood, 4-11.

Dathan and Abiram use the most seditious speeches, 12-14.

Moses is wroth, 15;

and orders Korah and his company to be ready on the morrow with

their censers and incense, 16-18.

Korah gathers his company together, 19.

The glory of the Lord appears, and he threatens to consume them,

20, 21.

Moses and Aaron intercede for them, 22.

The people are commanded to leave the tents of the rebels, 23-26.

They obey, and Korah and his company come out and stand before

the door of their tents, 27.

Moses in a solemn address puts the contention to issue, 28-30.

As soon as he had done speaking, the earth clave and swallowed

them, and all that appertained to them, 31-34;

and the 250 men who offered incense are consumed by fire, 35.

The Lord commands Eleazar to preserve the censers, because they

were hallowed, 36-38.

Eleazar makes of them a covering for the altar, 39, 40.

The next day the people murmur anew, the glory of the Lord

appears, and Moses and Aaron go to the tabernacle, 41-43.

They are commanded to separate themselves from the congregation,

44, 45.

Moses, perceiving that God had sent a plague among them, directs

Aaron to hasten and make an atonement, 46.

Aaron does so, and the plague is stayed, 47, 48.

The number of those who died by the plague, 14,700 men, 49, 50.


Verse 1. Now Korah-took men] Had not these been the most

brutish of men, could they have possibly so soon forgotten the

signal displeasure of God manifested against them so lately for

their rebellion. The word men is not in the original; and the

verb vaiyikkach, and he took, is not in the plural but the

singular, hence it cannot be applied to the act of all these

chiefs. In every part of the Scripture where this rebellion is

referred to it is attributed to Korah, (see Nu 26:3, and

Jude 1:11,) therefore the verb here belongs to him, and the whole

verse should be translated thus:-Now Korah, son of Yitsar son of

Kohath, son of Levi, HE TOOK even Dathan and Abiram, the sons of

Eliab, and On, son of Peleth, SON OF REUBEN; and they rose up, &c.

This makes a very regular and consistent sense, and spares all

the learned labour of Father Houbigant, who translates

yikkach, by rebellionem fecerunt, they rebelled, which scarcely

any rule of criticism can ever justify. Instead of

beney Reuben, SONS of Reuben, some MSS. have ben, SON, in

the singular; this reading, supported by the Septuagint and the

Samaritan text, I have followed in the above translation. But as

Eliab and Peleth were both Reubenites, the common reading, SONS,

may be safely followed.

Verse 3. Ye take too much upon you] The original is simply

rab lachem, too much for you. The spirit of this saying

appears to me to be the following:-"Holy offices are not equally

distributed: you arrogate to yourselves the most important ones,

as if your superior holiness entitled you alone to them; whereas

all the congregation are holy, and have an equal right with you to

be employed in the most holy services." Moses retorts this saying

Nu 16:7: Ye take too much upon you,

rab lachem; Ye have too much already, ye sons of Levi;

i. e., by your present spirit and disposition you prove yourselves

to be wholly unworthy of any spiritual employment.

Verse 5. The Lord will show who are his] It is supposed that

St. Paul refers to this place, 2Ti 2:19:

The foundation of God-the whole sacrificial system, referring to

Christ Jesus, the foundation of the salvation of men; standeth

sure, notwithstanding the rebellions, intrusions, and false

doctrines of men; having this seal-this stamp of its Divine

authenticity, The Lord knoweth them that are his; εγνωκυριος

τουςονταςαυτου, a literal translation of

veyoda Yehovah eth asher lo; and both signifying, The Lord

approveth of his own; or, will own that which is of his own

appointment. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ

depart from iniquity, alluding to the exhortation of Moses,

Nu 16:26:

Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men.

Verse 15. Respect not thou their offering] There was no danger

of this: they wished to set up a priesthood and a sacrifical

system of their own; and God never has blessed, and never can

bless, any scheme of salvation which is not of his own

appointment. Man is ever supposing that he can mend his Maker's

work, or that he can make one of his own that will do in its


Verse 22. O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh]

El Elohey haruchoth lechol basar. This address

sufficiently proves that these holy men believed that man is a

being compounded of flesh and spirit, and that these principles

are perfectly distinct. Either the materiality of the human soul

is a human fable, or, if it be a true doctrine, these men did not

pray under the influence of the Divine Spirit. In Nu 27:16

there is a similar form of expression: Let the Lord, the God of

the spirits of all flesh. And in Job 12:10:

In whose hand is the soul ( nephesh) of all living; and the

spirit ( ruach) of all flesh of man. Are not these

decisive proofs that the Old Testament teaches that there is an

immortal spirit in man? "But does not ruach signify wind

or breath?" Sometimes it does, but certainly not here; for how

absurd would it be to say, O God, the God of the breaths of all


Verse 30. If the Lord make a new thing]

veim beriah yibra Yehovah, and if Jehovah should create a

creation, i. e., do such a thing as was never done before.

And they go down quick into the pit] sheolah, a proof,

among many others, that sheol, signifies here a chasm or

pit of the earth, and not the place called hell; for it would be

absurd to suppose that their houses had gone to hell; and it would

be wicked to imagine that their little innocent children had gone

thither, though God was pleased to destroy their lives with those

of their iniquitous fathers.

Verse 33. They, and all that appertained to them] Korah,

Dathan, and Abiram, and all that appertained to their respective

families, went down into the pit caused by this supernatural

earthquake; while the fire from the Lord consumed the 250 men that

bare censers. Thus there were two distinct punishments, the pit

and the fire, for the two divisions of these rebels.

Verse 37. The censers-are hallowed.] kadeshu, are

consecrated, i. e., to the service of God though in this instance

improperly employed.

Verse 41. On the morrow all the congregation-murmured] It is

very likely that the people persuaded themselves that Moses and

Aaron had used some cunning in this business, and that the

earthquake and fire were artificial; else, had they discerned the

hand of God in this punishment, could they have dared the anger of

the Lord in the very face of justice?

Verse 46. The plague is begun.] God now punished them by a

secret blast, so as to put the matter beyond all dispute; his

hand, and his alone, was seen, not only in the plague, but in the

manner in which the mortality was arrested. It was necessary that

this should be done in this way, that the whole congregation might

see that those men who had perished were not the people of the

Lord; and that GOD, not Moses and Aaron, had destroyed them.

Verse 48. He stood between the dead and the living; and the

plague, &c.] What the plague was we know not, but it seems to

have begun at one part of the camp, and to have proceeded

regularly onward; and Aaron went to the quarter where it was then

prevailing, and stood with his atonement where it was now making

its ravages, and the plague was stayed; but not before 14,700 had

fallen victims to it, Nu 16:49.

IF Aaron the high priest, with his censer and incense, could

disarm the wrath of an insulted, angry Deity, so that a guilty

people, who deserved nothing but destruction, should be spared;

how much more effectual may we expect the great atonement to be

which was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Aaron was only

the type! The sacrifices of living animals pointed out the death

of Christ on the cross; the incense, his intercession. Through

his death salvation is purchased for the world; by his

intercession the offending children of men are spared. Hence St.

Paul, Ro 5:10, says:

If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death

of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved THROUGH

HIS LIFE, i. e., by the prevalence of his continual intercession.

2Co 5:18,19:

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by

Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,

not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto

us the word of reconciliation."

By the awful transactions recorded in this chapter, we may see

how jealous God is of the sole right of appointing the way and

means of salvation. Had any priesthood, and any kind of service,

no matter how solemn and sincere, been equally available in the

sight of Divine justice and mercy, God would not have resented in

so awful a manner the attempts of Korah and his company in their

new service. The way of God's own appointment, the agony and

death of Christ, is the only way in which souls can be saved. His

is the priesthood, and his is the only available sacrifice. All

other modes and schemes of salvation are the inventions of men or

devils, and will in the end prove ruinous to all those who trust

in them. Reader, forget not the Lord who bought thee.

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