Numbers 16

* The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram Korah contends for

the priesthood. (1-11) Disobedience of Dathan and Abiram.

(12-15) The glory of the Lord appears The intercession of Moses

and Aaron. (16-22) The earth swallows up Dathan and Abiram.

(23-34) The company of Korah consumed. (35-40) The people murmur

A plague sent. (41-50)

1-11 Pride and ambition occasion a great deal of mischief both

in churches and states. The rebels quarrel with the settlement

of the priesthood upon Aaron and his family. Small reason they

had to boast of the people's purity, or of God's favour, as the

people had been so often and so lately polluted with sin, and

were now under the marks of God's displeasure. They unjustly

charge Moses and Aaron with taking honour to themselves; whereas

they were called of God to it. See here, 1. What spirit

levellers are of; those who resist the powers God has set over

them. 2. What usage they have been serviceable. Moses sought

instruction from God. The heart of the wise studies to answer,

and asks counsel of God. Moses shows their privileges as

Levites, and convicts them of the sin of undervaluing these

privileges. It will help to keep us from envying those above us,

duly to consider how many there are below us.
12-15 Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram to bring their

complaints; but they would not obey. They bring very false

charges against Moses. Those often fall under the heaviest

censures, who in truth deserve the highest praise. Moses, though

the meekest man, yet, finding God reproached in him, was very

wroth; he could not bear to see the people ruining themselves.

He appeals to God as to his own integrity. He bade them appear

with Aaron next morning, at the time of offering the morning

incense. Korah undertook thus to appear. Proud ambitious men,

while projecting their own advancement, often hurry on their own

shameful fall.
16-22 The same glory of the Lord that appeared to place Aaron

in his office at first, #Le 9:23|, now appeared to confirm him

in it; and to confound those who set up against him. Nothing is

more terrible to those who are conscious of guilt, than the

appearance of the Divine glory. See how dangerous it is to have

fellowship with sinners, and to partake with them. Though the

people had treacherously deserted them, yet Moses and Aaron

approved themselves faithful shepherds of Israel. If others fail

in their duty to us, that does not take away the obligations we

are under to seek their welfare. Their prayer was a pleading

prayer, and it proved a prevailing one.
23-34 The seventy elders of Israel attend Moses. It is our duty

to do what we can to countenance and support lawful authority

when it is opposed. And those who would not perish with sinners,

must come out from among them, and be separate. It was in answer

to the prayer of Moses, that God stirred up the hearts of the

congregation to remove for their own safety. Grace to separate

from evil-doers is one of the things that accompany salvation.

God, in justice, left the rebels to the obstinacy and hardness

of their own hearts. Moses, by Divine direction, when all Israel

were waiting the event, declares that if the rebels die a common

death, he will be content to be called and counted an imposter.

As soon as Moses had spoken the word, God caused the earth to

open and swallow them all up. The children perished with their

parents; in which, though we cannot tell how bad they might be

to deserve it, or how good God might be otherwise to them; yet

of this we are sure, that Infinite Justice did them no wrong. It

was altogether miraculous. God has, when he pleases, strange

punishments for the workers of iniquity. It was very

significant. Considering how the earth is still in like manner

loaded with the weight of man's sins, we have reason to wonder

that it does not now sink under its load. The ruin of others

should be our warning. Could we, by faith, hear the outcries of

those that are gone down to the bottomless pit, we should give

more diligence than we do to escape for our lives, lest we also

come into their condemnation.
35-40 A fire went out from the Lord, and consumed the two

hundred and fifty men that offered incense, while Aaron, who

stood with them, was preserved alive. God is jealous of the

honour of his own institutions, and will not have them invaded.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The

censers are devoted, and, as all devoted things, must be made

serviceable to the glory of God. This covering of the altar

would remind the children of Israel of this event, that others

might hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously. They brought

destruction on themselves both in body and soul. Thus all who

break the law and neglect the gospel choose and love death.
41-50 The gaping earth was scarcely closed, before the same

sins are again committed, and all these warnings slighted. They

called the rebels the people of the Lord; and find fault with

Divine justice. The obstinacy of Israel notwithstanding the

terrors of God's law, as given on mount Sinai, and the terrors

of his judgments, shows how necessary the grace of God is to

change men's hearts and lives. Love will do what fear cannot.

Moses and Aaron interceded with God for mercy, knowing how great

the provocation was. Aaron went, and burned incense between the

living and the dead, not to purify the air, but to pacify an

offended God. As one tender of the life of every Israelite,

Aaron made all possible speed. We must render good for evil.

Observe especially, that Aaron was a type of Christ. There is an

infection of sin in the world, which only the cross and

intercession of Jesus Christ can stay and remove. He enters the

defiled and dying camp. He stands between the dead and the

living; between the eternal Judge and the souls under

condemnation. We must have redemption through His blood, even

the remission of sins. We admire the ready devotion of Aaron:

shall we not bless and praise the unspeakable grace and love

which filled the Saviour's heart, when he placed himself in our

stead, and bought us with his life? Greatly indeed hath God

commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet

sinners, Christ died for us, #Ro 5:8|.
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