God’s severe judgment on Korah’s crowd

In a book entitled Down to Earth, John Lawrence tells the story of a city that dared God to show Himself and paid a terrible price. It seems that the city of Messina, Sicily, was home to many wicked, irreligious people. On December 25, 1908, a newspaper published in Messina print … More


In these verses, we find that a time of public demonstration was set where Korah and his company  were to bring their censers with burning incense before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle (vv. 23-30). At that time, God would identify His holy servants. As the events of the day unfolded, there was no question as to who was master of the day. It was the One whose glory appeared to all the congregation as these rebels gathered the people to the side door of the tabernacle, in the presence of Moses and Aaron. God told Moses and Aaron to remove themselves from the congregation, for He would consume the people in a moment. However, because of their plea to spare the people, since Korah was the real instigator of the rebellion, God gave the people another chance.

God warned the Jews to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; then the earth opened up and swallowed those evil men and their households (vv 31-33). In terror, the people fled, while the 250 rebel princes, holding censers in their hands were consumed with fire (vv. 34-35). At this point Moses and Aaron hastened to bring an offering of incense as an atonement for the people. But God’s judgment had already begun, so that by the time Aaron had arrived he was standing “between the dead and the living” (vv. 36-48).  When they counted the corpses, they found that 14,700 people had died because of their foolish rebellion against the Lord (vv. 49-50).

Korah’s story gives us several warnings:

  1. We are not to desire what someone else has.
  2. Don’t try to raise our self esteem by attacking others.
  3. Don’t use God’s Word to get what we want.


German philosopher Hegel in his introduction to Philosophy of History said, “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” Lord help me to be a person who can learn from history and the lives of those who have gone before me.

Numbers 16:23-50 (English Standard Version)

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Say to the congregation, Get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, "Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins." So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. And Moses said, "Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD 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 LORD." And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up!" And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest to take up the censers out of the blaze. Then scatter the fire far and wide, for they have become holy. As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they offered them before the LORD, and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the people of Israel." So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar, to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the LORD, lest he become like Korah and his company- -as the LORD said to him through Moses. But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, "You have killed the people of the LORD." And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." And they fell on their faces. And Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer, and put fire on it from off 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 LORD; the plague has begun." So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped.

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