1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben, took action, 2 and they rose up [in rebellion] before Moses, together with some of the Israelites, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation chosen in the assembly, men of distinction. 3 They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
4 And when Moses heard this, he fell face downward; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to Him, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; the one whom He will choose He will bring near to Himself.(A) 6 Do this: Take censers for yourselves, Korah and all your company, 7 then put fire in them and place incense on them in the presence of the Lord tomorrow; and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the one who is holy. You have gone far enough, you sons of Levi.”
8 Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi, 9 does it seem but a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; 10 and that He has brought you near [to Him], Korah and all your brothers, sons of Levi with you? Would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord; but as for Aaron, who is he that you murmur against him?”
12 Then Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said [defiantly], “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land [of plenty] (a)flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? 14 Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”
15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Pay no attention to their offering! I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I harmed any one of them.” 16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your company are to appear before the Lord tomorrow, both you and they along with Aaron. 17 Each of you take his censer and put incense on it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers; also you and Aaron shall each bring his censer.” 18 So they each took his own censer and put fire on it and laid incense on it; and they stood at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), with Moses and Aaron. 19 Then Korah assembled all the congregation against Moses and Aaron at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). And the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.
20 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, so that I may consume them immediately.” 22 But they fell on their faces [before the Lord], and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”
23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Say to the congregation, ‘Get away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’”
25 Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he said to the congregation, “Get away from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, or you will be swept away in all their sin.” 27 So they got back from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents with their wives and their sons and their little children. 28 Then Moses said, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works; for I do not act of my own accord. 29 If these men die the common death of all mankind or if what happens to everyone happens to them, then [you will know for sure that] the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates an entirely new thing, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up, along with all that belongs to them, and they descend alive into Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), then you will understand that these men have spurned and rejected the Lord!”
31 As soon as Moses finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split open; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all the men who supported Korah, with all their possessions.(B) 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. 34 All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us also.” 35 Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.
36 (b)Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 37 “Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron, the priest, that he is to pick up the censers from the midst of the blaze for they are holy; and you scatter the burning coals abroad. 38 As for the censers of these people who have sinned at the cost of their lives, have the censers made into hammered sheets as a plating for the altar [of burnt offering], for they were presented before the Lord and they are sacred. They shall be a [warning] sign to the sons of Israel.” 39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the Levites who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out [into broad sheets] as a plating for the [bronze] altar [of burnt offering], 40 as a reminder to the sons of Israel so that no layman—that is, one who is not of the descendants of Aaron should approach to offer incense before the Lord; so that he will not become like Korah and as his company—just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.
Murmuring and Plague
41 But on the next day the entire congregation of the Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have caused the death of the people of the Lord.” 42 When the congregation was assembled against Moses and Aaron, they turned and looked at the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 45 “Get away from among this congregation, so that I may consume them immediately.” Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces [in silence before the Lord]. 46 Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the Lord; the plague has begun!” 47 So Aaron took the burning censer as Moses commanded, 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. 48 He stood between the dead and the living, so that the plague was brought to an end. 49 But those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), for the plague had been brought to an end.
a. Numbers 16:13: This phrase referred to the abundant fertility of the land. Milk (typically that of goats and sheep) was associated with abundance; “honey” referred mainly to syrups made from dates or grapes and was the epitome of sweetness. Bees’ honey was very rare and was considered the choicest of foods.
b. Numbers 16:36: Ch 17 of the Hebrew text begins here.