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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers 16

 

 

Verses 1-50


The Rebellion of Kokah, Dathan, Abibam, and On

This incident is similar to that recorded in Numbers 12, and while it illustrates the difficulties Moses encountered in his leadership, owing to the jealousy of those under him, it served to confirm him (Numbers 16:28) and Aaron (a 17) in the position assigned to them. It is now generally agreed that this chapter is composed of two narratives interwoven with each other. The one describes a rebellion led by Dathan, Abiram, and On against the civil authority of Moses (Numbers 16:1-2, Numbers 16:12-15, Numbers 16:25-34); while the other describes a different sort of rebellion, headed by Korah and 250 princes of the congregation, against the ecclesiastical leadership of Moses and Aaron. This separation of the chapter into two distinct narratives reduces it to order and serves to explain, not only the literary inequalities, but also the differences of fact; such as e.g. in the one case the refusal to obey the summons of Moses, and in the other the compliance with it (cp. Numbers 16:12 with 18, 19); the difference in locality, in the one case the sanctuary, and in the other the tents of Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:18 and Numbers 16:25-26); and the different fate of the two companies, in the one case death by earthquake, and in the other by fire from the Lord (Numbers 16:31-34 and Numbers 16:35).

4. The action may denote the dismay of Moses, but more probably his praying for guidance: cp. Numbers 16:22, Numbers 16:45, Numbers 20:6.

5. To Korah] not to Dathan and Abiram, whose rebellion is distinct from this: see above.

11. Against the Lord] not merely against Aaron, of whose privileges Koran and his company are envious.

13. Dathan and Abiram are envious of the position of Moses. They complain that, instead of bringing them into a land flowing with milk and honey, as he had led them to believe he would do, he was taking them away from it into a wilderness (Numbers 16:13-14). Except thou make thyself] RV 'But thou must needs make thyself also.' '

14. Put out the eyes of these men] blind them to the real state of matters. The English equivalent would be to 'throw dust in the eyes.'

19. All the congregation] This shows the serious nature of Korah's rebellion. The people were in sympathy with it. The claim put forward by Korah was plausible, and flattered the multitude: see Numbers 16:3.

22. The God of the spirits of all flesh must know the thoughts and intents of the heart and be able to judge the real instigator of the evil. The one man is Korah: cp. for the thought Genesis 18:23.

28. Hath sent me] i.e. Moses. Dathan's rebellion is directed against Moses as that of Korah against Aaron. On the sending of Moses see Exodus 3. Not.. of mine Own mind] The mark of the true messenger or prophet of God is that he does not speak of his own initiative: cp. Numbers 24:13; 1 Kings 22:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5-10; Matthew 10:19, Matthew 10:20. The false prophet, on the other hand, runs where he is not sent and speaks 'out of his own heart': see Ezekiel 13:2; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:25-32.

30. Quick] i.e. alive. The pit] Heb. Sheol, usually rendered 'the grave.'

32. Their houses] their households, as in Numbers 1:2; Genesis 7:1. The sons of Korah, however, did not perish: see Numbers 26:11.

36-39. The censers used by Korah and his company are collected and made into a covering for the altar, as a memorial of their sin and punishment, and a warning to others against profaning holy things: cp. Judges 1:11.

37. Eleazar is commanded to do this, not Aaron, who, as high priest, must not defile himself with contact with the dead: see Leviticus 21:11;

38. The altar] the altar of burnt offering, which was overlaid with brass: see on Exodus 31:1-10.

41-50. The people now turn upon Moses and charge him with being the occasion of this calamity. Their unreasonable murmuring is punished with a plague, which is only stayed by means of the intervention of the high priest.

46. Incense was usually offered, not alone, but as an accompaniment of a sacrifice. On this occasion the plague had begun, and incense was the readiest sacrifice that could be offered. It is symbolical of prayer and intercession: see on Exodus 30:1-10. Observe that the unauthorised offering of incense by the rebels was provocative of the divine indignation, while in the hands of Aaron, the appointed high priest, it was accepted as an atonement, and procured the grace of forgiveness.

48. A striking picture, illustrating the efficacy of believing prayer (cp. James 5:15-16) and the way in which Christ by the offering of Himself has stayed the plague of sin and death: cp. Ephesians 5:2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Numbers 16:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/numbers-16.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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