Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 16

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-50

Korah, Dathan and Abiram (16:1-50)

In the events recorded in this chapter, two groups combined to rebel against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. One was a group of 250 prominent Levites under the leadership of Korah, who were envious that only Aaron and his family were allowed to be priests. The other was a group headed by two Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, who were envious and critical of Moses’ leadership of the nation (16:1-3).
Moses again allowed God to be the judge. He asked both groups to appear before God with him to see who was right. The Reubenites refused but the Levites went, taking a crowd from the camp with them in support (4-15). The Levites were to burn incense in firepans, or censers (which, as a rule, only Aaron and his sons were allowed to do), so that God might show his approval or otherwise (16-19).
God threatened to destroy the whole camp, and although Moses and Aaron knew he had the right to do so, they begged him not to (20-24). He responded to their prayer by destroying only those who actually took part in the rebellion. Korah, Dathan, Abiram and some of their chief supporters were swallowed up by the earth in the sight of the camp, but the 250 Levites suffered a different fate. They had wanted to burn incense before God; now they were burnt by fire from God (25-35).
Neither the fire nor the firepans used by the rebellious Levites could be used again. Eleazar the priest emptied the firepans and had them beaten into a bronze plate to cover the altar, where it was a constant reminder that only the family of Aaron could burn incense before God (36-40).
The people blamed Moses and Aaron for the death of the rebels and gathered at the tabernacle in a hostile demonstration against the leaders (41). Again God threatened to destroy the people (42-45), and again Moses and Aaron begged him not to. But God’s judgment in the form of a deadly plague had already begun, and it was stopped only when Aaron made atonement for them by burning incense. This emphasized once more that only the priests could take fire from the altar and offer it with incense before the Lord (46-50).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Numbers 16". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/numbers-16.html. 2005.
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