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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 16

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]:

The son of Izhar. — And so first cousin to Moses and Aaron; for Izhar was brother to Amram their father. Exodus 6:18

Sons of Reuben. — Who, being next neighbours to Korah in the camp, were the sooner corrupted by him.

Uvaque corrupta livorem ducit ab uva. ” - Juven.

Verse 2

And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:

Princes of the assembly. — A very dangerous conspiracy: for as in a beast the body follows the head, so in that bellua multorum capitum, the multitude. Great men are the looking glasses of the country, according to which most men dress themselves: their sins do as seldom go unattended as their persons: height of place ever adds two wings to sin, example and scandal, whereby it soars higher, and flies much further.

Verse 3

And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, [Ye take] too much upon you, seeing all the congregation [are] holy, every one of them, and the LORD [is] among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

Against Moses and against Aaron. — They were against both magistracy and ministry, as our late levellers, and would have brought in anarchy, that every man might offer his own sacrifice, and do that which is good in his own eyes: Regnum Cyclopicum.

Verse 4

And when Moses heard [it], he fell upon his face:

He fell upon his face. — As a suppliant to them, not to proceed in their rebellion; or rather to God, not to proceed against them for their sin.

Verse 5

And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who [are] his, and [who is] holy; and will cause [him] to come near unto him: even [him] whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.

And he spake unto Korah. — By the instinct of the Spirit, who had given into his heart a present answer to his prayer, and furnished him with this answer.

Verse 7

And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be [that] the man whom the LORD doth choose, he [shall be] holy: [ye take] too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.

Ye take too much upon you. — He retorts that upon them, that they had falsely charged upon him and Aaron. So doth Elias upon Ahab. 1 Kings 18:17-18 So do we worthily upon Popery, the charge of novelty. When a Papist tauntingly demanded of a Protestant, Where was your religion before Luther? he was answered, In the Bible, where yours never was. Scaliger truly and trimly told the Jesuits, Nos non sumus novatores, sed vos estis veteratores, We are not novellers, but you old cheaters.

Verse 8

And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:

Ye sons of Levi. — He took these to task apart; as hoping, haply, to withdraw them from their purpose, and to hide pride from them, Job 33:17 but they proved uncounsellable, incorrigible.

Verse 9

[Seemeth it but] a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath 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 unto them?

Seemeth it but a small thing. — While these ambitious Levites would be looking up to the priests, Moses sends down their eyes to the people. The way not to repine at those above us, is to look at those below us.

Verse 10

And he hath brought thee near [to him], and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?

And seek ye the priesthood also. — Ambition is restless and unsatisfiable; for, like the crocodile, it grows as long as it lives.

Verse 11

For which cause [both] thou and all thy company [are] gathered together against the LORD: and what [is] Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

And what is Aaron?q.d., Is it not God whom ye wound through Aaron’s sides? "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Acts 9:4

Verse 12

And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:

Ver 12. We will not come up. — Sturdy rebels, ripe for destruction. See Proverbs 29:1 . See Trapp on " Proverbs 29:1 " One perhaps had knocked off, and is therefore no more mentioned. Satius est recurrere, quam male currere, as that emperor said, Better stop or step back, than run on to utter ruin.

Verse 13

[Is it] a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?

That floweth with milk and honey. — So they falsely and maliciously speak of the land of Egypt, in derision of the land of Canaan, whereunto that praise properly belonged. Those that were born in hell know no other heaven.

Altogether a prince over us. — So their quarrel was against Moses’ principality, though they pretended the priesthood only at first. If the ministry once be taken away, let the magistrate see to himself; he is next.

Verse 14

Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.

We will not come up,sc., To the place of judgment. So they add rebellion to sin, and justify their treasonful practices; as did Ravailliac, Fawks, Saunders, others.

Verse 15

And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.

And Moses was very wroth. — Or, Very sore grieved. He might have said, as one once did, Felix essem si non imperitassem, Happy had I been if I had never been in place of authority. Egypt is said by Seneca to have been loquax et ingeniosa in contumeliam praefectorum provincia, in qua qui vitaverit culpam non effugit infamiam, A province apt to find fault with, and to speak hardly of their rulers, though never so innocent. These rebels had haply learned those Egyptian manners, by living so long amongst them.

I have not taken one ass from them. — Moses was not of them that follow the administration of justice as a trade only, with an unquenchable and unconscionable desire of gain. This is but robbery with authority, and justifies the common resemblance of the courts of justice to the bush, where to while the sheep flees for defence in weather, he is sure to lose part of his fleece.

Verse 16

And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:

Thy company. — Or, Thy congregation, thy faction, or Church malignant, as Psalms 26:5 Acts 19:32 ; Acts 19:40 .

Verse 17

And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each [of you] his censer.

And take every man his censer. — Which they had ready provided, when first they combined to thrust themselves into the priests’ office.

Verse 18

And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.

And stood in the door. — Such an impudency had sin oaded in their faces, that they stood stouting it out before the Lord, and made open profession of their wickedness: there was no need to dig to find it out, Jeremiah 2:34 for they set it, as it were, upon the cliff of the rock. Ezekiel 24:7

Verse 19

And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.

All the congregation. — Not his own company only: for the whole multitude was too ready to favour his attempt, as he persuaded them God also would, his design being to introduce an equal popularity.

And the glory of the Lord. — Shining in the cloud over the sanctuary as at other times in like cases. Numbers 16:42 Numbers 14:10 Exodus 40:34

Verse 21

Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.

Separate yourselves. — Good men are taken away from the evil to come. When God pulls away the pillars, what will become of the building? Lot was no sooner taken out of Sodom, but Sodom was taken out of the world.

Verse 22

And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

The God of the spirits. — The Former and Father of spirits, Zechariah 12:1 Hebrews 12:9 "that giveth to all ζωην και πνοην , life and breath," Acts 17:25 in whose hand is the soul of all living, and the spirit of all flesh. Job 12:10

Verse 24

Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

Get you up from about. — "Save yourselves from this untoward generation"; Acts 2:40 force yourselves from them, stave them off, as the word signifies ( στελλεσθαι παραγγελλομεν , 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ), and we charge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to do so. Ut scias quam aegre divellimur, saith one.

Verse 26

And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.

Lest ye be consumed. — See Numbers 16:24 , See Trapp on " Revelation 18:4 " Hamath fares the worse for lying so near Damascus. Zechariah 9:2 St John sprang out of the bath, where he found Cerinthus the heretic.

Verse 27

So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.

Came out and stood. — As out facing Moses, and scorning the judgment threatened. Deus quem destruit dementat. Hardened sinners make no more of God’s dreadful threatenings, than behemoth doth of iron weapons, which he esteemeth as straws.

Verse 28

And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for [I have] not [done them] of mine own mind.

Hereby ye shall know. — Thus he engageth the truth and honour of his office upon a miracle. But now he that expects a miracle, is himself a miracle, saith Augustine. Let Papists brag of their lying wonders. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 We dislike not altogether that observation of Gretser the Jesuit, Tam sterilis et deserta est Lutherana et Calviniana secta, ut diabolus ne dignetur quidem per eam aliquid fallacium et umbratilium prodigiorum aggredi, saltem frequenter et palam. So dull and dry is the Lutheran and Calvinian sect, that the devil deigns not to work any, or not many miracles, among them, as he doth among the Catholics.

Verse 29

If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; [then] the LORD hath not sent me.

The common death of all men.Ne quisquam sua morte defunctus est, said Suetonius of Caesar’s murderers. So may we say of our gun powder plotters; Your sin will find you out.

Verse 30

But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that [appertain] unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.

Quick unto the pit. — Not into hell, as the Papists conclude from this text; for how could their houses and goods go down to hell? Numbers 16:32 and who would not hope that some of them were innocent, some penitent? The punishment they suffered in being buried alive was very miserable; and so accounted by the heathens, who served their vestal virgins in this sort that had been deflowered.

Verse 31

And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that [was] under them:

As he had made an end of speaking.Dictum factum; so it is still. John 20:23 Vengeance is every whit as ready in God’s hands, as in his ministers’ mouths. 2 Corinthians 10:6

Verse 32

And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that [appertained] unto Korah, and all [their] goods.

And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up. — So it did a great part of Antioch, by a horrible earthquake, anno 527, for their horrible heresies and blasphemies there broached by the bishops, and defended by the people. So lately Pleurs in Italy.

Verse 33

They, and all that [appertained] to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

And they perished from among. — So the gun powder plotters here; and before them the northern rebels. That rebellion, saith one, like the bubbles, which children blow up into the air, was no sooner blown up than blown out, and fell into the eyes of those who with blasts of ambition and superstition held it up.

Verse 34

And all Israel that [were] round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up [also].

Lest the earth swallow us up also. — Let the destruction of others be a terror to us, that we may wash our feet in the blood of the wicked. Psalms 52:6 But he that is swallowed up with earth, as Korah, his ears stopped, his heart stuffed with earth, shall have earth enough when he dies, but of heaven little enough.

Verse 35

And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

And there came out a fire. — By fire they sinned, and by a fire they suffer: -

Per quod quis peccat, per idem punitur ipse.

Verse 37

Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.

For they are hallowed. — And therefore may not be turned to any other use.

Verse 38

The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates [for] a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.

These sinners against their own souls. — So are all such as spend the span of this transitory life, after the ways of their own hearts, and thereby perish for ever. Sin is the soul’s poison; yet how heartily do men feed upon it, as Tartars do upon dead horses; as the maid in Pliny did upon spiders; as the Turkish galley slaves do upon opium, an ounce whereof they will eat at once as if it were bread!

Verse 40

[To be] a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which [is] not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.

To be a memorial. — God cannot abide to be forgotten; and they are worthily made examples that will not take them; as that second captain in 2 Kings 1:11-12

Verse 41

But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.

But on the morrow. — That after conviction they should so soon again rebel, and run away with the bit in their mouths, was prodigious contumacy.

Verse 42

And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.

And behold the cloud.Deus εκ μηχανης . God, as out of an engine, appears for his distressed servants.

Verse 46

And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.

For there is wrath. — Moses is quick sighted, and spies it at first setting out. By how much more faithful and familiar men are with God, so much earlier do they discern his wrath.

Verse 47

And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.

The plague. — Which ran as a fire in a grain field.

Verse 48

And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.

And he stood between. — A clear type of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 16". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/numbers-16.html. 1865-1868.
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