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Numbers 16 The Message (MSG)

The Rebels

16 1-3 Getting on his high horse one day, Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, along with a few Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—rebelled against Moses. He had with him 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel, prominent men with positions in the Council. They came as a group and confronted Moses and Aaron, saying, “You’ve overstepped yourself. This entire community is holy and God is in their midst. So why do you act like you’re running the whole show?”

On hearing this, Moses threw himself facedown on the ground.

Then he addressed Korah and his gang: “In the morning God will make clear who is on his side, who is holy. God will take his stand with the one he chooses.

6-7 “Now, Korah, here’s what I want you, you and your gang, to do: Tomorrow, take censers. In the presence of God, put fire in them and then incense. Then we’ll see who is holy, see whom God chooses. Sons of Levi, you’ve overstepped yourselves!”

8-11 Moses continued with Korah, “Listen well now, sons of Levi. Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has selected you out of the congregation of Israel to bring you near him to serve in the ministries of The Dwelling of God, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them? He has brought you and all your brother Levites into his inner circle, and now you’re grasping for the priesthood, too. It’s God you’ve ganged up against, not us. What do you have against Aaron that you’re bad-mouthing him?”

12-14 Moses then ordered Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, to appear, but they said, “We’re not coming. Isn’t it enough that you yanked us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you keep trying to boss us around! Face it, you haven’t produced: You haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, you haven’t given us the promised inheritance of fields and vineyards. You’d have to poke our eyes out to keep us from seeing what’s going on. Forget it, we’re not coming.”

15 Moses’ temper blazed white-hot. He said to God, “Don’t accept their Grain-Offering. I haven’t taken so much as a single donkey from them; I haven’t hurt a single hair of their heads.”

16-17 Moses said to Korah, “Bring your people before God tomorrow. Appear there with them and Aaron. Have each man bring his censer filled with incense and present it to God—all 250 censers. And you and Aaron do the same, bring your censers.”

18 So they all did it. They brought their censers filled with fire and incense and stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron did the same.

19 It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God.

20-21 God said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them.”

22 They threw themselves on their faces and said, “O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?”

23-24 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

25-26 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of Israel followed him. He then spoke to the community: “Back off from the tents of these bad men; don’t touch a thing that belongs to them lest you be carried off on the flood of their sins.”

27 So they all backed away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram by now had come out and were standing at the entrance to their tents with their wives, children, and babies.

28-30 Moses continued to address the community: “This is how you’ll know that it was God who sent me to do all these things and that it wasn’t anything I cooked up on my own. If these men die a natural death like all the rest of us, you’ll know that it wasn’t God who sent me. But if God does something unprecedented—if the ground opens up and swallows the lot of them and they are pitched alive into Sheol—then you’ll know that these men have been insolent with God.”

31-33 The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Earth split open. Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned. And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.

34 At the sound of their cries everyone around ran for dear life, shouting, “We’re about to be swallowed up alive!”

35 Then God sent lightning. The fire cremated the 250 men who were offering the incense.

36-38 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, Gather up the censers from the smoldering cinders and scatter the coals a distance away for these censers have become holy. Take the censers of the men who have sinned and are now dead and hammer them into thin sheets for covering the Altar. They have been offered to God and are holy to God. Let them serve as a sign to Israel, evidence of what happened this day.”

39-40 So Eleazar gathered all the bronze censers that belonged to those who had been burned up and had them hammered flat and used to overlay the Altar, just as God had instructed him by Moses. This was to serve as a sign to Israel that only descendants of Aaron were allowed to burn incense before God; anyone else trying it would end up like Korah and his gang.

41 Grumbling broke out the next day in the community of Israel, grumbling against Moses and Aaron: “You have killed God’s people!”

42 But it so happened that when the community got together against Moses and Aaron, they looked over at the Tent of Meeting and there was the Cloud—the Glory of God for all to see.

43-45 Moses and Aaron stood at the front of the Tent of Meeting. God spoke to Moses: “Back away from this congregation so that I can do away with them this very minute.”

They threw themselves facedown on the ground.

46 Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and fill it with incense, along with fire from the Altar. Get to the congregation as fast as you can: make atonement for them. Anger is pouring out from God—the plague has started!”

47-48 Aaron grabbed the censer, as directed by Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation. The plague had already begun. He put burning incense into the censer and atoned for the people. He stood there between the living and the dead and stopped the plague.

49-50 Fourteen thousand seven hundred people died from the plague, not counting those who died in the affair of Korah. Aaron then went back to join Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The plague was stopped.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Numbers 16 New International Version (NIV)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent[a] and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves[b]? No, we will not come!

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also. 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins. 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.[c]

Footnotes:

  1. Numbers 16:1 Or Peleth—took men
  2. Numbers 16:14 Or to deceive these men; Hebrew Will you gouge out the eyes of these men
  3. Numbers 16:50 In Hebrew texts 16:36-50 is numbered 17:1-15.
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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