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Numbers 16:29-31 New English Translation (NET Bible)

29 If these men die a natural death,[a] or if they share the fate[b] of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord does something entirely new,[c] and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up[d] along with all that they have, and they[e] go down alive to the grave,[f] then you will know that these men have despised the Lord!”

31 When he had finished[g] speaking[h] all these words, the ground that was under them split open,


  1. Numbers 16:29 tn Heb “if like the death of every man they die.”
  2. Numbers 16:29 tn The noun is פְּקֻדָּה (pequddah, “appointment, visitation”). The expression refers to a natural death, parallel to the first expression.
  3. Numbers 16:30 tn The verb בָּרָא (baraʾ) is normally translated “create” in the Bible. More specifically it means to fashion or make or do something new and fresh. Here the verb is joined with its cognate accusative to underscore that this will be so different everyone will know it is of God.
  4. Numbers 16:30 tn The figures are personifications, but they vividly describe the catastrophe to follow—which was very much like a mouth swallowing them.
  5. Numbers 16:30 tn The word is “life” or “lifetime”; it certainly means their lives—they themselves. But the presence of this word suggests more. It is an accusative specifying the state of the subject—they will go down alive to Sheol.
  6. Numbers 16:30 tn The word “Sheol” in the Bible can be used four different ways: the grave, the realm of the departed [wicked] spirits or Hell, death in general, or a place of extreme danger (one that will lead to the grave if God does not intervene). The usage here is certainly the first, and very likely the second as well. A translation of “pit” would not be inappropriate. Since they will go down there alive, it is likely that they will sense the deprivation and the separation from the land above. See H. W. Robinson, Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament; N. J. Tromp, Primitive Conceptions of Death and the Netherworld in the Old Testament (BibOr 21), 21-23; and A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic, especially ch. 3.
  7. Numbers 16:31 tn The initial temporal clause is standard: It begins with the temporal indicator “and it was,” followed here by the Piel infinitive construct with the preposition and the subjective genitive suffix. “And it happened when he finished.”
  8. Numbers 16:31 tn The infinitive construct with the preposition ל (lamed) functions here as the direct object of the preceding infinitive. It tells what he finished.
New English Translation (NET)

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