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Numbers 16:26-34

Context
16:26 And he said to the community, “Move away from the tents of these wicked 1  men, and do not touch anything they have, lest you be destroyed because 2  of all their sins.” 3  16:27 So they got away from the homes of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram on every side, and Dathan and Abiram came out and stationed themselves 4  in the entrances of their tents with their wives, their children, and their toddlers. 16:28 Then Moses said, “This is how 5  you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 6  16:29 If these men die a natural death, 7  or if they share the fate 8  of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 16:30 But if the Lord does something entirely new, 9  and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up 10  along with all that they have, and they 11  go down alive to the grave, 12  then you will know that these men have despised the Lord!”

16:31 When he had finished 13  speaking 14  all these words, the ground that was under them split open, 16:32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, along with their households, and all Korah’s men, and all their goods. 16:33 They and all that they had went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed over them. So they perished from among the community. 16:34 All the Israelites 15  who were around them fled at their cry, 16  for they said, “What if 17  the earth swallows us too?”

1 tn The word רָשָׁע (rasha’) has the sense of a guilty criminal. The word “wicked” sometimes gives the wrong connotation. These men were opposing the Lord, and so were condemned as criminals – they were guilty. The idea of “wickedness” therefore applies in that sense.

2 tn The preposition bet (בְּ) in this line is causal – “on account of their sins.”

3 sn The impression is that the people did not hear what the Lord said to Moses, but only what Moses said to the people as a result. They saw the brilliant cloud, and perhaps heard the sound of his voice, but the relaying of the instructions indicates they did not hear the actual instruction from the Lord himself.

4 tn The verb נִצָּבִים (nitsavim) suggests a defiant stance, for the word is often used in the sense of taking a stand for or against something. It can also be somewhat neutral, having the sense of positioning oneself for a purpose.

5 tn Heb “in this.”

6 tn The Hebrew text simply has כִּי־לֹא מִלִּבִּי (ki-lomillibbi, “for not from my heart”). The heart is the center of the will, the place decisions are made (see H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament). Moses is saying that the things he has done have not come “from the will of man” so to speak – and certainly not from some secret desire on his part to seize power.

7 tn Heb “if like the death of every man they die.”

8 tn The noun is פְּקֻדָּה (pÿquddah, “appointment, visitation”). The expression refers to a natural death, parallel to the first expression.

9 tn The verb בָּרָא (bara’) 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.

10 tn The figures are personifications. But they vividly describe the catastrophe to follow – which was very much like a mouth swallowing them.

11 tn The word is “life” or “lifetime”; it certainly means their lives – they themselves. But the presence of this word suggest more. It is an accusative specifying the state of the subject – they will go down alive to Sheol.

12 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.

13 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.”

14 tn The infinitive construct with the preposition lamed (ל) functions here as the direct object of the preceding infinitive. It tells what he finished.

15 tn Heb “all Israel.”

16 tn Heb “voice.”

17 tn Heb “lest.”



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