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Numbers 16:28-30

Context
16:28 Then Moses said, “This is how 1  you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 2  16:29 If these men die a natural death, 3  or if they share the fate 4  of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 16:30 But if the Lord does something entirely new, 5  and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up 6  along with all that they have, and they 7  go down alive to the grave, 8  then you will know that these men have despised the Lord!”

1 tn Heb “in this.”

2 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.

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

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

5 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.

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

7 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.

8 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.



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