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Numbers 16:36-50

Context
The Atonement for the Rebellion

16:36 (17:1) 1  The Lord spoke to Moses: 16:37 “Tell 2  Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to pick up 3  the censers out of the flame, for they are holy, and then scatter the coals of fire 4  at a distance. 16:38 As for the censers of these men who sinned at the cost of their lives, 5  they must be made 6  into hammered sheets for covering the altar, because they presented them before the Lord and sanctified them. They will become a sign to the Israelites.” 16:39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers presented by those who had been burned up, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar. 16:40 It was a memorial for the Israelites, that no outsider who is not a descendant of 7  Aaron should approach to burn incense before the Lord, that he might not become like Korah and his company – just as the Lord had spoken by the authority 8  of Moses. 16:41 But on the next day the whole community of Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!” 9  16:42 When the community assembled 10  against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting – and 11  the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 16:43 Then Moses and Aaron stood before the tent of meeting.

16:44 The Lord spoke to Moses: 16:45 “Get away from this community, so that I can consume them in an instant!” But they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground. 12  16:46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take the censer, put burning coals from the altar in it, place incense on it, and go quickly into the assembly and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord – the plague has begun!” 16:47 So Aaron did 13  as Moses commanded 14  and ran into the middle of the assembly, where the plague was just beginning among the people. So he placed incense on the coals and made atonement for the people. 16:48 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. 16:49 Now 14,700 people died in the plague, in addition to those who died in the event with Korah. 16:50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and the plague was stopped.

1 sn Beginning with 16:36, the verse numbers through 17:13 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 16:36 ET = 17:1 HT, 16:37 ET = 17:2 HT, 17:1 ET = 17:16 HT, etc., through 17:13 ET = 17:28 HT. With 18:1 the verse numbers in the ET and HT are again the same. But in the English chap. 17 there are two parts: Aaron’s rod budding (1-9), and the rod preserved as a memorial (10-13). Both sections begin with the same formula.

2 tn Heb “say to.”

3 tn The verb is the jussive with a vav (ו) coming after the imperative; it may be subordinated to form a purpose clause (“that he may pick up”) or the object of the imperative.

4 tn The Hebrew text just has “fire,” but it would be hard to conceive of this action apart from the idea of coals of fire.

5 tn The expression is “in/by/against their life.” That they sinned against their life means that they brought ruin to themselves.

6 tn The form is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive. But there is no expressed subject for “and they shall make them,” and so it may be treated as a passive (“they shall [must] be made”).

7 tn Heb “from the seed of.”

8 tn Heb “hand.”

9 sn The whole congregation here is trying to project its guilt on Moses and Aaron. It was they and their rebellion that brought about the deaths, not Moses and Aaron. The Lord had punished the sinners. The fact that the leaders had organized a rebellion against the Lord was forgotten by these people. The point here is that the Israelites had learned nothing of spiritual value from the event.

10 tn The temporal clause is constructed with the temporal indicator (“and it was”) followed by the Niphal infinitive construct and preposition.

11 tn The verse uses וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh, “and behold”). This is the deictic particle – it is used to point things out, suddenly calling attention to them, as if the reader were there. The people turned to look toward the tent – and there is the cloud!

12 tn Heb “they fell on their faces.”

13 tn Heb “took.”

14 tn Or “had spoken” (NASB); NRSV “had ordered.”



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