16:1 1 Now Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, who were Reubenites, 2 took men 3 16:2 and rebelled against Moses, along with some of the Israelites, 250 leaders 4 of the community, chosen from the assembly, 5 famous men. 6 16:3 And they assembled against Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, 7 seeing that the whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the community of the Lord?”
16:4 When Moses heard it he fell down with his face to the ground. 8 16:5 Then he said to Korah and to all his company, “In the morning the Lord will make known who are his, and who is holy. He will cause that person 9 to approach him; the person he has chosen he will cause to approach him. 16:6 Do this, Korah, you and all your company: 10 Take censers, 16:7 put fire in them, and set incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses will be holy. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!” 16:8 Moses said to Korah, “Listen now, you sons of Levi! 16:9 Does it seem too small a thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel to bring you near to himself, to perform the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the community to minister to them? 16:10 He has brought you near and all your brothers, the sons of Levi, with you. Do you now seek 11 the priesthood also? 16:11 Therefore you and all your company have assembled together against the Lord! And Aaron – what is he that you murmur against him?” 12 16:12 Then Moses summoned 13 Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up. 14 16:13 Is it a small thing 15 that you have brought us up out of the land that flows with milk and honey, 16 to kill us in the wilderness? Now do you want to make yourself a prince 17 over us? 16:14 Moreover, 18 you have not brought us into a land that flows with milk and honey, nor given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you think you can blind 19 these men? We will not come up.”
16:16 Then Moses said to Korah, “You and all your company present yourselves before the Lord – you and they, and Aaron – tomorrow. 16:17 And each of you 21 take his censer, put 22 incense in it, and then each of you present his censer before the Lord: 250 censers, along with you, and Aaron – each of you with his censer.” 16:18 So everyone took his censer, put fire in it, and set incense on it, and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting, with Moses and Aaron. 16:19 When 23 Korah assembled the whole community against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting, then the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community.
16:20 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 16:21 “Separate yourselves 24 from among this community, 25 that I may consume them in an instant.” 16:22 Then they threw themselves down with their faces to the ground 26 and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all people, 27 will you be angry with the whole community when only one man sins?” 28
16:23 So the Lord spoke to Moses: 16:24 “Tell the community: ‘Get away 29 from around the homes of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” 16:25 Then Moses got up 30 and went to Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel went after him. 16:26 And he said to the community, “Move away from the tents of these wicked 31 men, and do not touch anything they have, lest you be destroyed because 32 of all their sins.” 33 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 34 in the entrances of their tents with their wives, their children, and their toddlers. 16:28 Then Moses said, “This is how 35 you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 36 16:29 If these men die a natural death, 37 or if they share the fate 38 of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 16:30 But if the Lord does something entirely new, 39 and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up 40 along with all that they have, and they 41 go down alive to the grave, 42 then you will know that these men have despised the Lord!”
16:31 When he had finished 43 speaking 44 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 45 who were around them fled at their cry, 46 for they said, “What if 47 the earth swallows us too?” 16:35 Then a fire 48 went out from the Lord and devoured the 250 men who offered incense.
1 sn There are three main movements in the story of ch. 16. The first is the rebellion itself (vv. 1-19). The second is the judgment (vv. 20-35). Third is the atonement for the rebels (vv. 36-50). The whole chapter is a marvelous account of a massive rebellion against the leaders that concludes with reconciliation. For further study see G. Hort, “The Death of Qorah,” ABR 7 (1959): 2-26; and J. Liver, “Korah, Dathan and Abiram,” Studies in the Bible (ScrHier 8), 189-217.
2 tc The MT reading is plural (“the sons of Reuben”); the Smr and LXX have the singular (“the son of Reuben”).
3 tn In the Hebrew text there is no object for the verb “took.” The translation presented above supplies the word “men.” However, it is possible that the MT has suffered damage here. The LXX has “and he spoke.” The Syriac and Targum have “and he was divided.” The editor of BHS suggests that perhaps the MT should be emended to “and he arose.”
4 tn Heb “princes” (so KJV, ASV).
5 tn These men must have been counselors or judges of some kind.
6 tn Heb “men of name,” or “men of renown.”
7 tn The meaning of רַב־לָכֶם (rab-lakhem) is something like “you have assumed far too much authority.” It simply means “much to you,” perhaps “you have gone to far,” or “you are overreaching yourselves” (M. Noth, Numbers [OTL], 123). He is objecting to the exclusiveness of the system that Moses has been introducing.
8 tn Heb “fell on his face.”
9 tn Heb “him.”
10 tn Heb “his congregation” or “his community.” The expression is unusual, but what it signifies is that Korah had set up a rival “Israel” with himself as leader.
11 tn The verb is the Piel perfect. There is no imperfect tense before this, which makes the construction a little difficult. If the vav (ו) is classified as a consecutive, then the form would stand alone as an equivalent to the imperfect, and rendered as a modal nuance such as “would you [now] seek,” or as a progressive imperfect, “are you seeking.” This latter nuance can be obtained by treating it as a regular perfect tense, with an instantaneous nuance: “do you [now] seek.”
sn Moses discerned correctly the real motivation for the rebellion. Korah wanted to be the high priest because he saw how much power there was in the spiritual leadership in Israel. He wanted something like a general election with himself as the candidate and his supporters promoting him. The great privilege of being a Levite and serving in the sanctuary was not enough for him – the status did not satisfy him. Korah gave no rebuttal. The test would be one of ministering with incense. This would bring them into direct proximity with the
12 sn The question indicates that they had been murmuring against Aaron, that is, expressing disloyalty and challenging his leadership. But it is actually against the
13 tn Heb “Moses sent to summon.” The verb קָרָא (qara’) followed by the lamed (ל) preposition does not mean “call to” but “summon.” This is a command performance; for them to appear would be to submit to Moses’ authority. This they will not do.
14 tn The imperfect tense נַעֲלֶה (na’aleh) expresses their unwillingness to report: “we are not willing,” or “we will not.” The verb means “to go up.” It is used in the sense of appearing before an authority or a superior (see, e.g., Gen 46:31; Deut 25:7; Judg 4:5).
15 tn The question is rhetorical. It was not a small thing to them – it was a big thing.
16 tn The modern scholar who merely sees these words as belonging to an earlier tradition about going up to the land of Canaan that flows with milk and honey misses the irony here. What is happening is that the text is showing how twisted the thinking of the rebels is. They have turned things completely around. Egypt was the land flowing with milk and honey, not Canaan where they will die. The words of rebellion are seldom original, and always twisted.
17 tn The verb הִשְׂתָּרֵר (histarer) is the Hitpael infinitive absolute that emphasizes the preceding תִשְׂתָּרֵר (tistarer), the Hitpael imperfect tense (both forms having metathesis). The verb means “to rule; to act like a prince; to make oneself a prince.” This is the only occurrence of the reflexive for this verb. The exact nuance is difficult to translate into English. But they are accusing Moses of seizing princely power for himself, perhaps making a sarcastic reference to his former status in Egypt. The rebels here are telling Moses that they had discerned his scheme, and so he could not “hoodwink” them (cf. NEB).
18 tn Here אַף (’af) has the sense of “in addition.” It is not a common use.
19 tn Heb “will you bore out the eyes of these men?” The question is “Will you continue to mislead them?” (or “hoodwink” them). In Deut 16:19 it is used for taking a bribe; something like that kind of deception is intended here. They are simply stating that Moses is a deceiver who is misleading the people with false promises.
20 tn The verb means “to turn toward”; it is a figurative expression that means “to pay attention to” or “to have regard for.” So this is a prayer against Dathan and Abiram.
21 tn Heb “and take, a man, his censer.”
22 tn This verb and the following one are both perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutives. Following the imperative they carry the same force, but in sequence.
23 tn This clause is clearly foundational for the clause that follows, the appearance of the
24 tn The verb is הִבָּדְלוּ (hibbadÿlu), the Niphal imperative of בָּדַל (badal). This is the same word that was just used when Moses reminded the Levites that they had been separated from the community to serve the
25 sn The group of people siding with Korah is meant, and not the entire community of the people of Israel. They are an assembly of rebels, their “community” consisting in their common plot.
26 sn It is Moses and Aaron who prostrate themselves; they have the good of the people at heart.
27 tn The expression “the God of the spirits of all humanity [flesh]” is somewhat difficult. The Hebrew text says אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל־בָּשָׂר (’elohey harukhot lÿkhol-basar). This expression occurs in Num 27:16 again. It also occurs in some postbiblical texts, a fact which has prompted some scholars to conclude that it is a late addition. The words clearly show that Moses is interceding for the congregation. The appeal in the verse is that it is better for one man to die for the whole nation than the whole nation for one man (see also John 11:50).
28 tn The verb is the Qal imperfect יֶחֱטָא (yekheta’); it refers to the sinful rebellion of Korah, but Moses is stating something of a principle: “One man sins, and will you be angry….” A past tense translation would assume that this is a preterite use of the imperfect (without vav [ו] consecutive).
29 tn The motif of “going up” is still present; here the Hebrew text says “go up” (the Niphal imperative – “go up yourselves”) from their tents, meaning, move away from them.
30 tn Heb “rose up.”
31 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
32 tn The preposition bet (בְּ) in this line is causal – “on account of their sins.”
33 sn The impression is that the people did not hear what the
34 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.
35 tn Heb “in this.”
36 tn The Hebrew text simply has כִּי־לֹא מִלִּבִּי (ki-lo’ millibbi, “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.
37 tn Heb “if like the death of every man they die.”
38 tn The noun is פְּקֻדָּה (pÿquddah, “appointment, visitation”). The expression refers to a natural death, parallel to the first expression.
39 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.
40 tn The figures are personifications. But they vividly describe the catastrophe to follow – which was very much like a mouth swallowing them.
41 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.
42 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.
43 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.”
44 tn The infinitive construct with the preposition lamed (ל) functions here as the direct object of the preceding infinitive. It tells what he finished.
45 tn Heb “all Israel.”
46 tn Heb “voice.”
47 tn Heb “lest.”
48 tn For a discussion of the fire of the