Numbers 16:1-50


This chapter tells of the rebellion of Israel against God's chosen leadership.  This is a common problem in churches today.  A sign of the last days is a rebellion against God's leaders and establishment of "everybody" ruling.


I.    The names of rebels.

A.  The names of the people leading the first two rebellions against Moses and Aaron are not mentioned.  (See Numbers 11 and 12.)

1.      Numbers 11:1 - The "people" complain.

2.      Numbers 11:4 - The "mixt multitude".

B.   The names of the people leading the next two rebellions against Moses and Aaron are mentioned.

1.      Numbers 12:1 - Miriam and Aaron (brother and sister to Moses).

2.      Numbers 13 - The names of the ten spies who discouraged Israel are given plus the names of the two spies who encouraged Israel.


II.   Who are the rebels this time?

A.  Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi.

1.   His genealogy is also confirmed in Ex. 6:21.

2.   He is apparently the leader of the rebellion.

3.   He is a near cousin to Moses and Aaron.  He probably thought he should have been chosen leader instead of Moses.

4.      Matt. 10:36 - Jesus said a man's foes would be those of his own household.

5.      Jude 11 - Korah's (Core) words are said to be "gainsaying".  (Saying things in order to gain prestige and wealth for oneself.)

6.   Ex. 32:26 - In the matter of the golden calf, all the sons of Levi stood on God's side, but now they turn against God and Moses and Aaron.

B.   Men of the tribe of Reuben (the eldest son of Jacob).

1.      Dathan - He was never mentioned before as being a leader of Israel, or in the tribe of Reuben.

2.      Abiram - He was never mentioned before as being a leader of Israel, or in the tribe of Reuben.

a.   Numbers 16:1,26:9 - Dathan and Abiram were brothers, the son of Eliab.

b.   See Numbers 26:5-11.

1.      Eliab is the son of Palla.

2.      Palla is the son of Reuben.

c.   They were said to be famous in the congregation.

d.   Many famous people think themselves to be leaders, because so many copy them, but they are not necessarily spiritual leaders.

e.   Note the many movie stars who are leading many people straight to hell.

3.   On, the son of Peleth.

a.   As far as I can tell, this man played a very small role in the rebellion.  When the rebellion got underway, it seems he withdrew.

b.   Numbers 26:9-11; Deut. 11:6; Ps 106:17 - He and his family is not mentioned as being destroyed, or as facing the judgment of God.

C.   The men Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On stirred up.

1.   250 princes of the remaining tribes of Israel.

2.      Their names and tribes are unknown.

a.   This is odd since the bible records they were famous men, men of renown.

b.   Men may have known their names and tribes, but God did not know them.

c.   He did not record their names in His book.

3.   The pride, ambition, and strength of great men (who are not spiritual) has always been a hindrance to the cause of Christ.

4.      How gullible these great men are!!

a.   They do not want Moses and Aaron to lead them, but they are willing to be lead by rebels.

b.   It is the promise of them leading others that causes them to join the rebels.


III. What is their complaint?

A.  That Moses is leading!

1.      They really believe that Moses is leading them wrong.

2.      Numbers 16:13,14 - They accuse Moses and Aaron of failing to bring them into the promised land.

3.      They conveniently forget their rebellion is the reason they must die in the wilderness.

B.   This cry is brought up against real pastors today.

1.      Some people call them dictators.

2.      Some people in churches would make their pastor a personal puppet who must get permission for everything he does.

3.   If you don't have a pastor you can trust, you ought to get one you can.

4.   I am well aware that some people will never get a pastor they will trust.

5.      They haven't trusted the Lord yet!!

C.   Notice the balance the pastor and his people have.

1.   I Peter 5:2,3 - the pastor is to take the oversight of the people, but not as a lord (master) over them.  (I Peter 5 is not written to church members, it is written to pastors.  See verse 1.)  Church members have no business applying these verses to themselves.

2.      Heb 13:17 - Church members are to obey their pastor, because God has given him the rule of their spiritual lives.  The pastor shall answer to God for the way he fed His sheep.  Pastors have no business using this scripture as an excuse for "lording" it over God's children.  Gal. 6:6 - may the church member encourage the pastor by telling him of their spiritual growth.  A church member has no business "chewing out the pastor".

D.  Is all the congregation holy?

1.      Yes, but they are not to lead themselves.

2.      God's children have always had leaders.

3.   The time of the judges was the worse time in Israel's history because they had no king to lead them.  They lead themselves into nothingness.

E.   Did Moses and Aaron really lift themselves up above the congregation?

1.   No, God called them both into the ministry.

2.   God spoke to Moses from the burning bush that was not consumed.

3.      Moses was the first man in the Bible to do miracles.  He did miracles to convince Israel that God had sent him.

4.      Aaron was just walking along one day, and God caused him to be a leader of Israel under Moses.

F.   Where were these men when Israel was in oppression in Egypt?

1.      They were in Egypt with Israel, but they could do nothing about helping themselves, mush less all of Israel.

2.      They had prayed, just like all Israel, for a deliverer.

3.   God answered their prayers and sent Moses and Aaron.

4.      Now that they were out of Egypt, they wanted to take control.

5.   The truth is: The don't want God to be in control.

6.   We are just like these rebels when we walk by sight, instead of by faith.


IV. Verse 4,5 - Moses reaction.

A.  Falls on his face before the Lord.

1.      Humbly submitting himself to them if God so permit.

2.   I believe Moses will be willing to step down as leader of Israel and give the leadership to these men if that is God's will.

3.   He also knows that God would have told him before he told Korah and company.

4.      Praying to God for he knows that only God can straighten out this mess.

B.   Turns everything over to the Lord.

1.   A God called servant knows God will protect him.

2.   He has no need to defend himself or his position.

3.   He doesn't worry so much about others who try to take his authority.


V.  Verse 5-14 - Moses discussion with Korah and the other rebels.

A.            Compare Moses going to his leader, (God) and Korah going to his leader (Moses).

1.      Moses goes directly to God will full confidence God will handle everything just right.

2.      Korah does not go to God or have a God centered plan for finding out who the real leader of Israel is.

a.   When people are rebelling against the man God has placed over them, they do not pray.

b.   They will make many plans about removing him from office, but will not ask God for his directions.

c.   They will make many false accusations about his leadership, always failing to remember their own faults.

B.   It's strange to me that Korah and his company accept the proposition of Moses to "arm" themselves with censers.

1.      This is a holy plan.

2.      They probably are holding on to a "form of religion" while denying the power thereof.

3.   The censer is a symbol of that which contains prayer.

4.   The fire represents the proof that God is with them.

a.   Very likely, these rebels get the fire from the altar.

b.   In verse 37, Moses declares the fire and censers are holy.

c.   God allowed them to take the fire as an experiment, but he will soon show their rebellion.

d.   A rebel may get away with rebellion for a while, but God will soon bring all his evil to light.

5.      Tomorrow - will give them time to sleep on their decision, for their lives depend on the outcome.

C.   Moses sermon to the rebels.

1.      Verse 8 - He calls them Levis.

a.   This should remind them of their high calling.

b.   They are in charge of the most precious part of the tabernacle.

1.      See Numbers 4:1-15 - They are in charge of moving the furniture of the tabernacle.

2.      Numbers 4:17-20 - This is such a dangerous job, God provided special protection for them.

3.      Moses and Aaron make sure everything is covered before the Kohathites are called.

4.      So the ones that have been protecting them are the ones they are rebelling against.

2.      Verse 8 - Prays (begs) them to listen.

3.      Verse 9 - They ought to be thankful God has put them into the honored position He has.

4.      Verse 10 - They have no right to seek the entire priesthood.

5.      Verse 11 - They are not fighting Moses and Aaron, but are fighting the Lord.

6.      Evidently Moses dismisses them with this speech, but they do not repent.

D.  Verse 12-14 - Moses speaks to the sons of Reuben.

1.      They will not even listen to what God has to say.  How easily they (and we) forget our sins.

2.      They call Egypt a land flowing with milk and honey.

3.      They say Moses (not God) is going to kill them in the wilderness.

a.   They deny to themselves that God is going to kill them.

b.   Blinded sinners often blame others for their condemnation.

4.      They blame Moses for their not going into the promised land!!

a.   They deny that God was to bring them into the promised land.

b.   They deny that God was to give them an inheritance.

c.   So many people are looking to men to give them spiritual things when they ought to be looking to God.

5.      "Put out the eyes of these men" - These rebels claim that Moses has "pulled the wool" over the eyes of all Israel.

a.   How strange!!  These rebels believe they are the only ones who really know the truth!!

b.   This is typical of rebels.

c.   Rebels against God will twist the truth around so they will look good in the eyes of men.

d.   They do not realize how they look in the eyes of God.


VI. Preparation for tomorrow.

A.  Verse 15 - Moses prayer.

1.   He was wroth.

a.   Some would have us believe we cannot pray when we are angry.

b.   Moses was angry, and yet sinned not.  (Eph. 4:26)

2.   He asked God not to hear their prayers, for he was innocent and everybody ought to know it.

B.   Verse 16,17 - Moses again instructs the rebels.

1.      Each man has his own censer and incense, and fire,

2.      There are 250 of these.

a.   Evidently Korah and company do not have censers.

b.   The fire of God destroys only those with censers.

c.   Korah and company are swallowed by the earth.


VII.      The day of judgment.

A.  Nobody had a change of heart over night.

B.   The rebels gather at the door of the congregation.

1.      This is the place of Moses and Aaron.

2.   The Kohathites are supposed to be camped on the south side of the tabernacle.  (Numbers 3:29).  So they are out of their place.

3.   All of the congregation is also gathered with Korah against Moses.

C.   The glory of the Lord appears to all the congregation.

1.      This is the same glory that confirmed Aaron.  (Lev. 9:23.)

2.      There should be no doubt to the people who God will confirm on this day.

D.  God tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves so He can destroy them all.

E.   Moses and Aaron once again pray that God will spare Israel.

1.   I don't know if I would (or could) do that or not.

2.   But Moses declares this is the sin of one man, not of the entire congregation.

3.      This does not mean that Moses is controlling God.

a.   God would be just in destroying all these rebels.

b.   God would be just in answering the prayers of His saints.

c.   This means that God does hear and answer our prayers.

F.            Therefore God commands Moses to command the people of Israel to separate themselves from these rebels.

1.   All curious onlookers will be destroyed with the rebels.

2.      This action separates curious onlookers from the true rebels.

3.      Anyone careless enough, or lazy enough to not listen will be destroyed.

G.   The destruction of the people.

1.   The leaders of the rebellion.

a.   Compare verse 27 & 32-,33 - Korah, Dathan, Abiram, their tents, their wives, their sons, and children went straight into hell (pit).

1.      Numbers 26:11 - The children of Korah didn't die.

2.      Birds of a feather flock together.

3.      We ought to be careful who we stand with, even if they are family.

4.      We might face the same destruction they face.

b.   Verse 28-30 - The destruction was exactly as Moses said.

c.   Verse 34 - All Israel fled from their cries.

1.      How little we really believe what we know.

2.      Verse 23-27 - They had obeyed Moses in separating themselves from the rebels.

3.      But they still didn't believe the rebels would be the only ones destroyed.

4.      Maybe in their hearts, they know they have also rebelled against God.

2.      Verse 35 - The 250 gullible leaders.  Fire comes out from the altar of the Lord and consumes them, just like it destroyed Nadab and Abihu.

a.   Note verse 18 - Moses and Aaron are standing with the 250 famous men of Israel.

b.   Verse 20-22 - God tells both Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from this congregation so He can destroy the entire nation of Israel.  Moses and Aaron pray together for Israel's deliverance.

c.   Verse 25 - Only Moses leaves to speak to Dathan and Abiram.  (These two men and their families are receiving another chance, but Korah and his family doesn't.)

d.   If Aaron is still standing with the 250 famous men of Israel, this means that the fire of God destroyed the rebels, and didn't touch Aaron.

1.      This reminds me of Ps. 91:7,8 - A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  Only with thine eyes shalt thou see and behold the reward of the wicked. 

2.      Also Dan. 3:24,25 - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego escaped the burning fiery furnace.

e.   Aaron, the High Priest, represents Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

1.      Just as Aaron wasn't destroyed, so our High Priest, wasn't destroyed when God sent His judgment upon this earth.

2.      Just as Aaron wasn't destroyed, so our High Priest won't be destroyed when God sends His future judgment upon this earth.

H.  Words cannot adequately describe this scene.

1.      People are running for their lives from the opening in the earth that goes all the way down to hell.

2.      Terrible cries of anguish are on the lips of Korah and company.

3.   The fire of the Lord comes out of the tabernacle straight to the 250 rebels.

4.      There is the terrible stench of burning flesh (cremation).

5.      Smoke is everywhere and the censers are laying among the ruins.

6.      Surely by now everybody will know that God is not to be messed with.

7.   But they don't learn.  Just like us.  It's only by God's grace that we are not consumed.


VIII.     Verse 36-40 - Clean up time.

A.  Nothing is said about cleaning up the burning bodies and burying them, for cremation is a sign of God's judgment.

B.   Eleazar is commanded to gather the censers.

1.      Aaron cannot touch the dead for he is the high priest.

2.   The censers are holy (dedicated) unto the Lord.

3.   The fire is scattered "yonder" (out of the camp in a clean place).

C.   The disposal of the censers.

1.   The things that are holy to one is the destruction of the other.  It is God that makes the difference.

2.   The censers cannot be used as censers again for they are defiled.

3.      They cannot be used in a common manner.

4.   So they will be used as a reminder to all Israel.

5.      Moses commands they be beaten into broad plates which shall be a covering for the (brazen) altar.

6.      This is to be a remembrance to all Israel forever, that God establishes His leaders.


IX. Verse 41-50 - A most remarkable rebellion.

A.  "But on the morrow".

1.      "But" - All the warnings from God are forgotten.

a.   They should remember the hole in the ground that consumed Korah and company.

b.   They should remember the stench of burning bodies.

c.   They should remember the fear of yesterday when they fled from the scene of destruction.

d.   They really do remember all these things, but they do not believe Korah and company are wrong.

e.   They continually blame Moses and Aaron for their death.

f.    Somehow they do not believe God has done this.

g.   Their eyes are blinded by the god of this world (Satan).

2.   "on the morrow" - Since they didn't believe God had destroyed Korah, it didn't take them long to organize another rebellion.

B.   Verse 42 - Evidently the discussion between the congregation and Moses and Aaron took place somewhere other than before the tabernacle.

1.   The rebels looked toward the tabernacle.

2.      Verse 43 - Moses and Aaron came to the tabernacle.

C.   Verse 42 - The rebellion is against Moses and Aaron.

1.      When people are in rebellion against God, they always reflect that rebellion by being against God's people.

2.   If we are "Christians", we shouldn't be surprised when people fight us.

a.   They are not really fighting us, they are fighting God.

b.   We must learn not to take personal offense at their rebellion.

D.  Verse 42 - The glory of God appeared on the tabernacle.

1.      Moses and Aaron recognize immediately that God would punish these exceedingly great rebels.

2.      Moses and Aaron do not think of their own welfare, but continually think of the people of Israel.

E.   Verse 45 - God again says He will make a great nation of Moses.

1.      Numbers 14:12 - When the people refuse to go into the promised land.

2.      Numbers 16:21 - Just before the judgment of Korah and company.

3.      Numbers 16:45 - The last time (so far) God offers to make a nation of Moses.

F.   How the plague is stopped.

1.   At the command of Moses.

a.   Even though the people are against Moses, he still saved them from destruction.

b.   Matt. 5:43-47 - This speaks of a great love for ones enemies.

2.   By the work of Aaron.

a.   If anything would prove Aaron is God's chosen man, this is it.

b.   Aaron goes in the midst of destruction with a censer (prayers).

c.   He is not destroyed, but stops the destroyer.

d.   Aaron does not fear for his life when he goes into the midst of destruction, for he knows he is not against God.

e.   Aaron stands between the living and dead.

1.      This makes me think of a line - on one side God has killed the evildoers, on the other side the living wait for God to kill them.

2.      This reminds me of Christ - who stands between heaven and hell for us.

G.   The number killed.

1.      Verse 49 - 14,700 killed.

2.   The people thought God had killed too many when He killed the 250 famous men of Israel, so God shows them He can kill as many as He wants.

3.   God will deal with our unbelief.  He can put out more misery than we can stand.

H.  Aaron returns to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

1.      This is his rightful place.

2.   He makes no apology for being there.

3.   The Bible states the plague didn't stop until Aaron returned to his rightful place.