1 One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. 2 They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. 3 They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?”
4 When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. 5 Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to hima and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. 6 Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. 7 Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!”
8 Then Moses spoke again to Korah: “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near him so you can serve in the Lord’s Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them? 10 Korah, he has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites. Are you now demanding the priesthood as well? 11 The Lord is the one you and your followers are really revolting against! For who is Aaron that you are complaining about him?”
12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they replied, “We refuse to come before you! 13 Isn’t it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects? 14 What’s more, you haven’t brought us into another land flowing with milk and honey. You haven’t given us a new homeland with fields and vineyards. Are you trying to fool these men?b We will not come.”
15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their grain offerings! I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, and I have never hurt a single one of them.” 16 And Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers must come here tomorrow and present yourselves before the Lord. Aaron will also be here. 17 You and each of your 250 followers must prepare an incense burner and put incense on it, so you can all present them before the Lord. Aaron will also bring his incense burner.”
18 So each of these men prepared an incense burner, lit the fire, and placed incense on it. Then they all stood at the entrance of the Tabernaclec with Moses and Aaron. 19 Meanwhile, Korah had stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron, and they all gathered at the Tabernacle entrance. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community, 20 and the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Get away from all these people so that I may instantly destroy them!”
22 But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground. “O God,” they pleaded, “you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Must you be angry with all the people when only one man sins?”
25 So Moses got up and rushed over to the tents of Dathan and Abiram, followed by the elders of Israel. 26 “Quick!” he told the people. “Get away from the tents of these wicked men, and don’t touch anything that belongs to them. If you do, you will be destroyed for their sins.” 27 So all the people stood back from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, together with their wives and children and little ones.
28 And Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things that I have done—for I have not done them on my own. 29 If these men die a natural death, or if nothing unusual happens, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord does something entirely new and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them and all their belongings, and they go down alive into the grave,d then you will know that these men have shown contempt for the Lord.”
31 He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. 32 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed the men, along with their households and all their followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned. 33 So they went down alive into the grave, along with all their belongings. The earth closed over them, and they all vanished from among the people of Israel. 34 All the people around them fled when they heard their screams. “The earth will swallow us, too!” they cried. 35 Then fire blazed forth from the Lord and burned up the 250 men who were offering incense.
36 eAnd the Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to pull all the incense burners from the fire, for they are holy. Also tell him to scatter the burning coals. 38 Take the incense burners of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, and hammer the metal into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. Since these burners were used in the Lord’s presence, they have become holy. Let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel.”
39 So Eleazar the priest collected the 250 bronze incense burners that had been used by the men who died in the fire, and the bronze was hammered into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. 40 This would warn the Israelites that no unauthorized person—no one who was not a descendant of Aaron—should ever enter the Lord’s presence to burn incense. If anyone did, the same thing would happen to him as happened to Korah and his followers. So the Lord’s instructions to Moses were carried out.
41 But the very next morning the whole community of Israel began muttering again against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!” 42 As the community gathered to protest against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the Tabernacle and saw that the cloud had covered it, and the glorious presence of the Lord appeared.
43 Moses and Aaron came and stood in front of the Tabernacle, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from all these people so that I can instantly destroy them!” But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground.
46 And Moses said to Aaron, “Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay incense on it, and carry it out among the people to purify them and make them right with the Lord.f The Lord’s anger is blazing against them—the plague has already begun.”
47 Aaron did as Moses told him and ran out among the people. The plague had already begun to strike down the people, but Aaron burned the incense and purifiedg the people. 48 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died in that plague, in addition to those who had died in the affair involving Korah. 50 Then because the plague had stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
a. 16:5 Greek version reads God has visited and knows those who are his. Compare 2 Tim 2:19.
b. 16:14 Hebrew Are you trying to put out the eyes of these men?
c. 16:18 Hebrew the Tent of Meeting; also in 16:19, 42, 43, 50.
d. 16:30 Hebrew into Sheol; also in 16:33.
e. 16:36 Verses 16:36-50 are numbered 17:1-15 in Hebrew text.
f. 16:46 Or to make atonement for them.
g. 16:47 Or and made atonement for.