It is interesting that this story of Korah follows the passage about the tassels. As we have learned that the tassels were a reminder that the Israelite people were God’s people. That He had given those laws for them to live by that they would be a witness to Him for all the nations to see. That this was His plan and purpose for His people to be a Holy Priesthood that other nations would be drawn to Him. Yet, as we often do, Korah and his followers were not content with the plan that God had for them. We often ourselves desire something different than what God has planned for us. We sometimes fail to realize that the station He has placed us in is the one that we are best equip to accomplish. We view others positions as grander than our own not realizing that each and every one of God’s people has an important task to perform in service to the Lord. Instead of being servants of the Lord we become selfish and seek to achieve want promotes our own egos above what glorifies our God. As a result, Korah and his followers went to Moses and Aaron stating that all people belong to God but they thought they were better than all others. Excusing the fact that God had appointed Moses and Aaron as the leader of His people they felt that Moses and Aaron had made themselves better than the rest of the people.
Korah did not wish to look at the tassels or be reminded that he was God’s servant but only thought about what he wanted and what was best for him. He didn’t acknowledge that Moses and Aaron were the leaders that God had chosen and that they too were servants of the Lord. Korah did not want to serve God but the people that he would receive that power and prestige. So Korah and his group decided that they should lead the people and that he would be the leader.
Korah was from Levi’s tribe and his duty was to help the priest in their duties to care for the God’s Tent. Korah was from the clan of Kohath’s clan and was responsible to take care of the sacred objects in God’s Tent. (Numbers 4:1-15) This was an important enough job and as all service that God gives is a privilege to have. Korah was not content with his work and wanted to be a priest. But his reasons for wanting to be a priest was not the right intentions. Korah may have thought that the position of priest was a station of greater honor amongst the people and a position of authority. (Numbers 16:10)
Korah had persuaded 250 others to follow him and they went to Moses. Korah did not tell Moses that he wanted to be a priest but that all the Israelites were holy, they were all God’s people. Korah told Moses and Arron that they were not more holy or more important than any of the other Israelites. He did not care the authority that Moses and Arron had come from God. Korah was jealous of the power that Moses and Arron had over the people of Israel. In Korah’s selfish desire for power and authority he rebelled against Moses and Aaron.
After Moses fell down and prayed to God he addressed Korah. Moses did not argue with Korah but trusted God to help him deal with this rebellion. When Moses spoke he did not speak his own words but the words that the Lord had given him. Moses knew that God had chosen him to lead the Israelite people and therefore God would prove that Moses was the leader.
Moses instructed Korah and his followers to fill some pans with coals and incense. This was a right that only priest had to do, carry pans of fire with incense in them. This was a challenge that Moses gave to Korah.
Moses reminded Korah and his followers of the duties they had as members of the tribe of Levi. They were already appointed by God for special duties and responsibilities. But the flowers of Korah were not satisfied as Korah wanted to be a priest. Korah wanted a more important position for himself. Because Korah was not doing what God had chosen him and his followers to do they were enemies of God. By Korah and his followers opposing God’s priest they were also opposing God.
Dathan and Abiram did not come out with Korah but remained in their tents. Moses called them out but they refused to come. Instead they sent a message to Moses saying that Moses had not lead them to the Promised Land. They even said that the land of Egypt was better than were they we now at. It may have not been that they thought the land of Egypt was better but they were insulting God’s Promised Land. They were angry with Moses because they and the people were still in the wilderness. In truth they were saying the Word of God was a lie which is blasphemy.
Moses was a meek man, he had been very patient with these rebellious people but when Korah had insulted him he became angry. Moses had always been a faithful and responsible leader to God’s people. Moses never had stolen from them or hurt them. Moses did not argue with them he just prayed to God.
Moses wanted to give proof that God had chosen who the priest should be. Only priest could offer incense to God. If Korah and his followers wanted to be priest then Moses told them to offer the incense to God at His God’s Tent. Then they would learn if God would accept them as priest.
God who judges the heart of men would not allow them to offer the incense. What Korah and his followers wanted was not to please God but to have power and authority over the people. They were proud and selfish people. Because of this God would act against them.
God decided to kill all the people but Moses and Aaron asked God not to punish all the people because of Korah’s rebellion against His word. Listening to Moses’s plea God said that He would only punish Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families.
God answered the prayers of Moses and Aaron and all the people were saved from death. It seems that Korah had left his followers and was standing by Dathan and Abiram. Moses told the people to move away from the tents of these three wicked men, Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
Then came God’s punishment and it was something new, something not before seen. The ground opened up and the wicked men and their families went down into the ground and went to Sheol. Sheol was a place where the dead would stay and never return. This was the judgment that God pronounced upon Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families.
As bodies of the dead remain in the grave the spirits in the Old Testament times went to Sheol which is thought by the Hebrews to be a place of punishment. This is the place that the wicked will go, a place that is dark and far away from God. The Israelite people saw the ground open up and Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families fell into Sheol. This sight frightened the Israelite people terribly. Then God sent fire to consume the 250 followers of Korah.
This is a sad story of what can happen when wicked men oppose God. These people had time to repent and return back to God and His Word but they continued to go in rebellion toward God. Therefore God punished them but because the sons of Korah did not follow him they were speared. (Numbers 26:11) The sons of Korah wrote many Psalms of praise and worship to God. (Psalm 84; Psalm 85; Psalm 87; Psalm 88) Korah himself is remembered as a wicked man by the Hebrew people. (Jude 1-11)
The fire from God had completely consumed the 250 followers of Korah. Then Eleazar, Arron’s son, went and collected the pans that they had burned incense in. The pans were made of bronze and therefore did not burn in the fire. Because the pans had been used to burn incense to the Lord they were now holy. Eleazar beat the bronze till it was thin and covered the altar with the metal. This cover would remind the Israelite people of how God had punished the followers of Korah. The people would remember that only the priest could burn incense unto the Lord.
Even after this lesson of what can happen when stepping out of the will of God the people again complained against Moses and Aaron. They blamed Moses and Aaron for the deaths of Korah’s followers. Then the cloud appeared again over God’s Tent. This was a testimony that God was pleased with the leadership of Moses and Aaron. This also showed that God was even still angry with the people for their opposition against Moses and Aaron. God again wanted to punish the people and told Moses and Aaron to move away from the people.
The people then became diseased and it spread quickly through the Israelite camps. It was as if an evil spirit had come over the people and brought disease upon them. Aaron then offered incense to God so that He would forgive the people and God accepted. God forgave the people for their sins and the disease stopped. From where Arron stood the disease stopped spreading. Arron stood between the dead who had died from the disease and the people how had not yet been affected.