Rebellion and Presumption
Written by traveler
Just a little something to consider. The difference between true worship and idolatry is that in idolatry the people own their God and their God is there for their own benefit. But in true worship it is God that owns the people and the people submit to God.
Now the human race may have acquired a lot of knowledge over the generations but there basic nature has not changed one iota. They are still self centered and still like to be the ones in control and still seek their own position and importance and reputations. All that changes is how it is packaged.
The events that happened here is still being repeated in one form or another, hence it would be a good idea to examen the chapter. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom but familiarity breeds contempt. Once the fear departs wisdom wains. It is wise to remember just who God is and understand that he is also the final judge who determines our fates at his own discretion. We are to please him, He is not here to please us.
Num 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Pallu, the son of Reuben, made themselves ready,
Num 16:2 And came before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty chiefs of the people, men of good name who had a place in the meeting of the people. [/quote]
This event starts off with a rebellion instigated against Moses by Korah, Dathan and Abiram. These three banded together in their own religiosity and started working through the ranks of the leadership of the nation to ferment discontent at the way things were being done and directed by Moses who they wanted to remove from above them and place themselves in the seat of power. Basically it was religious politics and a grab for the top spot.
They were so good at what they did that they managed to get 250 of the chiefs of the people to fall in line behind them. Now you would think that after all they had seen God do through the hand of Moses they would know better but unfortunately they still had the mentality of the pagan idol worship that they learned in Egypt where the Gods are expected to back who ever just happens to gain the top spot! They did not fear God or consider what God wanted because they considered themselves just as special as anyone else in the nation and God to behave just like the god Ra of the Egyptians.
Num 16:3 They came together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, You take overmuch on yourselves, seeing that all the people are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then have you put yourselves in authority over the people of the Lord? [/quote]
Now it starts off with a false accusation. Moses and Aaron did not put themselves in a position of authority of the nation, God did! In effect they were challenging Gods decision directly but they rationalized this away by claiming that all the people of the nation were Holy and that Moses had no right to tell them what to do. Big mistake! They wanted to claim the moral high ground when in fact they didn’t have any except in their own minds. To this day self justification for selfish ambition is still prevalent.
Num 16:4 And Moses, hearing this, went down on his face;
Num 16:5 And he said to Korah and his band, In the morning the Lord will make clear who are his, and who is holy, and who may come near him: the man of his selection will be caused to come near him.
Num 16:6 So do this: let Korah and all his band take vessels for burning perfumes;
Num 16:7 And put spices on the fire in them before the Lord tomorrow; then the man marked out by the Lord will be holy: you take overmuch on yourselves, you sons of Levi. [/quote]
Now the interesting thing here is that Moses did not allow himself to get caught up in defending himself or his position but instead placed himself at the mercy of God and told his accusers that it was the job of God to decide who he was willing to accept or not. The plan of action was for all those that believed that they knew the way things should be done to come before God and have God prove who he wanted.
Num 16:8 And Moses said to Korah, Give ear now, you sons of Levi:
Num 16:9 Does it seem only a small thing to you that the God of Israel has made you separate from the rest of Israel, letting you come near himself to do the work of the House of the Lord, and to take your place before the people to do what has to be done for them;
Num 16:10 Letting you, and all your brothers the sons of Levi, come near to him? and would you now be priests?
Num 16:11 So you and all your band have come together against the Lord; and Aaron, who is he, that you are crying out against him? [/quote]
However Korah was a Levite so Moses did warn him that he was going against Gods commands by doing this. But things had progressed so far that pride would not allow him to back out.
Num 16:12 Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: and they said, We will not come up:
Num 16:13 Is it not enough that you have taken us from a land flowing with milk and honey, to put us to death in the waste land, but now you are desiring to make yourself a chief over us?
Num 16:14 And more than this, you have not taken us into a land flowing with milk and honey, or given us a heritage of fields and vine-gardens: will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.
Num 16:15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, Give no attention to their offering: not one of their asses have I taken, or done wrong to any of them. [/quote]
The other two instigators were of the tribe of Ruben so they knew full well that they had no place even being there so they backed out. When Moses called them to present themselves before God all they did was tell him how bad he was and how useless he was and that he was planning to promote himself chief over them when in fact Moses already was as in the form of the nations High Priest anyway.
Basically they behaved much the same as now when backed into a corner and not willing to meet a challenge they themselves instigated.
Num 16:16 And Moses said to Korah, You and all your band are to come before the Lord tomorrow, you and they and Aaron:
Num 16:17 And let every man take a vessel for burning perfumes, and put sweet spices in them; let every man take his vessel before the Lord, two hundred and fifty vessels; you and Aaron and everyone with his vessel.
Num 16:18 So every man took his vessel and they put fire in them, with spices, and came to the door of the Tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron.
Num 16:19 And Korah made all the people come together against them to the door of the Tent of meeting: and the glory of the Lord was seen by all the people.
As it turned out Korah was the only one of the instigators left so Moses told him to take his stand against Aaron for the Lords favor and to come back the next morning with all those he had gathered to see who it was that God was going to accept. Korah did more than that, he brought the entire nation to come and stand against the leadership of Moses as if he thought that he could force Gods hand just by weight of numbers.
As far as religious politics went this guy had the masses eating out the palm of his hand but it was also quite obvious that he had no real understanding of the God he thought he could represent for his own ambitions. Not only that but he had caused the entire nation to step into sin by following him.
Num 16:20 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
Num 16:21 Come out from among this people, so that I may send sudden destruction on them.
Num 16:22 Then falling down on their faces they said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, because of one man’s sin will your wrath be moved against all the people?
Num 16:23 And the Lord said to Moses,
Num 16:24 Say to the people, Come away from the tent of Korah Dathan, and Abiram.
Num 16:25 So Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the responsible men of Israel went with him.
Num 16:26 And he said to the people, Come away now from the tents of these evil men, without touching anything of theirs, or you may be taken in the punishment of their sins.
Num 16:27 So on every side they went away from the tent of Korah Dathan, and Abiram: and Dathan and Abiram came out to the door of their tents, with their wives and their sons and their little ones. [/quote]
Well crunch time had come, Korah had gathered all the nation behind him in his rebellion. Even though they all saw the glory of God above the Tent of Meeting they still wanted to challenge the Chosen of God and make Korah their high priest which in the context of their setting was basically the same as their king. They were not even asking god they were basically telling him what they now considered right in their own eyes.
Gods initial reaction was swift, he told Moses and Aaron to get out the way because he was just going to destroy the whole nation and be done with it. Fortunately Moses was the best High Priest that the nation could hope for and he put his own life on the line to plead with God that he not destroy the entire nation but Just those who had actually caused the people to sin in the first place. In fact Moses would save the nation over and over again in this manner because the people themselves just could not seem to grasp what God expected from them. They liked to consider themselves blessed and Holy but only on their own terms.
Long story short the families of the three initial instigators were isolated from the rest of the nation and God dealt with them directly.
Num 16:28 And Moses said, Now you will see that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and I have not done them of myself.
Num 16:29 If these men have the common death of men, or if the natural fate of all men overtakes them, then the Lord has not sent me.
Num 16:30 But if the Lord does something new, opening the earth to take them in, with everything which is theirs, and they go down living into the underworld, then it will be clear to you that the Lord has not been honoured by these men.
Num 16:31 And while these words were on his lips, the earth under them was parted in two;
Num 16:32 And the earth, opening her mouth, took them in, with their families, and all the men who were joined to Korah, and their goods.
Num 16:33 So they and all theirs went down living into the underworld, and the earth was shut over them, and they were cut off from among the meeting of the people.
Num 16:34 And all Israel round about them went in flight at their cry, For fear, said they, that we go down into the heart of the earth.
Num 16:35 Then fire came out from the Lord, burning up the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the perfume. [/quote]
Well that basically settled the question of who God was willing to work through and it also made know what the fate would be of any who would presume to take on themselves any place of authority that God did not call them to. These people were not engaging in any form of personal devotion to God but wanted to use God to legitimize their own ambitions to rule over others with authority and power.
The only problem is that God is not an idol, he is the real power and authority and he is the one in Charge and the one that will be making all the decisions and those that wish to be called by his name or dwell under his wing do so on his terms only. He had built up this nation for his own inheritance from out this earth but the problem was that they had been in Egypt so long that getting them out of Egypt was to prove far easier than getting Egypt out of them. We face the same problem to this day. Redeeming us out this world is quite often the easy part. Getting the world out of us is the problem!
Num 16:36 And the Lord said to Moses,
Num 16:37 Say to Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, that he is to take out of the flames the vessels with the perfumes in them, turning the fire out of them, for they are holy;
Num 16:38 And let the vessels of those men, who with their lives have made payment for their sin, be hammered out into plates as a cover for the altar; for they have been offered before the Lord and are holy; so that they may be a sign to the children of Israel.
Num 16:39 So Eleazar the priest took the brass vessels which had been offered by those who were burned up, and they were hammered out to make a cover for the altar:
Num 16:40 To be a sign, kept in memory for ever by the children of Israel, that no man who is not of the seed of Aaron has the right of burning spices before the Lord, so that he may not be like Korah and his band: as the Lord said to him by the mouth of Moses.
And so another tradition is established and a perpetual warning placed in plain sight so that this sin of presumption never be repeated again. Unfortunately there seems to be something lacking in human logic because they keep repeating the same mistake over and over again.
Num 16:41 But on the day after, all the children of Israel made an outcry against Moses and against Aaron, saying, You have put to death the Lord’s people.
Num 16:42 Now when the people had come together against Moses and Aaron, looking in the direction of the Tent of meeting, they saw the cloud covering it, and the glory of the Lord came before their eyes. [/quote]
Well the next day the nation had recovered from their initial shock and now it was the blame game. Who was to blame and of course they could not blame God so it had to be the fault of Moses that all those people had died. Moses was the cause of it and they were all Gods people so Moses must be the bad guy that had God kill members of the nation.
Normal story, everything gets twisted around so as to serve self justification to the point where it is just an outright lie. Somehow the people just do not get it that God has a will of his own until God himself shows up in defense of his own anointed.
Num 16:43 Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the Tent of meeting.
Num 16:44 And the Lord said to Moses,
Num 16:45 Come out from among this people, so that I may send sudden destruction on them. And they went down on their faces. [/quote]
Well there was a repeat of the sin so there was going to be a repeat of the reply. God has never shown any interest in a false rationalization so common to men. People have turned truth into a grey area determined on perspectives. But God is the author or truth and he sets the line between what is right and wrong.
Num 16:46 And Moses said to Aaron, Take your vessel and put in it fire from the altar, and sweet spices, and take it quickly into the meeting of the people, and make them free from sin: for wrath has gone out from the Lord, and the disease is starting.
Num 16:47 And at the words of Moses, Aaron took his vessel, and went running among the people; and even then the disease had made a start among them; and he put spices in his vessel to take away the sin of the people.
Num 16:48 And he took his place between the dead and the living: and the disease was stopped.
Num 16:49 Now fourteen thousand, seven hundred deaths were caused by that disease, in addition to those who came to their end because of what Korah had done.
Num 16:50 Then Aaron went back to Moses to the door of the Tent of meeting: and the disease came to a stop. [/quote]
Now what Aaron did there was the early form of atonement before the law was given and the use of animal sacrifices introduced. The people had sinned against God and his judgment had already fallen. An atonement for that sin had to be made which normally goes along with repentance. Well after 14 thousand dead you can bet that there was repentance and a fear of God well and truly established. The Lords people finally got the message that they belonged to the Lord, the Lord did not belong to them.