Numbers Chapter 16

In the wilderness of Paran, the children of Israel had been chastised for rebellion. They were given a promise that all those who were over the age of 20, would not receive the blessings of the promised land in their life. Those who led the rebellion had been destroyed by the Lord. The rest of the people began the years of wandering in the wilderness, which were a consequence of their faithlessness. The book of Numbers continues as follows:

1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:
2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?
4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.
6 This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
7 And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.
8 And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?
10 And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
11 For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

Korah of the Levites, Dathan of the tribe of Reuben and Abiram also of the tribe of Reuben, gathered about 250 men against Moses and Aaron. They said that Moses and Aaron were putting themselves higher than the rest of the congregation. This sounds like they thought Moses and Aaron were claiming too much of the power over the people, and that since the presence of the Lord was with them all, they all deserved the power he held. The footnote for the phrase “rose up” references ingratitude. These men were ungrateful for the blessings that had been brought to them and were probably only thinking of the trials and difficulties they were facing. Moses, who was truly a man of God and the prophet of God, fell down, I am guessing in the humility of seeking an answer from God to his current problem. He told the men that on the following day, the Lord would show them who was His holy and chosen people. The men were to burn incense that following day. Moses asked the sons of Levi, if they felt the work they did for the Lord, in bearing the tabernacle, was too small a thing. The Lord had already raised them in their office of the Aaronic priesthood, and now they felt like they deserved the priesthood offices of the Melchizedek . He questioned why they stood against the Lord in this, and why they were against Aaron for the office he held. We learn from modern revelation that those who stand against the people he calls, will be cursed of the Lord. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:16 we read, “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.” These men of Israel were bringing the Lord against them.

12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up:
13 Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?
14 Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.
15 And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the Lord, Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.
16 And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the Lord, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:
17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the Lord every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer.
18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.
19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the congregation.
20 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, were called to Moses, but refused. They said that they felt as Moses made himself a prince over them and had brought them out of a land of plenty, to kill them in the wilderness. These men felt much like Laman and Lemuel of the Book of Mormon, who felt that their younger brother Nephi had taken it upon himself to be their leader, when it was the Lord who called him to lead the people. These feelings are those of men who have lost a measure of faith in the Lord and His ways. Moses pleaded with the Lord, because this made him upset. Moses had not done these things to them, but the Lord had and Moses was purely the messenger of the Lord. Moses did not want these men to be accepted of the Lord because of the things the were doing. In response, Moses told these men to bring their censers of incense before the Lord on the following day, as well as Aaron who they stood against. The next day, each of these men took their incense and stood with Moses and Aaron at the door of the tabernacle. The glory of the Lord appeared and the Lord told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the children of Israel, so that he could destroy them. They pleaded with God, that they would not destroy the entire people.

23 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
25 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.
27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.
28 And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind.
29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me.
30 But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.

The Lord told Moses to tell the people to go away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Moses went to these men who refused to speak with him, and the elders followed him. Moses told the people there, that the belongings of these men were wicked and should not be touched by anyone who did not wish to be consumed by their sins. The people left the tents of Dathan and Abiram. The two men came to the doors of their tents along with their families. Moses told them they would witness that he had not done any of these things of himself, but that the Lord had commanded him to do them. Either the men would die of natural causes or as normal men died as proof that Moses did this of himself, or they would be swallowed up by the earth along with all that belongs to them as proof that they had stood against the Lord and provoked his wrath against them.

31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:
32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.
33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.
35 And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

The ground opened under the men, and they were swallowed up along with all that belonged to them. Their families were also lost in the ground. Those that witnessed it, ran away in fear. The leaders who had brought the incense and were waiting for a witness from the Lord, were consumed by the fire of the Lord because they had rebelled against Him.

36 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.
38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses.

Moses was commanded to have Eleazar take the censers of these men, and scatter the fire. He was to make plates to cover the altar as a sign to the Israelites. No one was to seek after the office of the priesthood to which he did not belong. The seed of Aaron had been set apart to the work in the tabernacle and they were to remain the ones who served in that capacity.

41 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord.
42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.
43 And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.

The following day, the children of Israel had heard what had happened and many complained against Moses and Aaron for killing the men. They did not recognize the hand of the Lord in this, but blamed Moses and Aaron instead. Once again, the glory of the Lord appeared and Moses and Aaron went to the tabernacle.

44 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.

Moses was told to leave the congregation, so that Lord could consume the people for the faithlessness. Moses and Aaron fell down before the Lord again.

46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun.
47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.
48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.
50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.

Moses commanded Aaron to take burning incense into the congregation to make an atonement for them, because the Lord had caused a plague to go out among the people. Aaron did as he was commanded. He stood between those who had died and those who were living and stopped the plague from continuing. 14,700 people died, before the plague was stopped by Aaron and the incense.

This is yet, another example of the lack of faith among some of the people. How easy it seems for some rebels to cause an uprising of otherwise good people, leading to their destruction. It is sad to see how often the people did not trust in the word of the Lord. It is hard to read of how often they felt that Moses should not have been allowed to be the only prophet of God among them. They fell prey to the idea that they knew better than God. They accepted the temptation to ignore the word of the Lord as from the mouth of His holy prophets. I wonder how often we fall prey to these same things today. It is so important to gain a testimony that the prophet has been called of God today. It is also of great importance for us to not question the authority of the priesthood. There are some women today, who are striving to change church policy to allow women to hold the priesthood, as if this would change the will of the Lord. To me, this is evidence that people are not willing to see the Lord as the head of this church. It is his gospel and it does not belong to any man to control or adapt for the times. This kind of dependence on the ways of the world will not please God. We should not provoke the Lord in wrath against us, because the scriptures teach us that it will only lead to our physical or spiritual destruction. Instead, we should follow His chosen prophet and leaders and strive to gain a testimony that they are doing as the Lord commands.

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