Korah was a descendant of Levi (Exodus 6:16, 18, 21; 1 Chronicles 6:37, 38). The Korahites encamped on the south side of the tabernacle, near the Reubenites. The children of Korah were assigned to the ministry of music and song for the sanctuary services (Psalms 42, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, 88).
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses and Aaron with two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation saying:
“You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:1-3).
God had ordained that the theocratic church should exercise its outward priestly function through the family of Aaron. Korah and the Levites in his company already possessed great privileges beyond those of the other tribes but were not satisfied. They desired to have the same prerogatives as the family of Aaron. The Levites had already been appointed to the sacred service; therefore, for them to seek the priesthood also was a most scandalous presumption (v. 8-11). The rebellion was not against Aaron, but God’s command (Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; Acts 5:3).
So, Moses prayed for guidance and the Lord immediately answered his prayer with this instruction, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one…” (Numbers 16:4-7).
In the morning, Korah and his followers put fire and incense in their censers and stood at the door of the tabernacle to meet with Moses and Aaron. The LORD appeared to all the congregation and said to Moses, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (v. 21). Then Moses went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And said, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men…By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me … If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if … the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up …then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD” (v. 26, 29-30). “And it came to pass when he finished his word, that the earth opened and swallowed them alive. And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense” (v. 35).
This was an instantaneous act of God to prevent the spread of rebellion to the rest of the camp.
In His service,
A closing message from BibleAsk:
Thank you for visiting BibleAsk – an online ministry dedicated to providing Bible based answers to your questions. If you enjoyed and agree with this answer, please like and share! If you don’t agree, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to respond! If you have another question you would like to ask, please click here and someone from our team will personally answer it (don’t worry, your email address will never be shared). Check out our Bible Answers page to see just Bible verses answering thousands of questions. If you feel impressed to support this ministry, kindly visit our donate page to send a tax-deductible love gift to BibleAsk. Any donation size helps 🙂