Korah is remembered for his rebellion against Moses. 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 (Numbers 16: 8-11). The rebellion was not against Aaron, but God’s command (Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; Acts 5:3).
The Lord’s Judgement
So, Moses prayed for guidance and the Lord immediately answered his prayer. So, Moses said to Korah, “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” (Numbers 16:21).
Then Moses said to the elders of Israel, “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” (Numbers 16: 26, 29-30). Moses was asking for an extraordinary manifestation (Exodus 34:10; Jeremiah 31:22) that could not be accounted for aside from divine intervention.
“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” (Numbers 16:35). The fire was from “the glory of the Lord” that “appeared unto all the congregation” (Numbers 16:19).
This was an immediate divine action to prevent the spread of rebellion to the rest of the people. It was also an amazing vindication of Moses in that the words were barely out of his mouth when God moved to affirm them. Then the Lord ordered that the censers of these men who sinned be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar to be a [f]memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord (Numbers 16:38-40).
In His service,