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Numbers Chapter 16
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Korach's Rebellion
16:1 Korach son of Yitz'har (a grandson of Kehoth and great-grandson of Levi) began a rebellion along with Dathan and Aviram (sons of Eliav) and On son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben.
16:2 They had a confrontation with Moses along with 250 Israelites who were men of rank in the community, representatives at the assembly, and famous.
16:3 They demonstrated against Moses and Aaron, and declared to them, 'You have gone too far! All the people in the community are holy, and God is with them. Why are you setting yourselves above God's congregation?'
16:4 When Moses heard this, he threw himself on his face.
16:5 Then he spoke to Korach and his whole party. '[Tomorrow] morning,' he said, 'God [will show that He] knows who is His and who is holy, and He will bring them close to Him. He shall choose those who shall [be allowed to] present [offerings] to Him.
16:6 'This is what you must do: Let Korach and his entire party take fire pans.
16:7 Tomorrow, place fire on them and offer incense on them before God. The man whom God chooses shall then be the holy one. You sons of Levi have [also] gone too far!'
16:8 Moses tried to reason with Korach. 'Listen [to what I have to say], you sons of Levi.
16:9 Isn't it enough that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel? He has brought you close to Him, allowing you to serve in God's Tabernacle and to minister as the community's leaders.
16:10 Although He gave this privilege to you and all your fellow Levites, you are now also demanding the priesthood!
16:11 It is actually against God that you and your party are demonstrating! After all, who is Aaron that you should have grievances against him?'
16:12 Moses then sent word to summon Dathan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav.

'We won't come!' was their response.

16:13 Isn't it enough that you brought us out [Egypt], a land flowing with milk and honey - just to kill us in the desert! What right do you have to set yourself above us?
16:14 You didn't bring us to a land flowing with milk and honey, or give us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you think that you can pull something over our eyes? We will definitely not come!'
16:15 Moses became very angry. He prayed to God, 'Do not accept their offering. I did not take a single donkey from them! I did not do any of them any harm!'
16:16 Moses then said to Korach, 'You and all your party will have to present yourselves before God. You and [your party] will be there tomorrow along with Aaron.
16:17 Each man shall take his fire pan and place incense on it, and each one shall then present it before God. [There shall thus be] 250 fire pans [besides] the pans that you and Aaron will have.'
16:18 Each one took his fire pan, placed fire on it, and then offered incense. They stood at the Communion Tent entrance along with Moses and Aaron.
16:19 Then, when Korach had rallied his whole party to the Communion Tent entrance, God's glory suddenly became visible to the entire community.

Moses Intercedes for Israel
16:20 God spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
16:21 'Separate yourselves from this community, and I will destroy them in an instant.'
16:22 [Moses and Aaron] fell on their faces. They prayed, 'Omnipotent God of all living souls. If one man sins, shall You direct divine wrath at the entire community?'

Korach's Punishment
16:23 God spoke to Moses, telling him to
16:24 announce to the entire community, 'Withdraw from the pavillion of Korach, Dathan and Aviram.'
16:25 Moses took the initiative, and followed by the elders of Israel, went over to Dathan and Aviram.
16:26 He announced to the community, 'Get away from the tents of these evil men. Do not touch anything that is theirs, lest you be swept away because of all their sins.'
16:27 [The people] withdrew from around the pavillion of Korach, Dathan and Aviram. Dathan and Aviram went out and stood defiantly at the entrance of their tents, along with their wives, sons and infants.
16:28 Moses announced, 'This shall demonstrate to you that God sent me to do all these deeds and I did not make up anything myself.
16:29 If these men die like all other men, and share the common fate of man, then God did not send me.
16:30 But if God creates something entirely new, making the earth open its mouth and swallow them and all that is theirs, so that they descend to the depths alive, then it is these men who are provoking God.'
16:31 Moses had hardly finished speaking when the ground under [Dathan and Aviram] split.
16:32 The earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them and their houses, along with all the men who were with Korach and their property.
16:33 They fell into the depths along with all that was theirs. The earth then covered them over, and they were lost to the community.
16:34 [Hearing] their cries, all the Israelites around them screamed that the earth would also swallow them up, and they began to run away.
16:35 Fire then came down from God, and it consumed the 250 men who were presenting the incense.


  See Exodus 6:18,21. According to tradition, he was one of Pharaoh's officials (BeMidbar Rabbah 18:1). He was extremely wealthy (Pesachim 119a; Sanhedrin 110a; Targum Yonathan on Numbers 16:19; Josephus, Antiquities 4:2:2).

began a rebellioin
  (Targum; Rashi). Literally, 'took.' According to some, he 'took' Dathan, etc, (Chizzkuni), the 250 men (Ramban; Sforno), or a mob (Rashbam). Others translate it as, 'took the initiative' (Ramban); 'committed himself' (Ibn Janach); 'plotted' (Radak, Sherashim), 'came forward' (Saadia, see Numbers 8:6), or 'spoke up' (Septuagint).

Many authorities state that the Torah is in chronological order here, and that the rebellion took place after the episode of the spies (Ramban; Sefer HaYashar; Josephus, Antiquities 4:2:2). The motivation for the rebellion may have been the decree that they would die in the desert (Abarbanel; see Numbers 16:14).

Others, however, maintain that the rebellion occurred before the episode of the spies. Some say that it took place when the Levites were substituted for the first-born (Ibn Ezra). The Midrash states that the motivation was the appointment of Eltzaphan son of Uzziel over the Kehothites (Numbers 3:30; BeMidbar Rabbah 18:1; Bachya). Others say that it took place in Chatzeroth (Numbers, 11:35, 12:16; Rashi on Deuteronomy 1:1). According to these opinions, nothing is recorded in the Torah of what happened between the episode of the spies and Miriam's death (Numbers 20:1).

Dathan and Aviram...
  See Numbers 26:9. See notes on Numbers 2:13. Aviram was a son of Palu and a grandson of Reuben (Numbers 26:5,8).

On son of Peleth
  He did not stay with Korach and was therefore not killed (Sanhedrin 109b; Abarbanel; Midrash HaGadol on Numbers 16:32; Lekach Tov on Numbers 16:12).

  See Numbers 1:16 (Tanchuma; Bachya).

  (Targum). Or, 'Communion [Tent]' (Ibn Ezra); or, 'chosen counselors' (Septuagint).

  Literally, 'men of name.' See Genesis 6:4.

You have gone too far
  Literally, 'Much to you.' May mean, 'You have taken too much upon yourself.' See Numbers, 16:7.

Tomorrow morning
  (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'God has examined and knows...' (Septuagint).

will show...
  (cf. Targum; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).

He will bring them close...
  (Targum; Tanchuma; Rashi). Or, 'and he can present offerings to Him (Targum Yonathan; Sforno; Septuagint).

present offerings

fire pans
  See Exodus 27:3, Leviticus 10:1, 16:12.

  From the altar (Ralbag).

  The regular incense described in Exodus 30:34-36 (BeMidbar Rabbah 18:7; Tanchuma 5; Ralbag). According to others, however, it was a simple incense spice, such as frankincense (Targum according to Ramban).

  Lakhen in Hebrew. See Genesis 4:13.

  Literally 'go up.' Some say that this teaches that the Tabernacle was built on high ground (Bachya).

a land flowing...
  This was because Dathan and Aviram were wealthy leaders in Egypt (Lekach Tov).

pull something over our eyes
  (Ibn Ezra; Ramban). Literally, 'put out the eyes of those men.' Or, 'blind a man [such as Korach]' (Chizzkuni). Or, 'Are you trying to satisfy us with illusions?' (Ibn Ezra), or, 'Are you threatening to put out our eyes?' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra). Cf. Judges 15:21, 2 Kings 25:4-7, Jeremiah 52:7-11.

  (Rashbam). Or, ' I did not take a donkey from any one of them' (Targum; Rashi).

  The Septuagint substitutes 'desirable thing' for donkey, changing the reading from chamor to chamud. The Talmud notes that this change was deliberate (Megillah 9a).

  (cf. Ibn Ezra). The Hebrew word is mishkan, and it is possible that Korach had already erected a competing sanctuary. Or, 'Place of assembly' (Septuagint).

elders of Israel
  The 70 elders (Bachya).

creates something entirely new
  (Rashi; Rashbam; Chizzkuni). Or, 'causes destruction' (Ibn Ezra), or, 'produces a miracle' (Septuagint).

Dathan and Aviram
  From context. See note on Numbers 16:32.

men who were with Korach
  According to some, Korach himself was not swallowed up (Sanhedrin 110a) but was killed in the plague (Rashi ad loc.) or by the divine fire (Josephus, Antiquities 4:3:4). The Torah, however, appears to indicate that Korach actually was swallowed up, but that his children survived (Numbers, 26:10,11). However, elsewhere it seems that only Dathan and Aviram were swallowed up (Deuteronomy 11:6).

  Josesphus notes that this fire was supernaturally bright and fierce (Antiquities 4:3:4).

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