The Bible – Old Testament
1 Korah, son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, (and Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, son of Pallu, son of Reuben) took
two hundred and fifty Israelites who were leaders in the community, members of the council and men of note. They stood before Moses,
and held an assembly against Moses and Aaron, to whom they said, “Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the LORD is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the LORD’S congregation?”
When Moses heard this, he fell prostrate.
Then he said to Korah and to all his band, “May the LORD make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him! Whom he chooses, he will have draw near him.
Do this: take your censers (Korah and all his band)
and put fire in them and place incense in them before the LORD tomorrow. He whom the LORD then chooses is the holy one. Enough from you Levites!”
Moses also said to Korah, “Listen to me, you Levites!
Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has singled you out from the community of Israel, to have you draw near him for the service of the LORD’S Dwelling and to stand before the community to minister for them?
He has allowed you and your kinsmen, the descendants of Levi, to approach him, and yet you now seek the priesthood too.
It is therefore against the LORD that you and all your band are conspiring. For what has Aaron done that you should grumble against him?”
2 Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, but they answered, “We will not go.
Are you not satisfied with having led us here away from a land flowing with milk and honey, to make us perish in the desert, that you must now lord it over us?
3 Far from bringing us to a land flowing with milk and honey, or giving us fields and vineyards for our inheritance, will you also gouge out our eyes? No, we will not go.”
Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Pay no heed to their offering. I have never taken a single ass from them, nor have I wronged any one of them.”
Moses said to Korah, “You and all your band shall appear before the LORD tomorrow-you and they and Aaron too.
Then each of your two hundred and fifty followers shall take his own censer, put incense in it, and offer it to the LORD; and you and Aaron, each with his own censer, shall do the same.”
So they all took their censers, and laying incense on the fire they had put in them, they took their stand by the entrance of the meeting tent along with Moses and Aaron.
Then, when Korah had assembled all his band against them at the entrance of the meeting tent, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire community,
and the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
“Stand apart from this band, that I may consume them at once.”
But they fell prostrate and cried out, “O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will one man’s sin make you angry with the whole community?”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Speak to the community and tell them: Withdraw from the space around the Dwelling” (of Korah, Dathan and Abiram).
4 Moses, followed by the elders of Israel, arose and went to Dathan and Abiram.
Then he warned the community, “Keep away from the tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that is theirs: otherwise you too will be swept away because of all their sins.”
When Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing at the entrances of their tents with their wives and sons and little ones,
Moses said, “This is how you shall know that it was the LORD who sent me to do all I have done, and that it was not I who planned it:
if these men die an ordinary death, merely suffering the fate common to all mankind, then it was not the LORD who sent me.
But if the LORD does something entirely new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them alive down into the nether world, with all belonging to them, then you will know that these men have defied the LORD.”
No sooner had he finished saying all this than the ground beneath them split open,
and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families (and all of Korah’s men) and all their possessions.
They went down alive to the nether world with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the community.
But all the Israelites near them fled at their shrieks, saying, “The earth might swallow us too!”
5 So they withdrew from the space around the Dwelling (of Korah, Dathan and Abiram). And fire from the LORD came forth which consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.
1 [1-3] The evidence seems to show that there were two distinct rebellions: one of Korah and his band (⇒ Numbers 27:3) and the other of Dathan and Abiram (⇒ Deut 11:6); cf Psalm 106. The present account combines both events into one narrative; but even here it is rather easy to separate the two, once certain proper names (⇒ Numbers 16:1, 6, ⇒ 24, ⇒ 32, ⇒ 35) have been identified as glosses. The rebellion of the Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, was of a political nature, against Moses alone as the civil leader; these rebels were punished by being swallowed alive in an earthquake. The rebellion of Korah was of a religious nature, against the religious leadership of both Moses and Aaron; about two hundred and fifty malcontents joined Korah’s band; they were punished by fire. The parts of the present section which refer to the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram are ⇒ Numbers 16:12-15, ⇒ 25-34; the rest of ⇒ Numbers 16:35 and all of Numbers 17 concern the rebellion of Korah.
2  We will not go: to appear before Moses’ tribunal.
3  Gouge out our eyes: blind us to the real state of affairs.
4  Since Dathan and Abiram had refused to go to Moses (⇒ Numbers 16:12-14), he, with the elders as witnesses, was obliged to go to their tent.