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:
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
16:3 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?
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (along with 250 "princes of the assembly") -- the first freethought/democracy martyrs
-- refused to follow Moses blindly, saying that everyone is holy and should be free to think for him or herself.
What the Bible says about democracy
And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
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
This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;
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.
And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
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?
And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of
Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together
against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?
(16:5-7) Moses challenges Korah and his companions to an an old-fashioned, incense-swinging, prayer contest,
where God picks the winner. That will show who is holy and who is not.
And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said,
We will not come up:
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?
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.
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
(16:12-14) Dathan and Abiram said they wouldn't participate in Moses's holier-than-thou contest, not even if Moses pokes
out their eyes.
And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD,
thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:
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.
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.
(16:16-18) But the contest went on anyway. Korah and his 250 or so companions showed up at the door
of the tabernacle with incense burning in their censers.
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
(16:19) And then "the glory of the Lord" shows up!
God decides to kill everyone (but Moses talks him out of it)
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
(16:20-21) Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
God tells Moses and Aaron to get the hell away from the congregation, because God is about to kill everyone.
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?
God kills Korah and his companions
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle
of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of
Israel followed him.
And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the
tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of their's, lest ye be consumed
in all their sins.
(16:26) After talking God out of killing everyone, Moses tells the people to get away from the tents of Korah and his
companions and tells them not to touch any of their belongings. Otherwise, God will kill them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(16:27-30) Moses calls of the incense-burning contest and comes up with a new test. If God decides to make the ground
swallow Korah and his companions and their families, then everyone will know who God likes and who he doesn't.
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:
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.
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.
God kills 250 incense burners
And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth
swallow us up also.
(16:34) Everyone who survived God's killing ran away saying, "Get away or God will make the earth swallow us too!"
And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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
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.
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
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
(16:36-40) After burning the 250 guys that offered incense, God tells Moses to keep their censers
(because they are holy) to remind everyone not to offer incense without a license.
The people complain about God's killings
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.
(16:41-50) Ye have killed the people of the Lord
After God killed Korah, his companions, their families, and 250 incense burners, the people complained saying, "ye have killed the
people of the Lord." So God, who doesn't take kindly to criticism, sends a
plague on the people. And "they that died in the plague were 14,700."
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.
(16:42) Behold ... the glory of the Lord appeared.
God decides to kill everyone (again)
And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a
moment. And they fell upon their faces.
(16:45a) Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment.
God threatens (again) to kill everyone (except for his special friends, Moses and Aaron).
(16:45b) And they fell upon their faces.
Aaron stops God's from killing everyone by burning incense
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.
(16:46) Moses tells Aaron to burn some incense to make God quit killing people.
(He just killed 250 for burning incense.)
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.
And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
(16:47) And it worked. When Aaron started burning incense, God stopped killing people.
God kills 14,700 in a plague
Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that
died about the matter of Korah.
And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.