Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 16:12-17:13
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
The Reubenites refused to come when summoned by Moses, claiming that he had deceived them by failing to give them the Promised Land. They failed to see the sin of the Israelites, and instead shifted the blame to Israel's leader. When the rebellious men gathered to present incense to the Lord so that He might demonstrate the man He accepted as leader, God warned Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the rebels. Moses in turn warned the Israelites, explaining that if nothing happened to Korah, Dathan and Abiram, they could be sure that Moses was not chosen by God. But if God poured out his wrath, then clearly Moses was God's chosen man. When the earth opened up and swallowed the rebels God's will was clear. Fire from heaven consumed the 250 men with censors, confirming God's choice of Moses and Aaron as His leaders. As a reminder, the censors of the rebels were hammered flat and used to overlay the altar. In spite of this display of God's wrath, the Israelites continued their rebellion, blaming Moses for the deaths of the rebels. The glory of the Lord appeared and He threatened to destroy the people, with a plague. Aaron offered incense to atone for their sin but thousands died that day before the plague stopped. To confirm the leadership of Israel, Moses had the leader of each tribe write their name on his staff. When they were placed before the Lord in the Tabernacle, Aaron's staff alone produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Recognizing their sin, in fear the people asked "Are we all going to die?"