Numbers 16 Commentary

Numbers 16 Commentary: Korah, Dathan and Abiram oppose Moses

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Now this feels like it. Chapter 15 feels out of place given the absorbing events in chapters 13 and 14. With chapter 16 normal business resumes. It’s Korah’s turn for insolence. The holy script hasn’t given us detailed reasons why Korah and his friends opposed Moses and Aaron. I think we can guess.

Moses is executing the commands of the LORD faithfully and it’s these commands that have landed him in deep trouble. The more faithful you become the more removed you are from normal human existence. You become the target of opposition. The uprising is meant to remove Moses from his post as leader of the people. The humble Moses leaves it in the hands of the LORD. Who wouldn’t feel for Moses?

It appears Moses’ view of Dathan and Abiram (fellow rebel leaders) was that these two men had been wrongly influenced by the Levite Korah. Moses attempts to clear the air by dialogue. But Moses is shocked by their response. The problem was bigger. It wasn’t just the Levites.

Dathan and Abiram respond very rudely. The LORD responds in anger and wants to clear the rot – an entire community. But Moses and Aaron intercede and only the ring leaders and their families are punished. The earth opens and swallowed Korah and his friend. The end is swift and horrible!

The community reacts in anger against Moses and Aaron for ‘killing God’s people’. The LORD’S latest reaction is wholesale clear out and doesn’t even wait for Moses’ opinion. Moses knows the consequences and quickly dispatches an aged Aaron to intercede. The plague is stopped but only after 14700 deaths. What a sad situation!

It is very clear that the role of an intercessor had become more important. The need for one to stand in the gap for Israel was anticipated here. It points to the cross and how Calvary stands between the dead and the living. The real High priest would stand between life and death – not with a censer but with his own blood.

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Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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