After all the bad things that have happened to them, the thirst, starvation, death at the hands of a god they can not see and who will not talk to them, death at the hand of their chief priest, and the forcing of them to kill their own people, some Israelites had enough.
Korah (Levite) and On (Tribe of Reuben) gathered 250 “men of renown” against Moses and Aaron. It seems that these men are now questioning why Moses and Aaron are so much above them when “seeing all the congregation are holy”, that they should be more equal.
Moses tells these men to gather the next day with incense censers, and to burn them in front of Jehovah, and Jehovah will proclaim just who is holy.
Numbers 16:8 – And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the *elohe* (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 Jehovah, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?
I can’t imagine this “task” they were all forced to do, in all pomp and ritual, is something Moses should make them feel appreciative of. We have an entire “tribe” of people, and if you think about mankind in general, you have all different walks of life even within small families. While some family trades do carry on through generations, not ALL end up doing so as well. In a family of doctors you may find some plumbers. In a family of plumbers you may find a nuclear scientist. What do you find in this family?
Everyone does the same thing, every day, in and out. If they don’t do it, they are punished with death. Is it any wonder at this point the Levites aren’t as grateful as Moses thinks they should be?! Is it any wonder at some point, the man who wished to be a plumber but instead became a doctor, snaps? Of course, we can’t use this example today because it rarely happens. Why? BECAUSE WE HAVE FREE WILL!
Moses reaches out to the sons of Eliab, who refuse to partake in this incense ritual, again, repeating to Moses what I’m sure the majority of Israelites are afraid to speak out on:
16:13 – 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?
So not only are they angry at their situation, they are also resentful against Moses who has elevated himself above them in rank, and by doing so, put them all in a precarious situation. Can you not understand why the Israelites are rebelling?
The next day the ritual is performed in front of the door of the Tabernacle. Jehovah speaks to Moses and Aaron:
16:21 – Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
Once again Moses has to change the mind of Jehovah, asking him not to punish the entire congregation for the sins of one man
Note that Jehovah’s default punishment in cases like this: wipe the entire congregation of people out.
Moses separates the congregation. Note how it is separated and who stands with Dathan and Abiram:
16:27 – 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.
Moses explains to the people that two things will happen:
- The families of Dathan and Abiram will die normal deaths
- This will prove that Jehovah did NOT send Moses to perform his deeds
- The families of Dathan and Abiram will be swallowed up by the earth
- This will prove that Jehovah DID send Moses to perform his deeds
16:31 – 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.
This “Righteous and Forgiving” deity has just murdered women and children because their fathers stood up for what they felt was right. Now you can add women and children to Jehovah’s body count. To make things worse, these were his own people!
In a state of panic, and what I imagine most people would do who were under the tyrannical rule of an angry deity, the Israelites reacted:
16:34 – And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.
These were their own relatives they watched die, children who they probably helped raise. Swallowed up by the earth by a deity who boasts he has rescued them. If they, moving forward, worship this god, is it out of sincerity, or out of fear that they too may be swallowed up by the earth if they don’t?
The punishment wasn’t over, the 250 men that were told to be part of bringing their censer of incense were next:
16:35 – And there came out a fire from Jehovah, and consumed the 250 men that offered incense.
Jehovah’s body count increases.
16:36 – And Jehovah 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 hallowed. 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 Jehovah, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
“a sign” aka a WARNING that death is around the corner if they mess up.
Jehovah again reminds Moses to tell the Israelites that the punishment for the wrong ritual regarding incense equals death. We already know that Aaron’s sons brought strange incense and Jehovah burned them to death. Jehovah tells Moses to tell the Israelites that anyone who is NOT of the tribe of Levi who brings him incense will receive the fate of Korah (burned to death).
The Next Day: More Rebellion
As if not understanding that the deaths of their people the previous day were due to Jehovah:
16:41 – But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of Jehovah.
This is an interesting verse:
- We are told Jehovah killed all these people, but to the Israelites it was Moses and Aaron that did it
- Why is there such a large gap in understanding between what we are told by the author and what the Israelites believe?
- What is the author trying to tell us when the subjects of his story are not privy to the information the author is telling us?
As this all happens, the cloud appeared above the Tabernacle, in a repeat of what we were told before:
16:45 – And Jehovah 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.
If you dispute my thesis that this deity really does want to commit genocide against his own people, in his own words he’s repeated it, TWICE. This time Moses and Aaron are unable to persuade him to change his mind.
16:46 – 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 Jehovah; the plague is begun.
Here’s what we should note about the Tabernacle, from it comes “fire” and “plague”. Aaron runs to the congregation with his censer of burning incense and made an “atonement for the people”
- So now we have a precedent where “atonement” is merely an act of protecting the people with incense
- How does this interfere with Jehovah’s actions? How does incense prevent the plague from spreading?
16:48 – And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
So, despite Jehovah (the supposed creator of the universe, almighty) spreading the plague, the mere action of protecting the people with burning incense halted Jehovah’s actions. Does this make sense?
Jehovah’s Body Count
Even the author is trying to tell us something, he finishes Numbers 16 with a death toll at the hands of Jehovah:
- 14,700 of Jehovah’s own people died from the plague he sent them
- Would everyone have died (as Jehovah himself admits was his goal) if Aaron had not interceded with incense?
- Why did Moses and Aaron intend to save lives? Was it because if all the house of Jacob were murdered off, Jehovah had already stated his intention to pass the covenant on to their family? Which would submit Moses and Aaron’s family to the brutal treatment of Jehovah?
- Unknown men, women and children in the Korah incident added to this death toll
“Righteous and Forgiving” – What is the author trying to tell us about Jehovah?! Numbers 15-16 have been brutal so far, and this is not information I was taught about in bible school. What gives modern Christian churches?! Why leave this information out?!