Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Numbers
Book: Numbers
Chapter: 16

The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; Korah contends for
the priesthood. (1-11) Disobedience of Dathan and Abiram.
(12-15) The Glory of the Lord appears; The intercession of Moses
and Aaron. (16-22) The Earth swallows up Dathan and Abiram.
(23-34) The company of Korah consumed. (35-40) The people murmur;
A Plague sent. (41-50)

1-11 Pride and ambition occasion a great Deal of mischief both
in churches and states. The rebels quarrel with the settlement
of the priesthood upon Aaron and his family. Small reason they
had to boast of the people's purity, or of God's favour, as the
people had been So often and So lately polluted with Sin, and
were now under the marks of God's displeasure. They unjustly
charge Moses and Aaron with taking honour to themselves; whereas
they were called of God to it. See here, 1. What Spirit
levellers are of; those who resist the powers God has set over
them. 2. What usage even the best and most useful men may expect,
even from those to whom they have been serviceable. Moses sought
instruction from God. The Heart of the Wise studies to answer,
and asks counsel of God. Moses shows their privileges as
Levites, and convicts them of the Sin of undervaluing these
privileges. It will help to keep us from envying those above us,
duly to consider how many there are below us.

12-15 Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram to bring their
complaints; but they would not obey. They bring very false
charges against Moses. Those often fall under the heaviest
censures, who in Truth deserve the highest praise. Moses, though
the meekest Man, yet, finding God reproached in him, was very
wroth; he could not Bear to see the people ruining themselves.
He appeals to God as to his own integrity. He bade them appear
with Aaron next morning, at the time of Offering the morning
Incense. Korah undertook thus to appear. Proud ambitious men,
while projecting their own advancement, often hurry On their own
shameful fall.

16-22 The same Glory of the Lord that appeared to place Aaron
in his office at first, Le 9:23, now appeared to confirm him
in it; and to confound those who set up against him. Nothing is
more terrible to those who are conscious of guilt, than the
appearance of the Divine Glory. See how dangerous it is to have
Fellowship with sinners, and to partake with them. Though the
people had treacherously deserted them, yet Moses and Aaron
approved themselves Faithful shepherds of Israel. If others fail
in their duty to us, that does not take away the obligations we
are under to seek their welfare. Their Prayer was a pleading
Prayer, and it proved a prevailing one.

23-34 The seventy elders of Israel attend Moses. It is our duty
to do what we can to countenance and support lawful authority
when it is opposed. And those who would not perish with sinners,
must come out from among them, and be separate. It was in answer
to the Prayer of Moses, that God stirred up the hearts of the
Congregation to remove for their own safety. Grace to separate
from evil-doers is one of the things that accompany Salvation.
God, in Justice, left the rebels to the obstinacy and hardness
of their own hearts. Moses, By Divine direction, when all Israel
were waiting the event, declares that if the rebels die a common
Death, he will be content to be called and counted an imposter.
As soon as Moses had spoken the Word, God caused the Earth to
open and Swallow them all up. The children perished with their
parents; in which, though we cannot tell how bad they might be
to deserve it, or how good God might be otherwise to them; yet
of this we are sure, that Infinite Justice did them No wrong. It
was altogether miraculous. God has, when he pleases, strange
punishments for the workers of iniquity. It was very
significant. Considering how the Earth is still in like manner
loaded with the weight of Man's sins, we have reason to wonder
that it does not now sink under its load. The ruin of others
should be our warning. Could we, By Faith, hear the outcries of
those that are gone down to the bottomless Pit, we should give
more diligence than we do to escape for our lives, lest we also
come into their condemnation.

35-40 A Fire went out from the Lord, and consumed the two
hundred and fifty men that offered Incense, while Aaron, who
stood with them, was preserved alive. God is jealous of the
honour of his own institutions, and will not have them invaded.
The Sacrifice of the wicked is an Abomination to the Lord. The
censers are devoted, and, as all devoted things, must be made
serviceable to the Glory of God. This covering of the Altar
would remind the children of Israel of this event, that others
might hear and fear, and do No more presumptuously. They brought
Destruction On themselves both in body and soul. Thus all who
break the Law and neglect the Gospel choose and Love Death.

41-50 The gaping Earth was scarcely closed, before the same
sins are again committed, and all these warnings slighted. They
called the rebels the people of the Lord; and find fault with
Divine Justice. The obstinacy of Israel notwithstanding the
terrors of God's Law, as given On Mount Sinai, and the terrors
of his judgments, shows how necessary the Grace of God is to
change men's hearts and lives. Love will do what fear cannot.
Moses and Aaron interceded with God for Mercy, knowing how great
the provocation was. Aaron went, and burned Incense between the
living and the dead, not to purify the Air, but to pacify an
offended God. As one tender of the Life of every Israelite,
Aaron made all possible speed. We must render good for evil.
Observe especially, that Aaron was a Type of Christ. There is an
infection of Sin in the world, which only the Cross and
intercession of Jesus Christ can stay and remove. He enters the
defiled and dying Camp. He stands between the dead and the
living; between the eternal Judge and the souls under
condemnation. We must have Redemption through His Blood, even
the remission of sins. We admire the ready devotion of Aaron:
shall we not Bless and praise the unspeakable Grace and Love
which filled the Saviour's Heart, when he placed himself in our
stead, and bought us with his Life? Greatly indeed hath God
commended his Love towards us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us, Ro 5:8.