Reading 43/341, Numbers 16-18

Having promised to kill off all the people of Israel older than 20 years old at the time that the people rejected the Promised Land, God kills some of them sooner and more violently than others. The people rebel today as Moses turns away from the land they rejected and begins to wander in the desert for 40 years.

...Numbers...

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with 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 fifty princes of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, men of renown, and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone too far! All in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then lift yourselves up above the assembly of the Lord?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he spoke to Korah and to all his company, saying, “In the morning the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy, and will allow him to come near: him whom he shall choose he will allow to come near to him. Do this, take thuribles, Korah and all his company, and put fire in them, and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses shall be holy. You have gone too far, you sons of Levi!” Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi, Does it seem but a small thing to you, that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do the service of the tent of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near, and all your brothers, the sons of Levi with you? Do you seek the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. What is Aaron that you murmur against him?”

Moses sent and called Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the desert, but you need to make yourself also a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.” Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering, I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” Moses said to Korah, “You and all your company go before the Lord, you, and they, and Aaron, tomorrow, and every man will take his thurible, and put incense on them. Let every man bring before the Lord a thurible, two hundred fifty thuribles; you also, and Aaron, each with his thurible. Every man took his thurible, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood at the entrance to the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” They fell on their faces, and said, “God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from around the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” Moses rose up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” So they got up from the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side, and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood at the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little ones. Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my 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 has not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall understand that these men have despised the Lord.” It happened, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly. All Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up.” Fire came forth from the Lord, and devoured the two hundred fifty men who offered the incense. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take the thuribles out of the burning, and scatter the fire yonder, for they are holy. The thuribles of these sinners against their own lives: let them be made into beaten plates for a covering of the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are holy, and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel. Eleazar the priest took the bronze thuribles, which those who were burnt had offered, and they beat them out for a covering of the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel, to the end that no stranger, who is not of the seed of Aaron, comes near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he be as Korah and as his company. He did as the Lord told him through Moses.

But on the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” It happened, when the congregation was assembled against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” They fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your thurible, and put fire in it from off the altar, and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation, and make atonement for them, for there is wrath gone out from the Lord: the disease has begun.” Aaron took as Moses spoke, and ran into the midst of the assembly, and behold, the disease had begun among the people, and he put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the disease was stopped. Now those who died by the disease were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, besides those who died in the matter of Korah. Aaron returned to Moses to the entrance to the tent of meeting, and the disease was stopped.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and take from them rods, one for each house of the fathers, of all their princes according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods. Write every man's name on his rod. You shall write Aaron's name on the rod of Levi, for there shall be one rod for each head of their fathers' house. You shall lay them up in the tent of meeting before the covenant, where I meet with you. It shall happen, that the rod of the man whom I shall choose shall bud, and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you.” Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and all their princes gave him rods, one for each prince, according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods, and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tent of the covenant. It happened on the next day, that Moses went into the tent of the covenant, and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had budded, put forth buds and produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel, and they looked, and every man took his rod. The Lord said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the covenant, to be kept for a token against the children of rebellion, that you may make an end of their murmurings against me, that they not die.” Thus did Moses, as the Lord commanded him, so he did.

The children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tent of the Lord, dies, shall we perish, all of us?” The Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your fathers' house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. Your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you, but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the covenant. They shall keep your charge, and the charge of all the Tent, only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, lest they die, they and you. They shall be joined to you and keep the charge of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent, and a stranger shall not come near to you. You shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar; that there be wrath no more on the children of Israel. I, behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the children of Israel, to you they are a gift, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. You and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood as concerns everything of the altar and that within the veil, and you shall serve: I give you the priesthood as a service of gift, and the stranger who comes near shall be put to death.”

The Lord spoke to Aaron, “I, behold, I have given you the charge of my wave offerings, all the holy things of the children of Israel. To you have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to your sons, as a portion forever. This shall be yours of the Most Holy things, reserved from the fire, every offering of theirs, every grain offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every guilt offering of theirs, which they shall render to me, shall be Most Holy for you and for your sons. As the Most Holy things shall you eat of it; every male shall eat of it, it shall be holy to you. This is yours, the wave offering of their gift, all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and to your sons and to your daughters with you, as a portion forever; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it. All the best of the oil, and all the best of the vintage, and of the grain, their first fruits which they give to the Lord, to you have I given them. The first-ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it. Everything devoted in Israel shall be yours. Everything that opens the womb, of all flesh which they offer to the Lord, both of man and animal shall be yours, nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. You shall redeem those who are to be redeemed of them from a month old, according to your estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary (this is twenty gerahs). But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy, you shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savor to the Lord. The flesh of them shall be yours, as the wave offering breast and as the right thigh, it shall be yours. All the wave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever, it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord to you and to your seed with you.”

The Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them, I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, the service of the tent of meeting. Henceforth the children of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity, it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a wave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance, therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a wave offering of it for the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your wave offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you also shall offer a wave offering to the Lord of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel, and of it you shall give the Lord's wave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts you shall offer every wave offering of the Lord, of all the best of it, the holy part of it.’ Therefore you shall tell them, ‘When you have offered the best of it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the profit of the threshing floor, and as the profit of the winepress. You shall eat it in every place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. You shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have gifted from it the best of it, and you shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”

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