1. A CONSPIRACY
a. What conspiracy developed among the Israelites while they were chafing under the Lord’s decision that they must wander in the wilderness forty years? Who were the main conspirators? Numbers 16:1–3.
b. What test did Moses propose to the conspirators to prove the divine call? Numbers 16:4–7, 16–18. Why were the people inclined to sympathize with the rebels?
“To those who are in the wrong, and deserving of reproof, there is nothing more pleasing than to receive sympathy and praise.”— Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 397.
“The people thought if Korah could lead them, and encourage them, and dwell upon their righteous acts, instead of reminding them of their failures, they should have a very peaceful, prosperous journey, and he would without doubt lead them, not back and forward in the wilderness, but into the promised land. They said that it was Moses who had told them that they could not go into the land, and that the Lord had not thus said.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4A, p. 31.
2. MOSES’ APPEALS AND WARNINGS
a. How did Moses try to reason with the main rebels, and of what did they accuse him? Numbers 16:8–15.
“Dathan and Abiram had not taken so bold a stand as had Korah; and Moses, hoping that they might have been drawn into the conspiracy without having become wholly corrupted, summoned them to appear before him, that he might hear their charges against him. But they would not come, and they insolently refused to acknowledge his authority. . . .
“Thus they applied to the scene of their bondage the very language in which the Lord had described the promised inheritance. They accused Moses of pretending to act under divine guidance, as a means of establishing his authority. . . .
“It was evident that the sympathies of the people were with the disaffected party; but Moses made no effort at self-vindication. He solemnly appealed to God, in the presence of the congregation, as a witness to the purity of his motives and the uprightness of his conduct, and implored Him to be his judge.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 399.
b. What efforts did Moses and Aaron make to save the congregation from destruction? Numbers 16:22–30. What was the result of their efforts?
“[Moses and Aaron] fell upon their faces, with the prayer, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?’
“Korah had withdrawn from the assembly to join Dathan and Abiram when Moses, accompanied by the seventy elders, went down with a last warning to the men who had refused to come to him. The multitudes followed, and before delivering his message, Moses, by divine direction, bade the people, ‘Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.’ The warning was obeyed, for an apprehension of impending judgment rested upon all. The chief rebels saw themselves abandoned by those whom they had deceived, but their hardihood was unshaken. They stood with their families in the door of their tents, as if in defiance of the divine warning.”—Ibid., p. 400.
3. THE REBELS PUNISHED
a. What fate befell the rebels? Numbers 16:31–35.
“The eyes of all Israel were fixed upon Moses as they stood, in terror and expectation, awaiting the event. As he ceased speaking, the solid earth parted, and the rebels went down alive into the pit, with all that pertained to them, and ‘they perished from among the congregation.’ The people fled, self-condemned as partakers in the sin.
“But the judgments were not ended. Fire flashing from the cloud consumed the two hundred and fifty princes who had offered incense. These men, not being the first in rebellion, were not destroyed with the chief conspirators. They were permitted to see their end, and to have an opportunity for repentance; but their sympathies were with the rebels, and they shared their fate.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 400, 401.
b. How do we know that God does not punish indiscriminately? Who was spared? Deuteronomy 24:16; Numbers 26:9–11; 1 Chronicles 9:19. What lessons can we learn from this?
“The children were not condemned for the sins of the parents; but when, with a knowledge of all the light given to their parents, the children rejected the additional light granted to themselves, they became partakers of the parents’ sins, and filled up the measure of their iniquity.”—The Great Controversy, p. 28.
“When Moses was entreating Israel to flee from the coming destruction, the divine judgment might even then have been stayed, if Korah and his company had repented and sought forgiveness. But their stubborn persistence sealed their doom. . . . God in His great mercy made a distinction between the leaders in rebellion and those whom they had led. The people who had permitted themselves to be deceived were still granted space for repentance. Overwhelming evidence had been given that they were wrong, and that Moses was right. The signal manifestation of God’s power had removed all uncertainty.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 401.
c. What use was made of the censers of the rebels? For what purpose? Numbers 16:36–40.
4. THE PEOPLE ARE PUNISHED
a. Despite the evidences that were given to the congregation, what course did they pursue toward Moses and Aaron on the next day? Numbers 16:41.
“It is hardly possible for men to offer greater insult to God than to despise and reject the instrumentalities He would use for their salvation. The Israelites had not only done this, but had purposed to put both Moses and Aaron to death. Yet they did not realize the necessity of seeking pardon of God for their grievous sin. That night of probation was not passed in repentance and confession, but in devising some way to resist the evidences which showed them to be the greatest of sinners. They still cherished hatred of the men of God’s appointment, and braced themselves to resist their authority. Satan was at hand to pervert their judgment and lead them blindfold to destruction.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 402.
b. In what way did the Lord intervene once more with a severe punishment, and what did Moses and Aaron do to avert the judgment? Numbers 16:44–49.
“Even after God stretched forth His hand and swallowed up the wrong-doers, and the people fled to their tents in horror, their rebellion was not cured. The depth of their disaffection was made manifest even under the judgment of the Lord. The morning after the destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their confederates, the people came to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘Ye have killed the people of the Lord.’ For this false charge on the servants of God, thousands more were killed, for there was in them sin, exultation and presumptuous wickedness.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, p. 1114.
“The guilt of sin did not rest upon Moses, and hence he did not fear and did not hasten away and leave the congregation to perish. Moses lingered, in this fearful crisis manifesting the true shepherd’s interest for the flock of his care. He pleaded that the wrath of God might not utterly destroy the people of His choice. By his intercession he stayed the arm of vengeance, that a full end might not be made of disobedient, rebellious Israel. . . .
“As the smoke of the incense ascended, the prayers of Moses in the tabernacle went up to God; and the plague was stayed; but not until fourteen thousand of Israel lay dead, an evidence of the guilt of murmuring and rebellion.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 402, 403.
5. A TESTIMONY AGAINST REBELLION
a. What test settled the question of the priesthood forever, and where was Aaron’s rod kept as a witness? Numbers 17:1–11.
“All the remarkable changes in the rod occurred in one night, to convince them that God had positively distinguished between Aaron and the rest of the children of Israel.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, p. 1115.
b. What warning comes to us from that great rebellion? 1 Corinthians 10:10, 11.
“Do not the same evils still exist that lay at the foundation of Korah’s ruin? Pride and ambition are widespread; and when these are cherished, they open the door to envy, and a striving for supremacy; the soul is alienated from God, and unconsciously drawn into the ranks of Satan. Like Korah and his companions, many, even of the professed followers of Christ, are thinking, planning, and working so eagerly for self-exaltation that in order to gain the sympathy and support of the people they are ready to pervert the truth, falsifying and misrepresenting the Lord’s servants, and even charging them with the base and selfish motives that inspire their own hearts. By persistently reiterating falsehood, and that against all evidence, they at last come to believe it to be truth. While endeavoring to destroy the confidence of the people in the men of God’s appointment, they really believe that they are engaged in a good work, verily doing God service.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 403, 404.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What attitude is pleasing to the natural heart when we are in the wrong?
2. When Dathan and Abiram refused to come and speak to Moses, what was significant about their families standing next to them?
3. What lesson can we learn from God’s treatment of the children of Korah?
4. After the destruction of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their confederates, what was the response of the people? Why is this attitude so dangerous?
5. What cherished attitudes lay at the foundation of rebellion against God?