1 Then Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, decided to speak against Moses. Eliab's sons, Dathan and Abiram, and Peleth's son, On, who were descendants of Reuben, were with him. 2 Together with 250 leaders of the Israelites, they all turned against Moses. Those were famous men that the people had chosen as their leaders. 3 They all came to Moses and Aaron and they said, ‘All the Israelites are special. The Lord has chosen all of us and he is with us all. So you should not say that you are better than the rest of the Lord's people.’
4 When Moses heard that, he threw himself on to the ground. 5 Moses said to Korah and to all the other men, ‘Tomorrow the Lord will show us who is truly special to him. He will show us who really belongs to him. He will make the person that he chooses come near to him. 6 Now do this: Get some pots for yourselves, Korah and your group of friends. 7 Put fire and incense in them, to burn in front of the Lord tomorrow. Then the Lord will choose the man who is holy. You make yourselves too important, you descendants of Levi!’
8 Then Moses said to Korah, ‘Listen, you descendants of Levi. 9 The God of Israel has caused you Levites to be separate from all the other Israelites. He has brought you near to himself, to work in the Lord's Tent. He has chosen you to stand in front of all the people to serve them. But it seems that this is not enough for you. 10 He has brought you, Korah, and all the other descendants of Levi near to himself. But it seems that you want to be priests as well. 11 You are not only speaking bad words against Aaron. You and all your group are complaining against the Lord!’
12 Then Moses called Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, to come to him. But they said, ‘No, we will not come. 13 You have brought us out of a country where there is plenty of food and drink, enough for everyone. You have brought us here, where we will die in the desert. But it seems that that is not enough for you. It seems that you want to be our master as well! 14 You have certainly not brought us into a country where there is plenty of food and drink. You have not given to us fields and vineyards, for us and for our descendants. You cannot deceive all these men. We will not come up to meet with you!’
15 Moses was angry. He said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept what these men offer to you. I did not take anything from them, not even one donkey! I did not do a wrong thing to any of them.’
16 Moses said to Korah, ‘Tomorrow, you and your men must come to the Tent of Meeting. You must come to stand in front of the Lord. Aaron will be there too. 17 Each of you must take a pot and you must put incense in it. You must put the pots on the altar in front of the Lord. That will be 250 pots. You yourself must do the same thing, as well as Aaron.’ 18 So, each man took a pot. He put incense in it, and fire to burn it. They stood with Moses and Aaron at the door of the Tent of Meeting.
19 Korah brought all his group of people to stand against Moses and Aaron at the door of the Tent of Meeting. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 ‘Stand away from these men so that I can kill them.’
22 But Moses and Aaron threw themselves on the ground. Their faces were touching the ground. They said, ‘You, our God, are the God who gives life to all people. When one man does a bad thing, will you be angry with all the people? Is that right?’
23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 ‘Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’
25 Moses got up from the ground. He went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of the Israelites went with him. 26 Moses said to all the people, ‘Move away from the tents of these wicked men. Do not touch anything that belongs to them. If you do not move away, God may destroy you together with them, because of all their sins.’
27 So the people moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram were standing with their wives, babies and children at the doors of their tents.
28 Then Moses said to the people, ‘Now you will know that the Lord has chosen me to lead you. He has told me to do this. It was not my own idea. This is how you will know: 29 If these men die in a usual way, as all men will die one day, then the Lord did not choose me. 30 But if the Lord causes something new to happen to these men, you will know that they have turned against him. If a hole appears in the ground and these men fall into it. If they fall down deep into their own graves while they still live. If that happens to them and to all that belongs to them, you will know that the Lord has punished them.’
31 When Moses finished speaking, a hole opened in the ground. 32 Like a big mouth, it ate those men, their families and everything that belonged to them. The earth covered Korah, all his group and everything that belonged to them. 33 They all went down into the deep grave while they were still alive. The ground closed over them and they died, no longer part of God's people. 34 When the other Israelites heard those men shout, they ran away quickly. They were saying, ‘Help! The ground might eat us too!’
35 Then the Lord sent fire down. It killed the 250 men who were offering the incense to God.
36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 ‘Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, that he must take the pots with incense out of the burning fire. That is because those pots are holy. Then you must throw away the coal over all the ground round that place. 38 Those men died because they did a bad thing. But the pots that they were holding are holy, because they were offering the incense to the Lord. So workers must use hammers to make the pots into thin metal. Then cover the altar with the metal. That will be like a sign to warn the Israelites.’ 39 So Eleazar took the 250 pots and he used the bronze metal to cover the altar. 40 Then the Israelites would remember not to do what Korah and his group did. Only people from the family of Aaron could burn incense on the Lord's altar. God would punish anyone else, like he punished Korah and his men. The Lord had given this command through Moses.
Aaron saves the Israelites
41 But on the next day, all the Israelites together complained against Moses and Aaron. They said, ‘You have killed the Lord's people!’ 42 When the people came together to stand against Moses and Aaron, they turned to look at the Tent of Meeting. The Lord's cloud covered the Tent and his glory appeared. 43 Moses and Aaron went to stand at the front of the Tent of Meeting.
44 The Lord said to Moses, 45 ‘Get away from the people so that I can destroy them immediately!’ Moses and Aaron threw themselves down so that their faces touched the ground. 46 Moses said to Aaron, ‘Pick up your pot. Take coals with fire from the altar and put incense with them in the pot. Then take it quickly among all the people. Remove their sin so that God will forgive them. Be quick! The Lord is so angry with the people that he is already punishing them with a bad illness!’
47 The bad illness was already killing some of the people. But Aaron did what Moses had told him to do. He took the pot of incense among the people to remove their sin. 48 In that way, he stood between the people who had died and those who were still living. The bad illness stopped killing people. 49 But 14,700 people died because of the illness, as well as the people who had died with Korah. 50 After the illness stopped, Aaron went back to Moses at the door of the Tent of Meeting.