SERIES: 04 Numbers - 2013
MESSAGE: Numbers 16
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 16

In Numbers 16, the children of Israel once again begin to complain as one of the leaders stirs up a rebellion against Moses. As the Lord's chosen leader, Moses challenges the opposition and pleads with the Lord to spare the people from destruction. As we study these events, we are challenged to search our own hearts and discover where the Lord has called us to serve Him.

Numbers 16

PREVIEW: In Numbers 16, the Lord deals with an uprising spearheaded by Korah, and immediately after that, a plague strikes the children of God for their complaining.

Rebellion Against Moses and Aaron - Read Numbers 16:1-40

1. At some unidentified time and place during the wilderness wandering, a rebellion started against Moses and Aaron. How many were involved in this rebellion? Who were they (see vv. 1-2)?

2. These rebels weren’t just common men from the congregation of the children of Israel; they were leaders of the congregation, men of renown. Renown means that these men were widely honored and acclaimed, famous men within the congregation. What was the premise of these men’s rebellion (v. 3)?

3. The rebels accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the assembly (the rest of the people) (see v. 3). Exalting means to raise in rank, character, or status; to elevate. How does Moses’ reaction to their accusation indicate just the opposite (see v. 4)?

4. Moses’ response to the rebels’ accusation was to fall on his face, to prostrate himself, to bow down, to humble himself (see also Numbers 14:6, 20:6). What happens when godly people willingly and genuinely humble themselves? (See Psalm 75:7, Proverbs 29:23, Matthew 23:12, and James 4:10.)

5. Although the rebels perceived themselves to be holy and anointed for leadership positions within the congregation (see v. 3), what did Moses say the Lord Himself would do the next morning (see v. 5)?

6. Moses instructed Korah and all his rebellious company to take censers, vessels for burning incense, and bring them before the Lord. What was the Lord’s role when all these men gathered before Him with burning censers (see vv. 6-7)?

7. Moses spoke to Korah (see vv. 8-11), giving him perspective on his call and commission to serve the Lord as a Kohathite, carrying the tabernacle’s furniture and vessels. Moses asked Korah, “Is it a small thing to you…?,” meaning that his role as a Kohathite was important and prestigious and shouldn’t have been taken lightly but rather reverently appreciated. What role was Korah seeking in his rebellious complaint against Aaron (see vv. 10-11)?

8. Although Korah and his rebellious cohorts thought they were gathered against Moses and Aaron, who did Moses say they were truly gathered against (see v. 11)?

9. When Moses attempted to address Dathan and Abiram, what was their response (see vv. 12-14)?

10. What did Dathan and Abiram accuse Moses of acting like and blame him for not doing (see vv. 13-14)?

11. Moses was angered by Dathan and Abiram’s rebellion and false accusations against him, but he didn’t argue with them. Instead, with whom did he discuss what angered him (see v. 15)?

12. Moses reminded Korah to appear with his company of 250, censers in hand, before the Lord (see vv. 16-19). They all took their censers and stood before the door of the tabernacle with Moses and Aaron (see v. 18). Then the glory of the Lord appeared before them all. Without discussion or debate, the Lord’s decision and judgment was made. What was His judgment (see vv. 20-21)?

13. How did Moses and Aaron respond to the Lord’s judgment (see v. 22)?

14. What did Moses and Aaron beseech and implore God for (see v. 22)?

15. The Lord gave Moses a stern and solemn warning; Moses then arose and communicated the warning to the congregation. What was that warning (see vv. 23, 26)?

16. How did the congregation respond to the warning (see v. 27)?

17. Moses addressed the congregation, including all the rebels, telling them, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works….” What two scenarios did Moses present that indicate whom the Lord sent (see vv. 28-30)?

18. In Moses’ scenarios for determining who the Lord sent, he told the congregation that they would understand the true nature of these men’s rebellion if they went down alive into the pit. What was the true nature of these men’s rebellion (see v. 30)?

19. What became of the entire households of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (see vv. 31-34)?

20. What became of the 250 men who also rebelled against Moses and Aaron (see v. 35)?

21. The 250 censers were holy. What did the Lord instruct Moses to tell Aaron’s son to do with them (see vv. 36-38)? Why (see v. 40)?

Complaints of the People - Read Numbers 16:41-50

22. The next day, after seeing the destruction of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and the 250 men of renown, the entire congregation complained against Moses and Aaron. What was their complaint (see v. 41)?

23. What happened while the entire congregation was complaining against Moses and Aaron (see v. 42)?

24. What did the Lord sternly and solemnly warn Moses and Aaron to do (see vv. 44-45)? What did they do (see v.45)?

25. Despite Moses and Aaron’s humility (see v. 45), what began to happen to the congregation of people (see v. 46)? How did Moses and Aaron respond (see vv. 46-48)?

26. Moses instructed Aaron, the high priest, to take a censer with fire and incense on it and take it quickly to the congregation. What is incense a picture of in the Bible? (See Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10, and Revelation 5:8, 8:3–4.)

27. What was the effect of Aaron's offering incense on behalf of the congregation (see v. 48)? (See also James 5:16.)

28. Approximately how many rebels died in the Korah rebellion? How many complainers died (v. 49)?


  1. Introduction
    1. The gainsaying of Korah—Jude 11 (ASV)
    2. "Don't complain to people. When you complain to people, eighty percent of the people you tell don't care anyway, and twenty percent of the people you tell are glad you finally got what you deserve" —Mark Twain
    3. Murmur—onomatopoeic (sounds like the sound it's defining)
    4. The fifth (and sixth!) murmuring in Numbers so far
    5. Korah, a prominent Levite, leads a rebellion with 250 leaders against Moses' authority
    6. Moses criticized
      1. By his family (Aaron and Miriam) (Numbers 12)
      2. By his leaders
      3. By his congregation
    7. Rebelling against Moses is rebelling against God
    8. "The essence of all sin is rebellion against divine leadership" —A.W. Tozer
  2. Numbers 16:1-19
    1. The rebellion of Korah
    2. Moses did not take too much upon himself
      1. The Lord had to push him into ministry
      2. He was humble (Numbers 11:29)
    3. Root problem of Korah and his men's rebellion: jealousy and covetousness over Moses' and Aaron's positions
      1. Tribe of Levi divided into three family groups
      2. Korah belonged to Kohath, whose task was to transport the tabernacle's holiest of implements through the wilderness
    4. Other biblical example of jealousy: David's alienated son Absalom sitting at the city gate, stealing the hearts of Israel (2 Samuel 15)
    5. When your eyes are off the Lord, like Korah and his men, you are never, ever a happy person
    6. The blessing isn't in leading; it's in being in sync with the Leader
    7. 1 Corinthians 12
      1. There are some positions in the church that are more visible/noticeable and thus seem to be more important
      2. In real-life human anatomy, you can't live without unseen parts (liver, lungs, etc.)
    8. Discover the gifts God gave you, and you will be happy and satisfied when you function with that unction (i.e. calling/anointing)
    9. Rewriting history: Egypt being called a land "flowing with milk and honey" (v. 13)
  3. Numbers 16:19-40
    1. Whenever there's an issue, God makes Himself known
    2. "They" in v. 22 refers to Moses and Aaron; their reaction goes against human tendency
    3. "The God of the spirits of all flesh"
      1. Only used twice in Old Testament
      2. Our essence is spirit, not flesh
      3. New Testament tripartite view: body, soul, spirit
    4. The intercession of Moses and Aaron foreshadowed that of Christ; Exodus 18
    5. Korah should have repented after hearing Moses' words—but he didn't, just like Jonah (see book of Jonah)
    6. Sins of the fathers being visited on the children
      1. Numbers 14:18
      2. Similarly, blessings were visited on those who had faith and removed themselves and their children from Korah and his men
    7. Korah and his men's punishment serves as a visual aide
      1. They attempted to divide the people
      2. God judged them the same way they sinned
      3. Matthew 7:2, Galatians 6:7
    8. This is an episodic incident, not a typical one
      1. Dramatic revelation of God's anger to leave a warning and example for future generations
      2. Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah
      3. Leviticus 10: Nadab and Abihu
      4. Numbers 12: Miriam and Aaron
      5. Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira
    9. Another visual aid: using the censers from the "poser priests" to make a covering for the altar
  4. Numbers 16:40-50
    1. Moses is actually the one responsible for God sparing the nation through his intercession
    2. People get angry at the judgment of God; they can't see Him so they blame His visual representatives
    3. The cloud indicated the presence of God
      1. Not just for guidance, but for guilt and judgment
      2. You have to decide what kind of presence of God you want to enjoy
    4. Psalm 141:2
  5. Closing
    1. Discover God's plan, gifting, and purpose for your life
    2. Whatever God has called you to do, if you do it with all of your heart, you will have great enjoyment

Figures Referenced:  A.W. Tozer, Mark Twain
Cross references:  Exodus 18, Leviticus 10, Numbers 11:26; 12; 14:18; 16, 2 Samuel 15, Psalm 141:2, Jonah, Matthew 7:2, Acts 5, 1 Corinthians 12, Galatians 6:7

Topic: Rebellion

Keywords: rebellion, authority, leadership, complaining, jealousy, spiritual gifts, calling, body of Christ, intercession

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