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Numbers 16:36-40

The Memorial

36 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. 38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. 39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: 40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.


The two hundred and fifty men who brought their censers with burning incense to the tabernacle, as Moses had commanded, were instantly consumed by a flash of fire from the Lord. The censers, which they carried, were made of brass, whereas the censers used by the priests were made of silver. The brass censers of the two hundred and fifty offenders were left laying among the ashes and needed to be carefully collected and properly disposed of, because they had been sanctified by the consuming fire of the Lord.

Eleazar, the son of Aaron and the overseer of the sacred things of the tabernacle, was instructed to take the censers out of "the burning," out of the ashes of the fire, and to take the fire that was in them and scatter it away from the tabernacle. The burning incense that had been brought by the two hundred and fifty men was strange fire just like that offered by Nadab and Abihu.

The rebels had burned for their sins. Having sinned against the Lord, they became their own burnt offerings. Therefore, the censers of brass were hallowed. God instructed Eleazor to gather the censers and to have the brass hammered out into a plate for the altar where the burnt offering was made. That altar already had a plate of brass over it, so this would be an additional protective covering over the first.

Eleazor obeyed the Lord and made the plate of brass to cover the altar. It was to be a sign, a memorial, to warn the people that God will not tolerate sin. If anyone other than the priests would come near the altar to offer incense, they would be reminded of what had happened to the men who followed Korah in this rebellion.

The phrase in verse 40, "...that he be not as Korah, and as his company," is very often interpreted to mean that Korah was burned along with the two hundred and fifty. There could be some basis for this, since in verse 27 we read, "So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children." It only mentions that Dathan and Abiram stood in the door of their tents and were swallowed up by the earth. However, the people were also told to stay away from Korah's tent. Therefore, I have maintained that Korah was also swallowed with his family. Verse 35 did not say that two hundred and fifty-one were burned, which would have been the number of them if Korah was among them, but there is a legitimate argument for both sides of the debate.

The main lesson for us to learn here, however, is not about who was burned but that they were severely punished for their sins. The brass covering over the altar was to remind the people of what had happened. The image of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross as the living sacrifice for our sins should be an even more dramatic reminder to us of the consequences of sin. The wages of sin is death, eternal death. The only way to avoid the fires of hell is through faith in Jesus Christ and in His saving sacrifice.

Before The Throne:

Above all things today, give God the thanks for what He has done for you through the death and resurrection of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You can thank Him in your prayer closet, but a better way is to thank Him publicly. Pray that He will give you the opportunity today to glorify His name to those who do not believe.

For Further Study:

(v.37)
** the censers. Num 16:7-18; ** hallowed. Le 27:28;

(v.38) ** sinners. 1Kgs 2:23; Prov 1:18; Prov 8:36; Prov 20:2; Hab 2:10; ** a sign. Num 16:40; Num 17:10; Num 26:10; Ezek 14:8; 1Cor 10:11; 2Pet 2:6;

(v.40) ** that no. Num 3:10, 38; Num 18:4-7; Lev 22:10; 2Chr 26:18-20; Jude 1:11; ** come near. 1Kgs 13:1-3; 2Chr 26:16-21;

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