|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:23-34 The seventy elders of Israel attend Moses. It is our duty to do what we can to countenance and support lawful authority when it is opposed. And those who would not perish with sinners, must come out from among them, and be separate. It was in answer to the prayer of Moses, that God stirred up the hearts of the congregation to remove for their own safety. Grace to separate from evil-doers is one of the things that accompany salvation. God, in justice, left the rebels to the obstinacy and hardness of their own hearts. Moses, by Divine direction, when all Israel were waiting the event, declares that if the rebels die a common death, he will be content to be called and counted an imposter. As soon as Moses had spoken the word, God caused the earth to open and swallow them all up. The children perished with their parents; in which, though we cannot tell how bad they might be to deserve it, or how good God might be otherwise to them; yet of this we are sure, that Infinite Justice did them no wrong. It was altogether miraculous. God has, when he pleases, strange punishments for the workers of iniquity. It was very significant. Considering how the earth is still in like manner loaded with the weight of man's sins, we have reason to wonder that it does not now sink under its load. The ruin of others should be our warning. Could we, by faith, hear the outcries of those that are gone down to the bottomless pit, we should give more diligence than we do to escape for our lives, lest we also come into their condemnation.
Verse 31. - The ground clave asunder that was under them. As it sometimes does during an earthquake. In this case, however, the event was predicted, and wholly supernatural. The sequence of the narrative would lead us to suppose that the earth opened beneath the tents of Dathan and Abiram in the camp of Reuben. It is difficult to think of the gulf as extending so far as to involve the tent of Korah in the Kohathite lines in the same destruction, while there is nothing to suggest the idea that the earth opened in more than one place. It is true that the camps of the Reubenites and of the Kohathites were more or less contiguous; but when it is remembered that there were 46,500 adult males in the former, and 8600 males in the latter, and that a broad space must have been left between the two lines of encampment, it is obviously improbable that Korah's tent was in a practical sense "near" to those of Dathan and Abiram, unless indeed he had purposely removed it in order to be under the protection of his Reubenite partisans. It is very observable that not a word is said here as to the fate of Korah himself. It is implied in verse 40 that he had perished, and it is apparently asserted in Numbers 26:10 that he was swallowed up with Dathan and Abiram (see the note there). On the other hand, Deuteronomy 11:6; Psalm 106:17 speak of the engulfing of the other two without any mention of Korah himself sharing their fate; and while "all the men that appertained unto Korah" perished, his own sons did not (Numbers 26:11). On these grounds it is held by most commentators that Korah died by fire among those who offered incense (verse 35). This, however, is untenable, because "the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense" are distinctly mentioned as having been his partisans (verse 2), and are always counted exclusive of Korah himself. On the whole, while it is certain that the narrative is very obscure, and the question very doubtful, it seems most agreeable to all the testimonies of Holy Scripture to conclude -
1. That Korah had left his own place, and had some sort of dwelling (mischan) either in common with Dathan and Abiram, or hard by their tents.
2. That the earth opened and swallowed up the mishcan, of Korah, and the tents of Dathan and Abiram.
3. That Korah's men (see next verse) and their property were swallowed up with his mishcan, and (as far as we can tell) Korah himself also. If this be correct, then the much disputed heading of the chapter in the A.V. will be right after all.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these things,.... As soon as he had finished his discourse, which was addressed to the congregation, and, according to Josephus (u), after a long prayer to God, which that writer gives at large; immediately so it was:
that the ground clave asunder that was under them; on which they stood, not from any natural cause, as by subterranean volcano, forcibly making their way and bursting the earth, and so getting vent, which has been thought to be the cause of earthquakes; but this was by the immediate hand and almighty power of God, and came to pass just as Moses suggested it would, and as soon as he had uttered his words, which made it the more observable.
(u) Antiqu. l. 4. c. 3. Sect. 2.
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