|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:35-40 A fire went out from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense, while Aaron, who stood with them, was preserved alive. God is jealous of the honour of his own institutions, and will not have them invaded. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The censers are devoted, and, as all devoted things, must be made serviceable to the glory of God. This covering of the altar would remind the children of Israel of this event, that others might hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously. They brought destruction on themselves both in body and soul. Thus all who break the law and neglect the gospel choose and love death.
Verse 35. - There came out a fire from the Lord. The fire probably flashed out from the sanctuary with the destructive force of lightning. The two hundred and fifty men. These had remained swinging their censers before the gate of the tabernacle while Moses and (presumably) Korah himself had gone to the camp of Reuben.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And there came out a fire from the Lord,.... Flashes of lightning from the cloud in which he was:
and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense; not that it reduced them to ashes, but took away their lives, struck them dead at once, in like manner as Nadab and Abihu were, who though said to be devoured by the fire, yet their bodies remained, Leviticus 10:2; and is often the case of persons killed by lightning; though Josephus (a) thinks they were so consumed as that their bodies were no more seen, and who is express for it that Korah perished with them in this manner; which is not improbable, since he took his censer and offered incense with them, and was the ringleader of them, and the person that contended with Aaron for the priesthood, which was to be determined in this way; and though he is not mentioned it may be concluded, as Aben Ezra observes, by an argument from the lesser to the greater, that if the men he drew in perished, much more he himself; and the same writer observes, that in the song of the Red sea, no mention is made of the drowning of Pharaoh in it, only of his chariots and his host, and yet he himself was certainly drowned: now these men burning incense which belonged only to the priests of the Lord, were by just retaliation consumed by fire, and which made it plainly appear they were not the priests of the Lord; and the judgment on them was the more remarkable, that Moses and Aaron, who stood by them, remained unhurt. This was an emblem of the vengeance of eternal fire, of everlasting burnings, Jde 1:11.
(a) Antiq. l. 4. c. 3. sect. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
35. there came out a fire from the Lord—that is, from the cloud. This seems to describe the destruction of Korah and those Levites who with him aspired to the functions of the priesthood. (See Nu 26:11, 58; 1Ch 6:22, 37).
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