Numbers 16:38
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 to the children of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) These sinners against their own souls.—i.e., men who have forfeited their lives by their sin.

Let them make them broad plates . . . —It was thus that the sacrilegious act of Korah and his company was made the occasion of a permanent warning against all similar profanation of holy things. The altar of burnt-offering had already a covering of brass; but, as the altar was made of wood, an additional covering afforded further security against the fire which was continually burning on it. The censers of Korah and his company were made of brass (Numbers 16:39). Those of Aaron and his sons are thought by some to have been made of silver, but there seems to be no sufficient authority for this supposition; and in Exodus 38:3, where the same Hebrew word is used, but which in the English version is rendered “firepans,” it is said that all the vessels of the altar were made of brass. In the time of Solomon the censers were made of gold (1Kings 7:50). That used by Aaron on the great day of atonement was of gold. (Comp. Hebrews 9:4; Revelation 8:3.)

Numbers 16:38. Their own souls — That is, their own lives; who were the authors of their own destruction. The altar — Of burnt-offerings, which was made of wood, but covered with brass before this time, (Exodus 27:1-2,) to which this other covering was added for further ornament, and security against the fire, continually burning upon it. A sign — A warning to all strangers to take heed of invading the priesthood.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.These sinners against their own souls - That is, "against their own lives." By their sin they had brought destruction upon themselves. 37-40. Speak unto Eleazar—He was selected lest the high priest might contract defilement from going among the dead carcasses. Against their own souls, i.e. their own lives; who were the authors of their own death and destruction. Compare 1 Kings 2:23 Proverbs 20:2. This he saith for the vindication of God’s justice and his own ministry in this severe dispensation.

The altar, to wit, of burnt-offerings, which was made of wood, but covered with brass before this time, Exodus 27:1,2, to which this other covering was added for further ornament and security against the fire, which was continually burning upon it.

A sign; a monument or warning to all strangers to take heed of invading the priesthood, as it follows, Numbers 16:40. The censers of these sinners against their own souls,.... Who by burning incense in them sinned, and by sinning hurt and ruined their souls:

let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar; the altar of burnt offering, which, though it had a covering of brass, another made of these were to be over it, for the further security of it, being of from the fire continually burning on it; these censers were to be beaten into broad plates, by the workmen who understood how to do it:

for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are hallowed; they offered them in his presence, they burned incense in them, and to him, though it was not their business, but the business of the priests; yet these being done, and by his orders, for an open trial who were his priests and who not, they were not to be put to common use:

and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel; a memorial sign, a sign bringing this affair to remembrance, as it is explained in Numbers 16:40; this was a sign to the priests, that they only were to offer every kind of offerings, and to the Levites, who attended the priests at the altar continually, and so had every day a sight of it and of those plates upon it, which would remind them of this fact, and teach them not to usurp the priest's office; and to all the children of Israel, to learn from hence that none were to burn incense but the priests of the Lord, for doing which Uzziah, though a king, was punished, 2 Chronicles 26:18.

The censers of these sinners {o} 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 {p} sign unto the children of Israel.

(o) Who caused their own death.

(p) Of God's judgments against rebels.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
38. (om. even) the fire-pans of these sinners at the cost of their lives] R.V. marg. is an explanation of the R.V. But the latter is grammatically doubtful. LXX. has ὅτι ἡγίασαν τὰ πυρεῖα κ.τ.λ. (‘because they made holy the fire-pans’ &c.). Perhaps we should read ‘for the fire-pans of these sinners have become holy at the cost &c.’ Some have seen an allusion to these words in Hebrews 12:3, ‘such contradiction of sinners against themselves’ (Westcott and Hort’s text).

for a covering of the altar] This must be the altar of burnt-offering, since the altar of incense was covered with gold, not with brass or bronze (Exodus 30:3; Exodus 37:26). But according to Exodus 27:2; Exodus 38:2, the altar of burnt-offering was already covered with bronze at its original manufacture at Sinai. The passage is another indication that the priestly writings are not all from one pen, but contain divergent traditions and date from different periods.Verse 38. - These sinners against their own souls, בְּנַפְשֹׁתָם, "against their own lives." The thought is not that they had ruined their souls, but that they had forfeited their lives. The Pentateuch does not contemplate any consequences of sin beyond physical death. The same phrase occurs in Proverbs 20:2. For a covering of the altar. The altar of burnt incense. The censers were no doubt brazen pans, and when beaten out would form plates which could be affixed to the boards of which the frame of the altar was composed. And immediately the earth clave asunder, and swallowed them up, with their families and all their possessions, and closed above them, so that they perished without a trace from the congregation. אתם refers to the three ringleaders. "Their houses;" i.e., their families, not their tents, as in Numbers 18:31; Exodus 12:3. "All the men belonging to Korah" were his servants; for, according to Numbers 26:11, his sons did not perish with him, but perpetuated his family (Numbers 26:58), to which the celebrated Korahite singers of David's time belonged (1 Chronicles 6:18-22; 1 Chronicles 9:19).
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