וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃ Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: כֹּל הַקָּרֵב הַקָּרֵב אֶל־מִשְׁכַּן יְהֹוָה יָמוּת הַאִם תַּמְנוּ לִגְוׂעַ׃ Everyone who so much as ventures near Hashem's Mishkan must die. Alas, we are doomed to perish!”
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃
Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying:
כֹּל הַקָּרֵב הַקָּרֵב אֶל־מִשְׁכַּן יְהֹוָה יָמוּת הַאִם תַּמְנוּ לִגְוׂעַ׃
Everyone who so much as ventures near Hashem's Mishkan must die. Alas, we are doomed to perish!”
Following the deaths of the rebels, God commands Eleazar, son of Aaron, to collect the copper fire-pans that had been used for the rebels’ incense, as they had become sanctified. He instructs Moses to hammer them out into sheets to plate the altar, as a reminder and a warning of what will happen to any stranger who approaches with an alien offering.
The people of Israel are shocked by what they have witnessed. They accuse Moses and Aaron of killing the people of God. Once again, God commands Moses and Aaron to remove themselves from the Assembly so that He may wipe them out. Moses then tells Aaron to quickly take incense and atone for the people’s sinful comments. Aaron takes the incense and stands himself between the living and the dead, a human shield protecting them from God’s wrath. 14,700 people fall in the plague before it is stopped.
To further prove that God has chosen Aaron from among all others to serve Him, Moses tells the tribes each bring forth a staff with their tribal names inscribed upon them and lay them before the Ark in the Tabernacle. The man whose staff blossoms shall be known as God’s choice. The leaders do as they are told, and Aaron’s staff blossoms and sprouts buds and almonds. Moses returns the staffs to the leaders, but at God’s instruction keeps Aaron’s staff as a sign to the people that they should stop complaining lest they die at God’s hand. The people, however, remain frightened of punishment for approaching the Tabernacle.
The Israel Bible relates a story told by legendary Israeli storyteller S. Z. Kahana. Three clergymen visited Mount Zion in 1965. While gazing upon Jerusalem, they asked the Jewish curator why the Jews claimed it as the capital of the State of Israel, rather than maintaining its status as an international city. In response, the curator pointed to the staff of Aaron. The miracle of the earth swallowing Korah’s followers and the plague that followed were not enough to convince the people that Aaron had been chosen by God. Only the budding vitality of the blossoming staff, the sign of life, changed their minds. The curator pointed to the city of Jerusalem. “In the old Arab controlled section of the city, as you can observe, there is desolation: ruins, desert and rocks. On our side is the new Jerusalem, where over 150,000 have settled. You can see our new homes, schools, the new hospital and the new university. Everywhere you look, you see life, growth and vitality. You ask to whom does Jerusalem belong. It belongs to those who make it bud and blossom, to those who make it live and grow.” Half a century later, this insight demonstrates that a Jewish Jerusalem is ordained by God.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think the fire-pans became sanctified, even though they were employed by the rebels?