Moses challenged Korah and his company to take censers (incense burners) and put fire in them “before the Lord” on the following day and let the Lord decide who is holy. Moses also confronted Korah and his discontent with mere Levitical service in the Tabernacle. “Are you seeking the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?”
When Moses requested a meeting with Dathan and Abiram, they refused to meet with him. Instead, they obnoxiously sent back a message to Moses. “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!” This infuriated Moses, and he boldly asked the Lord to have no respect for their offering, reminding God that he had done nothing to these men to deserve such treatment.
Korah and the 250 men all took censers, and put fire in them, and stood near the door to the Tabernacle, as did Moses and Aaron. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation. God spoke to Moses. “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Moses prostrated himself, and again interceded for Israel. “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”
The Lord told Moses to tell all the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. And Moses went to Dathan and Abiram's tents with the 70 elders of Israel following him. Moses told the congregation, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” The people quickly got away from that area, and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood in the opening of their tents, with their wives, sons and little children.
Moses then addressed the people. “If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.”>
Immediately, the ground split apart under them, as if the earth had opened its mouth. Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families (except for Korah's sons) and their tents and belongings were swallowed up, and the earth closed over them. A fire came out from the Lord and reduced to ashes the 250 men who were offering incense.
The next day all the people of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron. They said, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” Suddenly the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud over the tabernacle. Moses and Aaron quickly came to the tabernacle and the Lord said to Moses, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. Then Moses told Aaron to take and ignite a censer of incense, and take it quickly throughout the congregation to make atonement for them.>
“The plague has begun.” Aaron acted immediately and ran into the midst of the people, because the plague was already occurring among the people. Aaron stood among the people with the incense, and the plague ceased. Those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the Korah incident.
“Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die.” (Numbers 26:11) Courageously, Korah's sons, Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph, did not stand with their father, and continued in service in the tabernacle. Their descendents were among the singers appointed by David to minister in the tabernacle hundreds of years later. (Numbers 16; Exodus 6:24; 1 Chronicles 6:31-38)