THE LESSON BACKGROUND.
The context of this week’s lesson takes place during the second year after the Israelites left Egyptian slavery. At that time they arrived at Kadesh-barnea which was near the border of Canaan, the Promised Land. When the twelve chosen spies returned from exploring the land, ten of the twelve men brought a report indicating that the people would not be able to take the land because of giants. This caused all the people to weep in fear (see Numbers 14:1). But two of the twelve, Joshua and Caleb, declared that Israel was “well able” to take possession of the land (see Numbers 13:30). They also said “If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us” (see Numbers 14:8). The people believed the evil report from the other ten spies and turned against Joshua and Caleb. This led the people to call for the stoning of Joshua and Caleb (see Numbers 14:10). At this point, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the temple of the congregation“ in front of all the people, and God told Moses that because the people had constantly provoked Him, He would destroy them and start all over with Moses (see Numbers 14:11-12). As he had done before, Moses interceded for the people asking the LORD to pardon them (see Numbers 14:13-19). The LORD agreed to pardon them but there would still be consequences for their actions (see Numbers 14:20). The LORD declared that all the people who had seen His many miracles and still tested Him and disobeyed Him would not see the land of Canaan; their bodies would fall in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:22-29). God even declared that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day the spies spent exploring the land (see Numbers 14:34-37); but Joshua and Caleb, the only ones over 20 years old would enter the land (see Numbers 14:38). Then in chapter 15, God gave Israel more rules to govern themselves including offering sacrifices to the LORD, laws concerning treatment of strangers when they would finally entered the Promised Land (see Numbers 15:1-16), and what should happen to Jews who sinned either through ignorance or presumptuously (see Numbers 15:1-31). Then the LORD commanded Moses to have the people put fringes on the border of their robes covered with a blue ribbon to remind them that they belonged to the LORD and they were to be holy and obey Him (see Numbers 15:37-41). But just as soon as the LORD and Moses put down one rebellion (see Numbers 14:1-12), another one arose. Korah, a descendant of Levi along with Dathan and Abiram who were descendants of Rueben led an insurrection against Moses and Aaron, and of course against God seeking to take over the priesthood, and accusing Moses of lying to the people about leading them to the Promised Land (see Numbers 16:1-14). Since these men were questioning Moses’ and Aaron’s role as priests, Moses proposed a way to determine just who God had called to be holy and lead the priesthood (see Numbers 16:3). The next day, Korah and his rebels gathered and followed Moses’ instructions that would settle the issue at hand. This resulted in God telling Moses to separate himself from the rebels because He was going to quickly consume them (see Numbers 16:15-21). But again, Moses interceded for the people as a whole asking God if He was going to destroy all the people over one man’s sin (see Numbers 16:22). This is where our lesson begins.