Meanwhile, Korah had convinced the rest of the Israelites to rebel against their two leaders.
When that happened, the LORD appeared in all his glory and said to Moses and Aaron, “Get away from the rest of the Israelites so I can kill them right now!”
But the two men bowed down and prayed, “Our God, you gave these people life. Why would you punish everyone here when only one man has sinned?”
The LORD answered Moses, “Tell the people to stay away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”
Moses walked over to Dathan and Abiram, and the other leaders of Israel followed. Then Moses warned the people, “Get away from the tents of these sinful men! Don’t touch anything that belongs to them or you’ll be wiped out.” So everyone moved away from those tents, except Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families. (Numbers 16:19-27)
God’s judgment is selective. He sorts things out before he strikes. He never just “kills them all.” Korah, who was a Levite and therefore a relative of Moses and Aaron, along with Dathan and Abiram, who were part of the tribe of Reuben, and about two hundred fifty other community leaders, had decided that Moses and Aaron did not deserve their places of authority. They were convinced that Moses and Aaron had failed. They looked back to Egypt as a “land flowing with milk and honey” and pointed out that they had yet to reach the Promised Land. Instead, they were stuck in a desert where they believed they were just going to die.
The opponents of Moses and Aaron did not believe that God could or would take care of them. They did not believe that Moses and Aaron were God’s representatives.
Moses and Aaron begged God to limit his judgment to just those who had sinned. God listened. Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families were swallowed up by the earth—and fire came out from God and consumed the other two hundred fifty community leaders that had joined the rebellion. The rain may fall on the just and the unjust. But fire only falls on those who deserve it.