Alright! This is some Old Testament stuff now. People getting nasty with Aaron & Moses. Moses saying, “Okay, okay. Tell you what, why don’t you guys get some incense, stand in front of the Lord, and we’ll see who he picks.” Then a couple of Reubenites–everyone else was a Levite–are all like, “Don’t tell me what to do. We’ll stay right here.”
Result: incense dudes are burned up from fire from heaven, and the ground opens up and swallows the other guys and all of their families. (P.S. YHWH again suggests to Moses that he just kill the whole lot of them, but again Moses says that is not fair.)
Then, the people get mad at Moses for killing all these people–seems like they do not learn well–and so they all right their names on a staff and God makes flowers grow out of his chosen one’s: Aaron’s.
We often talk about the Tower of Babel as the anti-Pentecost. But, really this passage is the anti-Pentecost. This passage is all about how the presence of God is made known only in the extraordinary. And, in fact, it is dangerous to expose it to the ordinary. Pentecost, with gentle flames, will reverse that and make the Spirit ordinary.
I actually think this is a pretty rich story worthy of exploration.
Interesting Note: Num. 16:1 seems to claim that Korah–one of the rebels–is the great grandson of Levi. Not possible since Levi was a son of Jacob who went to Egypt 430 years prior to the exodus.