Numbers 16:1-11 Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On took men of 250 chiefs and went up against Moses and Aaron to challenge their authority. Moses warned that in the morning, the Lord Himself will show who is holy. Moses instructed the men to put fire in censers with incense before the Lord the next morning when the Lord will choose. Moses warned the sons of Levi that God chose Aaron and his sons be the priests and their grumbling is useless.
Notes: Korah desired to be a priest.
Numbers 16:12-15 The sons of Eliab blamed Moses for taking them out of wonderful Egypt to die in the Wilderness. Moses was very angry and asked the Lord not to receive their offering and said that he harmed none of them.
Numbers 16:16-24 Moses then said to the sons of Korah (of the tribe of Levi) to bring their censers (including Aaron) and stand before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to step aside so that He might kill them. They were fearful and pleaded with the Lord not to punish them. The Lord instructed everyone to remove themselves from where Korah, Dathan, and Abiram dwelt.
Notes: The 250 men taking the censers was something only a priest was allowed to do. The Lord will judge whether they are authorized to do this.
Numbers 16:25-35 The whole congregation removed themselves from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. These three men and their family stood at the door of their tents. Moses said to the congregation that they will now know for sure that the Lord chose Moses to be their leader when the ground swallows them up, which immediately happened when Moses stopped speaking. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with all their belongings were swallowed up by the earth, and the earth closed back up. The congregation fled in fear as the Lord consumed the 250 men offering the incense.
Notes: Numbers 26:11 indicates that this did not include their children.
Numbers 16:36-40 The Lord instructed Eleazar to gather the 250 censers and scatter the fire far and wide for they were now made holy. The censers were to be hammered into plates as a covering for the altar and be a sign to the people that He has chosen Aaron and his descendants for the priesthood.
Notes: The covering on the altar also served as a reminder that no outsider … should draw near to burn incense.
Numbers 16:41-50 The next day, the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron blaming them for the death of the people the day before. As they spoke, the Lord appeared and threatened to consume the congregation. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. Moses instructed Aaron to fill his censer with fire from the altar, put incense in it, and bring it to the congregation to make atonement for the people, for Moses has seen the wrath released from the Lord that started causing a plague against the people. When Aaron did what Moses instructed and stood between the Lord and the people, the plague stopped, but not before 14,700 people died.
Notes: Incense was symbolic of prayer. Aaron interceded in prayer and the plague stopped by using the incense. The fact that it worked proved that Aaron and his descendants were chosen to be priests.