Several of the men rise up against Moses and Aaron. God tells them all to meet at the Tent of Meeting and He will straighten this out once and for all. 250 men come with incense offerings the next day. Moses and Aaron beg God to not punish everyone for the sins of those who rose against them. So God has everyone get as far away as possible from the evil men and then has the earth open up and swallow them whole. He then kills the 250 men and has their bronze incense holders hammered out and laid over the altar as a reminder that only chosen ones may offer incense.
The people become angry and rise against Moses and Aaron once again for killing what they thought were righteous people. God strikes them all with a plague and Aaron has to run out with incense to make atonement. He is able to save some, but not all. I am just amazed at Moses and Aaron's response to all of this. They have had a hit on their lives so many times and each time the Israelites screw up and God wants to strike them dead, Moses and Aaron intercede. I cannot even imagine speaking up on someone else' behalf who has betrayed me more times than I can count.. but then again that's what Jesus does for us everyday--epiphany moment!
To put an end to the rebellion once and for all, God has them take a staff from the leader of each tribe. The staffs are placed in the Tabernacle and the one that buds and blooms belongs to the man God has chosen. Of course, Aaron (as leader of the tribe of Levi) is the one who's staff not only blooms but sprouts almonds. I am still a little hesitant to believe that this will shut them up for good... how many amazing and miraculous things have they seen? Food falling from the sky, an entire sea splitting down the middle, water coming from a rock in the middle of the desert, quail coming from nowhere....and STILL they question what God is doing.. I mean come on folks.
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