August 8, 2021 – Numbers 16 – 17

Lesson Date: August 8, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Numbers 16:1-11, 19, 23-24, 29-35, 41-42, 49; 17:8-10

AIM: To lead students to discover some causes and results of rebellion among the ancient Israelites, and to examine themselves for signs of rebellion toward those in authority so they can confess and repent of that sin.


Before class: Read the notes on Numbers 16 – 17 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the words “Rebellion” and “Normal Conversation” on the marker board or chalkboard. If possible, bring a dead stick or a walking cane to class.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the students that people often complain and gripe about things. Complaining seems to be “hard-wired” into our human nature. If a group of co-workers gather in the break room or meet at a restaurant for lunch, the conversation often includes things they don’t like about their working conditions or what they consider to be “unreasonable” demands placed on them by their boss. We all complain more than we should; but if we get real honest, much of our complaining is actually verbal rebellion against those in authority.

Direct the students’ attention to the words written on the board. Tell them you are going to read several statements. After each one you want them to decide if that statement fits in the category of “Normal Conversation,” or if it is actually “Rebellion” toward those in authority. Read the following statements (or some similar ones of your own choosing) to the class:

  • “Did you get the memo about the new policy regarding _____________? I don’t like it.”
  • “Why did ____________ get to take that expensive business trip instead of me? I really wanted to go on that trip.”
  • “Can you believe ____________ got that promotion? He doesn’t deserve it.”
  • “The boss is really getting on my nerves! He’s no better than me; I could do his job as well as he does – probably even better.”
  • “That pastor thinks he’s really something. Why does he think he’s more important than the rest of us?”
  • “What right does the pastor have to tell us what to do? After all, we’re Christians just like he is – God can speak to us, too!”

Tell the students that all of those statements contain an element of rebellion toward someone in authority. Erase the words “Normal Conversation” from the board. Tell the class rebellion toward authority is nothing new; in fact, it has been going on since God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden. The title of today’s lesson is Rebellion! As we study Numbers 16 – 17 we will learn about some serious rebellion in the camp of Israel.



  1. Review.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (costly disobedience; the Israelites listened to the evil report brought by ten of the spies and refused to enter the Promised Land).
    • Ask if anyone would recite last week’s memory verse (Deut. 11:26-28).
  2. Korah’s Rebellion and Moses’ Response.
    • Read Numbers 16:1-4.
    • Tell the class that a Levite named Korah gathered some other prominent men in a rebellion against Moses.
    • Ask: “How many other leading men joined them?” (250).
    • Ask: “What did they say to Moses?” (“You are taking too much authority over the people; all the people are holy and you have no right to lift yourself up and rule over them”).
    • Ask: “How did Moses respond to this attack?” (he fell on his face, presumably praying to God for wisdom and direction).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:5-7.
    • Ask: “What did Moses say God would do the next day?” (show who were His holy men and cause them to come near to Him).
    • Explain that Moses told Korah and all the rest to bring censers and come to the Tabernacle the next day to burn incense before the Lord.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:8-11.
    • Tell the students that Moses spoke to Korah again. In verses 9-10 Moses said Korah disdained his important and privileged position.
    • Ask: “What position was that?” (Korah was a Levite, which meant he had been chosen by God to minister to the priests and serve at the Tabernacle).
    • Explain the following:
      • This privileged position was not good enough for Korah – he wanted to be a priest.
      • Moses said this pride and desire for prominent position was the motivating factor behind Korah’s rebellion.
      • Pride and desire for prominence are still causes for rebellion today.
      • Most church “splits” can be traced back to pride and desire for prominence.
      • In verse 11 Moses made it clear that Korah’s rebellion was a direct attack against Aaron and the special place of leadership God gave him as high priest.
    • Summarize: Korah led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Moses warned Korah that his rebellion against those God placed in authority was dangerous.
  3. Results of Rebellion – Korah and His Family.
    • Explain the following:
      • Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they refused to come.
      • He told Korah and the rest to come the next day to the Tabernacle with incense burning in their censers.
      • Korah and the rest of the rebels came.
    • Read Numbers 16:19.
    • Ask: “What appeared to all the people?” (the glory of the Lord).
    • Read Numbers 16:23-24.
    • Tell the class that at God’s direction Moses told all the Israelites to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:29-30.
    • Ask: “What did Moses say would prove that he was God’s chosen leader and these men were proud, self-serving rebels?” (if the earth opened and swallowed them up).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:31-33.
    • Ask: “What happened?” (the earth opened, swallowing up the men, their households, their tents, and all their possessions).
    • Explain the following:
      • We sometimes hear of a sinkhole suddenly swallowing up a house and those inside.
      • It is a terrifying sight to see a hole where a house once stood.
      • It is even more horrifying to realize that people were in the house.
      • When the earth swallowed up Korah and the others it was a dramatic demonstration of who was on God’s side and who the rebels were!
    • Summarize: The result of Korah’s rebellion was that the earth opened and swallowed up the rebels, their families, and their possessions.
  4. Results of Rebellion – the 250 Men.
    • Read Numbers 16:34-35.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Israelites were justifiably terrified at these events.
      • The 250 men who had joined Korah’s rebellion were still standing at the Tabernacle with their censers.
    • Ask: “What happened to them?” (fire came out from the Lord at the Tabernacle and consumed the 250 men in an instant).
    • Tell the class this was another dramatic demonstration of the high cost of rebellion!
    • Summarize: Another result of Korah’s rebellion was that the 250 men who rebelled with him were suddenly killed by fire from the Lord.
  5. Results of Rebellion – Others Who Murmured Against Moses.
    • Ask: “After these terrible and dramatic judgments upon the rebels, do you think anyone would speak against Moses again?” (surely not).
    • Tell the students we would naturally think that such a vivid and deadly display of God’s power would prevent anyone else from rebelling against His chosen leaders.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:41-42.
    • Tell the class that the very next day the people murmured against Moses and Aaron!
    • Ask: “What did they say?” (“You have killed the people of the Lord”).
    • Explain the following:
      • Even though God was the one who opened the earth and sent forth the fire, the people blamed Moses and Aaron.
      • This murmuring may have started among the surviving family members or friends of those whom God killed.
      • The people gathered at the Tabernacle to speak against Moses and Aaron.
    • Ask: “According to verse 42, what appeared at the Tabernacle?” (the glory of the Lord).
    • Tell the students that God sent a plague among the people. Moses and Aaron interceded to stop the plague.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 16:49.
    • Ask: “How many Israelites died in the plague?” (14,700).
    • Summarize: The day after God killed Korah and the other rebels, the Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron. The result was that God killed 14,700 of them!
  6. God Miraculously Vindicated Aaron’s Position.
    • Explain the following:
      • God wanted to settle the question of Aaron’s authority as priest once and for all, so He arranged a demonstration.
      • He told the leader of each tribe to bring a rod (staff, stick) on which his name was written.
      • Aaron’s rod was among the others.
    • Hold up the stick or walking cane you brought to class. Stress the fact that it is dead and lifeless, just like the rods brought by Aaron and the others.
    • Explain that God said the rod of the man whom He chose to be priest would miraculously blossom.
    • Tell the class they placed all the rods in the Tabernacle overnight.
    • Read Numbers 17:8-10.
    • Ask: “What happened to Aaron’s rod?” (it budded and brought forth ripe almonds).
    • Ask: “Why did God tell Moses to keep Aaron’s rod?” (as a testimony against future rebels).
    • Aaron’s rod was kept in the Ark of the Covenant (Heb. 9:4) for hundreds of years.
    • Summarize: God caused Aaron’s dead rod to miraculously bud and produce fruit to dramatically prove that Aaron was his chosen high priest.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Tell the class God chose Moses to lead the people and Aaron to serve as high priest. Moses and Aaron were people, just like the rest of the Israelites. They weren’t perfect: they had faults and failures of their own (Ex. 1:12; 32:2-6; Num. 12:1-2; 20:8-12), BUT they were the men God chose to lead the people. That didn’t mean the rest of the Israelites were second-class citizens, it just meant Moses and Aaron had special roles in the congregation. They had great authority as leaders, but they also had great responsibilities and expectations placed upon them.

Ask: “What did God expect of the rest of the people?” (He expected them to obediently submit to and follow the leadership of the leaders He placed over the people). The Lord demonstrated that expectation very clearly: when anyone rebelled against Moses and Aaron, He killed them. In this lesson the households and property of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were literally swallowed up by the earth, God killed the 250 men with the censers, and another plague killed 14,700 others. Rebellion toward those God places in authority is a very serious matter!

Tell the students if rebellion toward authority is such a serious matter we need to take a moment to examine ourselves to see if we have any rebellious attitudes toward those in authority over us.

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes. Ask young people if they have a rebellious attitude toward their parents, wives if they are rebellious toward their husbands, students if they are rebellious toward their teachers, employees if they have a rebellious attitude toward their supervisors or employers, and all Christians if they are rebellious toward their pastor, class leaders, and others in authority over them at the church. Encourage everyone to confess and repent of the sin of rebellion right now. Tell them to ask God to help them be good followers. Voice a closing prayer of confession and commitment.


CONCLUSION: Read Hebrews 13:17. Ask everyone to memorize that verse this week. Encourage them to pray for their pastor every day. Tell them to ask God to lead him and to help them to follow him as he leads.

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