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Punishing the Israelites

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. They brought him to Moses and Aaron, who ordered him to be put in a place of confinement until the will of the Lord should be made known. The Lord said to Moses: "The man shall be put to death. All the people shall stone him to death with stones outside the camp." And so they stoned him, to death for disobeying the word of the Lord and breaking the Sabbath day.

Now there were three men Korah, Dathan, and Abiram who persuaded two hundred and fifty others to join them in a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. They went to Moses and said: "You and Aaron take too much upon yourselves; there are many others in this camp as good as you; why do you lift yourself above all the congregation of Israel?"

When Moses heard this and saw the men in rebellion against him and Aaron, he was overcome with distress and bowed himself to the ground. Now Korah was one of the tribe of Levi and was one of those who waited on the priests of the tabernacle. He wanted to be a priest himself and wanted someone besides Moses to be the ruler of the people.

Moses told the men who had come to him that each one of them should take a censer and burn incense in it on the next day and Aaron should do likewise. They were all to come to him with their censers burning and the Lord would show them who was to be the high priest.

The next day came Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and the two hundred and fifty men with their censers burning with incense, and Aaron came also with his censer. They stood before the door of the tabernacle for the Lord to choose which should be the high priest, and all the people stood near.

The Lord then said to Moses and Aaron: "Separate yourselves from these men that I may consume them in a moment. And tell all the people to separate themselves from Korah and his men." And Moses and Aaron and all the people of Israel did as the Lord commanded. Then Moses told the people that if the ground should open and swallow up these men they would know that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram had offended the Lord.

Hardly had Moses and Aaron and all the people separated themselves from the wicked men, when the ground opened and swallowed them up with all their tents and goods and everything that was theirs. Seeing the earth open the people fled with a great cry saying: "Lest the earth swallow us up also."

Then there came a fire from the Lord that consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. When the people of Israel saw these men destroyed by fire they murmured against Moses, saying: "These were good men and meant no harm. You have killed the people of the Lord."

Again was the anger of the Lord kindled against the people of Israel for their murmurings and he sent a great plague among them, and many began to die. Then Moses told Aaron: "Take a censer and put fire from the altar in it, and go quickly among the people and make an atonement for their sins."

Aaron did as Moses told him, and with his censer stood between the living and the dead, and prayed the Lord to stop the plague. The Lord heard the prayer of his servants and the plague ceased, but not before nearly fifteen thousand had died.

The Lord then told Moses to make each head of a tribe bring a rod, and every man who brought a rod was to have his name written on it. Aaron's name was to be written upon the rod of the tribe of Levi. Moses was to take those rods and lay them before the ark and let them stay there all night. God said: "The rod of the man whom I shall choose shall blossom." In this way the people of Israel were to know whom the Lord wanted for His high priest.

The people did as Moses said and every tribe sent a rod. Moses wrote the names of the princes or leaders upon the rods and laid them before the ark in the tabernacle and left them there all night. The next morning he went to look for them and behold, the rod of Aaron had budded, and grown blossoms, and borne almonds in the night.

Moses then brought all the rods before the people of Israel so that each man might take his rod. When the princes saw that the rod of Aaron had grown blossoms and borne almonds they knew that the Lord had chosen him to be high priest. God ordered Moses to take Aaron's rod and put it again in the tabernacle and keep it there so that the children of Israel might always know that Aaron and his sons were to be priests of the tabernacle.

The children of Israel continued on their journey and came to the desert of Zin. Here Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, died and was buried. There was no water for the people and they gathered together and complained to Moses: "Why have you brought us into this wilderness that we and our cattle should die? Why have you made us come out of Egypt into this evil place? Here there are no figs, or vines, or pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink."

Moses and Aaron left the complaining multitude and went into the tabernacle and fell upon the ground, and prayed that God should tell them what to do. The Lord said to Moses: "Take your rod and gather all the people together and speak to the rock which is before the people, and it shall gush forth with water so that all the children of Israel and their cattle shall drink."

Then Moses and Aaron called all the people together before the rock and said to them: "Hear now, ye rebels! must we bring you water out of this rock?" And the thirsty people watched him with great eagerness. Moses lifted his hand and smote the rock twice and the water came out abundantly, and all the people drank and their cattle also.

In their journeyings the children of Israel came to Mount Hor. Here the Lord told Moses and Aaron that Aaron should not enter into the promised land but should die in the wilderness. He then told Moses to bring Aaron and Eleazor his son up into Mount Hor. After they had ascended the mountain the Lord told Moses to strip the garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazor his son. And Moses did as the Lord had directed him to do. Then Aaron died upon the top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazor left him there. They then came down the mountain, and told the people that Aaron was dead. When the people heard this they mourned for Aaron for thirty days.