Korah and his supporters had decided to take the priesthood for themselves although God had specified that Aaron and his sons were to be the priests. Hebrews 5:1-3 describes the importance of the priest’s job. “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”
The priest’s job resembled the foreman or crew chief’s job, in that he works directly with the workers and deals with their day to day problems as one of them , while representing the management. To be effective he needs to be skilled at the work to be done himself. Since he represents the management, he is chosen by management. It cannot just be left to whoever decides they want the job. Since the priest represents God, he must be chosen by God. Hebrews 5:4 states, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”
When one of the employees decides he’ll run things his own way, it causes confusion as to who is in charge and what is to be done, and can throw the entire project into disarray. The rebellious employee and his cohorts may be either reprimanded or fired. God executed Korah and his supporters. God will reaffirm who is actually the priest.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.
And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.” (Numbers 17:1-5)
The leaders of each tribe were to take a tree limb and write their name on it. Aaron’s name was to be the name on the stick representing the tribe of Levi. They were then to place them in the tabernacle overnight, and God would demonstrate who he had chosen by causing that man’s rod to bloom overnight, taking away any claims that Aaron or Moses were just pretending to be called of God.
“And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.” (Numbers 17:6-9)
Most nut trees produce the blossoms in early spring, followed by leaves and finally, several months later, produce nuts. Aaron’s almond branch produced buds, and had blossoms, leaves and almonds all at the same time. There was no possible way Moses and Aaron could have faked this, even by grafting on branches from other trees. Clearly, only God could cause such a departure from the normal. None of the other sticks produced even a bud overnight.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.
And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.” (Numbers 17:10-11)
Aarons stick was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, alongside the record of God’s covenant with Israel, as a reminder any time they should consider rebelling against letting Aaron serve as priest, to prevent more people dying like Korah and his followers.
“And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?” (Numbers 17:12-13)
Three thousand were killed as a result of the sacrifices to the golden calf. No record is made of the number who died from the fire when they complained or from the plague after their demand for meat in Numbers 11. The spies who spoke against entering the land died of another plague, and there is no record how many may have been killed when they tried to go into the land after being told to turn back, but almost fifteen thousand died as a result of Korah’s rebellion and the people’s complaining about God’s judgment. Finally, they began to understand that God wouldn’t just let them do as they pleased.
Like some today, they began to feel there just wasn’t anything but suffering and death to look forward to if they served God.