One of the most horrifying events in the Bible was the destruction of Korah and his followers when they rebelled against Moses. However, as I’ve been reading through Numbers, I wondered, “How did Korah die?”

The events of Korah’s rebellion are found in Numbers 16 if you want to read about it. However, I will try covering all of the verses that discuss or suggest Korah’s death. 

You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!” (emphasis added)

Numbers 16:6-7 (NIV)

In these two verses, Moses is talking to Korah. This verse indicates that Korah will gather with his 250 followers and present censers to the Lord.

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Numbers 16:16-18 (NIV)

Again, Moses is talking to Korah, and again, in these verses, Korah is to present a censer with his 250 followers to the Lord. Indeed, verse 18 tells us Korah and “each of them…put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting.”

19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

Numbers 16:19-20 (NIV)

Verse 19 tells us Korah and all his followers were at the entrance to the tent of meeting (with their censers). Then, in verse 20, the Lord shows up and is going to destroy everyone in the assembly. However, Moses and Aaron plea to Lord to refrain from killing everyone (cf. Numbers 16:21). 

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'”

Numbers 16:23-24 (NIV)

The Lord listens to Moses and Aaron and tells everyone to get away from Korah’s, Dathan’s, and Abiram’s tents. 

And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions (emphasis added).

Numbers 16:32 (NIV)

Verse 32 tells us that “all those associated with Korah,” along with their stuff, were swallowed by the earth. It doesn’t say Korah was part of that. 

And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

Numbers 16:35 (NIV)

Verse 35 tells us the fire consumed the 250 men but doesn’t mention Korah. However…

As the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers (emphasis added).

Numbers 16:40 (NIV)

Eleazar collected the censers from those who had been burned to death in Numbers 16:39, and verse 40 tells us this was to remind the people of what happened to “Korah and his followers.” Numbers 16 ends with Aaron stopping the plague that killed 14,700 people, and we don’t hear about Korah again until Numbers 26.

The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign.

Numbers 26:10 (NIV)

Numbers 26:10 tells us Korah was swallowed up by the earth. However, the Samaritan Pentateuch gives us this translation of Numbers 26:10

And the earth swallowed them up, what time that company died; and the fire devoured Korah with the two hundred and fifty men, who became a sign.

Numbers 26:10 (SPE)

Outside of Numbers, Korah isn’t mentioned in the number of those swallowed by the earth.

And what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them.

Deuteronomy 11:6 (NIV)

The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan; it buried the company of Abiram. Fire blazed among their followers; a flame consumed the wicked.

Psalm 106:17-18 (NIV)

So, was Korah swallowed up by the earth, or was he burned to death? 

I think he was swallowed up by the earth because most Bibles indicate that’s how he died in Numbers 26:10. Still, the most critical takeaway from Korah’s Rebellion isn’t how he died. It’s that rebellion against God will always end badly for those involved.