Korach (Korah)

Parasha KORACH – Num.16:1 to 18: 32   1Sam. 11:1-14;  Acts 5: 1-11

“16 Sometime later, a discontented contingent challenged Moses. Korah (Izhar’s son, Kohath’s grandson, and Levi’s great-grandson) together with the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram (Eliab’s sons) and On (Peleth’s son) gathered another 250 Israelite men, all of them respectable members of the community, some even chosen leaders, and confronted Moses.

Korah and His Men (to Moses and Aaron): You’ve taken this leadership way too far. We are all holy; indeed each individual is holy to our God. The Eternal One is present among the entire congregation. How can you presume to be better than any of us, the Eternal’s chosen community?” (16:1-3 VOICE) Something very ugly was brewing that was rooted in a spirit of rebellion.

This entire parashah is devoted to one incident about a leader among the Israelites and Levite named Korah who incited a rebellion. The length of focus on this one event immediately signals a red light – beware of something that God hates above anything else because it invariably results in disastrous consequences: Rebellion. This can be traced as far back from Lucifer’s rebellion against God, to the Garden of Eden and through time to the present,  packaged in multiple different disguises. And lest we point fingers quickly at others let’s not forget how rebellion has reached epidemic proportions within society and even within the Church today. Godly principles have been abandoned and replaced with ones that are politically correct over and above those that are biblically correct. 

Rebellion is a stark betrayal against God and a bitter pill to swallow. Scripture defines it as compared to the sin of witchcraft (1Sam 15:23). The book of Jude refers to Korah’s rebellion also in the strongest terms describing them as “…waterless clouds carried along by the winds; trees without fruit even in autumn, and doubly dead because they have been uprooted;” (v12). 

It was an act directly against God via Moses who was His humble servant and mouthpiece. 

Betrayal is the most agonising when originating from those closest to you. Moses could have defended himself against the complaints of His people but instead “…when (he) heard their complaint, he collapsed to the ground, (wept before the Lord) again hoping to divert God’s anger.” (Ch.16:4) 

Something very precious about the character of Moses is revealed here. Even at this point, Moses’ prime concern was their welfare above his own. Yeshua understood this principle well; it is a sign of a great leader and of true godliness. And so He warned His disciples from early in His ministry how to respond to these kinds of situations. “…blessed are you, blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward.”  Matt. 5:11-12

Now Korah and the Reubenites plus an additional 250 respected leaders within the community united together against Moses motivated by false grievances inspired by pride and the lust for power. Moses response revealed his clear understanding of the ulterior motives behind their indignant facade: “10 The Eternal has granted you this privilege, Korah, you and all your fraternity of Levites. Yet you want the whole priesthood too? You should be ashamed. 11 This has led you to band together against the Eternal.

Korah fell for one of Satan’s favourite deceptions, half truths, one of his most noteworthy trade marks. The Israelites were holy unto God and as a Levite, Korah had been set apart for service in the Tabernacle, the highest privilege among the different Levitical clans. If that was not enough, they were now wanting to take over the entire rulership of Israel and contested God’s commissioning of Moses.   

Moses could have defended himself but wisely allowed God to be the judge. He commanded Korah and his accusers to gather at the entrance of the Tabernacle the next day where things would be decided (Num.16:4–7). Korah arrogantly refused because he was not interested in discovering the mind of God but in only pursuing his own personal agenda replying to Moses, “Forget it. We are not going to come running at your bidding. 13 You took us out of a place that was so rich—Egypt, flowing with milk and honey—in order to let us die in this desert wasteland, and now you’re actually trying to assert yourself as our ruler. 14 You haven’t brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey or delivered on your promise of fields and vineyards to call our own. What else will you do? Are you going to pluck out the eyes of these 250 men now? There’s no way we’re coming to you.”

Notwithstanding, the next morning Korah and those who stood with him conducted their priestly duties as though nothing had happened and brought their incense offering at the entrance to the Tabernacle alongside Moses. It is amazing how their anger and pride fuelling their rebellion, blinded them to believing that their religious actions would actually camouflage their false spirituality from the eyes of God.

Korah’s apostasy had reached a climax and Moses now issued them with a terrifying announcement: “29 If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, (Heb: Sheol,) then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.” (Num.16:29–30)

Even as Moses was speaking the earth opened up, “…and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. ”

Nothing like this had ever happened before particularly those who served as priests in the Tabernacle. Not surprisingly, all the Israelite camp panicked but what was incredible was how shortly afterwards they rallied against Moses, now accusing him of being a murderer of good men! (16:41). Again, God immediately intervened to strike them with a plague – a common biblical form for Divine judgement. The people had been blinded once again by false logic and half truths. 

Despite all of these things, Moses displayed a heart of forgiveness instead of taking offence or harbouring a grudge, and directed Aaron to pray to God for mercy, and the plague was stopped – but only after 14,700 had already died: (ch.16:45-50)

The bronze censers that had been used by Korah were retrieved and used as an overlay for the alter of incense as a reminder of the prayers of the righteous and prophetically of the prayers of Yeshua who intercedes continually on our behalf. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. Yeshua paid our penalty for sin, and offers us life in place of death:  (Heb. 7)

The special incense in the bronze censers were salted, speaking symbolically of our lips which are sanctified by the coals of this altar0, and it reminds us of guarding against careless speech or slander illustrated with the tragic story Korah.

Moses now placed the staff of each tribal chief, including Aaron’s staff who was from the tribe of Levi, in the Tabernacle for the purpose to put an end to the murmurings of the Israelites: “ …the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. 3 And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. 4 Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.” (ch. 27: 1-5)

Let’s beware of the lust for power, selfishness, and greed because it is these things that give birth to rebellion leading to destruction. Despite everything, there remained a godly element among Korah’s descendants who became psalmists (Ps.42-40; 84-95; 87-88) and served God in the Temple, of whom the prophet Samuel was among his descendants.

Raphael ben Levi