Welcome to “Korach”, קורח , "Korah " the name of this week’s Torah / Bible study section.
Scriptures are: from the Torah (Law or instructions of God) Numbers 16:1-18:32, [Now Korah the son of Izhar... took action]. From the Prophets: 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22 and from the New Testament, gospel of Luke 18:35-19:28.
"Korach son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, became insolent and rose up against Moses” (Numbers 16:1–2).
In last week’s study section titled “ShelachLecha”, the seeds of rebellion were sown as the Israelites threatened to replace Moses as their leader. So great was their fear of the giants in the Promised Land, and so great was their unbelief that they would be able to overcome those giants, that they wanted to forsake the promises of God and return to Egypt. In this week’s Torah section study, the rebellion continues with the mutiny against Moses’ leadership by a man named Korach (קֹרַח), which means baldness, ice, hail, or frost.
Portion Outline. TORAH:
Numbers 16:1 | Revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
Numbers 17:1 | The Budding of Aaron's Rod
Numbers 18:1 | Responsibility of Priests and Levites
Numbers 18:8 | The Priests' Portion.
1Sa 11:1 | Saul Defeats the Ammonites
1Sa 12:1 | Samuel's Farewell Address.
Korah (korach, קורח) was the name of a prominent Levite. This week’s Torah reading tells the story of how Korah led an unsuccessful rebellion against Moses and Aaron. After thwarting the insurrection, God confirms Aaron in the priesthood and provides additional legislation regarding priestly and Levitical privileges and responsibilities.
A proverb says, "Woe to the wicked, and woe to his neighbour." This applies to Dathan and Abiram, the neighbours of Korah. According to the arrangements for the tribal encampments, the Kohathites and the Reubenites both encamped on the south side of the Tabernacle (Numbers 2:10; 3:29). Dathan and Abiram were neighbours with a contentious man. That is why they were punished with him and were swept from the world. Contention against leadership is contagious, and contentious people work hard to convince their companions to join their cause. Korah's initial grievances against Moses and Aaron had nothing to do with the Reubenites, but through frequent conversation and the subtle manipulation of ideas, Korah was able to draw his neighbours into sedition.
Korah the son of Izhar ... and On the son of Peleth ... (Numbers 16:1). Three chief Reubenites joined with Korah in his rebellion against Moses: Dathan, Abiram and On. Dathan and Abiram met a grim fate for their part in the rebellion; but On was apparently spared. The reason for this according to a Jewish story is Korah's rebellion began at his wife's instigation and complaining to her husband Korah. The wife of On the Reubenite was just the opposite. When she found out that her husband had joined Korah's insurrection against Moses and Aaron, she took him aside and asked, "Why are you getting involved with these Levites? What business is it of yours? You are a student of Moses. The story is just a folk tale, but it has an important lesson about how we influence our spouses and how we allow them to influence us. Proverbs 14:1 says, "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands."
The Abomination of Strife and Division.
God loves peace and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) dwells in peace (shalom). God also hates strife, discord, and division between brothers, calling the one who sows them an abomination: “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: … one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16, 19).
To highlight this sin, the Scripture portion this week is also called the “Machloket” (Strife), since Korach created division, strife, and disaster within the community through his rebellion, discontent, and dirty politics. In fact, the name Korach is derived from Korcha, which means split. With an utter lack of humility, Korach, who was a Levite, rose up against Moses, joining forces with Datan and Aviram, who were from the tribe of Reuben, along with On, son of Pelet, and 250 respected chieftains from the Israelite community. What charge did the rebels have against Moses? They accused him of exalting himself over the community: “They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and Yahweh is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of Yahweh?’” (Numbers 16:3).
In fact, this sin that they accused Moses of was, in reality, their own sin. Though Dathan and Abiram accused Moses of arrogance, he was actually the most humble man on earth. At the burning bush, he had argued with God against his appointment, and he only reluctantly stepped into the role of prophet and redeemer. He regarded himself as nobody special. It was not that Moses had poor self-esteem; he simply had an accurate assessment of his own worth before God. Neither He nor Aaron volunteered for their positions, submitted an application for their jobs or campaigned for their offices. They were simply serving God in the positions to which He had appointed them. Sadly, many are guilty of such self-deception and projection. It is vital to realize that people often unknowingly judge others for the very sins that they themselves are committing or have committed. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same thing” (Romans 2:1). Mat 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Mat 7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Mat 7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Moreover, wicked people do not necessarily realize that their deeds are evil, having internally justified themselves that their way is the right way. Justification should be by the law not by ones interpretation of it. [Rom 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.] This in no way negates the seriousness of that sin, however.
The Genesis of Discord and Strife.
Wisdom calls for discerning the underlying motivation of a brother creating strife before making judgments and issuing condemnations. This is just what Moses did. Moses knew the reason for Korach’s discord, the dark desire that lurked in his heart to exalt himself and the Levitical priesthood to the position God had expressly granted to the Aaronic priesthood. Since God Himself had made the priesthood and outlined the duties of the Levites, they acted in rebellion against the authority of God.
Moses pinpointed the problem when he said, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you?" (Numbers 16:8–10).
Not too long before their rebellion, God chose the Levites to be caretakers of the Holy Tabernacle, the structure and its vessels, as servants to the Aaronic priesthood. While all Levites serve God, Aaron and his descendants held the special appointment of being able to approach the altar to perform sacrifices. The Kohen HaGadol (High Priest) could even enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant stood, a status that would certainly stir some hearts to great envy. Moses pointedly asked the group, “Are you seeking the priesthood also?” The Word of God warns us against this sort of self-aggrandizing ambition as it brings with it great evil. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).
Envy and selfish ambition cause all kinds of trouble in our personal lives, not only at home or at work; but also in congregations and fellowships as those who are neither qualified nor talented for positions God never intended them to occupy nor gave them. Almost everyone today wants and prays to be or is claiming to be a healer, interpreter of or speaker of tongues, an apostle etc. The bible clearly only attributed speaking in tongues to three groups; the 12 “chosen” apostles of Acts 1:2, Cornelius’ of 10:46 as a sign to Peter and his Jewish companions and some of John the Baptist disciples in 19:6, again as a sign. About one percent if that of believers in the bible got gifts and these were for the edifying of God’s church. Today almost everyone is claiming a gift and mainly for their own esteem.
Death and Separation: The Consequence of Strife.
“Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, ‘We will not come up’” (Numbers 16:12). Korach sinned by coveting the more prestigious role of the Aaronic priesthood, rather than that of Levitical servanthood. Unlike Datan and Aviram, he had the courage to confront Moses directly. During this confrontation, Datan and Aviram seemed to remain in their tents. They sinned by rebelling against Moses’ authority over them as God’s divinely appointed leader. When Moses called for them, they replied, “Lohna’aleh (we won’t go up)”. Ironically, those who refused to “go up” to negotiate peace with Moses ended up “going down” to their deaths. The earth swallowed them up (as well as their families and Korach's family) alive. Today, those who fail to obey God’s commandments (inclusive of making peace with fellow believers) and go up, may well spiritually go down. “So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly" (Numbers 16:33). Do not let self appointed prophets, preachers or sorcerers in Christian titles scare or deceive you not to challenge their false teachings. Moses we know was chosen by God. Others cannot necessarily make the same claim, especially being of gentile heritage.
The other 250 in the group, who were offering incense to God and, therefore, elevating themselves to the position of the Aaronic priesthood, were consumed by fire (Numbers 16:35). The firepans on which they were offering incense were pounded into copper plating for the altar, a visible warning for the Levites to stop encroaching on the Tabernacle and assuming the responsibilities of the Aaronic priesthood. It also served as a reminder to the community of Israelites that sowing strife, questioning God's leadership, and exalting themselves to positions of leadership ultimately lead to their own destruction. “A worthless person, a wicked man ... he sows discord. Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy” (Proverbs 6:12–15).
Wisdom and Godly Company: Avoiding the Korachs of Today.
Pointing to the negative example of Korach as a “peddler of hatred,” we should take note not to befriend evil people. That does not mean we cannot witness to them. Proverbs 13:20 counsels that “a companion of fools will suffer harm”. This is one of the main lessons that we may learn from this Torah section.
King Solomon (Melek Shelomo), whose very name comes from the Hebrew word for peace (shalom), advises us to find wisdom, which prevents us from following wicked, devious people: “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways” (Proverbs 2:12–15).
In fact, in this Torah reading, Moses warned the people of Israel to move away from the tents of Korach, Datan, and Aviram lest they be destroyed by God's judgment of their sin, as well: “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins” (Numbers 16:26). Paul confirms this sage advice of King Solomon and the rabbis: “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). 1Co 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 1Co 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. 2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
That is not to say that we should not minister to those who are caught in sin. Yahshua (called Jesus by many) ate with and talked to sinners, social outcasts, tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, beggars, and lepers. He loved them enough to share the Kingdom of God with them and called them to repentance and holiness. He did not, however, allow their sinful desires and behaviour to influence or deter His holy purpose. Yahshua did not allow any outside influence to taint the holiness of His calling. When Paul said he became all things to everyone, he did not become a sinner to win a sinner!!
Likewise, we should not allow strife, jealousy, self-aggrandizement, or any other sin to taint our calling as royal children of the Most High King. Just because others who think they are believers treat us bad or does not talk to us, it does not mean we have to reciprocate. Follow God’s directives not theirs. As to desiring and praying for gifts, rather than being jealous of the power, prestige, position, or possessions of others, let us be content with what God has given us and strive to LIVE every day and moment as He commanded. That is hard enough and the best gift to yourself and God if achieved! “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
Moreover, Yahshua said, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). With God as our Father and Friend, we can trust Him to meet our social, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. “Meet” does not mean take away the condition; but give us the strength to go through it. Look at the Paralympic participants. Our Father does not give us more than we can bear and also gives us a way out.
The Strife Among God’s People Today.
“When you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king” (1 Samuel 12:12).
Sadly, strife and questioning God's appointed leadership did not end with this incident in the wilderness. In the Promised Land, God gave the Israelites judges and prophets; but they continuously rebelled against them. For instance, in the prophetic reading of this “Korach” study, we find that God answered the Israelite's request for a king by appointing Saul, and yet the people questioned Saul's fitness for the job (1 Samuel 11:14–12:22). In doing so, they also questioned the authority of the prophet Samuel, who at their request went to God with their demand for a king. Samuel defended his authority by saying, "Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes?" (1 Samuel 12:3).
Likewise, Moses defended his conduct as an honourable leader, saying to God in the presence of his accusers, "I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them" (Numbers 16:15). When the people admit that Samuel had never defrauded them, Samuel outlines how God had faithfully delivered them from their enemies without the aid of a king. Samuel then provides a sign of his authority, confirming that the choice of Saul as king is ordained by God. That sign is unseasonable rain during the dry season: “Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:17).
So Yahweh confirmed His displeasure with the people by sending thunder and rain on what should have been a joyous feast day. When the people repent and ask Samuel to pray, he tells them how to avoid God's wrath:
“Fear Yahweh and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (1 Samuel 12:24–25). Still, strife did not end with this incident. The Jewish historian, Josephus, recorded that the Jews of his time “fought with each other, doing everything their besiegers could have desired.”
At the time of the invasion of Jerusalem in AD 70, Titus and his Roman warriors found no less than 24 different factions fighting amongst themselves, each convinced that only they had the right way to ensure the salvation of the Jewish People. In fact, the destruction of the Second Temple is linked to sinatchinam (baseless hatred) between opposing factions. Today, the Jewish People still struggle with division and strife. In Israel, animosity and contention rise up between various movements of Judaism: Ultra-Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular, and even Messianic. In the western world, it is the same among the Christian denominations. (Other faiths also have the same internal divisions).
All this discord and friction in the Jewish and Christian communities exists despite being a people who share a common history, heritage, scriptures and who worship the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Christian Church is also plagued with many thousands of splits and denominational divisions, each once convinced that they have the truth while all others are in error; but is it the truth they seek or a following, riches and fame?
Strife and division result in splits. A quarrel-ridden congregation or home is doomed to destruction. How can it be otherwise since a house divided upon itself will not stand? (Mark 3:25; Matthew 12:25). Having said that, God’s church had divisions with the enemy creeping in like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We only have to look at Elijah and Ahab with Jezebel.
Choose Humility: A Solution to Strife.
The truth of the matter is that Moses did not exalt himself over Korach and the others; it is God who raised him up into the position of leading Israel out of Egypt. It was not his own desire to be the leader of Israel; rather, he was a leader of Israel as an act of obedience to Yahweh. He was not in that position due to self-aggrandizing ambition or a desire to rule over others. Even in that exalted position, Moses was called the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3), and we are told to humble ourselves as well. Walking in humility is being willing to walk in obedience to our calling, whether God is requiring us to wash dishes, serve in a position of leadership, wash dishes while in a position of leadership or even simply be a good wife supporting a ministering husband or other church member allowing them time to serve.
It also means allowing God to exalt us in His perfect way and time, not to exalt ourselves out of jealousy or discontentment, but to be content in our status today (1 Peter 5:6). This does not mean we are not to question or challenge pastors today. Many have put themselves in that position. Unlike our biblical record, there is no proof God has called them. So those in pastoring positions today who teach they should not be questioned or to be followed blindly, I think are wrong to put themselves in the same position as Moses etc. I am not advocating unjustified questioning of leaders, nor that such questioning should be in public. Congregational rebellions often start in small study groups, special project committees, or volunteer crews where a single, discontent laymen can publish his gripe against the leadership and raise sympathizers. Let us remember the purpose of God, to bring all to the true knowledge of Him and His requirements. There is always going to be difference of opinion between two people on some things. If both or all are focused on learning the truth and being of benefit to God’s plan, they would stay together and bring the truth to light. It is always about God and saving His children not us. Many individuals work hard to set up a sincere study group only to have a self focused person hinder its growth. Unknown to Korath, Moses was willing to give his life to save Israel from God’s wrath in Exodus 32. He was not leading for fame or reward; but genuine concern to save people at his expense. Are others who challenge willing to do the same? Give up their livelihood and live as John the Baptist or because they want congregation funds to live an easier life or the respect of others? Only when a man utterly subjects his own will to God and says, "Not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39), is God able to inhabit him, work through him and ultimately exalt him. Such a person was Moses, the most humble man of his generation. He was willing to bear the sins of the people as God also chose Aaron (Ex 32:32, Num 18:1). True servants of God, do what they do to save souls.
Choose Gentleness: Another Solution to Strife.
In addition to contentment and humility, we are not to seek a showdown or create a power-struggle; we are to seek harmony and peace, allowing God to judge between people. This judgement could be via comparison of their use of the bible scriptures. Is it precept upon precept and line upon line or a lot of the preachers charismatic talking based on one or two scriptures? For every five minute of their words how many scriptures are actually read out, not paraphrased, referred to or explained? We can be deceived by their explanation more than by the actual quoting of the scripture. Next time you are listening to a sermon or youtube video, take note.
The Bible tells us that “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). We must remember also that we all see through the glass of God’s mysteries dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). One day, though, when all truth is revealed at the Second Coming of the Messiah, it may be effortless to live in a world without strife or division while our Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. Until then, we must make a concerted effort to walk in holiness and unity because this is where the anointing is. May we all learn to walk in greater humility, contentment, and gentleness towards all God’s people and seekers. May God bring unity and peace between brethren of His Word, as it is written, “Hineimah tov umahna’yim; shevetachim gam yachad (Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity)” (Psalm 133:1).
Scriptures to Note.
Num 16:5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS, ALL OF THE APPROXIMATE 613 THAT APPLY TO AN INDIVIDUAL, MAKES ONE HOLY Num 15:40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
Deu28:9 The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways.
Num 16:26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. CHECK IF YOUR DENOMINATION KEEPS AND TEACHES THE keeping of ALL GOD’S COMMANDMENTS. IF NOT YOU MAY BE PART OF AN UNHOLY THING. (See at least Ex 20 – 24:7).
Num 16:49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. Num 16:50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.
Num 18:1 And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. Num 18:2 And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness. BY THIS TABERNACLE AN INDIVIDUAL’S BREACH OF EXODUS 20 -24:7 IS JUDGED (see Ex 24:12 – 31:18).
1Sa 12:10 And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. Israel was in bondage in Egypt, a place and manner they did not want to be. God delivered them to serve Him. Yet when delivered they did not. Today, we ask to be delivered and say we will serve Him; but do we serve Him or ourselves, denomination or pastor? To serve Him is to keep His laws not those of traditions or denomination.
Luk 18:40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Luk 18:41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
Luk 18:42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. Luk 18:43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
His faith did not “heal” him; but “saved” him. Yet it is too long a topic to go into here that this was not eternal salvation saving. [Joh 5:14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee]. The blind man did not know Yahshua or that He was the promised Messiah. His healing was so, as one who did not know, he would come to know Yahshua and praise GOD. Today, many who already claim to know and believe in God still use healing as a sign.
Luk 19:9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Luk 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Mat 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Mat 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
SHALOM and happy studying.