Relationships – Korah’s Rebellion

These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived 137 years.
The sons of Gershon, by clans, were Libni and Shimei.
The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years.
The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi.
These were the clans of Levi according to their records.
Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years.
The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg and Zikri.
It was this Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, “Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.” They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing the Israelites out of Egypt—this same Moses and Aaron.

  • Exodus 6:16-21, 26-27

Korah 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. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 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!”
Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”
Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 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.” 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. 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. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
Then the Lord said to Moses, Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”
And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy—the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”
So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 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.
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

  • Numbers 16:1-50

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

  • Numbers 20:6-13

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

  • Jude 1:11

A Quote

[Numbers 16:1-18:32] In 16:1-40, Korah (a Levite), allied with some Reubenites and other leaders of Israel, instigated an organized opposition to the authority of Aaron and the priests. Their argument against Moses and Aaron was that by claiming the unique right and responsibility to represent the people before God, they took ‘too much upon themselves’ based on the promise that ‘all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them’ (16:3). The Lord dealt with these rebels (16:4-40) and reaffirmed His choice of Aaron (16:41-17:13). Finally, the Lord restated the duties and support of both the priests and Levites (18:1-32). These events took place at some unidentified place and time during Israel’s wilderness wanderings.”

  • John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

First, what relationship?  Moses and Korah were both Levites.  Both men were descendants of Levi’s second son, Kohath.  Moses and Aaron were sons of Amram, Kohath’s oldest, while Korah was a descendant of Kohath’s second oldest.  Thus, they were first cousins.  Yet, Korah did not act alone.  There were 250 leaders, notably from the tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s first son.

But really, this is a challenge made by some of those tribal leaders against God Himself.  The Scripture quoted above that shows the genealogy of Moses, Aaron, and Korah shows that God specifically chose Moses and Aaron.  Of course, the accepted author of the first five books of the Bible is Moses, so maybe Korah objected to the passage in Exodus 6 also.

Whether Korah and his rebels were misquoting Leviticus 10:3 or not, this becomes the second instance of testing people as “holy” by bringing forth incense before the Lord.  But Leviticus 10 is talking about being worshipful before a holy God, not making light of anything – not that mankind can declare themselves holy and then walk right into God’s presence.

And once fire consumes the 250 princes of Israel, the people blame Moses and Aaron and are ready to attack.  A plague breaks out, that only Moses seems to notice and quickly Moses has Aaron burn incense.  The plague claims 14,700.  With the previous death toll, that is nearly 15,000 Israelites dying because they could not recognize that it was God in control.

But before we forever curse Korah, the tribe of Korah produced musicians.  There are eleven of the psalms that are attributed to the sons of Korah.  If Korah’s avarice had not gotten too much for him, he may have gone down as the father of worship music.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

Let’s place this event in context and infer what the people’s mindset might have been.  The people had rejected the promise of God that they could conquer the Promised Land after ten of the twelve spies spoke of giants and fortified cities.  Then God told them to wander until that generation was all dead.  So, without God’s support, they attacked the people of the Promised Land and were defeated.  Then, while licking their wounds, a man was gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and he was stoned for breaking the Sabbath.

Immediately after this rebellion, Aaron’s staff budded, establishing him as the true chief priest.  But then shortly afterward, Moses strikes his staff against the rock, frustrated with the people of Israel.  In Korah’s rebellion, Moses kept his cool and let God decide, coolly, calmly.  Then he not only loses his cool at Meribah, but he makes it sound like he and Aaron instead of God were in control.

And that was the whole concept of the rebellion.  Korah, who wanted to be a priest, thought anyone could follow a few rules and be holy.  Here Moses and Aaron, in Korah’s viewpoint, had simply asserted themselves into leadership.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

There are a lot of gaps to be filled.  Among the Levites, Moses and Aaron were descendants of the second oldest son of Levi, but there are many instances where God chose the one that was eventually faithful to Him instead of the firstborn.  The firstborn concept might not apply to Korah, but to the sons of Reuben, that might be the case.  While God did not seem to play that game of the first-born son, it was important among the generations that are chronicled in the Bible.

There is a decided communication gap in the idea of who is in charge.  God is in charge, but God’s chosen people do not seem to understand.  They only drop to their knees after God’s anger is at a zenith against them.  How many within the crowd still think that Moses and Aaron were orchestrating the events rather than interceding before God to save a rebellious nation?

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

We do not see the cloud of smoke or the pillar of fire.  We believe in an unseen God.  When something happens miraculous, do we praise God, or do we praise the person that is raising his hands and praying?

Can we ever be holy?  We cannot.  Only God is holy, but we must be reverent in God’s presence.

Korah and his followers thought they were already holy, simply as a birthright.  They coveted the honor and praise afforded Moses and Aaron.  They blame Moses, Aaron, and by extension God Himself for the wandering in the wilderness.  They were at fault, but then, they thought themselves holy.  Thus, they could never be at fault, so, God must have gotten that one wrong.

Now we do not rebel against Moses and Aaron, thinking we are holy, but we rebel against God and often rebel against the church.  Who are we to rebel in such a manner?  Well, we may not think ourselves to be holy, but we might think we are no more unholy than those who are making the decisions in the church.  You know, considering God’s sovereignty, we rebel against those that God allowed to be in those positions, for better or for worse.

As for our relationships with each other, there are cousins in the photograph above, the children of three siblings. What happens when one inherits nearly everything, not that any of those pictured inherited hardly anything, or when one gets all the press clippings while the others are ignored? Jealousy can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

What Have We Learned thus far?

In shifting this section a bit, we have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.

A Closing Prayer

Like last week, thank You for being Holy, that attribute that we can never reach while in this earthly body.  You are indeed perfect in every way, and we do not measure up.  Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus so that as we take this journey of faith, we can grow to be more like Jesus.  And part of that being more like Jesus is that we need to be serious when it comes to our journey of faith and our relationship with You.  It is indeed a life and death matter.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Good lessons you have here on a very sobering chapter

    Liked by 1 person

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