This week’s parasha is entitled Korach, which covers Numbers 16 -18 it is named after the man who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The name Korach means “to be made smooth or bald”. At some point during Israel’s desert wanderings, Korah, a Levite, together with Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, began to lead an uprising against Moses. They recruited 250 of the top leaders of Israel as collaborators. The tribal affiliations of the three co-conspirators shows that this was a rebellion against both the religious and political leadership of Moses and the High priesthood of Aaron.
They alleged that Moses and Aaron were wrongfully setting themselves over all the people. They claimed that, because Israel was Adonai’s covenant community, all of them were equally holy and eligible for leadership. Israel was a holy nation to God. The same is true of Messiah’s holy community today: but some of us have been given spiritual gifts and spiritual offices for the work of the ministry. We are encouraged to “desire spiritual gifts, but we are commanded not to covet another man’s spiritual office.
What these rebels conveniently forgot was that it was Adonai Himself who had appointed Moses and Aaron to their offices. And remember, this was an office that Moses was reluctant to enter.
The Kohathites were encamped on the same side of the Tabernacle as were the Reubenites, perhaps this gave Korah an opportunity of drawing in the other participants.
There is a saying, “Woe to the wicked man and woe to his neighbor, who is in danger of being infected by him.” Korah was the ring-leader of this rebellion: What’s remarkable is that he was also cousin to Moses and Aaron. Despite being family, the nearness of the relation could not restrain Korah from being insolent and rude to Moses. Moses was the prophet, of God. Yet Yeshua taught us that no prophet is accepted or honored in his own hometown.
Moses fell on his face before the Lord. Moses didn’t attempt to debate with Korah or his group, nor try to change their minds, because he knew their aim was to seize control of the priesthood, and also that Adonai would never permit it. Instead, Moses proposed a simple test: to prove if Korah and his men were indeed acceptable as priests to God, they were to bring their censers and burn incense at the Tabernacle, and see if Adonai would accept them. If only these rebels had learned from what had happened to Nadab and Abihu when they recklessly brought ‘strange fire’ before the Lord; but even this warning didn’t deter them.
Moses also sent for Dathan and Abiram, who responded defiantly, “We will not come up.” These two rebels flatly refused Moses’ order to come to the Tabernacle for the appointed meeting. These were proud, envious, selfishly ambitious, wicked, and unreasonable men. They told Moses they would not do what he asked. Yet they themselves wanted to be leaders in Israel and have people follow their orders.
In rejecting Moses they rejected the Word of God, because Moses was Adonai’s chosen prophet. And in rejecting Aaron they rejected the Lord’s prescribed means of atonement on the altar.
If Numbers 16 were divided into two parts, and the first was called “Rebellion in the Camp,” the second part would probably be called “Retribution in the Camp”.
The next morning, Korah, together with the 250 showed up with their censers and took their stand opposite Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tabernacle, while Dathan and Abiram remained with their families at the doors of their tents.
We can only imagine the dreadful silence that prevailed in that moment, and then the glory of the three in one God appeared; the hour of God’s verdict had arrived!
Adonai said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves” from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” But in that moment Moses and Aaron fell facedown and pleaded, “O God, You are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Must you be angry with all the people when only one man sins?”
Adonai relented, but His judgment came upon the rebels in a threefold way: (1) the earth opened, (2) fire fell, and (3) A plague struck. Each judgment was targeted at one of the three groups that opposed Moses.
The first judgment was on Korah, Dathan, Abiram, their wives and their children. At Moses word, the earth opened up around these leaders of the rebellion and they and their families fell crying and screaming into the chasm and the earth closed up over them.
For the second judgment, Adonai sent fire which consumed the 250 men that offered incense; those who lit unacceptable fire were consumed by the Lords fire. And the censers of these 250 dead men would later be made into a cover for the Bronze Altar in the Tabernacle. And that cover would also serve as a reminder of this rebellion, emphasizing that only the sons of Aaron were authorized to perform priestly duties.
The final of the three judgments was a plague that took the lives of 14,700 Israelis. Korah and his co-conspirators apparently had turned many people against Moses. We would do well to remember That Murmuring against the Lord is a costly conduct. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces yet again, demonstrating mercy in the midst of judgment. Aaron, by his gracious intervention, actually did stop this judgment. In so doing, Adonai not only confirmed to the people that Aaron was the rightfully-chosen High Priest, And also by allowing the incense offered by Aaron to appease His wrath and end the plague; God also demonstrated His mercy towards His people.
In Chapter 17, Adonai said to Moses, “Speak to the people and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by this people.”
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had blossomed and even produced almonds! Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence for all of Israel to see.
But because of the Lord’s judgments against the rebels at the Tabernacle, the people of Israel grumbled even more. “We are as good as dead!” they lamented. Must we all perish? Everyone who even comes close to the Tabernacle dies!” Suddenly, the people were terrified to have the Tabernacle with God’s presence in their midst.
In chapter 18, God spoke expressly to Aaron, confirming his high priestly ministry even more. The Lord made it clear that it was the privilege and responsibility of the priests to minister in the Tabernacle. The priesthood was God’s gracious gift to Israel, because without the Priests the people could never approach a holy God. Just as Yesuha our great high priest’s is our only way to the Father.
And the Levites were God’s gift to the Priests, because they relieved the priests of lesser tasks so they could devote themselves fully to serving God and the people.
God assigned to the Priests portions of the meal offerings, sin offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings, as well as the First Fruits offerings and the firstborn animals that the people offered to the Lord.
Some of this food only the priests could eat, but much of it could be shared with their families. However, anyone in the priestly family who ate of those sacrifices had to be ceremonially clean and had to treat the food with reverence, because it had been sanctified by being presented to God.
A few thoughts in closing, Aaron’s rod in its budding and blossoming was a beautiful foreshadowing of Messiah. By His resurrection from the dead, Messiah Yeshua is like that rod which miraculously budded and blossomed and produced fruit for God’s glory. Aaron’s rod budding also teaches us that Yeshua’s resurrection is the Divine verification that He alone is the one true Savior and great High Priest for mankind.
But now let us consider the severity of God’s judgment on the rebellious people of Israel. How much more will we, who have received a much greater revelation in the New Covenant, be judged if we turn away from the Almighty and His Son, Yeshua our Messiah?
This fallen wicked world rebels against God’s Word and shows contempt for Messiah. Like the ungrateful ones of Israel, today people murmur, complain,
reject and rebel against all that is holy. How will this world and its people escape the coming judgment?