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Basic Bible: Korah’s Rebellion

Numbers 16:1-14

When discontentment is rooted in covetousness, rebellion may result. Such was Korah’s rebellion. Korah, like Aaron, was of the lineage of Levi. Korah was a first cousin to Aaron and Moses. Korah, aligned with leaders from the tribe of Reuben and 250 men of renown in the congregation, spoke out against Moses and Aaron.

Korah and Levites of his family were offended that the family of Aaron was set apart for the priesthood while the family of Korah was designated to serve the tabernacle of the Lord in a lesser capacity. Abiram and Dathan of the tribe of Reuben thought that they, being descendents of Jacob’s firstborn, should have preeminence over Moses, a descendent of Jacob’s fourth son.

They accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much upon themselves. They asserted that every one among them was holy. They maintained that the Lord was among them and that Moses and Aaron were lifting themselves above the congregation of the Lord. They said that Moses and Aaron should not lead the nation of Israel because they (Moses and Aaron) were no more holy than were they of Korah.

Moses fell on his face. New Testament believers do as Moses did. We fall upon our faces because we know that the Lord God alone is holy. We know that all holiness is of Him. Was Moses holy? What made Moses holy? New Testament believers know that one is made holy by the Lord God. Korah and those aligned with him did not believe God. They were among those who believed the evil report of the ten spies. They did not trust the Lord to deliver the land of Canaan to Israel.

To say that Korah and Abiram and Dathan erred is an understatement. Their error, however, was not in their assessment of Moses’ and Aaron’s righteousness. Forty some years earlier, Moses committed murder. Aaron’s track record included his complicity in the manufacture of the golden calf (Ex. 32) and speaking out against Moses (Num. 12). Aaron’s actions were challenges to that which the Lord God had spoken. The error of Korah and Abiram and Dathan was, likewise, a challenge to that which the Lord had spoken. Moses was appointed to lead Israel when the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush (Ex. 3:10). Aaron and his sons were appointed to serve as priests, not by Moses, but, by God (Ex. 28:1).

The assertion that Moses and Aaron lifted themselves above the congregation of the Lord is wrong on two counts. Moses and Aaron did not lift themselves up (they were appointed by the Lord) and the congregation purported to be of the Lord was not of the Lord. The congregation did not know the Lord God who brought them up out of Egypt.

Moses responded to their words with the announcement that on the morrow the Lord would reveal who was holy. The Lord would reveal whom He had chosen. The entire congregation of Israel would know with certainty whom the Lord had chosen to lead them and whom the Lord had chosen to be holy before Him because they would see the glory of the Lord appear in response to the burning of incense by all present (v. 18, 19). When tomorrow would come, the entire congregation would see and would know.

Knowing that which the Lord would do, Moses made it known to Korah and to his followers that the Lord saw their disrespect; He saw them make light of service to His tabernacle. The Lord knew the desire of their heart was to be seen in a position of honor by men. The desire of their heart was not to serve the Lord as He would have had them do and had made known to them through Moses. Their actions testified of self love; love of the Lord God was not in them.

In verse 12, Moses sent word to Dathan and Abiram to come to the tabernacle on the morrow but they refused. They did not want to hear the Lord; they did not want to see whom the Lord had chosen to lead Israel. They railed against Moses saying that he had brought them up out of Egypt for the sole purpose of ruling over them. They accused Moses deceiving them with a false promise. They would not do as Moses had instructed. They would not come up to the tabernacle. They would hear that which the Lord would have them hear.

The picture before Moses (and all who read this scripture) is dismal. Moses was surrounded by rebellion — rebellion against him and Aaron, rebellion against God. Moses was falsely accused.

New Testament believers need note Moses’ response. Moses promised his antagonists that tomorrow would be different day — a day in which the Lord would show those who are His and those whom He has chosen. New Testament believers are to do as Moses did. We are to declare what tomorrow shall bring. We are to declare that which the Lord has made known to us. We know that tomorrow shall become today when the Son shall sit upon the throne of David. Let us declare the certainty of tomorrow to all.