Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:1–18:32
This week’s scripture portion is quite well known, but has some unfortunate mistranslations in the English versions. Many of the English translations use the words, “spy the land of Canaan” whereas I believe a better way to translate these words is “to walk the Land” with the purpose of getting to know it better.
Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action, and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD? (Numbers 16:1–3)
Korah, the great grandson of Levi (and cousin of Moses and Aaron), led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. As a descendant of Levi, Korah was part of the tribe chosen by God to perform the holy work in the Mishkan (Tabernacle – God’s dwelling place). He, along with 250 other influential men from within the tribes of Israel, questioned the authority and position of Moses and Aaron.
It is interesting to note that some of the men leading the rebellion alongside Korah were the descendants of Reuben. Recall that Reuben was the oldest of Jacob’s sons, which meant that people looked up to him and revered him as the first-born. Coming from this line surely carried some prestige, especially considering how important the first-born male was to the Hebrew culture of that time! During this time in the desert, perhaps they found themselves somewhat humiliated by being put “under” Moses and Aaron. Wounded pride can lead us to do desperate things if not surrendered to the Lord…
In questioning the authority and position of Moses and Aaron, Korah and his crew were in essence questioning God’s authority; they questioned His right to put those whom He chose in the specific tasks that He desired. Basically, no one was satisfied with the roles that God had chosen! Moses recognized this rebellious spirit within the Levis and challenged it when he said in verse 9:
…is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; (Numbers 16:9)
Their pride, jealousy, and greed blinded them to what God had given them, which brought about dissatisfaction; they allowed their flesh to take over, desiring more and more, which led them to question God Himself. Their sin was rooted in their pride and rebellious attitude towards the Lord.
On the other hand, we see Moses’ humility when he falls on his face before the Lord (verse 4), making himself low, and grieving for this shameful act. Moses knew very well that he was in such a high position only because of the Lord, and not at all because of himself. Moses also demonstrated the way to handle such situations, not by taking matters into his own hands, but rather allowing God to deal with it:
And Moses said, “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing.” (Numbers 16:28)
At the end of the chapter, we see the severe consequences of rebelling against God. The earth “opened its mouth and swallowed them [Korah and crew] and all that belonged to them.” Not only that, but the scripture tells us that they, “…went alive into She’ol” which is the Hebrew word for the place of eternal separation from the Father, where there is much suffering.
This is serious business, my dear brothers and sisters! Let us not fool ourselves into thinking we can have a rebellious heart towards God. Will we wrestle with Him? Of course. Can we struggle with the challenges and trials He allows to come into our lives? Without a doubt. But let us always check our heart’s attitude towards Him! Let us be wise to not allow any bitterness or rebellion to take root in our heart against Him.
Are you satisfied with that which God has given you? Are you allowing pride, jealousy, and greed to blind your eyes to all that God has entrusted to you? Let us examine our lives and surrender anything to Him that entangles us, or keeps us from drawing closer to Him.
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