Parashat Korach Numbers 16:1-18:32


Parashat Korach Numbers 16:1-18:32

Haftarah: 2 Samuel 11:14-12:22

In this week’s Torah portion one learns an important lesson about commitment and one’s word. If you are a believer then you have made an oral commitment to G-d; for Paul speaks about the need to confess with one’s mouth the L-rd Yeshua (See Romans 10:9-10). Obviously this confession implies a commitment of one’s life to the Lordship of Messiah Yeshua. In other words, a believer has been sanctified to Yeshua. Sanctification has many aspects, one of which is being set apart for a purpose. One learns from the Scriptures that not only can individuals be sanctified, but so too can objects.  According to Jewish law, once something has been sanctified to G-d, it can never be used for any other purpose.

In Parashat Korach one reads about a great rebellion against Moses’ leadership. 250 rebels stood with their fire-pans in their hands ready to offer a strange fire to HaShem. In the end, they were slain; however their fire-pans remained. One reads that Moses is instructed,

Say to Elazar the son of Aaron, the Priest, ‘pick up the fire-pans from amid the fire and the incense, scatter further, for they (the fire-pans) were sanctified.”

Numbers 17:2 (see Numbers 16:37 for English readers)

Please compare my translation with the King James Version:

Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.”

There are a couple of unique things about this verse. First, there are two different words in this verse for fire. The KJV translated the first word “burning” and the second word “fire“. I have no problem with the first rendering by the KJV of “burning”, but it is important to realize the second word relates to the incense offering that was placed on the fire-pans (censers) that was apparently still burning. It is incumbent upon the reader to understand that Aaron is being instructed to remove the incense from the fire-pans prior to doing something with these fire-pans. The reason for this is that the fire-pans had been sanctified, while the incense that the 250 rebels were using was most likely improper (a strange fire). There is likely a play on words in the Hebrew text. The word “to scatter” can also be a totally different word in Hebrew, although written in the exact same way, which has a meaning of “strange” as in a “strange fire” which relates to the incense offering (See Leviticus 10:1). The point here is that Elazar is being instructed to remove the incense offering of the rebels from the fire-pans, scattering the incense as the KJV says “yonder”. I translated the word “further”, as meaning away from the Tent of Meeting.

After completing this, the reader is told that the fire-pans were hammered into a covering for the altar (See verse 3, English readers 16:38). The question that needs to be asked is why were not the fire-pans simply discarded rather than made into a covering for the altar? Some would answer this question based upon additional information provided in the text, i.e. “so they could be a sign (reminder) to the Children of Israel” not to behave like Korach and his rebels. Although this is true, it also needs to be stated that the fire-pans could not simply be discarded because they had been sanctified. In other words, because of this sanctification, they could only be used for a holy purpose (Please remember that the word sanctified or sanctification is derived in the Biblical languages from the word “Holy”).

Hence, because the believer has been sanctified, he must also remember that it is forbidden to engage in any behavior that is not appropriate for a follower of Messiah. In a symbolic manner, Elazar is functioning like the Holy Spirit, Who always leads the believer to separate himself from those things that G-d rejects or disapproves of. As you read Parashat Korach on Shabbat, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what things you need to remove from your life so that you are not behaving like Korach and his congregation, but rather like the true servants whom HaShem had chosen.

Shabbat Shalom

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