Shabbat Thora Reading and Commentary:
Korah Numbers 16:1-18:32
Ministry leaders today should trust in God alone and not respond aggressively to threats to their authority.
by Michael Schneider
This Shabbat’s Torah reading is about Korah’s rebellion. Korah descends from the Levitical family of Kehat. Altogether, there were 250 renowned men that “rose up” against Moses by doubting his and Aaron’s authority as the chosen national leaders.
As if the separation of the Levites by God Himself was not enough, this family within the Levitical tribe did not want to tolerate any human authority. (“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; and that He has brought you near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking for the priesthood also?” verses 9-10)
Unfortunately, we find this power struggle even today in our churches and congregations. Many refused to submit in humility to the authority set in place by God.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram complain against Moses, but Moses defends God’s decision to appoint Aaron. Moses was not keen on being the only leader of the camp. That became apparent in his reaction to Eldad and Medad when they started prophesying. Moses responded to them: “Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets…” (11:29).
But Moses was not threatened, and even when Korah led his rebellion against him, Moses remained humble and brought the issue before God. Leaders today should also trust in God alone and not respond aggressively to threats to their authority. God will intervene!
Moses’ humble response was followed by undeniable supernatural justice: “The ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions” (verses 31-32).
God is a God of justice and Moses knew it. When the people murmured again (17:6), God punished them with a plague. Aaron brought an atonement for the sins of the people with an incense offering and stood “between the dead and the living” for the plague to stop.
Subsequently, we read about God’s order to collect the rods of each tribe. The appointment of Aaron was confirmed among the murmuring and rebellious people: “The rod of the man whom I choose will sprout” (17:5). Almonds sprouted on Aaron’s rod! His rod became “a sign against the rebels” and was kept as a reminder. Aaron’s rod was even placed with the stone tablets and the manna jar in the Ark of Covenant (Hebrews 9:4).
The lesson of Korah is even mentioned in the New Testament. Jude, warns blasphemers and mockers in his letter that they should expect the same punishment as Cain, Balaam and Korah (verse 11).