Lesson: Korah’s Rebellion

By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – November 14, 2021
Taught From – Numbers 16:1-14

Introduction

This week’s lesson moves us away from the children of Israel rejecting God’s blessing of the Promised Land to a new uprising within the camp.  Let us remember that the rejection of the Promised Land was viewed as rebellion against God by the Lord.  For their rebellion, the ten spies would not be allowed into the Promised Land nor those who also chose to reject the promise.  Let us take a look at this new rebellion in our lesson this week.  This week’s lesson is being taught from Numbers 16:1-14.

Korah Leads Rebellion Against Moses and Aaron

Our lesson this week opens up by telling us about the men who led this new rebellion (v. 1).  We are first told about Korah and his lineage which we will see traces back to Levi; this makes him a Levite.  We are then told about Dathan, Abiram, and On within that same scripture.  These three men’s lineage traced back to Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob.  The importance of the mention of the tribes that these four men belonged to is because of where both tribes resided in the camp – they were essentially neighbors.  Also, for Korah, it is of great significance because the Levites served in the tabernacle, which was a high calling.

I do want to take a moment to talk about Dathan.  Dathan is a name you may recall if you have watched the Ten Commandments movie.  The movie suggests that Dathan was the main leader of the uprising that led to Aaron building the calf of gold, however, scripture does not indicate that he led that uprising.  In fact this event takes place years after the calf of gold incident at Mount Sinai.  Plus, since his name is mentioned first here in scripture, it seems that Korah was the prime leader of this rebellion and not Datha, though Dathan certainly helped.  Dathan’s name only appears here in scripture and is later referenced in Deuteronomy and in Psalm.

Reasoning behind the rebellion

We are told that these three men took with them in this rebellion two hundred and fifty others which included leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, and men of renown (v. 2).  So, this new rebellion is made up of a new group which consists of people that had a very high role within the entire camp of Israel which, to be honest, is quite frightening.  

I say that it is frightening because many of these people were supposed to be leaders and they should have learned from the end results of the prior rebellion.  Instead, they choose to rebel and are able to draw more people to their rebellion – their sin.

Now, we will get some insight into why these men are rebelling in the next verse of our lesson.  They come to Moses and Aaron, and say to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”  So, their accusation is that Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves above the congregation of Israel.  They say to Moses and Aaron that the congregation is also holy as well.

Now, this is an interesting accusation that has absolutely no truth in it.  We can say this because we have seen that Moses was incredibly humble as a person.  Moses would never put himself before the congregation and would often intercede on behalf of the congregation before the Lord when they would do wrong.  We have never seen in scripture where Aaron would put himself above the congregation as well.  In fact, I would tell you that Aaron, as a spiritual leader, should have spoken up more!  

So, the reasoning of these three men is based on a lie and is absolute nonsense.  Honestly, I sense a bit of jealousy that was coming from these three men.  Moses and Aaron were the clear spiritual leaders of the congregation, and from our recent lessons, the idea of new leadership had already been thrown around.  So, it is possible, I believe, that those three men had latched on to the idea of new leadership and likely desired to be the new leaders of the congregation.  I would consider that they are disguising this desire by drumming up this idea that Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves above the congregation.

Moses’ response

When Moses heard these words from the people, he fell on his face (v. 4).  Moses’ response here is the same response we saw in a recent lesson where he fell to his face after hearing the people reject entering into the Promised Land (Num. 14:5).  This response is a response, not necessarily out of being distraught, but more so a response of frustration.  

I say frustration because Moses knew full well that they were rebelling against the Lord, and Moses knows, like us, the end results of rebelling against the Lord.  When the children of Israel blasphemed and rebelled against the Lord at Mount Sinai, the Lord punished them.  When the man blasphemed in a recent lesson this quarter, the Lord punished him.  When those that instigated the complaining about only eating manna in the wilderness, the Lord punished them.  Rebellion was not tolerated by the Lord and Moses knew what awaited these men that were foolishly choosing to rebel.

Now, some will say that these men’s frustration was towards Moses and Aaron.  As I have said before, Moses and Aaron were chosen by the Lord and were serving on God’s behalf.  So, to speak against Moses or Aaron, was to also speak against the Lord.  To call for new leadership that was different from Moses and Aaron, was to also desire leadership that was not the Lord.  To rebel against Moses and Aaron, was to rebel against God.  Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and the other two hundred fifty were not simply rebelling against Moses and Aaron, but they were also rebelling against God.

So, we will see that Moses speaks to Korah about his trust in the Lord.  The next morning, they would light censers and the one whom God chooses, He would call to come near to Him.  The one who the Lord calls to come near to him, Moses says, would be the holy one (vss. 5-7).  Now, Moses knew for certain that God would choose him!  As we have seen in scripture, the Lord truly loved Moses because Moses was genuinely a man of faith (Num. 12:6-8).

Speaking to Korah

We will see at the tail end of the seventh verse that Moses says to Korah, “You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”  Remember, this was a statement that Korah had made of Moses and Aaron.  The charge from Korah was essentially that Moses and Aaron thought too highly of themselves and now we will see Moses turn that same thought around on Korah.

Now, Moses mentions the “sons of Levi” here in this particular verse which I believe suggests that Moses was not only speaking of Korah, who was a Levite, but to other Levites that may have participated in this rebellion.  Moses then speaks to how the Lord had called the Levites to a holy calling among the entire congregation (vss. 9-11).  Again, the Levites were called to serve in the tabernacle which was a service to God and a service to the people as priests.  Those that would come through seed of Aaron, who was also a Levite, would even be able to serve as high priest.

Now, why did Moses mention this to Korah?  I believe Moses states this to Korah because Korah, as a Levite, had a position within the camp that he should have been content with.  Yet, he appears to desire more than just serving the Lord and the people.  So, Korah in this position of service, may have thought of himself being equal to Moses.  Korah’s accusation against Moses is very similar to the one that Miriam had raised against Moses (Num. 12:1-2).

Dathan and Abiram’s response

After speaking to Korah, Moses then turned his attention to Dathan and Abiram, who both chose not to go hear what Moses had to say to them (v. 12).  In fact, they bring their own accusation against Moses and say, “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us?  Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up (vss. 13-14)!”

These men now push the lie about the Promised Land against Moses which hearkens back to rebellion that we just learned about.  In fact, you will notice that these then speak highly of the land of Egypt in that they say it was a land flowing with milk and honey.  We have seen throughout this quarter of lessons that there were people within the congregation that thought highly of their lives in Egypt.  This is honestly a strange thought because as I have reminded you the past few weeks, they were living in bondage in Egypt!  Personally, I find it strange for these people to be desiring to go back to Egypt instead of living in a land free of bondage.

So, let’s make this clear, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and those following them, are sure in their rebellion.  In a way, Moses, we could consider, was trying to offer them an out by trying to make them realize what they were doing.  Yet, we find that these people were fully convinced in their belief.  So, what do you believe will be the Lord’s judgment of this rebellion?  We are going to take a look at God’s response to this uprising in next week’s lesson.