Torah Portion for week 38: Numbers 16 – 18
Are you part of Korah’s Rebellion? This week’s Torah portion is about Korach, or as he is called in English, Korah. The children of Israel are still going through the wilderness, and it is now about thirty-eight years since they began their journey. It was supposed to take eleven days, but they got sidetracked. The text goes back and forth between explaining various laws, and describing the situation on the ground. The people are getting fed up and ready to revolt. They want to get to the land of milk of and honey, and they wanted to get there NOW. This is ironic because it was this very attitude that kept them outside of the promised land for so long. It is a good example of the difference between doing things God’s way and doing things our way.
In Numbers 16, Korah led a rebellion that included 250 other men. Specifically, they questioned the fact that Moses and Aaron were the leaders. In Numbers 16:3 they said to Moses and Aaron, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
This is not an uncommon accusation today. They basically said, “Hey, who put you in charge?” This may be a legitimate question in some circumstances, but here it was inappropriate. Their real problem was not with Moses and Aaron, but with God. The roles and duties were already described in great detail, and there was no doubt that they all came directly from God. That is why Moses replied, “Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together” (Num 16:11).
The root of all sin is rebellion in our hearts, putting ourselves – and our desires – above all else. This was the problem with Korah’s rebellion. They were rejecting God’s clearly revealed plan; they were not content with what God had already provided. Much had been given to them, but they wanted more. First, they were led out of Egypt. Not only that, these men were Levites; they had a unique and important role, ministering in the tabernacle. Yet, they didn’t have some of the more specific privileges that Aaron and his sons had. By comparing themselves with Moses and Aaron, they were revealing something about their own relationship with God. And instead of swallowing their pride, they themselves were “swallowed up” by God’s wrath, as we read later in the chapter.
This scenario is alluded to once in the New Testament, in Jude verse 11. Jude speaks of false teachers, those who show no reverence for God, when he writes, “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.” A healthy desire for advancement in work or ministry is a good thing. But, it must happen in God’s timing. God is the one who gives us gifts and opportunities in the first place.
Who are we really serving? Korah’s rebellion – like our own – reminds us that we must serve God first, and that will change how we interact with one another. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet 4:10).