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Parasha Korach (Korah): Learning from Korah’s Rebellion

Korach (Korah)
Numbers 16:1–18:32; 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22; Acts 5:1–11  

“Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses.”  (Numbers 16:1–2) 

In last week’s Torah study, after the 12 “spies” returned from their fact-finding mission in Canaan, the Israelites threatened mutiny.  They chose to believe the evil report and panicked at the first sign of hardship, saying, “We should choose a leader [other than Moses] and go back to Egypt.”  (Numbers 14:4)

reading-Torah-Western (Wailing) Wall-Jerusalem

Reading from the Torah at the Western Wall

In this week’s Parasha, we see that the seeds of revolt that had already been planted were just waiting to break out into full blown rebellion.

Basically, three groups expressed discontentment with the leadership of Moses and Aaron: Korach (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (from the tribe of Reuven), and 250 Israelite leaders who were appointed members of the council.

In the end, God vindicated Moses and Aaron, and severely punished those who joined the rebellion by swallowing them up into the earth.  It was as if God had created a small earthquake to end strife in the community.

“They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”  (Numbers 16:33) 

Old Jerusalem-Hurva Synagogue-Morning Prayer

Morning prayer in the historic Hurva Synagogue, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Lessons Learned from Korach’s Rebellion

Today’s Parasha presents many valuable lessons about prayer, attitude, conduct, relationships, and the proper response to God and His appointed leadership.

Here are twelve lessons from Parasha Korach:

1.   We are not immune to the impact of keeping bad company.

“Do not be misled.  Bad company corrupts good character.”  (1 Corinthians 15:33, see also Proverbs 22:24–25)

In the desert, the tribes of Reuven and Levi marched side by side, according to rabbinic commentary, and this is how they came to plot their joint conspiracy.

We must thoughtfully choose the people with whom we closely associate!

Yeshurun Synagogue-Jerusalem

Yeshurun Synagogue in Jerusalem.

2.  We need to be aware of what is motivating us to action.

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”  (Proverbs 16: 2)

We can look at the origin of the rebellion to discover the personal motives in rising up against the leadership of Israel.

Dathan and Abiram, who were of the tribe of Reuven, seemed to still carry the sting of having lost the ‘birthright’ of Israel (Genesis 49:3–4) and, perhaps, were striving for recovery of that primary position.

Korach, a Levite, was envious of Moses and Aaron’s leadership position.  This envy combined with selfish ambition  resulting in strife and rebellion.

What causes fights and quarrels?  Envy, selfish ambitions and wrong motives.

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  (James 3:16)

Damascus Gate-Jerusalem

Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

We can contrast the motives of these leaders to David’s motives when he fought Goliath.

His motives came under scrutiny when his brother accused him of being conceited and wicked (1 Samuel 17:28).  But David’s motives were pure; he sought to bring glory to the God of Israel.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”  (1 Samuel 17:45–47)

David battled Goliath to reveal God’s greatness, not his own.  We can compare his motivation to Elijah’s when he showed up to prophets of Baal to demonstrate God’s power, not his own.

“The god who answers by fire—He is God.”  (1 Kings 18:24)

We should always ask ourselves, “What are my motives?  Am I seeking to bring glory to God?”

Only those things we do with pure motives for eternal purposes will stand the test of fire (1 Corinthians 3:12–23).

Western Wall-Temple Mount-Har Ha-Bayit-Jerusalem

Western Wall on the Temple Mount (Har Ha-Bayit) and the golden Dome of the Rock at night in Jerusalem, Israel

3.  Unity is precious and powerful.

“Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.”  (2 Chronicles 30:12) 

There is an anointing and blessing in a life that is characterized by unity.  Moses and Aaron remained united in the face of the challenge, and did not allow it to come between their relationship with each other or with God.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the  beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”  (Psalm 133:13)

We should seek to live a life led by the Spirit of God, rather than our own flesh.

The fruit of the Spirit—love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—should be evident in our daily lives (Galatians 5:13–23).  Of course, only the Spirit of God can do this work in us, as this is a work of God’s grace.   

Hebrew text-Torah

A portion of the Hebrew text from this week’s Torah portion.

4.  Nothing good comes of strife.

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”  (Proverbs 17:14)

If our life is characterized by strife, we can be sure that something is wrong in our walk with God, since the Bible says that God hates the person who stirs up strife among brothers.

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”  (Proverbs 6:1619)

Strife destroys the unity that brings blessing, anointing, power, and prosperity to a home, family, business, or ministry.

Raised voices and arguments do not invite the presence of the Ruach (Holy Spirit); instead, they repel the Spirit.

When we get off into strife, however, we can pray like David did when he fell into sin:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  (Psalm 51:1012) 


Book of Psalms

5.  We should seek out and listen to wise counsel.

In the first verse of this Parasha, a man named On is mentioned as one of the rebels but is never mentioned again.  What happened to On?

He may have heeded the counsel of Moses and Aaron, and turned back from his rebellion against God.

Rabbinic legend has it, however, that it was On’s wife who rebuked him for taking part in a rebellion, and thus saved him from destruction.  A Godly spouse can often save us from going down the wrong path, if we are open to their wise counsel.

The Bible says that a good wife is extremely valuable and should be treasured more than precious gems (Proverbs 18:22, 19:14, 31:10).

We also read in the Brit Chadasha (The New Testament) portion that Ananais’ wife, Sapphira, stood with him in sin and was destroyed.  Although a husband and a wife are to mutually submit themselves one to another (Ephesians 5:21), they are not to submit to sin.

The Death of Ananias-Raphael

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

6.  Anyone can be deceived.

“With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.”  (Numbers 16:2)

Who joined the rebellion?  Not the riffraff of society, but the princes, the elect— 250 men of renown and status (Numbers 16:23).  These were the men who were swallowed up into the earth.

Even the elect of society can be misled.  The rebels appealed to the pride of men saying in effect, “You are just as holy as Moses and isn’t God with each one of you too?” 

The men who rebelled against God and His appointed leadership were leaders themselves.  They were not immune to rebellion and were angry that Moses granted Aaron the priesthood (kehunah).

“You have gone too far!  The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them.  Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”  (Numbers 16:3)

They saw themselves as being worthy of the priesthood and consequently offered incense (ketoret) to the Lord, perishing in the process.

Sadly, even leaders can sometimes overstep the boundaries of their calling, leading their followers into error.


An unrolled Torah scroll with a Torah pointer, which is called a yad (hand).

7.  Vengeance should be left for God.

Moses did not try to vindicate himself, rather he let God defend him.

Just like in last week’s Parasha, when Moses’ sister rebelled against him, his reaction to Korach’s rebellion was one of humility.

Likewise, we too, should entrust ourselves to the God who sees and hears.  He says to leave vengeance to Him (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:9), and warns us to not take revenge against those who injure or malign us.

Yeshua (Jesus) modeled this kind of love and forgiveness, when He said, “Father, forgive them…,” even as He died at the hands of His accusers (Luke 23:34).

If we are tempted to think, yes, but He is the Messiah, we can also remember the example of Stephen who cried out as he was stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.  (Acts 7:60)

Rather than lash out at those who speak against us or hurt us, we should pray for them (Matthew 5:44).


Following the Master

8.  Contentment is an important asset.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (1 Timothy 6:6) 

In Numbers 16, Moses essentially said to Korach, “See how much you already have as a Levite.  You are consecrated and set apart to serve God.  Don’t covet the priesthood as well!”  (Numbers 16:810)

Are we content with our lot in life?  Do we appreciate how much we have been given?  Or do we desire and covet the position, possessions, and relationships of others?

As followers of the Master, our lives should be characterized by a generosity of spirit that comes with being grateful and content.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  (Philippians 4:11) 

9.  God-appointed leadership should be respected.

The rebels overlooked the fact that Moses and Aaron did not appoint themselves.

God called and appointed them to serve Him for a specific purpose.

Many people who were used by God have only reluctantly submitted to their calling after struggle, for example Gideon and Jeremiah.

10.  Intercession touches the heart of God.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  (James 5:16)

God was going to destroy the entire congregation for the second time, but when Moses interceded for them, God gave them a way to be saved, provided they listen to the advice of Moses  (Numbers 16:22).

It’s so important that we are a people who pray for others and that others are praying and interceding on our behalf.  Thank God for Yeshua (Jesus) who sits at the right hand of God and continually makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34)!

Pray-Western (Wailing) Wall

Praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall

11.  Don’t get swept up in a rebellion.

“Move back from the tents of these wicked men!  Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.”  (Number 16:26) 

After Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites, they had to make a choice—join the rebellion or to get out of the way and fast!

Today, God seems to be warning Believers to separate themselves from any kind of idolatry and paganism, since these things are not of Him.

The first commandment is to have no other gods.  We, the covenant people of God, cannot keep one foot in His ways, and one foot in paganism and idolatry.  This is a dangerous mixture.

We must determine to keep ourselves apart, no matter how high the cost to leave that place of rebellion.

“Depart, depart, go out from there!  Touch no unclean thing!  Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.”  (Isaiah 52:11) 

Jewish man-praying-Western Wailing Wall-Kotel

Jewish man praying in Jerusalem at the Western (Wailing) Wall, which is also called the Kotel.

12.  God will judge His enemies.

“And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”  (Numbers 16:35)

In this Parasha, fire devoured the 250 men who presumptuously offered incense (Numbers 16:35). 

End-time prophecy tells us that the enemies of Israel who march against her in the final battle of God and Magog will all be devoured by fire that comes down from heaven (Ezekiel 39:6, see also Revelation 20:79).

In the Garden of Eden, the seeds of rebellion were planted in all of humanity through the venom of the serpent.  Thankfully, our names can be written in the Book of Life, and we may be saved from judgment through Yeshua (Jesus).

The same cannot be said of those who refuse God’s gift of salvation through Yeshua. 

“If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he will be thrown into the lake of fire.”  (Revelation 20:15) 

Jews-Gentiles-Streets of Jerusalem

The streets of Jerusalem are shared by Jews and Gentiles.

Revelation 21 describes the New Jerusalem.  We cannot imagine how wonderful it will be there.

Still, the Bible makes it clear that we will be happy there.

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:34)

How do we know that our name will be written in the Book of Life?

Yochanan (John) tells us, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.  For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:1416)

Even if we have made mistakes, walked out of the perfect will of God, we can still turn back to God and serve Him with all our heart, trusting in the goodness and mercy of God to restore and redeem.

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