Torah Portion: Korach B’midbar (Numbers) 16:1-18:32
Haftorah Readings: I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Today we look at a Torah portion that covers an incident that takes place following the report of the 12 men sent to check out the Land. As a result of their negative report G-d sent Israel back into the desert and everyone over 20 years old were told they would not enter the Land. Only their children would receive the promise of G-d.
This week we cover the accounting of a rebellion against Moshe and Aaron by a group of men led by Korach, Datan, Aviram and 250 of the leaders of Israel. I want to take some time and see what motivated each of these people.
First, let’s look at Korach and his followers. Korach was a Levite, a cousin of Moshe and Aaron. Korach and his followers went to Moshe and Aaron and said, “You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the L-rd is among them. Why then do you lift yourselves above the congregation of the L-rd?” 16:3. On the surface his argument sounds as if it might be correct. He was speaking for the downtrodden, the average person. But, was that his real motivation? As we look deeper we see the real motivation was not equality but power. He coveted the positions Moshe and Aaron held. However, to frame his desire in such terms would have won him no following among the people. So he spoke in terms that would give the impression he cared about the common person. Power was his point. Moshe and Aaron had it and he wanted it.
Datan and Aviram were of the tribe of Reuven, the oldest son of Jacob. They felt that they and their tribe should have had some special place as the descendants of the oldest son of the patriarch Jacob. Again, their argument was about power they felt had been denied them. They wanted to take what they saw as their rightful place as privileged.
Lastly, the 250 men of renown that backed Korach had been replaced with the Levites for the position of serving the L-rd in the Tabernacle. Remember, at the time of the sin of the golden calf the eldest son of each family had a leadership role in being in charge of working in the Tabernacle. After the sin of the golden calf they lost their place of power to the Levites.
So in each of these groups the real underlying issue was power. Their goal was to be in charge, to have power and privilege. As we think about this rebellion I want us to consider the root cause in each case. It was the need for power. As a general rule if you want to understand resentment, listen to what people are accusing others of and then you will know what they themselves want. Each of these groups wanted power so they accused Moshe and Aaron of holding all the power. They, in fact, wanted to set themselves above the L-rd’s assembly and lord it over the people.
They were also not above using fake news. Datan and Aviram said Moshe and Aaron had brought them out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill them in the wilderness. 16:13. Remember, the people had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. That doesn’t sound like paradise does it? So they and the other groups tried to discredit Moshe and Aaron. Rather than seeking the truth these men were all seeking power. Their charges were not factual or words of wisdom expressed to reach a common understand but for tearing down and grabbing the power. We have the opportunity to learn by listening to the views of other people, measuring what they are saying and asking ourselves, does it line up with scripture? Is it true? If it is true we can look at our own views and see if change is needed in us. We gain nothing by immediately attacking and vilifying people who may not agree with us, who are different from us. One of our characteristics as a believer is humbleness, being slow to anger. This does not mean we abandon our faith or scriptural principles but it does mean we are able to keep the real objective in view and not fall into blaming and character assassination. Let G-d be the judge.
In our reading we see G-d’s vindication of Moshe and Aaron when in 16:31-34 the earth split and swallowed up Korach, his family and his followers. G-d was the Judge.
One other issue that I want us to look at is in 16:34. In this verse scripture says as the ground split and swallowed up the rebels, “all Israel who were around them fled at their cry; for they said lest the earth swallow us up also.” When the people saw G-d’s judgment on the rebels they basically ran for their lives. Does that sound familiar?
In Hebrews 12:1 we read that sin easily entangles us. Sometimes we feel we are immune to sin so we can be around it but not be a part of it. In I Timothy 6:11 Shaul tells Timothy, “But as for you O man of G-d flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. In I Peter 3:10-11 Peter quotes Psalms 34:13, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit, let him turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”
We, as the people of G-d should be consistently turning from evil, from sin and instead seeking good. All of us in this time in the life of our country must be peacemakers, loving one another and doing the will of the Father.