וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן־יִצְהָר בֶּן־קְהָת בֶּן־לֵוִי וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב וְאֹון בֶּן־פֶּלֶת בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן 16:1
Numb. 16:1 Now Korach son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi took, as well as Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, the sons of Reuben,
Please note that Korach is a fourth-generation Levite, a distant cousin to Moses and Aaron. Levi’s genealogy is provided in Numb. 3:17f, but it stops with the generation of Izhar in Numb. 3:20, so Korach is not mentioned in the Torah other than in this chapter, the next (only in passing in the latter), and in Chapter 26 (to reveal a special bit of information).
וַיָּקֻמוּ לִפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה וַאֲנָשִׁים מִבְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם נְשִׂיאֵי עֵדָה קְרִאֵי מֹועֵד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵׁם 16:2
Numb. 16:2 and they rose up before Moses, and two hundred and fifty men from the children of Israel, chiefs of the congregation, select of the congregation, men of renown,
וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל־מֹשֶׁה וְעַל־אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב־לָכֶם כִּי כָל־הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים וּבְתֹוכָם יְהוָה 16:3
וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ עַל־קְהַל יְהוָה
Numb. 16:3 and they assembled against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “Too much is yours; for all the congregation -- all of them – are holy, and the Lord is in their midst. Then why do you raise yourselves over the assembly of the Lord?” [Return to Deut. 23:2]
Although this verse states that the men of the assembly spoke against Moses, it was either Korach speaking or he had incited them beforehand to speak. In either case, this episode has to do with Korach challenging Moses’ authority. This situation and its result are reminiscent of the episode described at Exod. 17:2 and 17:3, although here we have a more troubling confrontation and a more dire consequence.
There’s more to think about here. I ask you, what do you suppose the phrase “assembly of the Lord” means? This phrase appears seven more times in the Torah, once in Numb.20:4 and six times in five verses in Deuteronomy Chapter 23. In this verse, one can surmise that it refers to the holy convocation of the children of Israel, that is, the elite, the privileged. The priests and Levites? Notice that Korach says that all are holy and the Lord is in their midst. Doesn’t that sound like he’s comparing all the (holy) people with Moses and Aaron? This is important, because it bears on the later interpretation of the six times the phrase occurs in Deuteronomy (that result in four commandments). In other words, does the phrase refer to the children of Israel, or does it refer to the Levites and priesthood? In this verse, it appears to refer to the latter group. However, let’s not be too hasty. Let’s wait until we reach Numb. 20:4. There we may get corroboration for this view, in which case, it will add weight to our tentative interpretation.
וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה וַיִּפֹּל עַל־פָּנָיו 16:4
Numb. 16:4 When Moses heard, then he fell on his face.
He apparently knew what was coming. So he went to the ground to pray to the Lord, asking for advice, which it seems he got. Read on.
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל־קֹרַח וְאֶל־כָּל־עֲדָתֹו לֵאמֹר בֹּקֶר וְיֹדַע יְהוָה אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־לֹו וְאֶת־הַקָּדֹושׁ וְהִקְרִיב אֵלָיו 16:5
וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר־בֹּו יַקְרִיב אֵלָיו
Numb. 16:5 Then he spoke to Korach and to all his assembly saying, “Come morning and the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and who may come near to Him, and He will bring near to Him who will be chosen by Him.”
Not withstanding my remark after v. 16:4, I ask myself, had the Lord already told Moses what he should say and do, or was Moses here asking (or telling) God what God should do? Is Moses being the prophet that God has made him? He is certainly taking charge of this situation. Where has his humility gone? His anger seems to have overcome it. It’s as if he is taking the charge against him and Aaron as a personal insult. Or perhaps his anger stems from his assuming he had to defend God’s choice of him and Aaron? This last question might be on the mark, as it may offer a better reason for why Moses fell on his face in v. 16:4.
זֹאת עֲשׂוּ קְחוּ־לָכֶם מַחְתֹּות קֹרַח וְכָל־עֲדָתֹו 16:6
Numb. 16:6 “Do this: Take censers for yourselves, Korach and all his assembly,
וּתְנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ וְשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶן קְטֹרֶת לִפְנֵי יְהוָה מָחָר וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר יְהוָה הוּא הַקָּדֹושׁ 16:7
רַב־לָכֶם בְּנֵי לֵוִי
Numb. 16:7 and put fire in them and set incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man who the Lord selects, he will be the holy one. Too much is yours, sons of Levi!”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־קֹרַח שִׁמְעוּ־נָא בְּנֵי לֵוִי 16:8
Numb. 16:8 And Moses said to Korach, “Hear now, sons of Levi,
הַמְעַט םִכֶּם כִּי־הִבְדִּיל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַקְרִיב אֶתְכֶם אֵלָיו לַעֲבֹד 16:9
אֶת־עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן יְהוָה וְלַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי הָעֵדָה לְשָׁרְתָם
Numb. 16:9 is it too small matter with you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel to bring you near to Him to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to be their ministers,
וַיַּקְרֵב אֹתְךָ וְאֶת־כָּל־אַחֶיךָ בְנֵי־לֵוִי אִתָּךְ וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּם גַּם־כְּהֻנָּה 16:10
Numb. 16:10 and He has brought you, and all your brothers, the sons of Levi, near with you? So shall you also seek the priesthood?”
לָכֵן אַתָּה וְכָל־עֲדָתְךָ הַנֹּעָדִים עַל־יְהוָה וְאַהֲרֹן מַה־הוּא כִּי (תִלֹּונוּ) [תַלִּינוּ] עָלָיו 16:11
Numb. 16:11 “Therefore you and all your assembly are the designated against the Lord. But Aaron, who is he that you murmur against him?”
The word in parentheses is assumed to be in error. I suspect that only the vowel point of the first vav is incorrect; otherwise the Hebrew spelling is an alternate that is not necessarily in error. Nevertheless, I’ve included the assumed correct word in the brackets.
וַיִּשְׁלַח מֹשֶׁה לִקְרֹא לְדָתָן וְלַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹא נַעֲלֶה 16:12
Numb. 16:12 And Moses sent to call for Dathan and for Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up.”
הַמְעַט כִּי הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מֵאֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ לַהֲמִיתֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר כִּי־תִשְׂתָּרֵר עָלֵינוּ גַּם־הִשְׂתָּרֵר 16:13
Numb. 16:13 “Is it a small matter that you have brought us up from a land gushing milk and honey for us to be killed in the wilderness, that you must also set yourself up the ruler over us?”
אַף לֹא אֶל־אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ הֲבִיאֹתָנוּ וַתִּתֶּן־לָנוּ נַחֲלַת שָׂדֶה וָכָרֶם הַעֵינֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָהֵם 16:14
תְּנַקֵּר לֹא נַעֲלֶה
Numb. 16:14 “Also you have not brought us to a land gushing milk and honey, or given an inheritance of field or vineyard to us. You may put out the eyes of these men. We will not come up.”
וַיִּחַר לְמֹשֶׁה מְאֹד וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־יְהוָה אַל־תֵּפֶן אֶל־מִנְחָתָם לֹא חֲמֹור אֶחָד מֵהֶם נָשָׂאתִי וְלֹא 16:15
הֲרֵעֹתִי אֶת־אַחַד מֵהֶם
Numb. 16:15 And Moses’ anger flared up so greatly that he said to the Lord, “You must not give heed to their offering. Not one ass have I taken from them; nor have I punished any of them.”
In my opinion, Moses’ words to the Lord in this verse sound as if he is defending himself against the accusation of the two men that he had set himself up as ruler. By believing he had to address the Lord in his defense, is Moses again minimizing God’s power and omniscience? This question seems to come up frequently in considering Moses’ relationship with the Lord.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־קֹרַח אַתָּה וְכָל־עֲדָתְךָ הֱיוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אַתָּה וָהֵם וְאַהֲרֹן מָחָר 16:16
Numb. 16:16 And Moses said to Korach, “You and all your assembly, appear before the Lord -- you and them -- and Aaron, tomorrow,
וּקְחוּ אִישׁ מַחְתָּתֹו וּנְתַתֶּם עֲלֵיהֶם קְטֹרֶת וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אִישׁ מַחְתָּתֹו חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם 16:17
מַחְתֹּת וְאַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אִישׁ מַחְתָּתֹו
Numb. 16:17 and take, each man his censers, and you will put incense on them, and bring, each man his censer, before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers, and you, and Aaron, each man his censer.”
וַיִּקְחוּ אִישׁ מַחְתָּתֹו וַיִּתְּנוּ עֲלֵיהֶם אֵשׁ וַיָּשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶם קְטֹרֶת וַיַּעַמְדוּ פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מֹועֵד וּמֹשֶׁה 16:18
Numb. 16:18 And they took, each man, his censer, and they put fire on them and placed incense on them, and they stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Moses and Aaron.
וַיַּקְהֵל עֲלֵיהֶם קֹרַח אֶת־כָּל־הָעֵדָה אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מֹועֵד וַיֵּרָא כְבֹוד־יְהוָה אֶל־כָּל־הָעֵדָה 16:19
Numb. 16:19 And Korach gathered together all the assembly against them to the entrance of the tent of meeting; then the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole assembly.
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר 16:20
Numb. 16:20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron saying,
הִבָּדְלוּ מִתֹּוךְ הָעֵדָה הַזֹּאת וַאַכַלֶּה אֹתָם כְּרָגַע 16:21
Numb. 16:21 “Separate yourselves from the midst of this assembly, and let Me consume them immediately.
וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל־פְּנֵיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵל אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל־בָּשָׂר הָאִישׁ אֶחָד יֶחֱטָא וְעַל כָּל־הָעֵדָה תִּקְצֹף 16:22
Numb. 16:22 And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh! Shall one man sin, and will You be ‘angry’ with the whole assembly?”
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר 16:23
Numb. 16:23 And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
דַּבֵּר אֶל־הָעֵדָה לֵאמֹר הֵעָלוּ מִסָּבִיב לְמִשְׁכַּן־קֹרַח דָּתָן וַאֲבִירָם 16:24
Numb. 16:24 “Speak to the assembly saying, “Depart from the vicinity of the dwelling of Korach, Dathan, and Abiram.”
וַיָּקָם מֹשֶׁה וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל־דָּתָן וַאֲבִירָם וַיֵּלְכוּ אַחֲרָיו זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 16:25
Numb. 16:25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiran, and the elders of Israel came after him.
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל־הָעֵדָה לֵאמֹר סוּרוּ נָא מֵעַל אָהֳלֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָרְשָׁעִים הָאֵלֶּה וְאַל־תִּגְּעוּ בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁר 16:26
לָהֶם פֶּן־תִּסָּפוּ בְּכָל־חַטֹּאתָם
Numb. 16:26 And he spoke to the assembly saying, “Withdraw, I pray you, from about the tents of these evil men, and you must not come in contact with anything that is theirs, lest you would be caught up with all their sins.”
וַיֵּעָלוּ מֵעַל מִשְׁכַּן־קֹרֶח דָּתָן וַאֲבִירָם מִסָּבִיב וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם יָצְאוּ נִצָּבִים פֶּתַח אָהֳלֵיהֶם וּנְשֵׁיהֶם 16:27
Numb. 16:27 So they departed from the dwelling of Korach, Dathan, and Abiram from every side. And Dathan and Abiram emerged, taking a stand at the door of their tents, and their wives and their sons and their little ones.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי־יְהוָה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשֹׂות אֵת כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי־לֹא מִלִּבִּי 16:28
Numb. 16:28 And Moses said, “By this you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds, that it is not from my mind.”
אִם־כְּמֹות כָּל־הָאָדָם יְמֻתוּן אֵלֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת כָּל־הָאָדָם יִפָּקֵד עֲלֵיהֶם לֹא יְהוָה שְׁלָחָנִי 16:29
Numb. 16:29 “Should these die the same death of all humanity, and the judgment of all humanity be visited on them, the Lord has not sent me.”
וְאִם־בְּרִיאָה יִבְרָא יְהוָה וּפָצְתָה הָאֲדָמָה אֶת־פִּיהָ וּבָלְעָה אֹתָם וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם וְיָרְדוּ חַיִּים 16:30
שְׁאֹלָה וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי נִאֲצוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה אֶת־יְהוָה
Numb. 16:30 “But should the Lord create a new phenomenon, and the ground open its mouth and devour them and all that is theirs, and they go down alive to the pit, then you shall know that these men have provoked the Lord.”
וַיְהִי כְּכַלֹּתֹו לְדַבֵּר אֵת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַתִּבָּקַע הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר תַּחְתֵּיהֶם 16:31
Numb. 16:31 And it happened at his conclusion of speaking all these words that the ground that was under them split.
וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת־פִּיהָ וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּיהֶם וְאֵת כָּל־הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח וְאֵת כָּל־הָרֲכוּשׁ 16:32
Numb. 16:32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who were with Korach, with all the property.
וַיֵּרְדוּ הֵם וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם חַיִּים שְׁאֹלָה וַתְּכַס עֲלֵיהֶם הָאָרֶץ וַיֹּאבְדוּ מִתֹּוךְ הַקָּהָל 16:33
Numb. 16:33 So they went down alive, them and all that was theirs, to the pit, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶם נָסוּ לְקֹלָם כִּי אָמְרוּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵנוּ הָאָרֶץ 16:34
Numb. 16:34 And all of Israel who were in their vicinity fled at their cry, as they said, “Lest the earth should swallow us up!”
וְאֵשׁ יָצְאָה מֵאֵת יְהוָה וַתֹּאכַל אֵת הַחֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ מַקְרִיבֵי הַקְּטֹרֶת 16:35
Numb. 16:35 And fire erupted from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who had been offering the incense.
Two observations that might be interesting to some site visitors: I would imagine that the two hundred and fifty men should be considered as guilty as Korach, Dathan, and Abiram. But it was only these three whose families and possessions were so ignominiously and tragically destroyed along with the three guilty ones. Why not the families and possessions of the two hundred and fifty as well? I don’t know. And why the families and possessions at all? Was it to produce the anomalous method of destruction prophesied by Moses (v. 16:30)? I would imagine that it wasn’t to visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children. This would seem to go well beyond the third and fourth generations (if to never be born is a form of visitation of fathers’ sin). However, later, in Chapter 26 (Numb. 26:11), we are told that Korach’s sons survived the punishment. [Return to Numb. 26:11]
I can imagine two reasons for the two hundred and fifty men being consumed by fire. One might have been to sanctify their censers (sanctification by fire?) The second was in response to their claiming that all in the congregation were holy (v. 16:3), thus denying God’s commandments by which He prescribed holiness.
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