Sunday, April 17, 2011

Numbers 16 - Korah's Rebellion

LINK: Numbers 16


Here we have another rebellion similar to the one by Miriam and Aaron in Exodus 12, but this one is led by Korah who leads Dathan, Abiram, On, and about 250 other "men of renown" among the people of Israel.

Their complaint: "We are ALL holy. Why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" It is interesting to note that Aaron was one of the complainers in Exodus 12, but he has now become the recipient of the complaints along with Moses.

Korah was a descendant of Kohath from among the sons of Levi. Therefore, his tribe had a very important role that God spelled out very specifically (Numbers 4). Somehow, that was not enough. Perhaps Kohath thought that the Aaronic priest would have the same perks as the Egyptian priesthood for this was the only priesthood in which Kohath would have been familiar. In Egyptian culture, the priest had great wealth and political influence. He might have thought that Moses and Aaron had similar ambitions, but Moses defended his innocence vehemently (16:15). Moses was the leader only because God had appointed him as such. He was a humble servant of God and not after power, money, or control.

Similar to the situation with Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12, Moses allowed the Lord to do the judging, knowing that the rebellion was not against him but against the Lord. The Lord was angry, but Moses and Aaron prayed that God would not wipe out the entire congregation because of the rebellion of a small group of men. Moses did not need to defend his God-given position. God swiftly adjudicated and the earth swallowed the usurpers up and Dathan and Abiram's families. (Sorry for you compassionate readers. This can be hard to swallow.) Interestingly enough, Korah's family was not entirely wiped out (Numbers 26:11).

Fire also destroyed the 250 men who joined the revolt as they offered up their incense. Then, the LORD instructed Moses to instruct Eleazar to hammer the censers into sheets and cover the altar of sacrifice as a memorial that established the Aaronic priesthood for the future. This would be a lasting reminder for future challenges to the priests.

You would think that such a devastating experience the day before would have silenced the people forever, but the next day they blamed the deaths on Moses and Aaron! Again the LORD was swift in judgment by sending a plague. Again, Moses interceded by telling Aaron to recover his censer and light incense to make atonement for them. He averted the plague but not before 14,700 people had already died.


Poor Korah. If only he had been content in the special purpose God had designed specifically for him! He had the important job of being a tabernacle assistant. The priests could not function without him doing this job.

So often, we can look at other people and desire the notoriety and influence that their gifts, talents, and abilities produce. Yet, God has designed each of us for a specific purpose and no gifts are better or more important than another (See 1 Corinthians 12). We were all designed to fit together as one bold and beautiful body of Christ. When we all function according to how we were created and designed, people do not see the individuals, they see Christ's body! There is no room for jealousy and competition when we see it in that light.

When we look at another person's "garden," it can lead us to inappropriate greed and ambition. I have seen over and over again in ministry where people want to be leaders or teachers, and this was not in their gift mix. They spent many years thinking that their worth was wrapped up in their role in a position of power and competed and jockeyed for position and influence when God had already made them worthwhile and wanted them to function in their gifting and abilities. What a waste of time and energy. What a diversion from true kingdom purposes!

God has designed us and made us for a very special purpose, and we need to keep seeking God's face on what that might be rather than rebelling against God's will and wasting our time and energy comparing ourselves to and competing with others in the body of Christ.

New Testament Cross-Reference

When Jude is talking about the danger of false teachers, he mentions Korah:

Woe to them! they have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 11)

We have already studied Cain, and we will get to Balaam in Numbers 22-24. All three of these stories illustrate attitudes of pride, selfishness, jealousy, greed, lust for power, and disregard of God's will.

What lessons we can learn from them to apply to our own lives!


Are you comparing yourself to others and not being content in God's special purposes for you? Meditate on 1 Corinthian 12 and the functioning of the gifts within the body.

Do you know your S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart Passions, Abilities, Personality, Experience)? Here is a test you can take online to help you begin to assess this: 

It might be a start to understanding more about God's design for you!


Thank You Lord that You have designed us for a special purpose. Help us to be content in that purpose rather than desire what others have. Thank You that we are all part of a body and You have made us all to work together for Your glory! Help all our ambition to be only for YOU! Amen.
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