Scripture: They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “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?” Numbers 16:3 ESV
Observation: With the nation’s foolish rebellion against God’s command to take possession of the Promised Land in the review mirror, Chapter 16 presents yet another relapse: Korah’s rebellion. For today’s devotion, we will focus on the opening scene: Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On’s arrogating challenge of Moses’ and Aaron’s authority.
The principals of this uprising recruited 250 men who were not rogues but chiefs of the congregation according to the Masoretic text (traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible), which makes their actions even more egregious given these were men held in high esteem by the people. Presumptuously, these four leaders attack Moses’ and Aaron’s character and actions: accusing them of setting themselves above the rest of the people in their manner of leadership. Hence, they argue that “all in the congregation are holy.” As theologian Ronald Allen contends, while this is true, “there are gradations of holiness in the divine intent” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers). Moses exhibited greater holiness in seeking and obeying God’s will. Allen also suggests that Korah and his cohorts are jockeying for a democratic government over a theocracy (God-ruled society): the people should decide for themselves the best course.
Takeaway: That Korah and his three partners would lead another revolt after the disastrous outcome of the earlier rebellion would raise the question, Why? Did they reason that they could circumvent the sentence of forty years of wandering and dying in the desert? Perhaps. Another reason might be for a power grab. Given Korah and his cohorts addressed both Moses and Aaron (the high priest) and that Korah was a descendent of Levi, they may have struck a deal for Korah to usurp Aaron’s position and the other three to divvy Moses’ realm of authority. Or maybe their bravado masks insecurities. The name Korah means baldness, which, if he were from a line of men with male-patterned baldness, might reveal a feeble attempt to prove his worth, for a man’s hair was considered his glory in ancient Israel. And Dathan’s name means decree or law, somewhat ironic given he chose to buck God’s appointed leader. Abiram means the exalted One is my Father—again ironic given he did not exalt his Father with his actions. Lastly, On’s name means “vigor.” Sadly, he will soon lose his vigor.
Regardless of their motives, the takeaway for us is a familiar theme through the Exodus story: respect the position of God’s appointed leader. Even if the person is not acting honorably, we need to honor their seat of authority. David understood this when he had two opportunities to kill Saul, who no longer followed God’s will. Instead, he continued to show respect toward his king and wait for God to remove him. And as Saul’s last days did not go well, so would Korah’s, Dathan’s, Abiram’s, and On’s lives come to a tragic end. (We’ll explore this point in tomorrow’s Daily Focus).
Prayer: Father God, thank you for the most outstanding leader to walk this earth, your Son, Jesus Christ, and for the ongoing leadership of your Holy Spirit. Would you please help us respect their positions of authority and those fellow humans you place over us by our words and actions? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling