“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 portion, 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)
In this week’s Parasha, we see that the seeds of rebellion which had already been planted were just waiting to break out into a full-blown uprising.
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 while severely punishing those who joined the rebellion by swallowing them up into the earth.
It was as if God 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)
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 HaKodesh (Holy Spirit); rather, they repel the Spirit.
When we find ourselves in the midst of strife, 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 51:10–12)
Today’s Parasha presents many valuable lessons about prayer, attitude, conduct, relationships, and the proper response to God and His appointed leadership.
Here are 12 lessons from Parasha Korach that are indispensable for every Believer:
1. No One Is Immune to the Influence of Bad Company
“Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, see also Proverbs 22:24–25)
Parasha Korach reveals that we must thoughtfully choose the people with whom we closely associate. According to rabbinic commentary, the tribes of Reuven and Levi marched side by side in the desert, and this is how they came to plot their joint conspiracy.
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 mutiny to see the rebels’ personal motives in uprising 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 was 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)
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.
The motivation of David was similar to that of Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest 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).
3. Unity Is Precious and Powerful
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.
There is an anointing and blessing in a life that is characterized by unity.
“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 133:1–3)
Let us, then, seek to live a life led by the Spirit of God, rather than our own flesh.
And when we are led by the Spirit, His fruit—love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—will be evident in our daily lives (Galatians 5:22–23). Of course, only the Spirit of God can do this work in us, as this is a work of God’s grace.
“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)
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 6:16–19)
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).
On the other hand, we also read in the Brit Chadashah (The New Testament) portion that Ananias’ 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.