Korach … and I’m stumped
Yep, I have to admit it … Korach (Korah) always seems to stump me in various ways when I read this Torah Portion.
It’s the story in Numbers 16 about one of the leaders in the Israelite tribes, Korah, who had the audacity to question why Moses was the only one that could lead. It caused a LOT of headaches….and disaster!
So who was this guy anyway? Well, he was the eldest son of Izhar, (son of Kothath) who was of the tribe of Levi. So he was of a pretty important tribe, especially since Moses & Aaron were also of the same tribe. So they were at least cousins!
In Numbers 16:1-3 we see that Korah wasn’t alone in charging that Moses & Aaron needed to share the responsibility of leading the people. There were over 250 other leaders that challenged Moses’ authority as well. In fact, let’s read what he and the others said in those verses:
“You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
Maybe Korah and the other leaders were on the right track, maybe they were tired of being ordered around, maybe they felt like they could do a better job? I’m sure that these and many more feelings fueled their dissent. That part is pretty obvious.
But aren’t we suppose to question our leaders? Aren’t we supposed to judge their fruit and make sure that they are staying on track? After all, each of us could probably point out more than one pastor, rabbi or leader that fell off the wagon, eyed someone they weren’t supposed to, or abused the people in some way or another, don’t we? How does all that fit into ‘not judging’?
Well, for one…let’s remember that this is MOSES …. not the local guy down the road. MOSES….the guy who led the entire house of Israel out of Egypt and slavery, the one who parted the Reed Sea and the Israelites walked across on dry land, the guy who went up that mountain for – what– 120 days? And then he goes and pleads with the Lord to forgive these people after they built that golden calf? Oh my…..this wasn’t just some shmoejoe…this was THE appointed of the Lord! A leader full of humility, servanthood and fore-sight!
Personally, I can’t figure out how one would have the gumption to even think of challenging him…but then….I didn’t live back then. And yes, I have been known to challenge a few leaders 🙂 … Actually, it is one of the reasons I was able to walk out of the Roman Catholic Church and embrace the teachings of my Messiah. So maybe there are some reasons to ‘challenge’ authority.
Anyway, back to Korah. Moses just didn’t tell him to shut up and sit down – he didn’t even try to bring a smear campaign against him and send out a nasty report to all the people to shun Korah & the leaders – nor did he kick him out of the camp. What he DID do was ingenious and righteous – he let God decide their fate!
And boy did He! All of Israel were witnesses to the ‘fire that came out from the LORD’ and consumed all who were in the rebellion. So…apparently, the Holy One made His decision – and it was not pleasant. Unfortunately, it seems that the congregation (all of them?) complained that they had “killed the LORD’s people.” They were very upset and while we don’t know the how of what they did, we do know that God wasn’t very pleased with them and threatened to kill all of them! However, because Moses and Aaron interceded for the congregation, complete annilation was averted. However, 14,700 Israelites died (Numbers 16:41-50)!
Guess the moral of the story is……make sure you’re on the side of the Holy One before you object ~ or it may cost you everything!