Thoughts on Korach

This week’s reading is Korach, Numbers 16:1–18:32. The haftarah is 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22, and the Apostolic Writings is John 15:1–17. *

The three readings this week contain a series of choices, each with long term repercussions. The Torah portion begins with Korach and company choosing to reinterpret HaShem’s declaration to Bnei Yisrael “as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim (priests) and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) to mean that Moshe and Aaron were not to be leaders but equals among all (cf. Numbers 16:1-3). Korach and company soon discovered their error, the consequences of which led to the death of the ring-leaders and their families (Numbers 16:32-33). Unfortunately, an indirect result of Korach’s rebellion was that the people once again grumbled and complained against Moshe and Aaron. This time, however, they blamed Moshe and Aaron for the punishment of Korach and those who followed him, instead of recognizing that it was the rebellious ones who were solely responsible (Numbers 16:41). The end result was a plague that killed 14,700 more individuals bringing the total dead due to Korach’s choice close to 15,000 individuals.

There are two extremely important lessons we need to glean from this narrative. First, we should be very careful when questioning HaShem’s appointed authority. The Psalmist gave this stern warning from HaShem, “Touch not My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15). There is no question that we have a right, as did Korach, to question our leaders, even confront them if they are in error. But we must always be cautious to do so with the proper attitude, in the proper setting and in humility, questioning their actions not their calling or position that was appointed by God. Second, we must realize that we are not the only ones affected by our choices; our families, our friends, co-workers and others often get caught in the tidepool of the repercussions of our choices.

In the haftarah, we read about Israel’s choice to exchange HaShem’s leadership as King functioning though His appointed and anointed judges to being led by an earthly king like the nations. Although HaShem acquiesced to their request for a king (1 Sam. 8), and it was foretold in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, their decision affected the following generations and even our theology. Over the subsequent centuries of Israel’s existence in both the united and divided kingdoms there were good kings, not so good ones, and really bad ones. The existence of each, however, can be traced back to the decision to have an earthly king rule over them as recorded in 1 Samuel.

Finally, in Apostolic Writings we read of another aspect of choosing. In John 15, we read Yeshua’s words, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I selected you so that you would go and produce fruit, and your fruit would remain. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name” (15:16). This same thought of being chosen yet not necessarily choosing is elaborated upon by Moshe when he stated,

For you are a holy people to ADONAI your God—from all the peoples on the face of the earth, ADONAI your God has chosen you to be His treasured people. It is not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that ADONAI set His love on you and chose you—for you are the least of all peoples.Rather, because of His love for you and His keeping the oath He swore to your fathers, ADONAI brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

I am not suggesting that neither we nor Israel have/had a choice in whether or not to be related to HaShem or our Messiah Yeshua. One of my favorite verses from Jeremiah should put that notion to rest. Hashem emphatically states,

“For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares ADONAI, “plans for shalomand not calamity—to give you a future and a hope.” 

Jeremiah 29:11

Interestingly, He does not state, “I am going to make you or force you to follow My plans.” The choice to follow remains ours individually. The choice to be obedient to God’s call remains with us, individually and communally. Remember Joshua’s words to Israel as he was about to step down from leadership, “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). Moshe, many years earlier said something similar,

See, I set before you today life and good, death and evil … Therefore, choose life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving ADONAI your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life…. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

A few verses earlier than the passage from John 15 mentioned above, we see that obedience is also a key factor. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (15:10). We have the choice whom we will serve and whom we will obey. Our choice to obey assures us of His abiding love.

Consider this, HaShem placed the man and the woman in the Garden which apparently was very good. However, in that garden the snake was already present. Chava (Eve) may well have been deceived by the snake to disobey HaShem’s command but the man there with her choose to follow in her disobedience. From the very beginning the choice has always been present, as Moshe later proclaimed to Israel, to “choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” Had Korach obeyed the leading of HaShem, his, his family and his followers’ outcome would have been different. We each have the opportunity to choose a life of obedience to the purposes and plans of the One who has called us to Himself and provided a way though His Son Yeshua.

  • Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from theTree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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