Parashah #38: Korach B’midbar (Numbers) 16:1-18:32

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #38: Korach B’midbar (Numbers) 16:1-18:32
Haftarah: Sh’mu’el (Samuel) 11;14-12:22
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Timothy 2:8-21

This week we examine a human trait that if left unchecked, results in soulish behavior, and disastrous consequences. Korach, who is a Levite, is not happy with the honored position of helping to manage the Tabernacle. He wants to be a Kohen (priest) too. He feels disenfranchised. Moshe and Aharon, his cousins from first-born Amram, lead the people and the priests. Korach was next in line as the head of the family, but, Moshe appointed Elitsafan, firstborn of K’hat’s youngest son Uzi’el to be the head of the clan instead (Ex.6:16-22). Korach tries to manipulate his feelings of jealousy by telling Moshe and Aharon that they are taking too much upon themselves, when in fact he means he is unhappy because Aharon is a Levite and a Priest and Moshe is a Levite and the leader of the people. Then the truth comes out in no uncertain terms; “Is it too little that you have brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to cause our death in the wilderness? (Num. 16:13). Korach has the nerve to call Egypt a land flowing with milk and honey!

To make things worse, firstborns Datan, Aviam, and On also protest Moshe’s leadership over them by refusing to go to him (Num. 16:12-14). Moshe is distraught and goes right to G-d with a request that G-d not accept any tributes from these rebellious men, as Moshe has not taken anything from them or wronged them in any way (Num. 16;15). Moshe is fair/impartial as he addresses this issue by proposing to Korach that each person bring his fire pan and incense to test Korach’s proposition that if all are holy and all of the congregation are priests, then everyone has equal access to G-d with their own incense (Num. 16;17). Korach and his followers are so eager to be priests that they do not think this through and readily accept Moshe’s proposal. Recall that this incident is similar to that of Nadav and Avihu who brought unauthorized fire before G-d. This is the same principle. We each have a role in HaShem’s plan. All are to glorify Him, but each has a specific task that will accomplish this unified goal. Too often, people think they know better than G-d and want a position or role that someone else has been given. There is a reason G-d places us where we are and we are to bloom where he plants us. Korach could not accept his honored task as a Levite. He wanted more!

The next day, 250 chiefs approached the door of the Tent of meeting near to the face of G-d with their firepans and incense. Then, the Glory of G-d appeared to the entire congregation (Num. 16:19). G-d is not happy and tells Moshe to separate themselves as he is going to devour them in an instant. Moshe and Aharon intercede on behalf of the community by falling on their faces before G-d. This is an example of the fact that G-d indeed holds a community responsible at least to some degree, for the sins of those within the community. How can this be? Consider some of the crimes against humanity today. In Florida, a young mother and baby were killed by 2 young men racing on a road with a speed limit of 45 miles an hour. The speed of one driver was determined to be 102 mph! Turns out that this teen’s father had just bought him a new mustang used in this race. One has to wonder how this boy was raised. Regardless, what was the solution to this problem? The city lowered the speed limit to 35 mph and put up more traffic lights. Can we really expect this to be the solution? We may safely deduce that if people are going to race cares illegally, a 35 mph speed limit is not going to deter them any more than a 45 mph speed limit. There are multiple levels of responsibility in this case; individual responsibility of the one who committed the crime, the parents, and society who does not exercise G-d’s Torah in making decisions on how to punish the individual (s) and make a serious attempt to prevent others from committing this crime in the future. In this instance, the 18-year-old was sentenced to 24 years in prison but plans to appeal. If the appeal is denied, it will at least show anyone with a sense of compassion for life that those who disregard it and the laws of the land will be held accountable.

Getting back to the parashah, next Moshe orders the community to move away from the tents of those who are part of the rebellion and not to touch anything. This is a lesson in itself not to associate with those who blatantly rebel against the Commands of G-d. Once the community obeyed and moved away, the ground opened and consumed Datan, Aviram, and all their household including children and possessions. This brings up another question. Surely there were children under the age of accountability. G-d took them also. Will He do the same at the Rapture? These that were taken in this narrative went to Sheol (Num. 16:33;17;5;26;10-11.). With the information we are provided in the B’rit Chadashah, we know that Yahshua went to Sheol for three days and preached. Those that accepted Him were the first fruits of the resurrection. Perhaps the children lost in our narrative were part of those first fruits. Perhaps since there will not be a second chance at the Rapture, children under the age of accountability will be taken to be spared the Tribulation. We can only speculate and learn the truth when the time comes.
Why would G-d take the children of the rebellious ones spoken of in the parashah? Because family and property extend the personality of the head of the house, so collective retribution exacts punishment on all. Although G-d exacted punishment to the third and fourth generation, He also forgives to a thousand generation (Ex. 34:7). This is an aspect of His sovereignty for which he should be praised. In the case of punishment, Korach’s rebellion, the community had to suffer being cut off from all Israel. As the community complains, G-d extends punishment in the way of a plague. Aharon, the High Priest, atones for the people by running through the middle of the community between the dead and the living and the plague is stopped. This is symbolic of Yahshua, our High Priest, dying on the execution stake between those who are already lost and those whose fate is yet to be determined in order to provide a way for reconciliation through the sacrifice and salvation in the end.
More complaining ensues about Aharon’s right to the priesthood. The staffs of each tribal leader are placed before the ark of testimony. G-d confirms the perpetuity of the priesthood through Aharon by making his staff bear not only blossoms, but flowers and ripened fruit. We see this symbology of the continuity of the Aaronic priesthood on the Temple menorah as we discussed last week.
G-d places responsibility for protecting the Tent from unauthorized personnel on the Levites. In exchange for this risky duty, G-d commands that the people tithe a tenth of their contributions to the Levites. Then G-d commands the Levites tithe a tenth of their contributions from the people to Him. G-d provides, but He demands His determined fair share. This command has not changed.
Finally, we learn that G-d does and will not tolerate people who are halfhearted and appear to be wholehearted. In this narrative we are introduced to Chananyah (G-d is gracious) and Shappirah (Beautiful) who hold back some of the proceeds from their home and land they claimed to donate to G-d. Both were killed the same day for this sin. We are not to walk the fence when it comes to our service to G-d. In the Book of Revelation, G-d states he will vomit out those who are neither hot nor cold towards His Torah/ for Him (Rev.3:16).
Haftarah: 1 Sh’mu’el (Samuel) 11:14-12:22
In this haftarah, Korach’s descendant Sh’mu’el, relents to the people’s demand for a human king to rule over them, but rebukes them for having the wrong motive for the demand. Man’s wisdom leads to death and they should have known that a human king would never be the same as having a theocracy with G-d in charge. Sh’mu’el insists that a monarchy in Israel establish a kingly theocracy whereby the king would serve G-d and obey Torah rather than being self-serving and self-seeking personal aggrandizement. He reminds them that if they follow G-d’s Torah, all will be well with them. If they choose to rebel, Adonai will oppress them and their leaders (1 Sam. 12:14-15). Thunder and rain fell that day to show G-d’s displeasure at the sin of the people for asking for a king. Yet, the people were not destroyed. Rather, Sh’mu’el admonished them not to turn away from Adonai; not to turn toward useless things lest they be destroyed. Sh’mu’el continued to pray for the people and instruct them in the good and right way (1 Sam. 12:21).
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Timothy 2:8-21
The theme of this narrative is perseverance in following G-d’s Torah and not being taken in by the worthless activities and goals of the secular world. Sha’ul encourages Timothy to continually remind the people not to engage in word battles specifically, not only for the damage they do to those involved, but also to those who are within hearing distance. He tells Timothy that “G-d’s firm foundation stands, stamped with these words: ‘The L-rd knows his own’ and ‘Let everyone who claims he belongs to the L-rd stand apart from wrongdoing.’” “If a person keeps himself free from defilement by those who are meant for dishonorable use, he will be a vessel set aside for honorable use by the master of the house and ready for every kind of good work. (2 Tim. 2:21).
May we all make ourselves honorable vessels for His use and say “Hineni Adonai!” (Here I am L-rd!).

Shabbat Shalom,
R. Tamah Davis-Hart
Excerpts of this message were taken from “Walk Numbers” by Dr. Jeffrey Feinberg (2002).