Specific Bible Studies - What is the "spirit of Korah?"
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SUBJECT: "spirit of Korah"
QUESTIONS: What is the "spirit of Korah"? Just what did Korah do and what lessons are there for us today?
The "spirit of Korah" refers to a negative attitude he held regarding the
leadership of the children of Israel. He sought, with others, to overthrow
Moses and Aaron. Korah felt he was more qualified than Moses and that he
should be leading Israel. To tell you the story, following is an excerpt
from "The Bible Story" published years ago by our parent church:
Picking up the story in Chapter 41, REBELS CHALLENGE GOD'S GOVERNMENT"
Discontentment Grows Again
Not long after the Israelites left Kadesh, another wretched event took place
that resulted in another great disaster. The situation developed because a
state of envy existed in the minds of some of the people who wanted to be
priests or who wanted certain of their friends to be priests and leaders
instead of Levi's family.
Foremost among such men was a man named Korah, one of Levi's great grandsons
and a first cousin to Moses and Aaron. He strongly felt that he should have
been chosen for a high office. In fact, he had the idea that he should be in
Moses' position as head of Israel. He was joined in this ill attitude by
three Reubenites, Dathan, Abiram and On. They were of the opinion that Moses
was favoring his family too much, and was not properly distributing the
offices of authority. These men thought all the congregation should have a
voice in government. (Numbers 16:1-3.)
For a long time these men had been seething with discontent and planning how
they could move in to take over the priesthood for themselves. This scheme
against Moses was the same as scheming against God (Numbers 26:9), but these
men were desperate for power. Gradually they managed to persuade
high-ranking Israelites that their cause was right. Eventually two hundred
and fifty Israelite leaders agreed to join these influential, smooth-talking
schemers in the hope that all would move into higher rank with greater power
and more income.
One morning when Israel was camping at a stopping place on the way
southward, all these ambitious men gathered before Moses' tent. With Korah,
their best speaker and worst schemer leading them, they came to demand of
Moses that some changes be made in the priesthood. When Moses was told that
a crowd of high ranking men had come to demand some changes in government,
he wasn't surprised. He had sensed for weeks that this kind of trouble was
brewing. Now, as he came out of his tent, he expected to see only a handful
of men. He was rather startled to see more than two hundred and fifty, and
he was considerably upset to recognize so many trusted men of high rank
among those who now stood before him with unfriendly expressions. (Numbers
"Why are you here?" Moses asked.
Korah Wants More Authority
"We are here because we believe you are taking on too much power for one
man," Korah answered. "You and your priests act as though you are holier
than any of the rest of us. If we are God's chosen people, then ALL of us
are holy. That means that all of us have equal rights in matters of
government. However, you use your authority to put men who are your friends
in the best positions in government. (Verse 3.) We demand that you yield
some of those offices to the congregation so we can choose our own
officials." Korah, being a good speaker, knew he could be elected to a high
office if the people were allowed to choose their own leaders. What Korah
really was after was complete control of all Israel. Leaders of nations have
always been the objects of envy by greedy men. Seizing leadership has always
been a selfish, bloody game, with the greatest losers generally turning out
to be the citizens. Even Israel, God's chosen nation, wasn't free of this
kind of ambitious trouble makers.
Moses was shocked by this blunt demand from Korah. He could see that the men
weren't just bluffing. It was plain that they were willing to go to extremes
to gain what they had set out to do. Setting armed soldiers on them would
only mean bloodshed. Besides, most of the Israelites would sympathize with
the victims of the soldiers, since they were popular, well-known leaders,
and the situation would become worse.
Without even going back into the privacy of his tent, Moses knelt forward
with his head to the ground and asked God for help. A few of those assembled
became uncomfortable as they stood in the presence of a humble man calling
on his Creator for aid. They included On, one of the Reubenites. He wanted
no more of the matter, and slipped out of the scene. Other onlookers merely
smiled at what they considered an attempt by Moses to gain their sympathy by
appearing pitifully pious.
"This is no time for a show, Moses!" Korah called out. "Stand up and explain
why at least some of us shouldn't be priests in place of some of those who
are now in service merely because it was your whim to put them there."
Korah, a Levite, already had a high office, but he wanted an even higher
office -- the priesthood that was given to Aaron. (Verses 8-11.)
Moses slowly came to his feet. Those who watched him couldn't know that God
had just inspired him to know what to say. Ignoring Korah, Moses addressed
Dathan and Abiram.
Moses Tries to Save Rebels
"Before you carry this matter further, let us discuss it in my tent," Moses
said, thus giving them an opportunity to separate from Korah.
"There is no reason to talk with you," Dathan and Abiram replied. "We refuse
to listen to your excuses for leading us from the good land of Egypt and
into a desert where we are to die. Your only aim has plainly been to control
the people, no matter what becomes of them." (Verses 12-14.)
These untruthful charges upset Moses. He was tempted to summon soldiers to
slay every rebel before him. But he knew this was not according to God's
plan of dealing with them, and he controlled himself.
"You have started something you will have trouble finishing," Moses declared
to Korah in a voice that reached the whole crowd. "Your belief that just
anyone can be in the priesthood without being ordained by God is not a true
one. However, if all of you insist on trying to force your way into such
offices, every one of you should be here tomorrow morning with incense and
with a censer filled with hot coals. Aaron and his sons will also be here
with their censers. God will make it known which ones he will choose as
priests and their helpers." (Verses 4-7.)
Korah smiled when he heard this. He lacked respect for God, and he felt that
he had bluffed Moses into giving in to the extent that he and his followers
could gain a foothold in wresting power from Moses.
Rebels Challenge Moses
Next morning the crowd of two hundred and fifty, plus Korah, Dathan and
Abiram, appeared before the tabernacle. Every man carried a censer filled
with hot coals to show his readiness to go at once into priestly service.
Korah had spread the word throughout the camps that he was going to
challenge Moses, and that there would be a showdown to free the people from
what was wrongfully referred to as Moses' unfair leadership. As a result, a
growing crowd of curious people built up behind Korah's men.
Moses came out to face Korah. With him were Aaron and Aaron's sons, all of
whom held censers with hot coals. The elders of Israel were also present.
There were minutes of strained silence. God hadn't told Moses what to do
beyond asking the men to show up with censers. Moses didn't know what would
happen next, but he was certain that God would somehow make it very clear
which group would be in power from then on.
Suddenly there was a brilliant flash from the tabernacle, followed by a
second and a third. It was plain to most that God was in the tabernacle.
(Verse 19.) Some of them drew back, fearful of what might happen. Even a
part of Korah's followers appeared to be ready to leave, but Korah told them
to stand firm. Korah had become so rebellious that he actually doubted that
God could hinder him and his men from gaining leadership of Israel, and the
blinding display of light from within the tabernacle didn't move him from
Realizing that God wanted to give them some message, Moses and Aaron stepped
away from the others and approached the tabernacle.
"Remove yourselves and the priests and elders from these people who face
you," God commanded in a voice that only the two men could hear. "I want you
at a safe distance because I intend to wipe all the others out of
existence!" (Verses 20-21.)
Moses shuddered at this alarming remark from God. The Creator had threatened
to do the same thing before, but Moses had begged him not to, and God
answered Moses' prayer. There was nothing to do now but again ask God to
spare the people. Moses and Aaron bowed down in fervent prayer.
"Look at him!" Korah exclaimed to those about him. "He's trying again to
gain the sympathy of the people by appearing pious!"
On the contrary, Moses wasn't concerned at that moment what the people
thought. He was concerned for their lives, and he pleaded with God not to be
angry with many people because of the evil deeds of a few. (Verse 22.)
God Spares the People
"I shall do this much," God said. "I shall spare the congregation if you can
succeed in getting the people back to their homes and away from the tents
where Korah, Dathan and Abiram live. Any who go near the homes of those
three men will risk losing their lives."
Encouraged by this merciful statement from God, Moses sent his officers out
to warn the crowd to break up and return to their tents, and not to go near
the tents of Korah, Abiram and Dathan. Slowly and a bit unwillingly the
people sauntered away.
"You said that God would choose His priests if we would assemble with
censers," Korah called out to Moses. "You have only proved to the people
that you are not a man of your word, because nothing has happened. Tomorrow
we shall return. The people will think the matter over, and tomorrow they
will be ready to back us up in what should be done about your authority."
"You should remember this in the meantime," Moses replied. "If you live till
tomorrow, then you can know that I will not continue to be the leader of the
This strange remark was ignored by Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who returned to
their respective homes, which were close together on the south side of the
Tabernacle. (Numbers 2:10 and 3:29.) Korah felt that he had made another
successful step, and that it would be only a matter of a day or two before
the mass of Israelites would swing over to his side. As for his two hundred
and fifty followers, they also left and went back to their various camps.
Later, Moses and Aaron and the elders went to make certain that the people
were not congregated around the homes of the three main offenders. They
found their residence free of visitors, which was as God wanted it to be.
Moses then warned them that because they persisted in a scheme to take over
the government, God would cause the ground to open up and swallow them.
Dathan and Abiram came out of their tents, along with their wives and
children, to hear what more Moses had to say.
"Now he's trying to threaten us with an earthquake," Dathan scornfully
shouted to Abiram. "Can you think of anything more fantastic?"
"I'll believe it only when it happens -- and maybe not even then," Abiram
shouted back with a grin.
Too Late to Repent!
"We have given these men fair warning," Moses said to those with him.
"Perhaps God would spare them if they would repent, but since they refuse to
repent, it's obviously too late now. Let us leave here before something
Almost as soon as their backs were turned there was a growing rumble from
within the Earth. The ground trembled, then heaved upward directly between
the tents of Abiram and Dathan and the tent of Korah, which was close by in
Chapter 42 "THE EARTH OPENED ITS MOUTH!"
SCREAMING terrorized people of all three families -- Korah, Dathan and
Abiram -- rushed wildly and aimlessly in all directions. Then the quivering
mound of ground suddenly collapsed and fell back into a deep, yawning chasm!
Tons of soil and rock slipped off the vertical sides of this horrifying hole
and thundered down into dark oblivion, taking people, tents, animals and
most everything that belonged to Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Numbers 16:31-33
and 26:10.) It was as though a gigantic mouth had opened in the Earth's
crust for the one purpose of swallowing the rebellious men and their
---end of excerpt---
The lesson is clear for us today. We should be immersed into the Word of
God and His Salvation Process and never allow any type of a spirit of
rebellion to creep into our minds. We should never seek to unseat those
over us in the church because of envy, jealousy, pride or the desire for
power and position. We should never allow anyone to gossip, murmur against
nor tear down anyone in leadership. Korah was not just rebelling against
Moses and Aaron but against God. Anyone today attempting to rebel against
the leadership positions in the church, for those stated reasons and
motivations would be doing the same.