This is not the first time the people have rebelled but this is a BIG one. God wants to take them all out again but Moses intercedes again on the people’s behalf.
“You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” (verse 7c). This is Moses’ statement to the group that has gathered to confront him. The leader of this rebellion is one of the men from the branch of the tribe of Levi given the task of carrying the holy furnishings for the tabernacle as they moved about in the wilderness. His name was Korah. From what I can tell he had three primary partners in this rebellion; Dathan, Abiram and On. It looks to me like they were from the tribe of Reuben. I’m not certain of On’s part in this since he isn’t mentioned any further. He may have simply been in the lineage mentioned.
Jealousy seems to be at the root of this issue. Korah was jealous because he wasn’t of the line God had chosen to serve as priests. The others were jealous that they weren’t even in the “special” group at all. Somehow they convinced 250 of the leading men in Israel to take up their “cause” and join them in challenging Moses for authority.
I’m curious what they promised them for their loyalty. I doubt it would be a portion of the Promised Land as the people were afraid to go in to take it since they had their hats handed to them the last time they tried. Maybe they thought that if they could gain control over the tabernacle they could make God do their bidding and force Him to help them conquer the people in the land.
They came to Moses stating that ALL the people were holy and should have access to God. They honestly didn’t understand the role of the priest and what it took to stand before God. The priests were actually a layer of protection for the people. God required more of them in terms of holiness than of the people. ALL were to follow the Law God had given but the priests put their lives on the line as the intermediaries.
We are told that Moses was a very humble man. We KNOW he never asked for this job. In fact, he did everything he could think of to get out of the role God was calling him for. So when this group came to him proposing that he was lording it over the people through his position, Moses couldn’t believe his ears. He probably would have traded places if he thought God would allow it. This was NOT an easy job but it had one ENORMOUS perk that he treasured above all else; his relationship with God. He would not give this up for anything or anyone.
Korah’s first claim was false so the rest of his argument had no foundation. If all the people had been holy why did Moses have to plead with God to spare them after their last major rebellious act? Korah’s counterparts had another “grievance” to lay at Moses’ feet. Not only were they angry that Moses was over them but they were angry that they had lost the promise of God. “You have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards” (verse 14a).
How could they be so bold?! Their own actions are what caused them to lose God’s promise! Moses and Caleb tried to calm them down and convince them to trust in the Lord. THEY chose to rebel and not go where God had called them. And because of their rebellion God had proposed killing them ALL and starting over. They had NO ONE but themselves to blame for their losses.
Moses was angry at their behavior but he didn’t order them to cease and desist. Instead he left the judgement of their actions up to the Lord. He would let God judge. Moses did suggest the means by which God would judge. God had already made it apparent to the people that only those whom HE chose and who did it the RIGHT way could bring the censers with fire and incense before Him.
Moses fully expected God to reject their offerings. In fact he asked Him to because of their claims against him and his conduct in the office God had placed him in. What Moses didn’t expect was the huge turnout the next morning. Korah had called them to witness their display.
God was ready again to wipe out the whole group except for Moses and Aaron. This is the second time God has publicly stated He would wipe them out. This is also the second time Moses publicly pleads for their lives.
The last time God passed judgement on the people He spared their lives but punished them by rejecting them as the ones to receive His promise. This time the whole assembly is not punished; only those who committed the sin. The way they would die left NO doubt as to whom God chose to be His representative. Moses had barely finished stating the grounds on which they could be certain to judge.
My mom once told me that when she was pregnant with my brother that she had prayed the child would be a boy. I was the second child in our family and they thought I was going to be a boy but instead they had two girls. When my brother was born one of my mother’s sisters commented that they would never know if her prayer was answered. What she was implying was that there was already a chance the child would be male and there was no way of knowing if his sex was due to her prayers or simple genetics chance.
Moses didn’t have that “problem” in this situation. There was NO doubt that GOD did this miracle on his behalf. God substantiated Moses full claim; that of being called to his position over the people. As we noted before, he never asked for it and even tried to get out of it.
This was the second winnowing of the group that God said would die in the wilderness. First the 10 spies who brought the bad report. Now those involved in this rebellion. One would think these people would learn.
Father God I wish the decision I make were so clearly illuminated. You left NO doubt as to Your decision and path to follow. I believe this was the last of the open rebellions against Moses in the camp. Not the last one against You though. I honestly don’t know how this hostile people raised the group that followed You into the Promised Land. It blows my mind! Please lead me in Your path for me clearly Lord. I don’t think I need quite as much of a sign though, just one that is as clear for me please.