Some notorious historical figures might have remained anonymous if they hadn’t tried to grab on to more than they could hold. But by refusing to be content with what they had, and by trying to get more than they deserved, they ended up with nothing. Korah, one of the Israelite leaders, was such a person.
Korah was a Levite who assisted in the daily functions of the tabernacle. Shortly after Israel’s great rebellion against God (Numbers 13:14), Korah instigated his own mini-rebellion. He recruited a grievance committee and confronted Moses and Aaron. Their list of complaints boils down to three statements: (1) you are no better than anyone else; (2) everyone in Israel has been chosen of the Lord; (3) we don’t need to obey you. It is amazing to see how Korah twisted the first two statements – both true – to reach the wrong conclusion.
Moses would have agreed that he was no better than anyone else. He would also have agreed that all Israelites were God’s chosen people. But Korah’s application of these truths was wrong. Not all Israelites were chosen to lead. Korah’s hidden claim was this: “I have as much right to lead as Moses does.” His error cost him not only his job – a position of service that he enjoyed – but also his life.
Korah’s story gives us numerous warnings: (1) Don’t let desire for what someone else has make you discontented with what you already have. (2) Don’t try to raise your own self-esteem by attacking someone else’s. (3) Don’t use part of God’s word to support what you want, rather than allowing its entirety to shape your wants. (4) Don’t expect to find satisfaction in power and position; God may want to work through you in the position you are now in.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Popular leader; influential figure during the exodus
- Mentioned among the chief men of Israel (Exodus 6)
- One of the first Levites appointed for special service in the tabernacle
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Failed to recognise the significant position God had placed him in
- Forgot that his fight was against someone greater than Moses
- Allowed greed to blind his common sense
Lessons from his life:
- There is sometimes a fine line between goals and greed
- If we are discontented with what we have, we may lose it without gaining anything better
- Where: Egypt, Sinai peninsula
- Occupation: Levite (tabernacle assistant)
Key verses: “Moses also said to Korah, ‘Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too’ “ (Numbers 16:8-10).
Korah’s story is told in Numbers 16:1-40. He is also mentioned in Numbers 26:9; Jude 11.