In this account of Korah and his rebellion against YHVH’s appointed authority figures, we see a progression of sin leading to more sin, followed by YHVH’s separation of sinners and saints, followed by divine judgment against the sinner concurrent with the intercession righteous on behalf of the wicked sinners. Perhaps this passage of Scripture will prove instructive on how Elohim deals with unrepentant sinners and what the response of the righteous should be in light of this.
Numbers 16:1–3, Took men…rose up…gathered together against. Notice a progression (or downward spiral) of actions on the part of Korah and his rebels. They separated themselves from fellowship, rose up against Moses, gathered together others of like mindand falsely accused leadership of wrong doings. This is the world’s formula for achieving political (humanistic) power and domination. It is the opposite method of advancing in YHVH’s kingdom where the way down is the way up; that is, when one lays one’s life down in service, spiritual reward, advancement and blessing will occur for that person (Matt 20:27; 23:10).
Rebels, like Korah, tend to separate themselves from fellowship, seek out other like-minded rebels, and then rise up in defiance and accusation against godly leadership. Again, this leads to political power. The way of spiritual power is laid out in Acts 2:42–47 where the followers of Yeshua continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, breaking bread together, in prayer and sharing their goods with one another. The result was real spiritual power authority and anointing from heaven, and not power based on usurpation, human pride, degradation of others and self-promotion. This can only happen as people forsake not the assembling of themselves together (Heb 10:25), function according to the place and spiritual calling within the spiritual body of Yeshua submitted one to another as they walk in the spiritual light YHVH’s instructions in righteousness—the Torah.
Additionally, Yeshua taught that true power in the kingdom of Elohim is a result of one laying one’s life down for his brother and serving him in love and humility. Such a person will be elevated to a position of influence and authority because he has learned to serve others in love and selflessness rather than seeking to be served, which stems from a heart of selfishness and pride (Matt 20:25–28; 23:11–12).
The Jewish sages note that Korah and his band of malcontent had come under the power of resentment, which grew and festered until open rebellion broke out. Korah was a fellow Levite and cousin of Aaron who was among those “overlooked” for the priesthood and who were relegated to being “mere” assistants to the priests. He was also a firstborn of his household (Exod 6:21), and when the tabernacle sacrificial service was inaugurated Aaron’s sons replaced the firstborn Israelites in offering sacrifices. Furthermore, Dathan, Abiram and On were of the tribe of Reuben, the first-born child of Jacob. These men had their own grudge, since Reuben had lost his birthright as the firstborn son to the sons of Joseph because of sin (note 1 Chron 5:1).
What do we see here? Resentment (a function of pride and selfishness) leads to bitterness, which then leads to separation, then to uprising, then to accusation, then to rebellion against YHVH-ordained authority, then to attempted usurpation of authority, and eventually it leads to judgment and death. Is this not the path Lucifer took in his rebellion against YHVH Elohim? (Read Isa 14:12–23.)
Numbers 16:5–6, Who is his…take censers. Incense is a biblical metaphor for the prayers of men coming up before YHVH’s throne (Rev 5:8; 8:3). YHVH accepts some men’s prayers as holy and rejects the prayers of other men whom he deems not to be holy. The story of Korah teaches us that YHVH doesn’t hear the prayers of self-centered, self-seeking, prideful and jealous rebels such as Korah et al (Prov 15:29). YHVH’s ears are open to the prayers of the righteous (Ps 34:15; 1 Pet 3:12; Jas 5:16; Heb 11:6). The prayers of a righteous man can be hindered, as well, due to unrighteous behavior such as not treating his wife in a godly manner (1 Pet 3:7) or because we have ought with our brother (Matt 5:23–24).
Numbers 16:14, You have not brought us. The sinful pride of the rebels blinded their ability to see why they had been permitted to come into the Promised Land. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their sin and rebellion as the cause of their plight, they accused and blamed Moses. This is a typical ploy of carnal men who don’t get their way—get the heat off of themselves, pass the buck and blame others.
Numbers 16:19, The glory of YHVH appeared. May the day come soon when the glory of YHVH will begin to appear, so that everyone can see who are his true servants and who are not.
Numbers 16:31, The ground split apart. There earth splitting open and swallowing these rebels is likely a prophetic foreshadow of YHVH’s judgment against the ultimate arch-rebel and usurper authority—Satan—when YHVH judges him at the end of this age by casting him into he bottomless pit or abyss (Rev 20:1–3).
Numbers 16:35, The children of Israel murmured. Here we see an example of YHVH’s judgment. These 250 men were the wrong men (they were not priests) offering up to YHVH the right fire (from the altar). YHVH struck down Nadab and Abihu who were the right men (they were priests), but they used strange fire (Lev 10:1–2). What can we learn from this? Does YHVH have his prescribed method of how men are to approach him? Discuss why leaders carry greater responsibility to not lead the people astray and how they will come under greater judgment if they do.
Numbers 16:41, There came out a fire from YHVH. Even after Elohim’s tremendous display of powerful judgment against the rebels, the people still continued in their complaining. Man is very arrogant and right in his own eyes. He will defend himself even to the death. How many times do we face YHVH’s judgment in our lives (perhaps health issues, financial troubles, broken relationships, legal problems, etc.), but we still refuse to repent and change our attitude toward others and our Heavenly Father? How long will we refuse to obey the laws of YHVH? How long will we insist on doing things our way, instead of YHVH’s way? The choice is ours: obey YHVH and be blessed, disobey and suffer the long and short-term consequences of our sin and rebellion against Elohim.
Numbers 16:44–48, They fell on their faces. Moses was a true intercessor or intermediary between YHVH and the people, and he was a prophetic picture of Yeshua who is our spiritual Advocate (legal representative) before Elohim. YHVH wanted to destroy the people for their unending rebellion and murmuring, yet Moses and Aaron interceded on their behalf and many lives were saved. How often are we inclined to write people off who have wronged us instead of interceding for them, praying for their salvation, healing, welfare or whatever their need may be? Do you go through life rendering good for evil? Where is the love of Elohim in all of this? It’s all about love—the love of YHVH in us toward a dying and hurting world. Aaron went among the dying people burning incense (verse 47). Incense is symbolic of prayer—the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:4). How much time do you spend each day in prayer for others—or is most of your time spent in selfish prayer? Do you spend time each day in meaningful prayer? It has been reported that the average American Christian spends as little as ten minutes a week in prayer, and the average pastor about ten minutes per day. Is it any wonder this nation is as spiritually sick as it is? Perhaps the quality of your life would improve if you spent more time each day in prayer and intercession.
Here are some scriptures that reveal the work of Yeshua the Messiah as the Mediator between Elohim (the Father) and man, and as the only way to the Father:
Yeshua says unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
Truly, truly, I say unto you, Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my [Yeshua’s] name, he will give it to you. (John 16:23, see also 14:13, 14, 16; 16:24, 16.)
But these are written, that you might believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of Elohim; and that believing you might have life through his name. (John 20:3)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with Elohim through our Master Messiah Yeshua by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of Elohim. (Rom 5:1–2)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of Elohim is eternal life through Messiah Yeshua our Master. (Rom 6:23)
Who is he that condemns? It is Messiah that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of Elohim, who also makes intercession for us. (Rom 8:34)
But thanks be to Elohim, which gives us the victory through our Master Messiah Yeshua. (1 Cor 15:57)
Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of Elohim through Messiah. (Gal 4:7)
But now in Messiah Yeshua you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah. For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto Elohim in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Eph 2:13–18)
In whom we have boldness and access [to the Father in heaven] with confidence by the faith of him [Yeshua]. (Eph 3:12)
For there is one Elohim, and one mediator between Elohim and men, the man Messiah Yeshua; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Tim 2:5–6)
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to Elohim, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Heb 2:17)
Wherefore, set-apart brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Messiah Yeshua. Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. (Heb 3:1–2)
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Yeshua the Son of Elohim, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:14–15)
So also Messiah glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, “You are my Son, today have I begotten you.” As he says also in another place, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:5–6)
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Yeshua, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:19–20)
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.… But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. (Heb 8:1–2, 6)
But Messiah being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the set-apart place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.… And for this cause he is the mediator of the renewed covenant, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.… For Messiah is not entered into the set-apart places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of Elohim for us. (Heb 9:11–12,15,24)
By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua Messiah once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins, but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of Elohim.… having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of Elohim. (Heb 10:10–12,19–21)
And to Yeshua the mediator of the recently born/youthful covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:24)
My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world … I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. (1 John 21–2, 12)