Numbers 16:1 MEANING

Numbers 16:1

(1) Now Korah, the son of Izhar . . . --Some suppose that the copula before "Dathan and Abiram" should be omitted, and that the verse should be rendered thus: Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, took Dathan and Abiram, &c. The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram is the only important event which is recorded in connection with the protracted wandering in the desert. The time and place of its occurrence cannot be positively determined. The circumstances out of which it appears to have arisen render it probable that it took place during one of the early years of the wanderings in the wilderness, either during the abode at Kadesh or subsequently to the departure from it. In favour of the supposition that the occurrence took place during the sojourn at Kadesh, it may be urged--(1) that the history of the Israelites between the first and the second encampments at Kadesh appears to be designedly regarded and treated as a blank; and (2) that during that interval they appear to have been dispersed over the face of the wilderness, whilst the narrative of the rebellion of Korah seems to assume the concentration of the people in one place. The whole of the narrative bears the clear impress of historical truth. The leaders of the rebellion, amongst whom Korah holds the most conspicuous place (comp. Numbers 16:1; Numbers 26:9; Jude 1:11), belonged to the tribes of Levi and Reuben. Korah, as the descendant of Izhar, the brother of Amram, who was the father (or. as some maintain, the more distant ancestor) of Moses and Aaron, may well be supposed to have been jealous of the peculiar prerogatives of the priestly family, and also of the leadership of Elizaphan, the son of Uzziel (Numbers 3:30), who appears to have been the youngest son of Kohath, whilst the name of Izhar stands next to that of Amram (Numbers 3:19). Dathan and Abiram, moreover, as the sons of Eliab, the son of Pallu, the son of Reuben (Numbers 26:5-9), who was the eldest son of Jacob, may, on like grounds, be supposed to have been discontented on account of the transference of the birthright, and the consequent loss of the leadership which had been possessed by their tribe, and which was now held by the tribe of Judah. It is possible that they may have regarded the priesthood also as amongst the prerogatives of the firstborn which should have descended to them. The proximity of the Kohathites to the Reubenites--for both were encamped on the south side of the Tabernacle--afforded opportunity for their common deliberations; and it has been inferred by some, from Numbers 16:24-27, that they had erected a tabernacle in rivalry with the Tabernacle of the Congregation. No further mention is made of the name of On, nor is he expressly included in the account of the final punishment.

Verse 1. - Now Korah... took men. וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח. The word "took" stands alone at the head of the sentence in the singular number. This does not by itself confine its reference to Korah, because it may be taken as repeated after each of the other names; at the same time, the construction suggests that in its original form Korah alone was mentioned, and that the other names were afterwards added in order to include them in the same statement. The ellipsis after "took" (if it be one) may be filled up by "men," as in the A.V. and in most versions, or by "counsel," as in the Jerusalem Targum. The Septuagint has in place of יִקַּח ἐλάλησε, representing apparently a different reading. Some commentators regard it as an anacoluthon for "took two hundred and fifty men... and rose up with them;" others, again, treat the "took" as a pleonasm, as in 2 Samuel 18:18 and elsewhere; but the change of number from וַיִּקַּח to וַיָּקוּטוּ makes it difficult. It seems best to say that the construction is broken and cannot be satisfactorily explained. Indeed there can be no question that the whole narrative, like the construction of the opening verses, is rely confused, and leaves on the mind the impression that it has been altered, not very skillfully, from its original form. The two parts of the tragedy, that concerning the company of Korah, and that concerning the Reubenites, although mingled in the narrative, do not adjust themselves in the mind, and the general effect is obscure. It is sufficient to point out here that no one can certainly tell what became of the ringleader himself, who was obviously the head and front of the whole business. Some are strenuously of opinion that he was swallowed up alive, others as strenuously that he was consumed with fire; but the simple fact is that his death is not recorded in this chapter at all, although he is assumed to have perished. The obscurity which hangs over this passage cannot be traced to any certain cause; the discrepancies and contradictions which have been discovered in it are clue to mistake or misrepresentation; nor can any evil motive be plausibly assigned for the interpolation (if it be such) of that part of the story which concerns the Reubenites. If, for some reason unknown to us, an original narrative of Korah's rebellion was enlarged so as to include the simultaneous mutiny of the Reubenites and their fate; and if, further, that enlargement was so unskillfully made as to leave considerable confusion in the narrative, wherein does that affect either its truth or its inspiration? The supernatural influence which watched over the production of the sacred narrative certainly did not interfere with any of those natural causes which affected its composition, its style, its clearness or obscurity. Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi. On the genealogy of the Levites see Exodus 6:16-22, and above on Numbers 3:17-19. It is generally supposed that some generations are passed over in these genealogies. Korah belonged to the same Kohathite sub-tribe as Moses and Aaron, and was related to them by some sort of cousinship; his father (or ancestor) Izhar was the younger brother of Amram and the elder brother of Uzziel, whose descendant Elizaphan had been made chief of the Kohathites. Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. Eliab himself was apparently the only son of Pallu, the second son of Reuben (Numbers 26:5, 8). If the word "son" is to be literally understood in all these cases, then Korah, Dathan, and Abiram would all be great-great-grandsons of Jacob himself. On, the son of Peleth. It is one of the strange obscurities of this narrative that On, who appears here as a ringleader, is never mentioned again either in this chapter or elsewhere. Sons of Reuben. Reubenites. The encampment of their tribe was on the south side of the tabernacle in the outer line (Numbers 2:10), while that of the Kohathites was on the same side in the inner line. Thus they were to some extent neighbours; but see below on verse 24.

16:1-11 Pride and ambition occasion a great deal of mischief both in churches and states. The rebels quarrel with the settlement of the priesthood upon Aaron and his family. Small reason they had to boast of the people's purity, or of God's favour, as the people had been so often and so lately polluted with sin, and were now under the marks of God's displeasure. They unjustly charge Moses and Aaron with taking honour to themselves; whereas they were called of God to it. See here, 1. What spirit levellers are of; those who resist the powers God has set over them. 2. What usage they have been serviceable. Moses sought instruction from God. The heart of the wise studies to answer, and asks counsel of God. Moses shows their privileges as Levites, and convicts them of the sin of undervaluing these privileges. It will help to keep us from envying those above us, duly to consider how many there are below us.Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi,.... A great grandson of Levi's, and own cousin to Moses and Aaron, being brothers children; for Amram the father of Moses and Aaron, and Izhar the father of Korah, were own brothers, both of them the sons of Kohath, and Amram the eldest, and Izhar the next, Exodus 6:16; this man is mentioned first, being the contriver, and plotter, and ringleader of the following sedition, and which is called "the gainsaying of Core", Jde 1:11; when this was made is not certain; Aben Ezra thinks this affair happened in the wilderness of Sinai, when the firstborn were exchanged, and the Levites were separated for holy service, Numbers 3:1; but, according to the Targum of Jonathan, it was after the law concerning the fringes was given, which it here follows, and was on that account; for it says, that Korah took his coat, which was all blue, and that the men with him rose up, and in the face of Moses taught the rite concerning the blue ribbon; when Moses declared he had it from God, that the fringe should be of white, and one thread of blue should be in it; but Korah and his company made their coats and fringes all of blue, which the Lord commanded not: but what Korah is said to take is either himself, or men, or both, and not clothes, as follows:

and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth,

sons of Reuben, took men; which men are described in Numbers 16:2, even princes of the assembly, &c. or he, Korah, took himself, as Ben Melech, or divided himself, as Onkelos, separated himself from the congregation, and set himself at the head of a party he gathered together; and the "vau" or "and" before "Dathan" may be additional or superfluous, as Chaskuni observes, and so Abendana; and then the sense is, that Korah took Dathan, Abiram and On, apart by themselves, and entered into a consultation and confederacy with them against Moses and Aaron, with whom he was offended on account of the priesthood being bestowed on the latter by the former; and these men he associated to him, being the sons of Reuben, who would the rather listen to him, and join with him, because the right of the firstborn was taken from them, and the camp of Judah was placed before them; and with these men he could more easily commune, because the camp of Reuben and the Kohathites lay on the same side of the tabernacle, Numbers 2:10; Eliab, the father of Dathan and Abiram, was the son of Pallu, the second son of Reuben, Numbers 26:5; but as for On, no mention is made of him elsewhere, nor any more in this place; it is thought he separated from his company after he had heard what Moses said to them; and the Rabbins say, his wife delivered him out of their hands, as Abendana observes.

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