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Following Korah

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God Kills Rebels By The Thousands

By James Donahue

It is easy to understand that when thousands of people are gathered together in the same camp or community, the politics of leadership come into play. In the Sixteenth Chapter of the Book of Numbers, we have a story of political rivalry between Moses, the declared leader of the Israelites, and Korah, a self-proclaimed leader of the Levites.

The chapter begins by telling us that Korah and his group of followers, including 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council" appeared as a group to stand opposed to Moses and Aaron, the high priest of the Jewish tabernacle.

Their argument: They said they believed everybody in the group was equal. They said "the whole community is holy, every one of them . . . why do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?"

Those sound like good questions. They are the kind of issues that people are facing today all over the world as we struggle to find equality among the many races of humans that share this planet.

Moses apparently saw Korah’s actions as a threat. He said: "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."

Moses and the elders of Israel then warned the people to "move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them or you will be swept away because of all their sins. At that, Korah and his key followers, Dathan and Abiram stepped from their tents and were standing there with their wives and children when the ground under their feet opened up.

Verse 33 reads: "They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished.

But God’s wrath wasn’t finished with this. Korah had his group of 250 men who had joined in his rebellion. They were still on the scene when "fire from the Lord" came down and consumed all of them where they stood.

You might have thought that after witnessing the instant slaughter of Korah and his rebellious band that the rest of the people in that crowd would have been cowering in fear of Moses and the power of the Lord. There should have been no remaining doubt as to who the leader of the Israelites was going to be from that day forward.

But nope . . . Verse 41 says "the whole Israelite community grumbled" the next day about Moses and Aaron. They said: "You have killed the Lord’s people."

Suddenly a cloud appeared over the tent "and the glory of the Lord appeared." A voice then ordered Aaron and Moses to "get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them."

Instead of running away, Moses and Aaron used burning coals from the altar to light incense, then ran into the middle of the assembly, desperately attempting to make atonement for the people. It didn’t work very well. Some kind of plague swept the camp and when it was over, the two men found themselves standing among the "living and the dead." They counted 14,700 dead bodies.

Political issues were resolved quickly in those times.