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Archive for April 19th, 2018


Numbers 16: Rebellion of Korah

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sandro Botticcelli: The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron

We are much like the wandering tribes in the Numbers’ stories, grumbling and complaining when life’s plan does not go our way. We speak out against leaders, allowing jealousy and pride to govern us rather than any practical, or common sense. We believe the “grass is greener on the other side”. We say that life was better in “the good old days” when we know it was not. We rail against real and perceived injustice; but do we turn to God to ask for intervention? Today’s lesson of rebellion thwarted has much to convey to us.

“You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the Lord, and the Lord is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the Lord’s community?” 

Once embroiled in a dispute, we hang on no matter the evidence to a contrary view. We dig in and rally friends. We make lists of our foes and plot their overthrow. We say, “All is fair in love and war”. We “go for broke”. We double or hedge our bets. We build castles of defense and refuse to listen to fact or reason. We call down heaven on our enemies; but do we ask for God’s counsel or wisdom? Today’s story of upheaval has much to teach us.

Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of the fertile land of Egypt to kill us here in the wilderness? Do you also have to lord it over us? You certainly have not brought us into a fertile land or given us fields and vineyards as our possession, and now you are trying to deceive us. We will not come!”

In the clash between Moses and Aaron versus Korah, Dathan and Abiram is severe. Families step forward with paternal heads. Lines are drawn in the sand. Threats fly. Oaths and curses punctuate the conflict. Turbulence envelopes the people; but do they pay heed to God’s presence among them? Today’s story of cataclysm has much to reveal to us.

Suddenly the dazzling light of the Lord’s presence appeared to the whole community.

The outcome of this rebellion is frightening when we look at this story with New Testament eyes.

The ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions. So they went down alive to the world of the dead, with their possessions. The earth closed over them, and they vanished. 

We look for the justice suffused with mercy we are accustomed to seeing in Jesus’ hands. We try to find the Spirit’s healing presence we experience each Eastertide. Today as we reflect on these verses from Numbers that describe a dualistic response to Moses’ challengers. As we reflect, let us consider the blessing of the Good News we tell and re-tell each year; and let us give thanks for God’s grace that softens hard hearts and unbends stiff necks.


When we compare other translations of this story to this GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we open ourselves to the grace and hidden blessing of the rebellion of Korah.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korah 

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