The Torah tells the tale of Korah, cousin to Moses and Aaron, who leads a rebellion against their authority. Gathering to himself other disgruntled members of the community, notably three men from the tribe of Reuben and 250 others, Korah accuses Moses of hoarding positions of power over a nation that is ostensibly all holy.
Moses is devastated by the accusation. He tells the rebels that in the morning, God Himself will provide a sign of His choice: each man should bring a fire-pan of incense to the Tent of Meeting and God would accept the one of the man He desires to minister to Him. He entreats the Levites among the rebels: is it not enough that God has elevated you to serve Him? Why must you lash out against Aaron? He appeals, too, to Dathan and Aviram, of the tribe of Reuben, but they refuse to listen, saying Moses betrayed them by bringing them to die in the desert instead of escorting them to the promised Land of Milk and Honey.
God tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the the Assembly of Israel so that He may destroy them, but Moses begs Him not to destroy the whole nation on account of one man. God then commands the people to distance themselves from the rebels so that He can wipe them out. Moses sets a sign: if the rebels die an unnatural death, swallowed up by the earth, it shows that God has chosen Moses over them. The leaders of the rebellion are indeed swallowed alive by the earth, along with their households, and the 250 rebels who had brought incense pans as instructed were consumed by a flame from God, along with their incense.
The Israel Bible explains the flaws inherent in Korah’s argument: not only do his accusations deny God’s hand in appointing Moses and Aaron, they imply that all Israelites are on the same level of holiness as the two great men! While it is true that all Children of Israel have intrinsic holiness, what each individual does to nurture that seed is in his or her own control. This is true on a national level, as well. By living in the Land of Israel according to God’s laws, we elevate the holiness of the land above all other lands, too.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Initially, On son of Peleth is listed by name as participating in the rebellion, yet later he is conspicuously absent. What do you think happened to him? Why might his name have been mentioned at first, only to be left out later?