Numbers 16:1-35

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?


Comments ( 10 )

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  • Frank

    Very inspiring

  • Angela B

    I am thinking like Diana and Herman, that On came to his senses and abandoned the rebellion while there was still time for mercy hence he wasn't mentioned the second time.

  • Herman Arentsen

    On the son of Peleg was initially with Korach, Dathan and Abiram in rebellion towards Moshe and Aharon. After that it appeared that especially Korach with his mates protested (rebelled) especially towards their spiritual leadership. (they were also from Levi and as holy as Aharon.) I think that On was more protesting and claiming the secular leadership, because he was from Ruven. Seeing that the rebels were aiming the fall of Aharon's spiritual leadership, he withdraw and didn't interfere anymore.

    • Herman Arentsen

      One correction: Dathan and Aviram wre also from the tribe of Reuven.

  • lj

    On was of the tribe of Reuven – the rebellion sourced from the tribe of Li'viim

  • Hong

    I think-maybe- the difference between korah and another, is that Korah raised a question concern about holiness (spiritual level), but the others raised the ultimate question:that’s, go to the promised land or back to Egypt?and this question been raised again and again through all the journey in desert forty years and cause 60.0000 men(whole generation) died.

    • Diana Brown

      I just watched this video that says Korach was grieved because he now knows he will die in the desert after the report of the 10 caused Israel to doubt whether they should enter the Land or not. His grief turned to rage. It is very insightful to think about Korach contemplating reality…

    • Debbye Japp

      I can see this as a logical thing they would do because isn't that the way things are today. You keep trying to get the lost ones you know and even the lost "churches" to come out of Eqypt and partake in the blessings of the Torah, but they choose to dwell with one foot in Egypt and one in the promised land, wanting to do things their own way and thinking they are still redeemed.

  • Diana Brown

    The Lord allows for repentance at any stage of life or when you are involved in something. That is why Mercy triumphs Judgment. Perhaps On initially bought into Korah’s complaints and then came to himself and said…”I see another golden calf arising from this trouble and I am not partaking of this.”
    Could that be the reason? We know Korah’s sons wrote some of the Psalms so they were allowed to reason and choose for themselves.

    • Dr. Anita Rosenfield

      According to Midrash, On's wife was flabbergasted to think that her husband would join the rebellion, so she fed him a huge dinner with lots of wine so he fell into a deep sleep. When Datan and Aviram came to get him the next day, she wouldn't let them into their tent, said he was sick and was sleeping, so they went on without him. She saved her husband.

      With regard to repentance, I found an amazing insight from Psalm 92–the last part with which others may be familiar because it's a beautiful tune: Tzadik k'tamar yifrach k'erez bal'vanon yisgah. . . . If you look at that first line (which translates as A righteous person, like the date palm, will blossom) and note the last letter of each of those three words, you'll see kuf reish chet, which is Korach's name. His offspring became psalmists who sang in the Temple, and the prophet/judge Samuel was his descendant. This suggests that, having literally hit rock bottom, he ultimately repented and his soul attained the status of a tzadik. Is that not mind-blowing–t'shuvah''as Diana said, "The L-rd allows for repentance at any stage of life . . . " On was saved by his wife, but Korach repented on his own.

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