Rebellion in the Desert


Bible Reference: Numbers chapter 16

Heart of the Story: Korah was the leader of a rebellion against Moses which focused on who was to be the leader of Israel and who were to be Israel’s priests.


Korah, one of the rich leaders of the Levites and a cousin of Moses and Aaron, felt that he had been slighted and overlooked in the distribution of the highest priestly honors and leadership. He envied Moses and Aaron, after Aaron’s family were elevated to the rank of priests. Despite his riches and influence, Korah couldn’t shake the people’s faith and confidence in Moses and Aaron. Korah looked and found associates to create a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.

Korah went to the people of the tribe of Reuben, his neighbors in the camping order. Being in daily close contact with them, Korah easily swayed the opinions of Reuben’s leaders and drew them into his conspiracy. Amongst the Reubenites were two men, Dathan and Abiram. Since their early days in Egypt, both had been trouble-makers and the ringleaders of disaffection and rebellion. They were the first to rally to Korah, and were his most eager agents among Reuben’s tribesmen.

Story Line:

Aided by Korah’s riches, influence, and knowledge, induced as many as 250 respected leaders of the Jewish camp to join the rebellion. Adopting a mantle of piety and justice and pretending to be a champion of the people, Korah accused Moses and Aaron of imposing their leadership upon the community. “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do raise yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3) said Korah and his men to Moses and Aaron.

Moses didn’t know how to handle this rebellion problem so he took it to God. God told Moses what to do. Moses addressed Korah and his rebellious party, telling them to prepare themselves for the next day. God would identify whom He considered worthy to serve Him as priests. All the contestants were to take censers and offer incense before God. God would then show whether He approved of this act.

Moses spoke to Korah privately and warned him against his lust for personal honor. “Is it not enough that the God of Israel has distinguished you from the congregation of Israel to draw you near to Him, to perform the service in the Tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them?” (Numbers 16:9) Moses said. But Moses’s words fell on deaf ears; Korah refused to heed what Moses told him.

The next morning Korah’s associates appeared before the Tabernacle with censers. With them came the entire community whom Korah had called to witness the proceedings. Then God told Moses to order the children of Israel to separate themselves from Korah and his associates, and everything that belonged to them, for fear that they share the rebels’ fate.

Gravely, Moses told the children of Israel: “With this you shall know that the Lord sent me to do all these deeds, for I did not devise them myself. If these men die as all men die and the fate of all men will be visited upon them, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a creation, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked the Lord” (Numbers 16:28).

Hardly had Moses finished speaking, when the earth opened up and swallowed Korah, his associates, and their families and belongings. They were buried alive and perished by a terrible death that made the people who stood nearby flee in terror. The next instant a fire from heaven devoured the 250 men who had dared to contest Aaron’s priestly authority by offering incense.

Pondering Relationships:

What a terrible situation in every way! Anguish on the part of Moses and Aaron who were obeying God! Resentment and hostility from Korah and his associates! Finally, rebels’ families being buried alive while others were burned by fire. I think that Satan was in that camp and slyly worked on the men to rebel against Moses. Despite Satan’s work, each of the culprits was responsible for their own actions.

Reflection: Saying “the Devil made me do it” is not a justifiable defense when we sin.

Much of this article was copied directly from

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