Modern Thought vs. Biblical Thought

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Destruction of Korah Dathan and Abiram -illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Torah reading on this Shabbat is Korach, Numbers 16:1 – 18:32. The story of Korach is the story of rebellion, betrayal, treachery, in the family. Very often the reading of the Torah text that is thousands of years old seems to speak directly to our current events. This issue is very pertinent for us in Israel this particular week. From the prophets (the Haftarah) we read this Shabbat from 1 Samuel 11:14 – 12:22. From the New Testament we read from Romans 13:1-7.

Who was Korach?

“Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi…” – Numbers 16:1

So Korach was from the same tribe as Moses and Aaron. The tribe of Levi was privileged, they were the people who took care of the worship in the Tabernacle. The tribe of Levi received the tenth of the collective community of Israel. They didn’t farm and they didn’t harvest.

They received the tithes of all of the other eleven tribes of Israel and handled the many administrative tasks for all of Israel. Korach, who is from one of the important families of the tribe of Levi gathers some leaders from other tribes to come to Aaron and Moses with the following grievance:

“You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” – Numbers 16:3

The claims of Korach and his rebellious gang were very modern. You Moses and Aaron take too much (authority) upon yourselves. “We are all holy.” We are all as good as you and as capable as you. We deserve to take part in the top leadership of the Tribe of Levi and have equality in the authority.

We demand democracy in the spiritual leadership of the nations of Israel. Why do you Moses and Aaron, take so much authority and exalt yourselves above the congregation? Korach must have read some of the French literature just before the French Revolution.

Korach could have said his claims like this: “We believe in liberty and equality, and fraternity! There is no one here that is better than the others. We are all capable and all smart and all hard-working.

You Moses, and Aaron, have no right to be the sole leaders of the people of Israel. God is just as much with us as He is with you, Moses and Aaron. We demand equality, and an equal sharing of the leadership and the same authority, that you Moses, and Aaron have! What is this nepotism that you two brothers are trying to impose upon us?

The claims of Korach and his gang (250 people strong) are very modern. They are the same claims that are causing much of the turmoil today that is besetting so many Western countries, and especially the USA.

Based on the USA constitution that promises equality, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness, for all, people who have not achieved their dreams (because they probably didn’t work hard and expected that someone would just hand them to them on a silver platter – equality, prosperity, happiness), they get frustrated and rebel and riot and complain and ask for someone to provide them with equality without their having to working for it, prosperity without working hard to plant and harvest the fruit of their labor.

I have to tell you that my life has not been easy. I came to America alone, at 16 years of age, with nothing. I came to Dasher, Georgia, a small, very small place. A community of Christians from German background that settled on the edge of the biggest swampland in the USA.

Georgia Christian School was a very closed place. Bill Long was the president of the school. He was a young man in his early 20s. My first days in the country, Bill Long and his wife Laura took care of me and purchased some clothing for me, because I came to the USA with nothing. Very soon after arriving, I was told that I must pay for my schooling, for the dormitory room and for my food like everyone else.

Bill Long made me work every day after school cleaning and every weekend from Friday noon to late night Sunday, traveling with Bill Long all around South Georgia, throughout Florida, and North to Kentucky, and West to Texas. I was two years in Georgia Christian School and worked and paid my bills. It was not easy, but it was a very important lesson in life.

Korach and his gang came to complain against God’s anointed leaders of Israel, against Moses and Aaron. God looked down and saw the motives and grievances of Korach, the desire to have the same authority as Moses and Aaron without the investment and work and pain that is necessary to have that same authority and the respect of the nation.

There are some very important lessons to be learned from Korach’s rebellion, but more important lessons from the way that the Lord reacted to Korach and his gang’s rebellion. You see my dear brothers, the values that we hold, especially nowadays, that we hold as supreme, are the values of the Tower of Babel – equality and uniformity for all! The values of Sodom that are so very similar to socialism.

In Sodom, equality and fraternity and liberty, meant that everyone had the same right to everyone else. Nothing was really to be held as private, not your property or your body. Everyone shares everything with his neighbor, because it is not right to hold private property and even your body is to be shared with your neighbors.

Stop being selfish! We are all equal and have equal rights, so you, Moses and Aaron, you two brothers, stop thinking that you are special, and that God only talks to you! We too have a right to talk to God and in God’s name!

Doesn’t this sound modern and right, and very democratic? For equality and freedom are very high values that we all ought to support and uphold.

Yes, democracy is the greatest and finest form of government. Yes, equality is a divine mandate. Yes, freedom is the only matrix in which for men and women should function in order to have a healthy and sincere relationship with their community and with God.

But freedom is not a license to do anything you want to do! It is privilege to do what is good and right and just according to God’s instructions. Equality is a great value, but it only works when you receive it and not grab it.

Fraternity, and brotherhood, only works when both parties respect each other and think the best of each other. When one side takes advantage of his brother there is no more brotherhood there is only utilitarianism and a brutal use of your brother who will eventually become your enemy.

God could see the heart of Korach and his gang, and this is how God reacted to Korach. Moses was such a humble man that he allowed God to take care of his enemies and those who challenged his leadership. He didn’t take his God given authority and apply the law to Korach and his gang. He knew that God has greater righteousness and the ability to deal with his enemies than he can, by himself.

This is what God did with Korach and his gang:

“And Moses said: ‘By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.’” – Numbers 16:28-30 [NKJV]

  1. The lessons that I want you to learn from the story of Korach and Moses are these:
    Every man of God will someday be challenged and often falsely accused of hoarding the leadership and not sharing it with the hoi polloi.
  2. The teaching of Yeshua of turning the other cheek and walking the second mile is applicable not only when you are physically attacked in public. The principle of allowing the Lord to vindicate you and apply justice to your enemies always works if you just have enough patience to allow God to apply His measure of justice. God always comes through, and His justice is seen and evident to all!
  3. If you try to take the solution into your own hands – you will probably be hurt and your enemy will get away undamaged.
  4. Rebellion and betrayal never produce good fruit. The West is still harvesting the bitter fruit of the French Revolution.
  5. Allow the Lord to deal with you and with your enemies and don’t change your position because your enemy has different values.

Please read the Torah reading from Numbers 16:1 – 18:32 and meditate on God’s word.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.