Have you ever heard of the rebellion of Korah? How about the Sons of Korah? The rebellion of Korah and the Sons of Korah have a connection with each other, and the connection is fascinating.
The rebellion of Korah occurred during the 40 years Moses led the nation of Israel in the wilderness following God’s miraculous deliverance of the people out of captivity in Egypt. Korah rose up during the wo year desert wandering and rallied a group of people to oppose Moses.
Korah was a grandson of one of Levi’s three sons (Kohath). He was a Levite, which meant that he was involved in the Levitical duties of caring for the tabernacle and the tent of the tabernacle where God’s “presence” resided in the midst of the people. The Levitical duties were sacred and honorific.
The Kohathites were specifically in charge of caring for the Ark of the Covenant, the table, lamp stand, altars, articles of the sanctuary and the curtain behind which the priests did their ritual thing. (Numbers 3) Unlike the other Levites who were allowed to transport their items in carts, the Kohathites were required to hand carry their items. The Ark of the Covenant was particularly sacred.
Maybe the Kohathites were jealous of the ease enjoyed by the other priests who didn’t have to hand carry the items for which they were responsible. We don’t know. The text doesn’t tell us.
The text does tell us that Korah and several others rallied 250 men to oppose the authority of Moses publicly. They claimed that all the people of Israel are “holy”, and they questioned why Moses and Aaron “exalted themselves” above everyone else. (Numbers 16:3)
Moses responded by challenging Korah and his followers to put the issue before God. He said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea.” (Num. 16:28)
As the story goes, they all gathered in front of the Tent of Meeting, each man with incense burning in censors. Moses and Aaron did the same, facing off with the contentious lot. God warned Moses, and Moses warned the larger crowd to stand back. When he finished talking, the ground opened up and “swallowed” the 250 men up alive. (Numbers 16)
The story stands as a warning to those who are not content with their place in the world and get jealous of others to whom God has given greater responsibility. God chose Moses and Aaron to lead the people. By opposing God’s chosen leaders, they were opposing God’s authority.
I assumed that Korah and his group were wiped out The text seemed to imply that his clan were included in the 250 agitators. It turns out that my assumption was wrong because the “sons of Korah” appear many generations later, and their place in the history of God’s people is truly an intriguing “rest of the story”.