Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Korah's Rebellion

Have you ever heard of Korah? He was Moses’ chief opponent after the Hebrews left Egypt and were traveling in the wilderness. It seemed every time Moses turned around Korah was leading some type of complaint-campaign against him.

Korah was a cousin of Moses. He felt like he had been overlooked when candidates for the office of priest were being selected. He envied Moses, and his brother Aaron, who had been put in charge of the Levites and making those decisions. He wanted to be “elevated” to the office of priest himself, and because he was not chosen, Korah led a rebellion against Moses.

Korah was able to sway a group of people into his conspiracy, gathering together 250 priests from the congregation of Israel, (which, by the way, was less than half a percent of the total congregation size). They now felt bold enough to go out into the open and speak against Moses’ leadership, how he made decisions, and how he selected priests.

Numbers 16:3 spells it out:

“And they GATHERED THEMSELVES together AGAINST MOSES and AGAINST Aaron and said unto them, ‘You take too much upon yourself. Everyone of us are holy too! Why then do you lift yourself up above the congregation?’”


At first Moses was considered a hero and the people wanted to make him king. They loved him while he is making demands on Pharaoh, calling for the lice, frogs, and fleas in judgment upon Egypt. But after they get out into the desert and the hot sand is burning the bottom of their feet, and they are having to drink bitter waters from Marah, they TURN ON MOSES. Moses is no longer a hero, he’s just a con-man that talked us into something that we didn’t even want in the first place. The hero has now become the villain.

The congregation of Israel was in a TIME of TRANSITION, and the changes were too much for some of them to handle. They had left Egypt, (the only home they had known for the last 400 years) and were now traveling into the unknown. They were once slaves, but now are a free people. This meant they needed to govern themselves, choose leaders, establish authority structures, manage resources, overcome challenges, and make some tough decisions. And it's RIGHT HERE that KORAH always SHOWS UP - in times of transition.


  • He is that backslid prophet sitting in a church pew somewhere, who is jealous of the leadership, but still has the mentality of a slave.

  • He wants to be chosen as an "elder." But when is he overlooked he becomes envious and leads a conspiracy.

  • Instead of following his “own calling” he is dependent upon some “Moses” in his life to prop him up.

Think about it, and make your own applications. Korah didn’t have enough faith to get himself, or his own family, out of Egypt, (much less the entire nation of Israel). But now that Moses has done it and they’re running into challenges, KORAH HAS ANSWERS FOR EVERYONE.

I have met “brother Korah” in every church I have ever been a part of. I have found that “brother Korah” does not know near as much as he thinks he does. If he did he would have enough faith to move out on his own and get in the drivers seat himself for a change.

Instead, Korah plays it safe from the sidelines second-guessing Moses.

Make no mistake about it - this was a STRUGGLE for POWER and LEADERSHIP. Korah and his band of followers were already "princes" in Israel, "famous in the congregation" and were "men of renown" (Numbers 16:2). They served in the tabernacle. They had status, prestige, and recognition. BUT IT WASN’T ENOUGH for them. They wanted more! In spite of all they did have, they wanted to grab that which they didn't have - the office of "priest." Their conspiracy was an attempt to usurp Moses' authority so they might appoint themselves into the office - and that’s where Moses drew a line in the sand.

APPLICATION - There are some people in churches, no matter how much you do for them, it's never enough. Let them serve, include them in ministry, say "yes" to every request, allow them to teach, lead, and be anointed for leadership - and it's not enough. You can give them opportunities, status, recognition, and public support - and it's not enough. Provide them with budgets, trust them with spending - still it's not enough. Share the pulpit, give titles, and empower for leadership - and still it's not enough. Make them "famous in the congregation" - and STILL it's not enough. Say "no" just one time, and they feel abused by the "dictator." Some people want control of the church, (it's mission, direction, philosophy of ministry and so forth), so they attempt to control or intimidate the pastor. Or maybe they want to be an elder, pastor, or board member - so they try to seize authority for themselves in order to gain the status they desire.

There comes a time when you have to stand your ground and let the chips fall where they may.


It didn’t pay Korah to lead this rebellion against God's appointed leaders. The result was that Korah and his friends were SWALLOWED ALIVE by the earth and WENT DOWN ALIVE INTO THE PIT, (Numbers 16:31-33), and the 250 princes were literally INCINERATED by God's wrath (Numbers 16:35). In fact, Dathan and Abiram's ENTIRE FAMILIES were also swallowed alive because they stood with their father's in the rebellion. But amazingly, Korah's own family was spared (Numbers 26:9-11) because they separated themselves from this conspiracy and rebellion.

THERE'S A LESSON HERE – following the advice of your friends, (and even sometimes your own family members), to the point of DISREGARDING GOD'S WILL is a DANGEROUS thing to do. Korah can never lead you where you want to go.

  • The " challenges of the desert" did not turn Korah into a conspirator - it simply revealed what he was all along.

  • Moses' decision-making style of leadership did not turn Korah into an angry usurper - it only brought him out into the open.

The New Testament makes reference to this Old Testament story, (as well as two others), illustrating for us the ATTITUDES that are TYPICAL of false teachers and usurpers – pride, selfishness, jealousy, greed, lust for power, and disregard for God’s will.

Jude 1:11 – “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.”

Korah - a perfect example of what not to do and who not to follow.