Numbers 16:1-18:32
HafTorah Portion 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
Brit Chadasha Romans 13:1-7

The Spirit of Strife and the Spirit of Peace…

      Korach, what made this man, a Levite, (“…of the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “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 16:1-3) rise up and convince other men, these men of renown?
     What caused Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, to be so arrogant, ‘… but they said, “We will not come up! 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? 14 Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!” Numbers 16:12-14.
     They seduced the people, with their spirit of strife.  Korach had to play on people’s discontents. “You have gone too far!” he said to Moses and Aaron. “The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” He made it seem as if he were there for ‘the people’. The revolt was bound to fail since their grievances were different concerning each one unto their own selfish ambitions, therefore they could not all be satisfied. But that has never stopped unholy alliances. People with a grudge are more intent on overthrowing the current leader than on any constructive plan of action of their own. “Hate defeats rationality,” said the sages.  Injured pride, the feeling that honor should have gone to you, not him, has led to destructive and self-destructive action for as long as humans have existed on earth.  We see a picture of this type of jealousy in 1 Samuel 1:1-7, as Peninnah would provoke Hannah, and in Saul against David, the brothers against Joseph and the Sanhedrin against Yeshua.
     The Spirit of Strife and the Spirit of Peace are two definite spirits; however, we see in Numbers 16:22 that God is the owner of all, “Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?” The Hebrew is אל אלהי הרוחת לכל בשר El Elohey haruchoth lechol basar.    Ha- The   Ruchoth- Spirits   Lechol- of all    Basar-flesh/meat.  This same Hebrew sequence is repeated in Numbers 27:16.
     In Numbers 16:21 God tells Moshe and Aaron to “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”  God makes a clear distinction between the two opposing spirits.
     Even though, God is the owner of all spirits, as He is the owner of all things, He is not the author of confusion and strife is that of chaos and confusion.  It rises from the belly of self and consumes the spirit of peace. It is so hated by God that He commanded Eleazar “to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. 38 The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.” Numbers 16:36-38. The censors were holy because they were presented before Adonai, but the men sinned against their own souls.  Notice that the censors had to be hammered and reconstructed. In Numbers 17:10 after Aaron’s rod buds, God again separates the two spirits; ‘And the Lord said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.”
     Even though the people witnessed the astounding miracle of the ground opening up and literally swallowing the evil, the next day the spirit of strife continued.
     The Spirit of Strife vs. The Spirit of Peace~
     James 3:16 identifies the two “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
     The first part of this verse is the very platform that the enemy, the yetzer hara uses to pit ourselves against the spirit of peace for we become consumed in self. Strife is a vigorous, bitter conflict, competitive jealousy, and the state of being in discord or antagonistic toward someone. The second part is the exact opposite; righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
     Amos 3:3 ‘Can two walk together unless they agree?’
     The two opposing spirits represent good and evil, life and death. One is chaos/confusion - one is simplicity and peace. In Deuteronomy 30 God tells us to return, and He gives us the choice; choose life, for: “…it is not too mysterious for us.”
     The Korach story repeats itself in every generation. The fix is daily immersion in the peaceful world of Torah-study that seeks truth not power. Where there is hierarchy, there will be struggles to be the alpha male. The result is what Thomas Hobbes called “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceases only in death.”





Korach / To Remove One’s Covering

Numbers 16:1-18:32
1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
Romans 13:1-7

       The wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6

     Korach.  The infamous character in this Torah portion, aptly named after him.  Korach, a Levite which was the line of the Aaronic Priesthood.  He deceives himself and thrusts an influence into the camp that caused the death of hundreds, including him.  ‘And Korach took…’ is in the opening paragraph of this parshat which is in interesting way to describe his influence.  He took the minds of others by manipulating and persuading them that he was right. Korach, Datan and Abiram rise up against Moshe, Aaron and God, playing on the emotions of others, convincing their flesh. They felt elevated and vindicated by Korach, as sort of mob mentality which led to their demise as did all rebellions.
          The name Korach comes from the root ‘ice, frost’ karachk.  Frost at any time of year will stunt or stop growth on a plant, and ice as we know, completely damages a plant.  Since we are referred to as grass of the earth and grass of the fields,  Job 5:25, Isaiah 40:6-7, Deuteronomy 32:2 and 1 Peter 1:24-25, the influence of Korach stopped the spiritual growth of those he came in contact with.  His influence overpowered their thoughts and ability to rationalize. 
     The opposite of the character or trait of Korach, Ice/Frost is Yeshua which is likened to Light, Life, and Truth. Korach freezes and kills, Yeshua breathes life.
     As all influences that are birthed out of jealousy, the ending was grim as each faction of the rebellion had its own agenda. They were only united in opposing Moshe and Aaron. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend, but only as long as he is the enemy of my enemy.’ They defined themselves by what they were against, not what they were for.  This is the influence of self, the influence of ‘me, myself and I’.  Murmuring, jealousy, anger, and pride – based explicitly on ‘self’.
     Language is significant, as in the opening ‘He took…’  It is also significant in Numbers 16:2-3 where we read that they rose up against Moshe /vayaqumu/ which is combined with ‘against’ him / vayiqahalu/.  These two Hebrew words together imply that they were rising up to establish their own kahal/congregation.
     After Korach’s failed rebellion and death, God commands Eelazar to plate the altar with the bronze firepans of the two hundred and fifty tribal leaders in Numbers 17:36-38. ‘Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 37 “Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. 38 The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. 
      But didn’t Bezalel already plate the altar in bronze as God commanded when it was first built as we read in Exodus 27 and 38?  Yes, so is this contradictory?
     There have been several commentaries regarding the plating of the bronze altar. Many scholars, including Rashi, assume that Numbers 17:1-5 is referring to a second bronze plating, covering the first one.  God gives the reasoning in Numbers 17:38-40 ‘Because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.” 39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, 40 to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.’
     The Korach rebellion was an unholy alliance of individuals and the ‘princes’ that were unhappy with Moses’ leadership. There were the Reubenites, Datan and Aviram, who resented the fact that the key leadership positions were taken by Levites rather than members of their own tribe. They murmured against Moshe in Numbers 16:13-14 ‘“We will not come up! 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? 14 Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!’
    Korach had been with Moshe since the beginning,  and was his cousin. They were part of a bigger picture, part of the redemption of the release of slavery and bondage.  They were soon to step into new life. And yet, the negative influence that began in prior Torah portions consumed these men.
     Proverbs 18:24 ‘A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
     Proverbs 16:28 ‘A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.’
     Proverbs 12:26 ‘One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.’
     Proverbs 27:9 ‘Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
     Proverbs 20:19 ‘Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.’
     1 Corinthians 15:33-34 ‘Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.’
     These negative influences of which we are warned against are in Jude 10-11.  ‘But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.’ 
     Jealousy, anger, rage, greed and rebellion are influences that bring death. Proverbs 13:29 ‘Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.’

Numbers 26:1-18:32

     There is a straight line that runs through Scripture, which is the Torah. It is true, it is straight, it is not self-serving, and it does not contain doubt or fear or dismay. The Torah is God, it is Yeshua, the Torah is strong, is an overcomer and the Torah is truth.
     But anyone at any time in any season can put a spin on anything. Denominations put spins on the very Word of God to suit their mantra. People spin the truth to suit their perception. Political parties spin the words of their opponents. There is the straight line of The Truth and then there is the spin which is a web of confusion.
     Korach had the influence to spin the truth and convince his family and 250 other souls that his way was right. He created a web.
     The very beginning of this parsha begins with: ‘And Korach took…Took men…rose up…gathered together against.’ Notice a progression or actually a descent of actions on the part of Korach and his rebels. They separated themselves from fellowship, rose up against Moses, persuaded others of like mind, became a toxic entity and falsely accused leadership of wrong doingsThis is the opposite of moving forward in God’s kingdom. Korach was able to take the influence of God away from those around him and replace it with his own. He took the people. Korach took his campaign, a deadly distorted view and morphed it into an evil influence. His pride opened the gate to his assumption that it was not by the command of God that Moshe had appointed Aaron as High Priest but rather by Moshe’s own ambition to keep all the high honors for his own family.
     At first it might appear as if Korach comes across a man of equality, going against a system that groups levels of holiness within the community. Yet, in the same breath, he states that he is the more worthy candidate for the High Priesthood. This was his spin. He was able to convince the "two hundred and fifty men of Israel, leaders of the community, of those regularly called to assembly, men of renown” that Moshe was power hungry and that he would be the wiser leader.  
     Korach’s argument fell on willing ears. The caution here is to be careful to choose wisely the places we visits and people we associate with for influences can direct our paths without us even knowing it.
     Micah 2:1 ‘Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, for it is in the power of their hands.’
     Isaiah 5:21 ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!’
     Korah comes from the Hebrew root Kerachk which means frost and ice. In the Scriptures we are referred to grass of the earth, Job 5:25, Isaiah 40:6-7 or grass of the field as in Numbers. Yet there is another reason why we are likened to grass: we are to grow.
     The spirit of Korach/ ice causes growth to stop. When a frost hits in the late spring the grass that has moving water traveling over it will not freeze. But the grass that did not have water moving over it is hindered by the frost. So it is the same with believers, for when the spirit of a Korach tries to consume us, our growth with God will not be hindered if we keep the Living moving water of Yeshua flowing over us. But those that are right in their own eyes will be consumed by the influence of Korach. Proverbs 21:2 ‘Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD weighs the hearts.’
     Those who are not protected by the Living waters and who listen to the influence of a Korach spirit will stop growing and become stagnant in their own self opinion. Korach was influencing people into a democracy rather than in a Kingdom concept which is what God operates in. Like many demagogues, they define themselves by what they are against, not by what they are for. Korach was against Moshe, He was not for God, but rather for his own ego. He needed to ‘win’.
     The spirit of Korach is a stumbling block to those that are consumed with approval addiction. Rather than come humbly before God, they rally around the loudest.  A stumbling block is a circumstance that causes difficulty or hesitation. Synonyms are: obstacle, hurdle, barrier, hindrance. Stumbling block in Hebrew is the word: miḵšōl (מִכְשׁוֹל‎).
     Luke 17:1: ‘
He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!”
     Psalm 15 describes the character of those who may dwell with The Lord.
‘Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.’
   Numbers 17 continues with the budding of Aaron’s staff.  God tells Moshe in 17:5 ‘The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” Notice God describes that the grumbling was against Moshe. God continues in verse 10 with: ‘The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against Me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.'
     Notice in this verse God equates that the grumbling against Him.  When one would murmur against the leader, Moshe, they were in essence murmuring against God.
     The Israelites continue with a ‘me’ attitude instead of a repented and remorseful heart. Verse 12 concludes chapter 17 with their fear. ‘12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! 13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”
     This Torah parsha closes with the duties and offerings of the priests and Levites.


May you be blessed as you study Korach~ Rabbi Jay Howard