Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Korah

Additional Links

(Heb. Ko'rach, קֹרִח, ice, as in Psalms 147:17; Sept. Κορέ, also N.T. in Judges 1:11; Josephus Κορῆς, Ant. 4:2; Vulg. Core; Auth. Vers. " Kore" in the patronyrmic, 2 Chronicles 26:19, and " Core" in Judges 1:11), the name of several men.

1. The third son of Esau by his second Canaanitish wife Aholibamah (Genesis 36:14; 1 Chronicles i, 35). B.C. post 1964. He became the head of a petty Edomitish tribe (Genesis 36:18). In Genesis 36:16 his name appears as a son of Eliphaz, Esau's son; but probably by a confusion of the parentage, for in the parallel passage (1 Chronicles i, 36) this name is omitted, and " Timna" inserted after the next name-probably another interpolation for Timnah. (See ESAU).

2. A Levite, son of Izhar, the brother of Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, who were therefore cousins to Korah (Exodus 6:21). B.C. probably not much ante 1619. From this near relationship we may, with tolerable certainty, conjecture that the source of the discontent which led to the steps afterwards taken by this unhappy man, lay in his jealousy that the high honors and privileges of the priesthood, to which he, who remained a simple Levite, might, apart from the divine appointment, seem to have had as good a claim, should have been exclusively appropriated to the family of Aaron. When to this was added the civil authority of Moses, the whole power over the nation would seem to him to have been engrossed by his cousins, the sons of Amram. Under the influence of these feelings he organized in conspiracy, for the purpose of redressing what appeared to him the evil and injustice of this arrangement. Dathan, Abiram, and On, the chief persons who joined him, were of the tribe of Reuben; but he was also supported by many more from other tribes, making up the number of 250, men of name, rank, and influence, all who may be regarded as representing the families of which they were the heads.

The appointment of Elizaphan to be chief of the Kohathites (Numbers 3:30) may have further inflamed his jealousy. Korah's position as leader in this rebellion was evidently the result of his personal character, which was that of a bold, haughty, and ambitious man. This appears from his address to Moses in Numbers 3:3, and especially from his conduct in Numbers 3:19, where both his daring and his influence over the congregation are very apparent. Were it not for this, one would have expected the Gershonites -as the elder branch of the Levites-to have supplied a leader in conjunction with the sons of Reuben, rather than the family of Izhar, who was Amram's younger brother. The private object of Korah was apparently his own aggrandizement, but his ostensible object was the general good of the people: and it is perhaps from want of attention to this distinction that the transaction has not been well understood. The design seems to have been made acceptable to a large body of the nation, on the ground that the first-born of Israel had been deprived of their sacerdotal birthright in favor of the Levites, while the Levites themselves announced that the priesthood had been conferred by Moses (as they considered) on his own brother's family, in preference to those who had equal claims; and it is easy to conceive that the Reubenites may have considered the opportunity a favorable one for the recovery of their birthright-the double portion and civil pre-eminence-which had been forfeited by them and given to Joseph. (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrat. ad loc.) These are the explanations of Aben-Ezra, and seem as reasonable as any which have been offered. (See below.)

The leading conspirators, having organized their plans, repaired in a body to Moses and Aaron, boldly charged them with public usurpation, and required them to lay down their arrogated power. Moses no sooner heard this than he fell on his face, confounded at the enormity of so outrageous a revolt against a system framed so carefully for the benefit of the nation. He left the matter in the Lord's hands, and desired them to come on the morrow, provided with. censers for incense, that the Lord himself, by some manifest token, might make known his will in this great matter. As this order was particularly addressed to the rebellious Levites, the Reubenites left the place, and when afterwards called back by Moses, returned a very insolent refusal, charging him with having brought them out of the land of Egypt under false pretences, "to kill them in the wilderness' (Numbers 16:1-17).

The next day Korah and his company appeared before the tabernacle, attended by a multitude of people out of the general body of the tribes. Then the Shekinah, or symbol of the divine presence, which abode between the cherubim, advanced to the entrance of the sacred fabric, and a voice therefrom commanded Moses and Aaron to stand apart, lest they should share in the destruction which awaited the whole congregation. On hearing these awful words the brothers fell on their faces, and, by strong intercession, moved the Lord to confine his wrath to the leaders in the rebellion, and spare their unhappy dupes. The latter were then ordered to separate themselves from their leaders and from the tents in which they dwelt. The terrible menace involved in this direction had its weight, and the command was obeyed; and after Moses had appealed to what was to happen as a proof of the authority by which he acted, the earth opened, and received and closed over the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

The Reubenite conspirators were in their tents, and perished in them; and at the same instant Korah and his 250, who were offering incense at the door of the tabernacle, were destroyed by a fire which "came out from the Lord;" that is, most probably, in this case, from out of the cloud in which his presence dwelt (Numbers 16:18-35). The censers which they had used were afterwards made into plates, to form an outer covering to the altar, and thus became a standing monument of this awful transaction (Numbers 16:36-40). The rebellious spirit excited by these ambitious men vented itself afresh on the next day in complaints against Moses as having been the I cause of death to these popular leaders a degree of obduracy and presumption that called forth the divine indignation so severely as not to be allayed till a sudden plague had cut off thousands of the factious multitude and threatened still further ravages had it not been appeased by Aaron's offering of incense at the instance of Moses (Numbers 16:41-50). The recurrence of a similar jealousy was prevented by the divine choice of the family of Aaron, attested by the miraculous vegetation of his rod alone out of all the tribes (Numbers 17). On, although named in the first instance along with Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 17:1), does not further appear either in the rebellion or its punishment. It is hence supposed that he repented in time; and Abendana and other Rabbinical writers allege that his wife prevailed upon him to abandon the cause.

It might be supposed from the Scripture narrative that the entire families of the conspirators perished in the destruction of their tents. Doubtless all who were in the tents perished; but, as the descendants of Korah afterwards became eminent in the Levitical service, (See KORAHITE), it is clear that his sons were spared (Exodus 6:24). They were probably living in separate tents, or were among those who sundered themselves from the conspirators at the command of Moses. There is no reason to suppose that the sons of Korah were children when their father perished. Perhaps the fissure of the ground which swallowed up the tents of Dathan and Abiram did not extend beyond those of the Reubenites. From Numbers 16:27 it seems clear that Korah himself was not with Dathan and Abiram at the moment. His tent may have been one pitched for himself, in contempt of the orders of Moses, by the side of his fellow rebels, while his family continued to reside in their proper camp nearer the tabernacle; but it must have been separated by a considerable space from those of Dathan and Abiram. Or, even if Korah's family resided among the Reubenites, they may have fled, at Moses's, warning, to take refuge in the Kohathite camp, instead of remaining, as the wives and children of Dathan and Abiram did (Numbers 16:27). Korah himself was doubtless with the 250 men who bare censers nearer the tabernacle (Numbers 16:19), and perished with them by the " fire from Jehovah" which accompanied the earthquake. It is nowhere said that he was one of those who " went down quick into the pit" (compare Psalm cvi, 17, 18), and it is natural that he should have been with the censer-bearers. That he was so is indeed clearly implied by Numbers 16:16-19; Numbers 16:35; Numbers 16:40, compared with 26:9, 10.

The apostle holds up Korah as a warning to presumptuous and self-seeking teachers, and couples his crime with those of Cain and Balaam, as being of similar enormity (Judges 1:11). The expression there used, "gainsaying" (ἀντιλογία, contradiction), alludes to his speech in Numbers 16:3, and accompanying rebellion. Compare the use of the same word in Hebrews 12:3; Psalms 106:32, and of the verb, John 19:12, and Isaiah 22:22; Isaiah 65:2 (Sept.), in which latter passage, as quoted Romans 10:21, the A. V. has the same expression of " gainsaying" as in Jude. The Son of Sirach, following Psalms 106:16, לְמשֶׁה יְקִנְּאוּ, etc. (otherwise rendered, however, by the Sept., παρώργισαν), describes Korah and his companions as envious or jealous of Moses, where the English "maligned" is hardly an equivalent for ἐξήλωσαν (Ecclus. xlv, 18). A late ingenuous writer (Prof. Reichel, of Dublii, Sermons, Cambr. 1855) distinguishes the crime of Korah from that of Dathan and Abiram (q.v.) as being an ecclesiastical insubordination, whereas the latter was a political rebellion; he also draws a parallel between the position of Aaron as representing the highpriesthood of Christ-the one undlerived, perpetual, and untransferable pontificate "after the order of Melchizedek," and the Levitical order represented by Korah corresponding to the Christian ministry; and he arrives at the following conclusion: "The crime in the Christian Church corresponding to that which Korah and his followers committed ins the Jewish Church consists, not, as is often stated, in the people taking to themselves the functions of the ministry. but in the Christian ministry, impiously usurping the functions of Christ himself; and, not contented with their Master's having separated them from the congregation of his people to bring them near unto himself, to do the service of his house, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, in their'seeking the priesthood also.' This is the gainsaying of Korah, which the authority of inspiration declares should be repeated even in the earliest ages of the Christian Church, and which is significantly coupled by the apostle Jude with the way of Cain, and with the running greedily after the error of Balaam for reward." In short, it was an attempt on the part of such as were already invested with an official rank in the Levitical cultus to supplant those occupying the higher offices in I the same economy, and even to derogate the supreme and exclusive control of its dispensation; and all this for the sake merely of the honors and emoluments of the promotion. It is therefore at once apparent how little this narrative supports the arrogant claims of any class of so-called priests in the modern Church, and that it altogether fails to warrant their exclusion and condemnation of others who have as clear a divine call as themselves to the same order of functions, especially when the latter move in a different community, are actuated by the most unselfish motives, and proceed in accordance with the most imperative demands of circumstances.

Korah is elsewhere referred to in Numbers 26:9-11; Numbers 27:3; 1 Chronicles 6:22; 1 Chronicles 6:37; 1 Chronicles 9:19. See Journ. Sac. Lit. App. 1852, p. 195; Forster, Israel in the Wilderness (Lond. 1865). On the Korachide, see Carpzov. Introduct. ii, 105; Van Iperen, De oiliis Korachi psalmor. quorund. auctorib., in the Bibl. Hagan. II,i, 99 sq.; comp. Eichhorn, Bibl. d. bibl. Lit. i, 911 sq.; Bauer. Hebr. Mytholoq. i, 302; Erlidar. d. Maund. d. A. Test. i, 219 sq. On I the Arabic legends, see Fleischer, Hist. acmteislam. p. 321.

3. The first named of the four sons of Hebron, of the family of Caleb, of the tribe of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:43). B.C. considerably post 1612.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Korah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/k/korah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Prev Entry
KOR.
Next Entry
Korahite