“Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took two hundred fifty prominent Israelite men who were leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly, and they rebelled against Moses.”
Numbers 16:1-2 CSB
Through the Bible: Numbers 16-17
On Day 060, we talked about how Moses and Aaron talked to God about the people, while Joshua and Caleb talked to the people about God (see Numbers 14:5-9). It was a beautiful picture of religious leaders and secular leaders working together to glorify God.
Today, we see the opposite. Instead of joining hands to honor God, Korah (a Levite) and Dothan and Abiram (Reubenites) joined hands to glorify themselves. Moreover, they also convinced 250 “leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly” (presumably representatives from every tribe) to join the rebellion. Korah challenged the religious authority of Aaron. Dathan and Abiram challenged the political authority of Moses.
We talk a lot in our country about the relationship between church and state, God and government, religion and politics. Today’s reading shows the worst consequences of mixing the two.
In yesterday’s reading, Joshua and Caleb prove a bridge between church and state is possible. In today’s reading, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram prove that a wall between the two is necessary. Power—whether religious power or political power—always corrupts. We are a fallen race, with deceitful hearts whose inclination is toward evil all the time (Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 8:21).
Between the Living and the Dead
God displayed His awesome power when the ground opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan and Abiram (cf. Psalms 106:16-27), as well as the 250 representatives of the assembly. Nevertheless, the very next day even more people joined the rebellion, blaming Moses and Aaron for the deaths of all the people.
What Aaron did next is as clear a picture of Jesus as you’ll find in the Old Testament:
So Aaron took his firepan as Moses had ordered, ran into the middle of the assembly, and saw that the plague had begun among the people. After he added incense, he made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted.” Numbers 16:47-48 CSB
Lord Jesus, You made atonement for every priest, politician, and general. Even on our best days, we are frail and corruptible. But Jesus, You stood between the living and the dead to make atonement for us.
Strike that. Lord Jesus, you didn’t just stand between the living and the dead. You hung there. You were counted as one dead in order that we could be numbered among the living.