The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 35: The Rebellion of Korah
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The judgments visited upon the Israelites served for a time
to restrain their murmuring and insubordination, but the
spirit of rebellion was still in the heart and eventually brought
forth the bitterest fruits. The former rebellions had been mere
popular tumults, arising from the sudden impulse of the excited
multitude; but now a deep-laid conspiracy was formed, the result
of a determined purpose to overthrow the authority of the leaders
appointed by God Himself.
Korah, the leading spirit in this movement, was a Levite, of
the family of Kohath, and a cousin of Moses; he was a man of
ability and influence. Though appointed to the service of the
tabernacle, he had become dissatisfied with his position and
aspired to the dignity of the priesthood. The bestowal upon Aaron
and his house of the priestly office, which had formerly devolved
upon the first-born son of every family, had given rise to jealousy
and dissatisfaction, and for some time Korah had been secretly
opposing the authority of Moses and Aaron, though he had not
ventured upon any open act of rebellion. He finally conceived
the bold design of overthrowing both the civil and the religious
authority. He did not fail to find sympathizers. Close to the tents
of Korah and the Kohathites, on the south side of the tabernacle,
was the encampment of the tribe of Reuben, the tents of Dathan
and Abiram, two princes of this tribe, being near that of Korah.
These princes readily joined in his ambitious schemes. Being
descendants from the eldest son of Jacob, they claimed that the
civil authority belonged to them, and they determined to divide
with Korah the honors of the priesthood.
The state of feeling among the people favored the designs of
Korah. In the bitterness of their disappointment, their former
doubts, jealousy, and hatred had returned, and again their
complaints were directed against their patient leader. The Israelites [p. 396] were continually losing sight of the fact that they were under
divine guidance. They forgot that the Angel of the covenant was
their invisible leader, that, veiled by the cloudy pillar, the presence
of Christ went before them, and that from Him Moses
received all his directions.
They were unwilling to submit to the terrible sentence that
they must all die in the wilderness, and hence they were ready to
seize upon every pretext for believing that it was not God but
Moses who was leading them and who had pronounced their
doom. The best efforts of the meekest man upon the earth could
not quell the insubordination of this people; and although the
marks of God's displeasure at their former perverseness were still
before them in their broken ranks and missing numbers, they did
not take the lesson to heart. Again they were overcome by
The humble shepherd's life of Moses had been far more
peaceful and happy than his present position as leader of that
vast assembly of turbulent spirits. Yet Moses dared not choose.
In place of a shepherd's crook a rod of power had been given
him, which he could not lay down until God should release him.
He who reads the secrets of all hearts had marked the
purposes of Korah and his companions and had given His people
such warning and instruction as might have enabled them to
escape the deception of these designing men. They had seen the
judgment of God fall upon Miriam because of her jealousy and
complaints against Moses. The Lord had declared that Moses was
greater than a prophet. "With him will I speak mouth to mouth."
"Wherefore, then," He added, "were ye not afraid to speak
against My servant Moses?" Numbers 12:8. These instructions
were not intended for Aaron and Miriam alone, but for all Israel.
Korah and his fellow conspirators were men who had been
favored with special manifestations of God's power and greatness.
They were of the number who went up with Moses into
the mount and beheld the divine glory. But since that time a
change had come. A temptation, slight at first, had been harbored,
and had strengthened as it was encouraged, until their minds
were controlled by Satan, and they ventured upon their work
of disaffection. Professing great interest in the prosperity of the
people, they first whispered their discontent to one another and
then to leading men of Israel. Their insinuations were so readily [p. 397] received that they ventured still further, and at last they really
believed themselves to be actuated by zeal for God.
They were successful in alienating two hundred and fifty
princes, men of renown in the congregation. With these strong
and influential supporters they felt confident of making a radical
change in the government and greatly improving upon the
administration of Moses and Aaron.
Jealousy had given rise to envy, and envy to rebellion. They
had discussed the question of the right of Moses to so great
authority and honor, until they had come to regard him as
occupying a very enviable position, which any of them could fill
as well as he. And they deceived themselves and one another into
thinking that Moses and Aaron had themselves assumed the
positions they held. The discontented ones said that these leaders
had exalted themselves above the congregation of the Lord, in
taking upon them the priesthood and government, but their
house was not entitled to distinction above others in Israel; they
were no more holy than the people, and it should be enough for
them to be on a level with their brethren, who were equally
favored with God's special presence and protection.
The next work of the conspirators was with the people. To
those who are in the wrong, and deserving of reproof, there is
nothing more pleasing than to receive sympathy and praise. And
thus Korah and his associates gained the attention and enlisted
the support of the congregation. The charge that the murmurings
of the people had brought upon them the wrath of God was
declared to be a mistake. They said that the congregation were
not at fault, since they desired nothing more than their rights;
but that Moses was an overbearing ruler; that he had reproved
the people as sinners, when they were a holy people, and the
Lord was among them.
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