BIBLE STUDY SERIES #362, 363 and 364

1 November, 1998

KORAH'S REBELLION - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began a number of years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny through Jacob (Israel) to Egypt and Exodus, to Mount Sinai and to Canaan's border. But at the border, on hearing the adverse report of the majority of the spies sent to search out The Promised Land, the people of Israel had failed to enter, and thus they had forfeited their chance. That whole mature generation must now wander in the Sinai wilderness for a further thirty-eight years: forty years in all, each year for a day that the spies had searched the land. Only the two, Joshua and Caleb would survive to lead the following generation where their parents feared to tread.

One of the lessons which had to be learned by the Israelites during their extended period of wilderness wandering was that they must never raise their hand against The Lord, in the sense of open rebellion or open flouting of His Commandments. In the last study, in Numbers 16, we saw how a rebel spirit had become manifest among those Israelites in the Rebellion of Korah, and his followers among the Tribe of Levi, accompanied also by Dathan, and Abiram, of the Tribe of Reuben together with their following.

Before we leave that section of Scripture, I might just take a few moments to scan some comments made on the passage by Keil and Delitzsch. That valuable reference does frequently add some worthwhile insights for our understanding of the sense of the Hebrew text.

They explain "When Moses heard these words of the rebels..." (words which stated that Moses and Aaron were not alone called of The LORD to offer service, for all the congregation was equally holy), "...he fell upon his face to complain of the matter to the Lord, as in chap. xiv. 5. He then said to Korah and his company, 'To-morrow Jehovah will show who is His and holy, and will let him come near to Him, and he whom He chooseth will draw near to Him.' The meaning (of the Hebrew) is evident... . He is Jehovah's, whom He chooses, so that He belongs to Him with his whole life. The reference is to the priestly rank, to which God had chosen Aaron and his sons out of the whole nation, and sanctified them by a special consecration... and by which they became the persons 'standing near to Him'... and were qualified to appear before Him in the sanctuary, and present to Him the sacrifices of the nation. To leave the decision of this to the Lord, Korah and his company, who laid claim to this prerogative, were to take censers, and bring lighted incense before Jehovah. He whom the Lord should choose was to be the sanctified one. This was to satisfy them... . The divine decision was connected with the offering of incense, because this was the holiest function of the priestly service, which brought the priest into the immediate presence of God, and in connection with which Jehovah had already shown to the whole congregation how He sanctified Himself, by a penal judgment on those who took this office upon themselves without a divine call... . He then set before them the wickedness of their enterprise, to lead them to search themselves, and avert the judgment which threatened them. In doing this, he made a distinction between Korah the Levite, and Dathan and Abiram the Reubenites, according to the difference in the motives which prompted their rebellion, and the claims which they asserted. He first of all reminded Korah the Levite of the way in which God had distinguished his tribe, by separating the Levites from the rest of the congregation, to attend to the service of the sanctuary..., and asked him, 'Is this too little for you? The God of Israel (this epithet is used emphatically for Jehovah) had brought thee near to Himself, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee, and ye strive after the priesthood also. Therefore... thou and thy company, who have leagued themselves against Jehovah: ... and Aaron, what is he, that ye murmur against him?' These last words, as an expression of wrath, are elliptical, or rather an aposiopesis (a word which, I might interject, holds the dictionary meaning 'a figure by which the speaker suddenly stops as though unable or unwilling to proceed', from the Greek, 'to keep silence'), and are to be filled up in the following manner,... what do ye want? Ye rebel against Jehovah! why do ye murmur against Aaron? He has not seized upon the priesthood of his own accord, but Jehovah has called him to it, and he is only a feeble servant of God'... . Moses then ... sent for Dathan and Abiram, who, as is tacitly assumed, had gone back to their tents during the warning given to Korah. But they replied, 'We shall not come up.'"

After further explanations relating to the Hebrew expressions used, and the reply of Dathan and Abiram to Moses, Keil and Delitzsch continue, stating: "Moses was so disturbed by these scornful reproaches, that he entreated the Lord, with an assertion of his own unselfishness, not to have respect to their gift, i.e. not to accept the sacrifice which they should bring... . 'I have not taken one ass from them, nor done harm to one of them,' i.e. I have not treated them as a ruler, who demands tribute of his subjects, and oppresses them... . In conclusion, he summoned Korah and his associates once more, to present themselves the following day before Jehovah with censers and incense.

The next day the rebels presented themselves with censers before the tabernacle, along with Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation also assembled there at the instigation of Korah. The Lord then interposed in judgment. Appearing in His glory to the whole congregation... He said to Moses and Aaron, 'Separate yourselves from this congregation; I will destroy them in a moment.' By assembling in front of the tabernacle, the whole congregation had made common cause with the rebels. God threatened them, therefore, with sudden destruction. But the two men of God, who were so despised by the rebellious faction, fell on their faces, interceding with God, and praying, 'God, Thou God of the spirits of all flesh! this one man (i.e. Korah, the author of the conspiracy) hath sinned, and wilt thou be wrathful with all the congregation?' i.e. let Thine anger fall upon the whole congregation. The Creator and Preserver of all beings, who has given and still gives life and breath to all flesh, is God of the spirits of all flesh. As the author of the spirit of life in all perishable flesh, God cannot destroy His own creatures in wrath; this would be opposed to His own paternal love and mercy. In this epithet, as applied to God, therefore, Moses appeals 'to the universal blessing of creation. It is of little consequence whether these words are to be understood as relating to all the animal kingdom, or to the human race alone; because Moses simply prayed, that as God was the creator and architect of the world, He would not destroy the men whom He had created, but rather have mercy upon the works of His own hands'...."

"Jehovah then instructed Moses, that the congregation was to remove away (...to get up and away) from about the dwelling-place of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and, as we may supply from the context, the congregation fell back from Korah's tent, whilst Dathan and Abiram, possibly at the very first appearance of the divine glory, drew back into their tents. Moses therefore betook himself to the tents of Dathan and Abiram, with the elders following him, and there also commanded the congregation to depart from the tents of these wicked men, and not touch anything they possessed, that they might not be swept away in all their sins-Ver. 27. The congregation obeyed; but Dathan and Abiram came and placed themselves in front of the tents, along with their wives and children, to see what Moses would do. Moses then announced the sentence.: 'By this shall ye know that Jehovah hath sent me to do all these works, that not out of my own heart (i.e. that I do not act of my own accord). If these men die like all men (i.e. if these wicked men die a natural death like other men), and the oversight of all men take place over them (i.e. if the same providence watches over them as over all other men, and preserves them from sudden death), Jehovah hath not sent me. But if Jehovah create a creation (... i.e. work an extraordinary miracle), and the earth open its mouth and swallow them up, with all that belongs to them, so that they go down alive into hell, ye shall perceive that these men have despised Jehovah.'-Vers. 31-33. And immediately the earth clave asunder, and swallowed them up, with their families and all their possessions, and closed above them, so that they perished without a trace from the congregation."

The reference continues: "'All the men belonging to Korah' were his servants; for, according to chap. xxvi. 11, his sons did not perish with him, but perpetuated his family, (chap. xxvi. 58) to which the celebrated Korahite singers of David's time belonged..." Keil and Delitzsch then go on to mention that "The other 250 rebels, who were probably still in front of the tabernacle, were then destroyed by fire which proceeded from Jehovah, as Nadab and Abihu had been before (Lev. x. 2)."

The matter of the collection of those censers which the Korah company had held follows. As these had been brought before Jehovah, they had become holy, and they thus became banned articles to the Lord. These were made into broad plates for a covering to the altar of burnt offering, and thus these censers became a sign or memorial ' to all who drew near to the sanctuary, which was to remind them continually of this judgment of God, and warn the congregation of grasping at the priestly prerogatives... ."

In light of what we have seen in that passage of Holy Writ in Numbers 16, we shall leave a question with you for a meditation.. What, do you suppose, may be the reaction of The Almighty God towards some who, today, altogether dismiss His claim upon His people, and who express derision or contempt for those who seek to draw the Biblical record of His words to their attention.

8 November, 1998

KORAH'S REBELLION - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies, which began a number of years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has taken us down the generations of his progeny through Jacob (Israel) to Egypt and Exodus, to Mount Sinai and to Canaan's border. Fearing to enter because of the report of the spies, the people of Israel had forfeited their chance. That whole mature generation must now wander in the Sinai wilderness for a further thirty-eight years: forty years in all, each year for a day that the spies had searched the land. Only the two, Joshua and Caleb would survive to lead the following generation where their parents feared to tread.

One of the lessons which had to be learned by the Israelites during their extended period of wilderness wandering was that they must never raise their hand against The Lord, in the sense of open rebellion or open flouting of His Commandments. In the last study, in Numbers 16, we saw how a rebel spirit had become manifest among those Israelites in the Rebellion of Korah, and his followers among the Tribe of Levi, accompanied also by Dathan, and Abiram, of the Tribe of Reuben together with their following.

Today, we will look once again at the results of this rebellion, as they applied to the generality of the congregation of Israel, now that the leadership of the rebellion had been take out of the way by the LORD, Himself. Regarding the punishment of the murmuring congregation, Keil and Delitzsch comment: "The judgment upon the company of Korah had filled the people round about with terror and dismay, but it had produced no change of heart in the congregation that had risen up against its leaders. The next morning the whole congregation began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and to charge them with having slain the people of Jehovah. They referred to Korah and his company, but especially the 250 chiefs of renown, whom they regarded as the kernel of the nation, and called 'the people of Jehovah.' They would have made Moses and Aaron responsible for their death, because in their opinion it was they who had brought the judgment upon their leaders; whereas it was through the intercession of Moses (chap. xvi. 22) that the whole congregation was saved from the destruction which threatened it. To such an extent does the folly of the proud heart of man proceed, and the obduracy of a race already exposed to the judgment of God.- Ver. 7. When the congregation assembled together, Moses and Aaron turned to the tabernacle, and saw how the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. As the cloud rested continually above the tabernacle during the time of encampment... we must suppose that at this time the cloud covered it in a fuller and much more conspicuous sense, just as it had done when the tabernacle was first erected..., and that at the same time the glory of God burst forth from the dark cloud in a miraculous splendour.- Vers. 8 sqq. Thereupon they both went into the court of... the tabernacle, and God commanded them to rise up... out of this congregation, which He would immediately destroy. But they fell upon their faces in prayer, as in chap. xvi. 21, 22. This time, however, they could not avert the bursting forth of the wrathful judgment, as they had done the day before (chap. xvi. 22). The plague had already commenced, when Moses told Aaron to take the censer quickly into the midst of the congregation, with coals and incense..., to make expiation for it with an incense-offering. And when this was done, and Aaron placed himself between the dead and the living, the plague, which had already destroyed 14,700 men, was stayed. The plague consisted apparently of a sudden death, as in the case of a pestilence raging with extreme violence, though we cannot regard it as an actual pestilence. The means resorted to by Moses to stay the plague showed afresh how the faithful servant of God bore the rescue of his people upon his heart. All the motives which he had hitherto pleaded, in his repeated intercession that this evil congregation might be spared, were now exhausted. He could not stake his life for the nation, as at Horeb..., for the nation had rejected him. He could no longer appeal to the honour of Jehovah among the heathen, seeing that the Lord, even when sentencing the rebellious race to fall in the desert, had assured him that the whole earth should be filled with His glory... . still less could he pray to God that He would not be wrathful with all for the sake of one or a few sinners, as in chap. xvi. 2, seeing that the whole congregation had taken part with the rebels. In this condition of things there was but one way left of averting the threatened destruction of the whole nation, namely, to adopt the means which the Lord Himself had given to His congregation, in the high-priestly office, to wipe away their sins, and recover the divine grace which they had forfeited through sin,- viz. the offering of incense which embodied the high-priestly prayer, and the strength and operation of which were not dependent upon the sincerity and earnestness of subjective faith, but had a firm and immovable foundation in the objective force of the divine appointment. This was the means adopted by the faithful servant of the Lord, and the judgment of wrath was averted in its course; the plague was averted.- The effectual operation of the incense-offering of the high priest also served to furnish the people with a practical proof of the power and operation of the true and divinely appointed priesthood. 'The priesthood which the company of Korah had so wickedly usurped, had brought down death and destruction upon himself, through his offering of incense; but the divinely appointed priesthood of Aaron averted death and destruction from the whole congregation when incense was offered by him, and stayed the well-merited judgment, which had broken forth upon it'."

We now approach the next chapter, in which God moved to seal the divine appointment by a miracle in the eyes of all, and that there must be no further question regarding the matter. Numbers 17 tells us what The LORD did.

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.
3. And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.
4. And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
5. And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.
6. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods.
7. And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
8. And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.
9. And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.
10. And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.
11. And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.
12. And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.
13. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?

Here, then, is the definitive answer which The LORD used in order to impress upon those Israelites, and likewise those others who would follow in the generations of subsequent history, upon reading this account by the hand of Moses, concerning their forefathers' rebellion and its outcome, proving that God's choices and selections of His appointment must not be a matter of dispute and of questions by proud would-be competitors for the distinctions of high office in His service. As Keil and Delitzsch put it, "Whilst the Lord had thus given a practical proof to the people, that Aaron was the high priest appointed by Him for His congregation, by allowing the high-priestly incense offered by Aaron to expiate His wrath, and by removing the plague; He also gave them a still further confirmation of His priesthood, by a miracle which was well adapted to put to silence all the murmuring of the congregation. We will read more on this topic in the next Bible Study in this series.

15 November, 1998

REMEMBER - BUT ALSO FORGIVE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

As we have just passed another Remembrance Day in our Calendar of annual events and observances, it seemed good to me to pause in our regular succession of Bible Studies, and to take another side journey down a short "memory lane" so to speak, to a way-side rest and scenic look-out spot. I might describe what I had in mind as being that view which, in consequence of gaining some eminence in the road, may be seen to advantage; much as a somewhat weary traveller might look for the excuse of a momentary pause to revive one's stamina and to review one's purpose.

Indeed as weary travellers might do, have we not ourselves on occasion sought, and found, an excuse for some sort of opportunity to pause, to look back, to see stretching across a great valley, so to speak, the pathway that one has trod, the precipitous points, the cul-de-sacs of former resting spots, and the vantage points wherein we looked forward through the valley mists towards our present point on the road, and all that has subsequently intervened over the years.

At such moments we, particularly those of us within the Christian community and especially those among us who appreciate the Biblical prophetic outworking of Israel's descendants among the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world, can the better review once more, from our vantage-point of the present time and circumstance, what has gone by, and the events which have long since been tramped into the dust of the distant past of our life's journey. We do this as individuals, and also as members in a line of genealogical descent, who are part of a national family which is on the road to the emerging fullness of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

As we contemplate that landscape of life, stretching back to our beginnings, we may, on raising our eyes back to the further misty distances of the past, see outlined our portion of the prophetic concourse of the world's history. That road led by the rugged skyline eminence of Sinai and the awful yet majestic cleft of the valley of death, bordered on one side by the stark site of Golgotha, and opposite, the matching glory of the eminence of The Resurrection and Ascension of Our LORD. Subsequent history has passed many a low trough, and many small but wearying hills on the way to the present hour. Perhaps we might, on viewing all these things, glance down, once again, at the Scriptural map which The Almighty has placed in our hands.

On contemplating these things, and in relation especially to days of National Remembrance, it has once again been driven home to me how we ought to know and to remember our past, and doubtless there will be embossed therein the many hurts and losses along the way, but we must ever keep in mind that this review must be coupled with the knowledge that when we arrive at our destination, we are to face the possibility of a judgment using those criteria by which we have treated with, and judged, others in our journey of life, and so, in order to prepare our entrance to that stage which lies before us, we must ever be ready to forgive what has been done amiss to ourselves. That, for some, appears to be impossible, yet it is the command of the King, and we dare not ignore it, lest the consequence be of dire proportion to our soul and our future status.

I would make comment upon the transitory nature of the present Babylonian style of governments imposed by divine edict as a national punishment and educational exercise up to this present stage of history. All such governments, and probably most of those who form them, will pass from those high offices to which they have been permitted a temporary ascent. The humanist, as well as the follower of devious practices, and those who harbour animosity against the King of kings will all likewise pass from the centre of the world's stage. Where, then, will be the lot of those who aspire to office in pride of place and selfish ambition? Judgment is to begin at the house of God, and I doubt not but that such judgment has already begun. It would seem that there are many even now, whose credentials to hold such eminent standing have already folded and collapsed in shame and confusion of face.

We are definitely in what specialists in such matters would term a period of rapid transition. To what form of situation does this swift river of time race forward with its tumultuous tossings and turnings? To what point does the whole concourse of history lead? We, who can read the prophetic details on the Scriptural map may estimate both the times and seasons, and the ultimate circumstance, for, although we, like the rest of humanity, have not trod this way before, we have the undoubted advantage of trusting the maker of the course amidst the whole historic landscape, and consequently also the divine cartographer of the accurate map to guide our passage.

In the form known to Adam and Eve, The Divinity Who created the whole of time and space, of energy and matter, had walked his Garden of Eden by their side. When they heard the voice of the whisperer who lied, and questioned God's word, He had to undertake both an expulsion and a rescue operation down the generations and millennia of time. He had visited with Noah, through the Flood, and with Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, and with the whole Adamic lineage in between. He had promised to Abraham and Sarah the one whom Scripture names Abraham's "seed", and in that seed, Isaac, magnificent prophetic developments to the progeny of the clan. He drew these promises in clearer prophetic definition for Jacob as that weary patriarch had lain to sleep with his head resting upon a rejected building stone.

Jacob saw his mother for the last time as he went out from his parents, pursued and alone, and returning twenty years later with wives and sons, he re-entered the Land of Promise where he must needs be confronted by his brother Esau. At the brook, Jabbok he faced crisis and was granted the significant name of "Israel." In the land he sojourned until The Almighty sent his favoured son, Joseph in bondage to Egypt, there to rise to a rare and privileged position, to save his brethren and family through seven years of famine.

At Sinai, God spoke to Moses in a burning bush which was not consumed, and after extracting the nation of Israel from Egypt in the Exodus by many signs and wonders, The Almighty was known to Israel by the wonderful name of Yahweh (Jehovah), the "Ever Existent One" Who would thus be always with the descending generations of the clans of Israel, for all time. He spoke, not only to Moses, but indeed to all Israel encamped beneath the mount, so long as the nation could stand to hear His voice from the fiery summit. He offered a form of national "marriage" to Israel, and upon acceptance, He gave the stone tablets upon which were codified His Laws, the governmental map for individual and nation, for the Kingdom yet to be.

In the Wilderness Tabernacle, He pictured for all time the manner of the doorway back to Himself through the teaching aids of the furniture and rituals of sacrifices and the prophetic lessons of His plan of time. He led them to Canaan's border, but when the nation refused to enter, in His power and strength, the rebel nature of the citizenry must endure re-training in the wilderness of Sinai, before their children might again ascend to the Promised Land.

The people had yet to learn the lessons, both ethnic and spiritual, of the oppressive interludes between the times when Judges led them to temporary freedom, and the potential, for good or ill, in the establishment of monarchy as Saul became a king. The selection of David as youthful Psalmist and champion of Israel brought times of tension, and in the days of Solomon both riches and eventual experience with the many failures in the mechanisms of selfish diplomacy as the tribal nation split on the wedge of taxation and king followed king on the Throne of The LORD. Prophets warned and wrote their witness, while the importance of a divine focus for the nation flickered like a dancing flame amidst the heathen transgressions.

Transgressions brought punishments, and eventual banishment for periods of prophetic significance to the several sundered segments of the tribes. A return of a remnant of a remnant of a remnant to Judea under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, provided the setting for the climax of all history, for in flesh born to Mary, and granted the name of Jesus, God walked with His people, demonstrating the perfect Human Passover-Lamb, and took the path which led to the Cross. For all time, that had been His destiny; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, as Revelation 13:8 proclaimed. It had come at that point in the road which lay a four-thousand year measure as if four "days" from the beginning, and there was to be left yet two further thousand year "days" down to our own vantage point from which to scan the trail of our own national passage along the footsteps of the centuries. Yet promise is the sequel as He returns to receive the Throne of David and to rule in a time yet future, termed the Second Advent.

How marvellous the Plan! How wonderful the magnificence of the concept and all the myriad details of the design. All things are yet to be submitted to the direct rule of the Divine Author. It is an astonishing story with a happy focus as we approach the moment of transition to a heaven upon the earth, for which we are commissioned to offer prayer in the pattern granted to the disciples by Our LORD, Himself.

Here, I shall leave with you the commission to review our past, and contemplate our destiny. We are one people in The LORD, and love is the binding cord of our existence if we will but submit to the turning of our will to His. We have all stumbled at some stage of life, and perhaps yet find it hard to see the path. But He is faithful, Who will not let any who come with Him be lost in the murky by-passes of existence. We can hear the words "come" and "I will in no wise cast out." It costs nothing to accept, and everything to follow Him. May all who listen to these words find peace and success in drawing near, and to this I can but add "Amen."

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