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Saturday 27th June 2020 5th Tamuz 5780


Numbers 16:1-18:32; 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22; John 19:1-17

In this Shabbat’s portion, we have an account of another revolt against Moses’ and Aaron’s authority and leadership. Since leaving Egypt, the Israelites seldom ceased from kvetching (complaining), which is one of the four reasons Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 10 as to why that first generation died in the wilderness. The committed adultery, idolatry, complained incessantly and tested God again and again.

How quickly they forgot the brutal enslavement in Egypt. The human soul has a capacity with the passage of time, to soon forget or at least dull down, past traumatic events, which is part of the healing process. One never completely forgets but the sharp edge is somewhat diffused. This generation that had been redeemed from the horror of the Egyptian servitude, should have retained the fear and awe of God, for the testimony of how their God delivered from that oppression with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, had been passed down ‘l’dor vador’ – from generation to generation.

Numbers 11:4-6

The grumblers among them began to have cravings (Hebrew: ta’avah - strong desires, covetousness), so Bnei-Yisrael began to wail repeatedly, saying, "If we could just eat some meat! We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt, for free—the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic! But now we have no appetite. We never see anything but this manna."

Now, I don’t want to be too harsh on that generation, for we cannot judge them. We have no idea of the effects that generations of slavery had engraved on their national psyche and therefore. In Exodus 6:01, we read that Moses spoke to the Israeli slaves after his encounter with HaShem at the burning bush, “but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and cruel bondage”.

I mention this just so that we do not think that we would have acted differently because we are people of great faith. You cannot really know another’s experience until you have walked in their shoes. So, as Paul says in 1 Cor 10:13, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”. Humility, compassion and a non-judgmental attitude are the hallmarks of a true believer!

Whatever the reason, the point is that there was a history of discontent prevalent in the camp and this soon flared into open rebellion against Israel’s leaders. In Numbers 12, it was Miriam and Aaron who rebelled against Moshe’s leadership. They challenged his role as a prophet: “Has Adonai spoken only through Moses? Hasn't He also spoken through us? Adonai heard it” (Num 12:2).

And then, of course, in last week’s parasha, there was the evil report of the ten spies, who themselves were “princes of the tribe of his fathers” (Numbers 13:2). This then sets the scene for this Shabbat’s parasha, which deals with another, more serious, incident of rebellion against Moses and Aaron.

Numbers 16:1-3

Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, and sons of Reuben—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth— rose up against Moses and took 250 men from Bnei-Yisrael, men of renown who had been appointed to the council. They assembled against Moses and Aaron. They said to them, "You've gone too far! All the community is holy—all of them—and Adonai is with them! Then why do you exalt and 250 above the assembly of Adonai?"

The main players in this revolt were Korach from the tribe of Levi, Dathan and Abiram from the tribe of Rueven and 250, princes of the congregation, elect men of the assembly, men of renown”. These rebels were not two-bit players in this unfolding saga; they were nobility!

Some commentators suggest that they were all first-born sons who felt deprived of their important status within the Israelite community because the privilege of serving God as priests, was handed over to Aaron and his sons after the golden calf incident. If you recall, as Israel stood before the mountain of revelation, it was the youth who offered sacrifices to HaShem on the mountain:

Exodus 24:5

He then sent out young men of Bnei-Yisrael, who sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings of oxen to Adonai.

However, the sons of Levi did not participate in this idolatry. "Whoever is on Adonai's side, let him come to me." Then all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him” (Exodus 32:26).

We read into these accounts of rebellion against God’s ordained leader, Moses, the rebellion against Yeshua as Messiah. Moses was God’s appointed mediator to bring about deliverance, redemption and salvation for Israel. Moses served in the offices of prophet, priest and king (ruler). Moses heard from God directly and guided them according to revelation received from above. So too, Yeshua!

Mark 6:1-3

Now Yeshua went out from there, and He comes to His hometown, and His disciples follow Him. When Shabbat came, He began to teach in the synagogue. Many listeners were amazed, saying, "Where did this fellow get these things? What's this wisdom given to Him? Such miracles are done by His hands! Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Miriam, and the brother of Jacob and Joseph and Judah and Simon? Aren't His sisters here with us?" And they took offence at Him.

Even as Moses’ authority was scorned and rejected by many of the leaders within the camp of Israel, so too did the religious leaders of the 2nd temple period reject the LORD’s divine agency and treated Yeshua with contempt, to the extent that they planned to have Him killed. This was Stephen’s words just prior to his death by stoning:

Acts 7

"This Moses—whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who appointed you as ruler and judge?'—is the one whom God sent as both ruler and redeemer, by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to Bnei-Yisrael, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.' "This is the one who was in the community in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living words to pass on to us. Our fathers did not want to be obedient to him, but shoved him aside.

The FFOZ commentary says

  • By rejecting Moses’ authority over the congregation, they rejected him as their king

  • By rejecting him as the only one who heard from God, they rejected him as prophet

  • By rejecting the appointment of his brother and his sons to serve as priests, they rejected the priesthood.

Similarly, many of the religious leaders and the ordinary folk, rejected Yeshua as prophet, priest and king.

How do we apply the lessons from this rebellion in our own lives? Obviously, we need to self- examine to see whether rebellion exits in our own hearts and minds, even rebellion against civil or religious authority. In fact, against anyone who is older or in authority over us.

What does the Bible say about rebellion?

  1. Rebellion against authority is rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 31:27; Joshua 22:22; Ezra 4:17-24; Nehemiah 9:17)

  2. Rebellion is sin personified: (Genesis 3:1-13)

  3. Rebellion is comparable to witchcraft: (1 Samuel 15:16-23)

  4. Rebellion is the practice of evil people: (Proverbs 17:11; Isaiah 65:2)

  5. Rebellion results in the loss of blessings from God: (Numbers 20:10-24; Joshua 2:1-15; Jeremiah 28:2-17)

  6. Rebellion angers God: (Isaiah 65:1-7; 1 Peter 3:18-22)

The problem that the Jewish leaders faced was that Jesus and His authority confronted their own authority. This is the challenge that we all have to face and overcome is that the Lord’s authority confronts our own sense of importance. Who is in control? Yeshua said that if we wished to follow Him, we have to die to self. We have to humble ourselves and submit to His truths. We have to bow low and say “not my will O Lord, but Thine. Though They slay me, yet will I trust Thee. Show me the Way!”

Like Moses, we have to prostrate ourselves before the One who is Lord and King and allow Him to rule and reign in our lives. This remains our daily challenge while we are yet clothed in our mortality.

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