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SBL e-journal

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2014

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Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knoll

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https://thetorah.com/article/documentary-and-redactional-approach

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Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knoll

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2014

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https://thetorah.com/article/documentary-and-redactional-approach

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Series

Korah, Datan and Abiram: A Case Study for the Methods of Academic Biblical Studies

Symposium

Part 3

Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knoll

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Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knoll

General Description

The Israeli biblical scholar Israel Knohl in Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School has developed a model in which P has two stages: an original composition, which he continues to call P, and a supplement, which was never an independent document, called H.[1]  Knohl too suggests there were two independent stories: the story of Datan and Abiram’s rebellion against Moses’ authority, which was part of the J source, and a rebellion of 250 Israelite (not Levite) chieftains against the position of Moses and Aaron, which was part of the PT (Priestly Torah) source.[2]

Where Knohl’s analysis differs from the classic Documentary Hypothesis outlined above is in his claim that this latter rebellion originally had no named leader.[3] When the Torah’s editors combined these two sources, they also added phrases to help combine the two stories under one leader, Korah. Additionally, these editors—attributed to the HS (Holiness School) by Knohl[4]—reframed the rebellion to be a Levitical rebellion against the appointment of Aaron as the exclusive founding father of the priesthood.   

The Text

Below is the text of Numbers 16 as we have it in the Torah today, but with the two textual sources and the redactional layers clearly marked.

  • The blue source is J,
  • The red source is P,
  • The indented black is the redactor’s new material (HS)
  • The black in italics is the redactor’s additions into the sources (also HS).

Keep in mind that, unlike the source material, the supplementary redaction material never existed independently.

Numbers Chapter 16

1 Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, took, along with Datan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben—

2Together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute rose up against Moses. 3 They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and Yhwh is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above Yhwh’s congregation?” 4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.5 Then he spoke to Korah and all his company [them], saying, “Come morning, Yhwh will make known who is His and who is holy, and will grant him access to Himself; He will grant access to the one He has chosen. 6 Do this: You, Korah and all his band, take fire pans, 7 and tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before Yhwh. Then the man whom Yhwh chooses, he shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!

8 Moses said further to Korah, “Hear me, sons of Levi. 9 Is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you access to Him, to perform the duties of Yhwh’s Tabernacle and to minister to the community and serve them? 10 Now that He has advanced you and all your fellow Levites with you, do you seek the priesthood too? 11 Truly, it is against Yhwhthat you and all your company have banded together. For who is Aaron that you should rail against him?”

12 Moses sent for Datan and Abiram, sons of Eliab; but they said, “We will not come! 13Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us? 14Even if you had brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey, and given us possession of fields and vineyards, should you gouge out those men’s eyes? We will not come!” 15 Moses was much aggrieved and he said to Yhwh, “Pay no regard to their oblation. I have not taken the ass of any one of them, nor have I wronged any one of them.”

16 And Moses said to Korah, “Tomorrow, you and all your company appear before Yhwh, you and they and Aaron. 17 Each of you take his fire pan and lay incense on it, and each of you bring his fire pan before Yhwh, two hundred and fifty fire pans; you and Aaron also [bring] your fire pans.”

18 Each of them took his fire pan, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and took his place at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, as did Moses and Aaron.

19 Korah gathered the whole community against them at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Then the Presence of Yhwh appeared to the whole community, 20 and Yhwh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Stand back from this community that I may annihilate them in an instant!” 22 But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, Source of the breath of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?” 23 Yhwh spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the community and say: Withdraw from about the abode of Korah (Datan, and Abiram).”

25 Moses rose and went to Datan and Abiram, the elders of Israel following him.

26 He addressed the community, saying, “Move away from the tents of these wicked men and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be wiped out for all their sins.” 27 So they withdrew from about the abode of Korah (Datan, and Abiram).

Now Datan and Abiram had come out and they stood at the entrance of their tents, with their wives, their children, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said, “By this you shall know that it was Yhwh who sent me to do all these things; that they are not of my own devising: 29 if these men die as all men do, if their lot be the common fate of all mankind, it was not Yhwh who sent me. 30 But if Yhwh brings about something unheard-of, so that the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, you shall know that these men have spurned Yhwh.” 31 Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all the people which were (Korah’s) [theirs] and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation. 34 All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!”

35 And a fire went forth from Yhwhand consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

במדבר פרק טז

א) וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן:

ב) וַיָּקֻ֙מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַאֲנָשִׁ֥ים מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם: ג) וַיִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֘ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְ-הֹוָֽה: ד) וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיִּפֹּ֖ל עַל־פָּנָֽיו: ה) וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר אֶל־קֹ֜רַח וְאֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדָתוֹ֘ [אליהם] לֵאמֹר֒ בֹּ֠קֶר וְיֹדַ֨ע יְ-הֹוָ֧ה אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־ל֛וֹ וְאֶת־הַקָּד֖וֹשׁ וְהִקְרִ֣יב אֵלָ֑יו וְאֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַר־בּ֖וֹ יַקְרִ֥יב אֵלָֽיו: ו) זֹ֖את עֲשׂ֑וּ קְחוּ־לָכֶ֣ם מַחְתּ֔וֹת קֹ֖רַח וְכָל־עֲדָתֽוֹז) וּתְנ֣וּ בָהֵ֣ן׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְשִׂימוּ֩ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ן קְטֹ֜רֶת לִפְנֵ֤י יְ-הֹוָה֨ מָחָ֔ר וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הַקָּד֑וֹשׁ רַב־לָכֶ֖ם בְּנֵ֥י לֵוִֽי:

ח) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֶל־קֹ֑רַח שִׁמְעוּ־נָ֖א בְּנֵ֥י לֵוִֽי: ט) הַמְעַ֣ט מִכֶּ֗ם כִּֽי־הִבְדִּיל֩ אֱלֹהֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל אֶתְכֶם֙ מֵעֲדַ֣ת יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְהַקְרִ֥יב אֶתְכֶ֖ם אֵלָ֑יו לַעֲבֹ֗ד אֶת־ עֲבֹדַת֙ מִשְׁכַּ֣ן יְ-הֹוָ֔ה וְלַעֲמֹ֛ד לִפְנֵ֥י הָעֵדָ֖ה לְשָׁרְתָֽם: י) וַיַּקְרֵב֙ אֹֽתְךָ֔ וְאֶת־כָּל־אַחֶ֥יךָ בְנֵי־לֵוִ֖י אִתָּ֑ךְ וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּ֖ם גַּם־כְּהֻנָּֽה: יא) לָכֵ֗ן אַתָּה֙ וְכָל־עֲדָ֣תְךָ֔ הַנֹּעָדִ֖ים עַל־י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וְאַהֲרֹ֣ן מַה־ה֔וּא כִּ֥י תַלִּ֖ינוּ עָלָֽיו:

יב) וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה: יג) הַמְעַ֗ט כִּ֤י הֶֽעֱלִיתָ֙נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ לַהֲמִיתֵ֖נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵי֖נוּ גַּם־ הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר: יד) אַ֡ף לֹ֣א אֶל־אֶרֶץ֩ זָבַ֨ת חָלָ֤ב וּדְבַשׁ֙ הֲבִ֣יאֹתָ֔נוּ וַתִּ֨תֶּן־לָ֔נוּ נַחֲלַ֖ת שָׂדֶ֣ה וָכָ֑רֶם הַעֵינֵ֞י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָהֵ֛ם תְּנַקֵּ֖ר לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה: טו) וַיִּ֤חַר לְמֹשֶׁה֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־י יְ-הֹוָ֔ה אַל־תֵּ֖פֶן אֶל־מִנְחָתָ֑ם לֹ֠א חֲמ֨וֹר אֶחָ֤ד מֵהֶם֙ נָשָׂ֔אתִי וְלֹ֥א הֲרֵעֹ֖תִי אֶת־אַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם:

טז) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־קֹ֔רַח אַתָּה֙ וְכָל־עֲדָ֣תְךָ֔ הֱי֖וּ לִפְנֵ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה אַתָּ֥ה וָהֵ֛ם וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן מָחָֽר: יז) וּקְח֣וּ׀ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וּנְתַתֶּ֤ם עֲלֵיהֶם֙ קְטֹ֔רֶת וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֞ם לִפְנֵ֤י יְ-הֹוָה֨ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֔וֹ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים וּמָאתַ֖יִם מַחְתֹּ֑ת וְאַתָּ֥ה וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן אִ֥ישׁ מַחְתָּתֽוֹ:

יח) וַיִּקְח֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ עֲלֵיהֶם֙ אֵ֔שׁ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם קְטֹ֑רֶת וַֽיַּעַמְד֗וּ פֶּ֛תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וּמֹשֶׁ֥ה וְאַהֲרֹֽן:

יט) וַיַּקְהֵ֨ל עֲלֵיהֶ֥ם קֹ֙רַח֙ אֶת־כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה אֶל־פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וַיֵּרָ֥א כְבוֹד־י יְ-הֹוָ֖ה אֶל־כָּל־הָעֵדָֽה:  כ) וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֖ן לֵאמֹֽר: כא) הִבָּ֣דְל֔וּ מִתּ֖וֹךְ הָעֵדָ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את וַאֲכַלֶּ֥ה אֹתָ֖ם כְּרָֽגַע: כב) וַיִּפְּל֤וּ עַל־פְּנֵיהֶם֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֵ֕ל אֱלֹהֵ֥י הָרוּחֹ֖ת לְכָל־בָּשָׂ֑ר הָאִ֤ישׁ אֶחָד֙ יֶחֱטָ֔א וְעַ֥ל כָּל־הָעֵדָ֖ה תִּקְצֹֽף: פ כג) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: כד) דַּבֵּ֥ר אֶל־הָעֵדָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵֽעָלוּ֙ מִסָּבִ֔יב לְמִשְׁכַּן־קֹ֖רַח (דָּתָ֥ן וַאֲבִירָֽם):

כה) וַיָּ֣קָם מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ אֶל־דָּתָ֣ן וַאֲבִירָ֑ם וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ אַחֲרָ֖יו זִקְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

כו) וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר אֶל־הָעֵדָ֜ה לֵאמֹ֗ר ס֣וּרוּ נָ֡א מֵעַל֩ אָהֳלֵ֨י הָאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָֽרְשָׁעִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְאַֽל־תִּגְּע֖וּ בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֑ם פֶּן־תִּסָּפ֖וּ בְּכָל־חַטֹּאתָֽם: כז) וַיֵּעָל֗וּ מֵעַ֧ל מִשְׁכַּן־קֹ֛רַח (דָּתָ֥ן וַאֲבִירָ֖ם) מִסָּבִ֑יב

וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם יָצְא֣וּ נִצָּבִ֗ים פֶּ֚תַח אָֽהֳלֵיהֶ֔ם וּנְשֵׁיהֶ֥ם וּבְנֵיהֶ֖ם וְטַפָּֽם: כח) וַיֹּאמֶר֘ מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּזֹאת֙ תֵּֽדְע֔וּן כִּֽי־ יְ-הֹוָ֣ה שְׁלָחַ֔נִי לַעֲשׂ֕וֹת אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַֽמַּעֲשִׂ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה כִּי־לֹ֖א מִלִּבִּֽי: כט) אִם־כְּמ֤וֹת כָּל־הָֽאָדָם֙ יְמֻת֣וּן אֵ֔לֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת֙ כָּל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם יִפָּקֵ֖ד עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם לֹ֥א יְ-הֹוָ֖ה שְׁלָחָֽנִי: ל) וְאִם־בְּרִיאָ֞ה יִבְרָ֣א יְ-הֹוָ֗ה וּפָצְתָ֨ה הָאֲדָמָ֤ה אֶת־פִּ֙יהָ֙ וּבָלְעָ֤ה אֹתָם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֔ם וְיָרְד֥וּ חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֕ם כִּ֧י נִֽאֲצ֛וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶת־יְ-הֹוָֽה: לא) וַיְהִי֙ כְּכַלֹּת֔וֹ לְדַבֵּ֕ר אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַתִּבָּקַ֥ע הָאֲדָמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּחְתֵּיהֶֽם: לב)וַתִּפְתַּ֤ח הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ וַתִּבְלַ֥ע אֹתָ֖ם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְאֵ֤ת כָּל־הָאָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר (לְקֹ֔רַח) [לָהֶ֔ם] וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־ הָרֲכֽוּשׁ: לג) וַיֵּ֨רְד֜וּ הֵ֣ם וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָהֶ֛ם חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַתְּכַ֤ס עֲלֵיהֶם֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ מִתּ֥וֹךְ הַקָּהָֽל: לד) וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶ֖ם נָ֣סוּ לְקֹלָ֑ם כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵ֖נוּ הָאָֽרֶץ:

לה) וְאֵ֥שׁ יָצְאָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וַתֹּ֗אכַל אֵ֣ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֙יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מַקְרִיבֵ֖י הַקְּטֹֽרֶת:

Analysis

Knohl’s approach yields three distinct rebellions/interest groups; the first two are:

  1.  The Datan and Abiram rebellion remains the same. In this account from the J source, these two men refuse to listen to Moses, since Moses—really God—reneged on the promise to bring them to the Promised Land following the scout incident. Moses goes to them and commands the earth to swallow them alive, which it does. 
  2. In the rebellion of the 250 chieftains, part of the PT source, the chieftains challenge the idea that Moses and Aaron should have a monopoly on service to God. All of Israel are holy, they claim. Moses tells them to show up with fire-pans filled with incense and light them, Aaron will do the same and God will choose. The 250 chieftains do this and God reacts by burning them all, thereby establishing Aaron as God’s chosen.

Before we discuss the redactional HS layer (Korah and the Levites), below are the two sources separated into discrete documents as they would have appeared before they were combined. (This time, for the J source we will begin with the rebellion and skip the narrative context, since this point has already been made above.)

Datan and Abiram’s Rebellion in Context – The J Source

12 Moses sent for Datan and Abiram,[5] sons of Eliab; but they said, “We will not come!13 Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us? 14Even if you had brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey, and given us possession of fields and vineyards, should you gouge out those men’s eyes? We will not come!” 15 Moses was much aggrieved and he said to Yhwh, “Pay no regard to their oblation. I have not taken the ass of any one of them, nor have I wronged any one of them.” // 25 Moses rose and went to Datan and Abiram, the elders of Israel following him. // 27 Now Datan and Abiram had come out and they stood at the entrance of their tents, with their wives, their children, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said, “By this you shall know that it was Yhwh who sent me to do all these things; that they are not of my own devising: 29 if these men die as all men do, if their lot be the common fate of all mankind, it was not Yhwhwho sent me. 30 But if Yhwhbrings about something unheard-of, so that the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, you shall know that these men have spurned Yhwh.” 31 Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all the people which were [theirs] and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation. 34All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!”

יב) וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה: יג) הַמְעַ֗ט כִּ֤י הֶֽעֱלִיתָ֙נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ לַהֲמִיתֵ֖נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵי֖נוּ גַּם־ הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר: יד) אַ֡ף לֹ֣א אֶל־אֶרֶץ֩ זָבַ֨ת חָלָ֤ב וּדְבַשׁ֙ הֲבִ֣יאֹתָ֔נוּ וַתִּ֨תֶּן־לָ֔נוּ נַחֲלַ֖ת שָׂדֶ֣ה וָכָ֑רֶם הַעֵינֵ֞י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָהֵ֛ם תְּנַקֵּ֖ר לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה: טו) וַיִּ֤חַר לְמֹשֶׁה֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־י יְ-הֹוָ֔ה אַל־תֵּ֖פֶן אֶל־מִנְחָתָ֑ם לֹ֠א חֲמ֨וֹר אֶחָ֤ד מֵהֶם֙ נָשָׂ֔אתִי וְלֹ֥א הֲרֵעֹ֖תִי אֶת־אַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם: // כה) וַיָּ֣קָם מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ אֶל־דָּתָ֣ן וַאֲבִירָ֑ם וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ אַחֲרָ֖יו זִקְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: // כז)וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם יָצְא֣וּ נִצָּבִ֗ים פֶּ֚תַח אָֽהֳלֵיהֶ֔ם וּנְשֵׁיהֶ֥ם וּבְנֵיהֶ֖ם וְטַפָּֽם: כח) וַיֹּאמֶר֘ מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּזֹאת֙ תֵּֽדְע֔וּן כִּֽי־ יְ-הֹוָ֣ה שְׁלָחַ֔נִי לַעֲשׂ֕וֹת אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַֽמַּעֲשִׂ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה כִּי־לֹ֖א מִלִּבִּֽי: כט) אִם־כְּמ֤וֹת כָּל־הָֽאָדָם֙ יְמֻת֣וּן אֵ֔לֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת֙ כָּל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם יִפָּקֵ֖ד עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם לֹ֥א יְ-הֹוָ֖ה שְׁלָחָֽנִי: ל) וְאִם־בְּרִיאָ֞ה יִבְרָ֣א יְ-הֹוָ֗ה וּפָצְתָ֨ה הָאֲדָמָ֤ה אֶת־פִּ֙יהָ֙ וּבָלְעָ֤ה אֹתָם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֔ם וְיָרְד֥וּ חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֕ם כִּ֧י נִֽאֲצ֛וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶת־יְ-הֹוָֽה: לא) וַיְהִי֙ כְּכַלֹּת֔וֹ לְדַבֵּ֕ר אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַתִּבָּקַ֥ע הָאֲדָמָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּחְתֵּיהֶֽם: לב)וַתִּפְתַּ֤ח הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ וַתִּבְלַ֥ע אֹתָ֖ם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְאֵ֤ת כָּל־הָאָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר [לָהֶ֔ם] וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־ הָרֲכֽוּשׁ: לג) וַיֵּ֨רְד֜וּ הֵ֣ם וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָהֶ֛ם חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַתְּכַ֤ס עֲלֵיהֶם֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ מִתּ֥וֹךְ הַקָּהָֽל: לד) וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶ֖ם נָ֣סוּ לְקֹלָ֑ם כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵ֖נוּ הָאָֽרֶץ:

The Rebellion of the 250 Chieftains– The PT Source

2 Two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute rose up against Moses. 3 They gathered against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and Yhwh is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above Yhwh’s congregation?” 4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.5 Then he spoke to [them], saying, “Come morning, Yhwh will make known who is His and who is holy, and will grant him access to Himself; He will grant access to the one He has chosen. 6 Do this: take fire pans, 7 and tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before Yhwh. Then the man whom YHWH chooses, he shall be the holy one. // 18 Each of them took his fire pan, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and took his place at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, as did Moses and Aaron. // 35 And a fire went forth from Yhwhand consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

ב) וַיָּקֻ֙מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֲנָשִׁ֥ים מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם: ג) וַיִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֘ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְ-הֹוָֽה: ד) וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיִּפֹּ֖ל עַל־פָּנָֽיו: ה) וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר [אליהם] לֵאמֹר֒ בֹּ֠קֶר וְיֹדַ֨ע יְ-הֹוָ֧ה אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־ל֛וֹ וְאֶת־הַקָּד֖וֹשׁ וְהִקְרִ֣יב אֵלָ֑יו וְאֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַר־בּ֖וֹ יַקְרִ֥יב אֵלָֽיו: ו) זֹ֖את עֲשׂ֑וּ קְחוּ־לָכֶ֣ם מַחְתּ֔וֹתֹז) וּתְנ֣וּ בָהֵ֣ן׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְשִׂימוּ֩ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ן קְטֹ֜רֶת לִפְנֵ֤י יְ-הֹוָה֨ מָחָ֔ר וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הַקָּד֑וֹשׁ: // יח) וַיִּקְח֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ עֲלֵיהֶם֙ אֵ֔שׁ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם קְטֹ֑רֶת וַֽיַּעַמְד֗וּ פֶּ֛תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וּמֹשֶׁ֥ה וְאַהֲרֹֽן: // לה) וְאֵ֥שׁ יָצְאָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וַתֹּ֗אכַל אֵ֣ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֙יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מַקְרִיבֵ֖י הַקְּטֹֽרֶת:

Korah’s Levitical Rebellion – The HS Redactional Layer

In addition to combining two separate and different narratives of the rebellion, the redactors added the figure of Korah and the issue of Levites versus priests. The question of whether Levites are themselves kohanim (as the book of Deuteronomy suggests) or whether they are a lower class that serves the priests (as the Priestly tradition has it) was an important issue to the Holiness School.[6] Since this school ultimately stemmed from the Priestly circle as well, it is not surprising that they would take the opportunity of a rebellion against Aaron to emphasize the issue that Aaron as the founding priest—not just as a Levite—is the person chosen by God to serve in the Tabernacle.

As part of the editorial effort, the HS editors not only added supplementary material, but they added glosses into the source texts at various points to insert Korah “and his group” into it. This has the effect of turning the 250 chieftains into Levites and placing Korah in the center of both this group and the Datan and Abiram rebellion. This also explains why it is so difficult to figure out how Korah died or where he was during the two divine punishments—the fire that burned the chieftains and the earth that swallowed Datan and Abiram—since they ostensibly happened at the same time. Korah, functioning as a literary bridge character, is everywhere at the same time.  This addition was part of an attempt to create a smoother final text—in general, Torah redactors could do this by adding material; they were hesitant to delete material, a much easier way of creating a consistent final text.

Finally, this reading helps explain the extremely awkward opening sentence. There is a reason for the double verb use (“took” and “rose up”). The latter verb was the opening verb in the rebellion of the 250 chieftains. The former verb was part of the redactors’ attempt to insert Korah into the narrative and to connect him to Datan and Abiram. 

Conclusion

The problems in the Korah, Datan and Abiram, and 250 chieftains story are many and palpable. In this piece, we explored two main possible solutions.[7]  Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they both begin with the stark difference between the Datan and Abiram rebellion and the other rebellions, and resolve this problem by claiming that the text has at least two layers.  Whether a reader finds these models compelling or prefers some other approach, this survey should give you some sense why source and redactional criticism developed—as responses to problems that readers encountered in the Torah text.

Archeology has not provided, nor do we expect it to provide, the original J or P text, or a manuscript marked up by a redactor; in that sense, these models, like many models in the humanities, the social sciences, and pure science are hypotheses.  But given the ability of documentary models to explain a very broad array of problems, the Documentary Hypothesis is an extremely robust hypothesis.  We know that other ancient Near Eastern texts went through processes of revision and redaction.[8]  The power of the models suggested above, which offer a single explanation for the many problems in Numbers 16, must be measured against the explanatory power of other answers that address these same issues, though typically in a much more piecemeal fashion.

Published

June 19, 2014

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Last Updated

September 22, 2019

Footnotes

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