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Source and Redaction-Critical Approach: David Frankel

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Source and Redaction-Critical Approach: David Frankel

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

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Source and Redaction-Critical Approach: David Frankel

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Source and Redaction-Critical Approach: David Frankel

David Frankel’s supplementary hypothesis-style analysis is very complicated—he ends up with 2 sources and 4 redactional layers.[1] It explains more of the initial questions than the previous two theories, and a priori, it is likely that over time various documents now found in the Torah may have gone through a number of revisions and redactions.

In Frankel’s analysis, the Korah, Datan and Abiram and the 250-chieftains account went through a number of stages. Like the other models, Frankel assumes that Datan and Abiram originally had no connection to either Korah or the 250 chieftains, but was an independent story of rebellion that began as part of the J source. Furthermore, this source was itself expanded from an originally shorter version, while it was still an independent account, perhaps by the redactor of J (=JR).

The Independent Datan and Abiram Story
– J + JR (indented)

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.” // 25 Moses rose and went to Datan and Abiram, the elders of Israel following him. 26 He addressed[them], saying, “Turn 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 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. 30But 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 the Yhwh.” 31Scarcely 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. 33They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them. 34 All 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:כו)וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר[אליהם] לֵאמֹ֗ר ס֣וּרוּ נָ֡א מֵעַל֩ אָהֳלֵ֨י הָאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָֽרְשָׁעִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְאַֽל־תִּגְּע֖וּ בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֑ם פֶּן־תִּסָּפ֖וּ בְּכָל־חַטֹּאתָֽם: 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: לג) וַיֵּ֨רְד֜וּ הֵ֣ם וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָהֶ֛ם חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַתְּכַ֤ס עֲלֵיהֶם֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ: לד)וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶ֖ם נָ֣סוּ לְקֹלָ֑ם כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵ֖נוּ הָאָֽרֶץ:

One difficulty shared by Knohl and Frankel is that the J account has lost its beginning. The other is the odd verse, 15, which references an oblation that doesn’t seem to have occurred in the story. The chief difference between Frankel and the previous versions of J is his belief that the oldest recoverable version of the story did not have Moses articulating the test. The ground simply opens up and swallows the rebels, tents families and all, without any warning. 

§

Like Knohl, Frankel also believes that the other independent account was the rebellion of the 250 chieftains, without the involvement of Korah or the Levites. This, in Frankel’s understanding, was part of what he calls early P. Early P, in Frankel’s taxonomy, is a collection of short wilderness stories where a problem arises, which is quickly solved by God and/or Moses.

The Independent 250 Chieftains Story
– Early P

2 Two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute rose up against Moses. // 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. // 35 And a fire went forth from Yhwh and 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: // 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:[2] 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: // לה)וְאֵ֥שׁ יָצְאָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וַתֹּ֗אכַל אֵ֣ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֙יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מַקְרִיבֵ֖י הַקְּטֹֽרֶת:

The main differences between Frankel’s version of the chieftain rebellion and that of Knohl is that in Frankel’s version Aaron does not feature as a character and the accusation about Moses and Aaron lording it over others when all of Israel is special is absent. (Frankel believes that an editor, whose work will be discussed in the next subsection, added both of these elements.) The problem with this latter suggestion is that it leaves the rebellion with no explanation. In fact, in order to make sense of this rebellion as is, the term “rose up before” must be interpreted as “rose up against.” The Documentary Hypothesis suggestion also required this problematic, though not absolutely impossible translation.

Nevertheless, it is also possible that the chieftains did say something to Moses in the original early P version, but that this was lost or cut out. Frankel suggests that the complaint may have been about Moses serving as the priest (what scholars call the Mushite Priesthood), and that it was cut out because such an idea went against the later orthodox thinking of the editors of P, who believed that priests must descend from Aaron alone. Frankel finds evidence for this from the story’s plot. If we look carefully at the above reconstruction, we can see that without Aaron, Moses is telling only the 250 chieftains to light the incense. Thus, Moses is saying that God will choose from among the 250 someone who is holy; in other words, Moses appears to be open to the possibility that God will choose one of them. God, however, finds the attempt by these chieftains to force themselves into the priesthood to be inappropriate and sends forth a fire to consume them, leaving Moses as the only priest.

Did Moses know the chieftains would be killed? From his initial reaction it seems that he was hurt by their rebellion and probably knew that they were going against God’s wishes. The question remains, however, did he know what would happen when the chieftains arrived with their fire-pans?  It could be that, like with the Datan and Abiram story, Moses is clairvoyant and knows what will happen. It is also possible that this story shares the premise of the (later) Nadav and Abihu story, where God makes clear that strange fire is offensive and is punished by heavenly burning. Only fire from the altar is appropriate. Could Moses have been setting them up by telling them to appear with fire before the Tent of Meeting?[3] 

§

The next step in the development of the story, according to Frankel, is that an editor combined the redacted J and early P stories, adding in some extra material to make the stories work together. At this point, the story still did not include Korah and the Levites.

The Edited and Combined P + J Text
(Before the Addition of Korah and Levites)

2 Two hundred and fifty Israelites rose up against Moses, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. 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, 7and tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before Yhwh. Then the man whom Yhwhchooses, he shall be the holy one. //

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? 14 Even 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, “Tomorrow, appear before Yhwh. 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.” 18Each 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. //

23Yhwh spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the community and say: Withdraw from about the abode of 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 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 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 the 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. 33 And 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.

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 מַחְתּ֔וֹת: ז) וּתְנ֣וּ בָהֵ֣ן׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְשִׂימוּ֩ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ן קְטֹ֜רֶת לִפְנֵ֤י יְ-הֹוָה֨ מָחָ֔ר וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הַקָּד֑וֹשׁ: //

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־יְ-הֹוָ֔ה אַל־תֵּ֖פֶן אֶל־מִנְחָתָ֑ם לֹ֠א חֲמ֨וֹר אֶחָ֤ד מֵהֶם֙ נָשָׂ֔אתִי וְלֹ֥א הֲרֵעֹ֖תִי אֶת־אַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם: טז) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ הֱי֖וּ לִפְנֵ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה מָחָֽר: יז) וּקְח֣וּ׀ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וּנְתַתֶּ֤ם עֲלֵיהֶם֙ קְטֹ֔רֶת וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֞ם לִפְנֵ֤י יְ-הֹוָה֨ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֔וֹ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים וּמָאתַ֖יִם מַחְתֹּ֑ת: יח) וַיִּקְח֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ מַחְתָּת֗וֹ וַיִּתְּנ֤וּ עֲלֵיהֶם֙ אֵ֔שׁ וַיָּשִׂ֥ימוּ עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם קְטֹ֑רֶת וַֽיַּעַמְד֗וּ פֶּ֛תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד:

// כג) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: כד) דַּבֵּ֥ר אֶל־הָעֵדָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵֽעָלוּ֙ מִסָּבִ֔יב לְמִשְׁכַּן־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־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: 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:

In this version, the editor who combined J and early P was attempting to combine these two rebellions into one overarching idea: the challenge against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Thus he added verse 3 into the mouths of the rebels, speaking about Moses and Aaron lording it over the people and being false leaders. He also created the split scene account, giving the impression that the two tests were occurring simultaneously. Hence the need for Aaron, so that Moses can preside over the destruction of Datan and Abiram while Aaron presides over the destruction of the chieftains. He also added Moses’ reiteration of the fire-pan test, probably for the same reason, as well making it God’s idea for Moses to warn the people to turn away from the rebel camp. Finally, the editor included priestly language in the Datan and Abiram pieces, referencing the community (עדה), the congregation (קהל), and the abode (משכן) of Datan and Abiram.

This edited story, Frankel points out, is probably the source of Psalms 106, where Datan, Abiram, earth swallowing and fire are all mentioned, but without Korah or Levites.

The Final Redacted Text

Next, the redactor of the Torah added Korah and the Levites and recast the story as a Levitical rebellion against the Aaronide priesthood.

Finally, a supplementer added Korah into the Datan and Abiram death account in three places (vv. 24, 27 and 32),[4] making it seem that he was also swallowed by the earth, a description at some tension with the work of the redactor who implies that Korah died as part of the incense-offering test.

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

  • The blue source is J.
  • The blue in italics is JR.
  • The red source is P.
  • The bold black is the editor who combined early P with J.
  •           The indented black is the redactor’s new material.
  • The black in italics is this same redactor’s additions into the sources.
  • The underlined black in italics is the final supplementer.

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

Numbers 16 – Redacted Text

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

2They, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites rose up against Moses, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. 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 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 your band, take fire pans, 7 and tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before Yhwh. Then the man whom Yhwhchooses, 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 Yhwh that 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 hadbrought 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 Aaron17 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, Sourceof the breath of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?”

23Yhwh 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 [them][5]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 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 the 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, and all the people which were Korah’s and all their possessions. 33 And 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 congregation34 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: פ 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 [אליהם] 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 וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־ הָרֲכֽוּשׁ: לג) וַיֵּ֨רְד֜וּ הֵ֣ם וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָהֶ֛ם חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַתְּכַ֤ס עֲלֵיהֶם֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ מִתּ֥וֹךְ הַקָּהָֽללד) וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֛ר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶ֖ם נָ֣סוּ לְקֹלָ֑ם כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ פֶּן־תִּבְלָעֵ֖נוּ הָאָֽרֶץ:

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

Published

June 19, 2014

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Last Updated

September 23, 2019

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