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2014

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Korah and the Documentary Hypothesis

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https://thetorah.com/article/the-documentary-hypothesis

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Korah and the Documentary Hypothesis

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2014

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https://thetorah.com/article/the-documentary-hypothesis

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Series

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

Symposium

Part 2

Korah and the Documentary Hypothesis

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Korah and the Documentary Hypothesis

General Description

The Classical Documentary Hypothesis approach posits that the current text has combined two originally distinct stories, each describing different rebel groups: Datan and Abiram in one story and Korah, the Levites and the 250 elders on the other. They were combined into one narrative when the Torah was redacted. The Datan and Abiram rebellion was originally part of the J (=Yahwist) source whereas the Korah, Levite and 250 elder rebellion was part of the P (=Priestly) source.

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

  • The indented blue source is J,
  • The non-indented red source is P,
  • The black in italics is the redactor (R).

Number Chapter 16 

1 Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, took

 And Datan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Pelet—descendants of Reuben—2 got up before Moses,

 (and) two hundred and fifty Israelites, 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, 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 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 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!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.” 16And 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)[1].”

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)[2].

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 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 Korah’s)[3] 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 Yhwh and 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) *[קַמוּ֙][4] לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה 

(וַ)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 אֶל־קֹ֜רַח וְאֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדָתוֹ֘ 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־עֲדָתֽוֹ: ז) 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)[5]:

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)[6] 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 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

Instead of one confused narrative, where the setting keeps changing and the relationship between Datan and Abiram and Korah is difficult to understand, this source-critical model provides two relatively easy to read narratives.[7]

In the Datan and Abiram narrative, in 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. 

In the Korah narrative, part of the P source, Korah leads a group of Levites and 250 elders to challenge Moses’ appointment of Aaron as high priest. Moses tells the 250 chieftains and Korah to show up with fire-pans filled with incense and light them, Aaron will do the same and God will choose. Korah’s band does this and God reacts by burning them all, thereby establishing Aaron as God’s chosen.

 Below are the two sources separated into discrete documents as they would have appeared before they were combined. For the Datan and Abiram story, the ending of the previous J narrative is included to establish the context of their rebellion against Moses in its original place. [Note: // represents where the seams are.]


Datan and Abiram’s Rebellion in Context

The J Source  – Starting from Numbers 14:20

20 And YHWH said, “I pardon, as you have asked. 21 Nevertheless, as I live and as Yhwh’s Presence fills the whole world, 22 none of the men who have seen My Presence and the signs that I have performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and who have tried Me these many times and have disobeyed Me, 23 shall see the land that I promised on oath to their fathers; none of those who spurn Me shall see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he was imbued with different spirit and remained loyal to Me—him will I bring into the land that he entered, and his offspring shall hold it as a possession. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites occupy the valleys. Start out, then, tomorrow and march into the wilderness by way of the Sea of Reeds.” // 39 When Moses repeated these words to all the Israelites, the people were overcome by grief. 40 Early next morning they set out toward the crest of the hill country, saying, “We are prepared to go up to the place that Yhwh has spoken of, for we were wrong.” 41 But Moses said, “Why do you transgress Yhwh’s command? This will not succeed. 42 Do not go up, lest you be routed by your enemies, for Yhwh is not in your midst. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there to face you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned from following Yhwh and Yhwh will not be with you.” 44 Yet defiantly they marched toward the crest of the hill country, though neither Yhwh’s Ark of the Covenant nor Moses stirred from the camp. 45 And the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down and dealt them a shattering blow at Hormah… // And Datan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Pelet—descendants of Reuben—2 got up before Moses. //Moses sent for Datan and Abiram, 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? 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!” // 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 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 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!”

כ) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה סָלַ֖חְתִּי כִּדְבָרֶֽךָ: כא) וְאוּלָ֖ם חַי־אָ֑נִי וְיִמָּלֵ֥א כְבוֹד־ יְ-הֹוָ֖ה אֶת־כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ: כב) כִּ֣י כָל־הָאֲנָשִׁ֗ים הָרֹאִ֤ים אֶת־כְּבֹדִי֙ וְאֶת־אֹ֣תֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂ֥יתִי בְמִצְרַ֖יִם וּבַמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיְנַסּ֣וּ אֹתִ֗י זֶ֚ה עֶ֣שֶׂר פְּעָמִ֔ים וְלֹ֥א שָׁמְע֖וּ בְּקוֹלִֽי: כג) אִם־יִרְאוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי לַאֲבֹתָ֑ם וְכָל־מְנַאֲצַ֖י לֹ֥א יִרְאֽוּהָ: כד) וְעַבְדִּ֣י כָלֵ֗ב עֵ֣קֶב הָֽיְתָ֞ה ר֤וּחַ אַחֶ֙רֶת֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וַיְמַלֵּ֖א אַחֲרָ֑י וַהֲבִֽיאֹתִ֗יו אֶל־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֣א שָׁ֔מָּה וְזַרְע֖וֹ יוֹרִשֶֽׁנָּה: כה) וְהָֽעֲמָלֵקִ֥י וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י יוֹשֵׁ֣ב בָּעֵ֑מֶק מָחָ֗ר פְּנ֨וּ וּסְע֥וּ לָכֶ֛ם הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר דֶּ֥רֶךְ יַם־סֽוּף: // לט) וַיְדַבֵּ֤ר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֶֽל־כָּל־בְּנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּֽתְאַבְּל֥וּ הָעָ֖ם מְאֹֽד: מ) וַיַּשְׁכִּ֣מוּ בַבֹּ֔קֶר וַיַּֽעֲל֥וּ אֶל־רֹאשׁ־הָהָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֑ר הִנֶּ֗נּוּ וְעָלִ֛ינוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֛וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָמַ֥ר יְ-הֹוָ֖ה כִּ֥י חָטָֽאנוּ: מא) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֛ה אַתֶּ֥ם עֹבְרִ֖ים אֶת־פִּ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וְהִ֖וא לֹ֥א תִצְלָֽח: מב) אַֽל־תַּעֲל֔וּ כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין יְ-הֹוָ֖ה בְּקִרְבְּכֶ֑ם וְלֹא֙ תִּנָּ֣גְפ֔וּ לִפְנֵ֖י אֹיְבֵיכֶֽם: מג) כִּי֩ הָעֲמָלֵקִ֨י וְהַכְּנַעֲנִ֥י שָׁם֙ לִפְנֵיכֶ֔ם וּנְפַלְתֶּ֖ם בֶּחָ֑רֶב כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֤ן שַׁבְתֶּם֙ מֵאַחֲרֵ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֔ה וְלֹא־יִהְיֶ֥ה יְ-הֹוָ֖ה עִמָּכֶֽם: מד) וַיַּעְפִּ֕לוּ לַעֲל֖וֹת אֶל־רֹ֣אשׁ הָהָ֑ר וַאֲר֤וֹן בְּרִית־י יְ-הֹוָה֨ וּמֹשֶׁ֔ה לֹא־מָ֖שׁוּ מִקֶּ֥רֶב הַֽמַּחֲנֶֽה: מה) וַיֵּ֤רֶד הָעֲמָלֵקִי֙ וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֔י הַיֹּשֵׁ֖ב בָּהָ֣ר הַה֑וּא וַיַּכּ֥וּם וַֽיַּכְּת֖וּם עַד־הַֽחָרְמָֽה:// א) וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן: ב) [קַמוּ֙] לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה // 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: // 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) 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  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:


Korah and the Levite/Chieftain Rebellion

The P source – Numbers 16

1 Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, took// 2 …two hundred and fifty Israelites, 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, 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 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 Yhwh that you and all your company have banded together. For who is Aaron that you should rail against him?” // 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 27 So they withdrew from about the abode of Korah // 35 And a fire went forth from Yhwhand consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

א) וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י // 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 אֶל־קֹ֜רַח וְאֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדָתוֹ֘ 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־עֲדָתֽוֹ: ז) 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: // 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: כז) וַיֵּעָל֗וּ מֵעַ֧ל מִשְׁכַּן־קֹ֛רַח מִסָּבִ֑יב // לה) וְאֵ֥שׁ יָצְאָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת יְ-הֹוָ֑ה וַתֹּ֗אכַל אֵ֣ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֙יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ מַקְרִיבֵ֖י הַקְּטֹֽרֶת:


Remaining Difficulties

The opening phrase of the Datan and Aviram account (16:1) seems a bit forced. The reconstructed verse says that Datan and Aviram got up before Moses; the suggestion would be more compelling if it has said that they rose up “from before” (מלפני) Moses, i.e. that they left in anger and disgust over Moses’ refusal to help in the battle against the Amalekites and the Canaanites. Furthermore, the story lacks a description of their walking out or saying something rebellious or Moses trying to stop them. Something like this would have provided more continuity with the previous scene. Although it is possible to suggest that the phrase “to get up before” is a euphemism for rebellion, this not attested elsewhere in the Bible. For this reason, some scholars suggest that this opening phrase was added by the redactor after the sources were combined (we will see a version of this in the next approach) and that the original opening scene of the Datan and Aviram story has been lost.

A more significant difficulty remains with the Korah story. In the P account as delimited above, the claims of the rebels are still contradictory. Their initial claim (v. 3) implies is that all Israelites are holy and there should be no priestly class. But later we are told that although Korah and the Levites are upset that Aaron has been placed above them, they still would like to be placed above the rest of the Israelites (vv. 7-11). For this reason, some scholars believe that the P account is itself composite, with the 250 elders leading a “popular” rebellion and Korah leading a Levitical rebellion. In the next section, we will explore an alternative approach that addresses these problems.

Published

June 19, 2014

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Last Updated

September 23, 2019

Footnotes

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