Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) The third son of Esau, by Aholibamah ( Genesis
36:14 ; 1
Chronicles 1:35 ).
(2) A Levite, the son of Izhar, the brother of Amram, the father of Moses and
Exodus 6:21 ). The institution of the Aaronic priesthood and the Levitical
service at Sinai was a great religious revolution. The old priesthood of the heads
of families passed away. This gave rise to murmurings and discontent, while the
Israelites were encamped at Kadesh for the first time, which came to a head in
a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, headed by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Two
hundred and fifty princes, "men of renown" i.e., well-known men from among the
other tribes, joined this conspiracy. The whole company demanded of Moses and
Aaron that the old state of things should be restored, alleging that "they took
too much upon them" ( Numbers
16:1 - 3
). On the morning after the outbreak, Korah and his associates presented themselves
at the door of the tabernacle, and "took every man his censer, and put fire in
them, and laid incense thereon." But immediately "fire from the Lord" burst forth
and destroyed them all ( Numbers
16:35 ). Dathan and Abiram "came out and stood in the door of their tents,
and their wives, and their sons, and their little children," and it came to pass
"that the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened her mouth
and swallowed them up." A plague thereafter began among the people who sympathized
in the rebellion, and was only stayed by Aaron's appearing between the living
and the dead, and making "an atonement for the people" ( Numbers
(3) The descendants of the sons of Korah who did not participate in the rebellion
afterwards rose to eminence in the Levitical service.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
baldness; ice; frost
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(1) Third son of Esau by Aholibamah. ( Genesis
36:5 , 36:14
Chronicles 1:35 ) He was born in Canaan before Esau migrated to Mount Seir,
36:5 - 9
) and was one of the "dukes" of Edom. (B.C. 1790.)
(2) Another Edomitish "duke" of this name, sprung from Eliphaz, Esaus son of Adah.
(3) One of the "sons of Hebron," in ( 1
Chronicles 2:43 )
(4) Son of Izhar the son of Kohath the son of Levi. He was leader of the famous
rebellion against his cousins Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, for which he
paid the penalty of perishing with his followers by an earthquake and flames of
fire. ( Numbers
16 ; 26:9
) The particular grievance which rankled in the mind of Korah and his company
was their exclusion from the office of the priesthood, and their being confined
--those among them who were Levites-- to the inferior service of the tabernacle.
Korahs position as leader in this rebellion was evidently the result of his personal
character, which was that of a bold, haughty and ambitious man. (B.C. 1490.) In
the New Testament ( Jude
1:11 ) Korah is coupled with Cain and Balaam.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ko'-ra, (~qorach], "baldness," possibly; Kore):
(1) One of the 3 sons of Oholibamah, Esau's Hivite wife. The account says that
the 3 were born in Canaan before Esau withdrew to the Seir mountain country. They
are mentioned 3 times in the brief account from 3 points of view (Genesis 36:5
, 14 ,18 ; 1 Chronicles 1:35), the 3rd mention being in the list of "chiefs."
(2) One of the sons of Eliphaz, the son of Adah, Esau's Hittite wife (Genesis
36:16). He is mentioned as one of the Edomite "chiefs." If one has the habit,
finding a statement anywhere, of thinking that the statement ought to be changed
into something else, he will be interested in the attempts to identify these Edomite
Korahs with Korah (3).
(3) A son of Hebron (1 Chronicles 2:43), the son of Mareshah, mentioned in the
Caleb group of families in Judah.
(4) The son of Izhar the son of Kohath the son of Levi
(Exodus 6:16 ; Numbers 16:1 ; 1 Chronicles 6:18 , 31 - 38), a younger contemporary
of Moses. There may have been generations, omitted in the record, between Izhar
and Korah; that is a natural way of accounting for Amminadab (1 Chronicles 6:22
1. The Catastrophe in the Wilderness:
This Korah is best known as the man whom the opening earth is said to have swallowed
up along with his associates when they were challenging the authority of Moses
and Aaron in the wilderness (Numbers 16 ; 17). Korah is presented as the principal
in the affair. The company is spoken of as his company, and those who were swallowed
up as being "all the men that appertained unto Korah." (Numbers 16:11 , 32). It
is under his name that the affair is referred to (Numbers 26:9 ; 27:3). But Dathan
and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben are not much less prominent than Korah. In Numbers
16 and 26 they are mentioned with Korah, and are mentioned without him in Deuteronomy
11:6 and Psalms 106:17. Another Reubenite, On, the son of Peleth, was in the conspiracy.
It has been inferred that he withdrew, but there is no reason either for or against
the inference. Equally baseless is the inference that Zelophehad of Manassel joined
it, but withdrew (Numbers 27:3). The account implies that there were other Levites
in it besides Korah (Numbers 16:7 - 10), and it particularly mentions 250 "men
of renown," princes, such men as would be summoned if there were a public assembly
(Numbers 16:2 , 17 , 35). These men, apparently, were of different tribes.
The position taken by the malcontents was that "all the congregation are holy,
every one of them," and that it was therefore a usurpation for Moses and Aaron
to confine the functions of an incense-burning priest to Aaron alone. Logically,
their objection lay equally against the separation of Aaron and his sons from
the rest of the Levites, and against the separation of the Levites from the rest
of the people. On the basis of this, Moses made expostulation with the Levites.
He arranged that Korah and the 250, along with Aaron, should take their places
at the doorway of the tent of meeting, with their censers and fire and incense,
so that Yahweh might indicate His will in the matter. Dathan and Abiram insolently
refused his proposals.
The record says that Korah's "whole congregation," including himself and the 250
with their censers, met Moses and Aaron and "all the congregation" of Israel at
the doorway of the tent of meeting. For the purposes of the transaction in hand
the tent was now "the mishkan of Korah, Dathan and Abiram," and their followers.
Yahweh directed Moses to warn all other persons to leave the vicinity. Dathan
and Abiram, however, were not at the mishkan. The account says that Moses, followed
by the eiders of Israel, went to them to their tents; that he warned all persons
to leave that vicinity also; that Dathan and Abiram and the households stood near
the tents; that the earth opened and swallowed them and their property and all
the adherents of Korah who were on the spot; that fire from Yahweh devoured the
250 who offered incense. The narrative does not say whether the deaths by fire
and by the opening of the earth were simultaneous. It does not say whether Korah's
sons participated in the rebellion, or what became of Korah himself. In the allusion
in Numbers 26 we are told, apparently, that Korah was swallowed up, and that "the
sons of Korah died not." The deaths of the principal offenders, by fire and by
being swallowed up, were followed by plague in which 14,700 perished (Numbers
16:49 (Hebrew 17:14)).
2. Critical Treatments of This Story:
Any appreciative reader sees at once that we have here either a history of certain
miraculous facts, or a wonder-story devised for teaching religious lessons. As
a story it is artistically admirable--sufficiently complicated to be interesting,
but clear and graphic and to the point. In the Hebrew there are 2 or 3 instances
of incomplete grammatical construction, such as abound in the early literary products
of any language, when these have been fortunate enough to escape editorial polishing.
In such a case it is possibly not unwise just to take a story as it stands. Nothing
will be added to either its religious or its literary value by subjecting it to
doubtful alleged critical processes.
If, however, one has committed himself to certain critical traditions concerning
the Hexateuch, that brings him under obligation to lead this story into conformity
with the rest of his theory. Attempts of this kind have been numerous. Some hold
that the Korah of this narrative is the Edomite Korah, and that Peleth means Philistine,
and that our story originally grew out of some claim made by Edomites and Philistines.
It is held that the story of Korah was originally one story, and that of Dathan
and Abiram another, and that someone manipulated the two and put them together.
See the treatments of the Book of Numbers in Driver, Introduction; Addis, Documents
of the Hexateuch; Carpenter and Battersby, Hexateuch; Bacon, Exodus; Paterson
on Numbers, in the Polychrome Bible. These and other like works give source-analyses
of our story. Some of the points they make are plausible. In such a case no one
claims any adequate basis of fact for his work; each theory is simply a congeries
of ingenious guesses, and no two of the guessers guess alike.
As in many other Biblical instances, one of the results of the alleged critical
study is the resolving of a particularly fine story into two or more supposed
earlier stories each of which is absolutely bald and crude and uninteresting,
the earlier stories and the combining of these into their present form being alike
regarded as processes of legendary accretion. The necessary inference is that
the fine story we now have was not the product of some gifted mind, guided by
facts and by literary and religious inspiration, but is an accidental result of
mere patchwork. Such a theory does not commend itself to persons of literary appreciation.
Willis J. Beecher
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, korah, kore, rebellion against moses and aaron, qorach, son of esau