My notes on Korach

Parashat Korach

Numbers 16

16:1          Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Pallu, the son of Reuben, made themselves ready,

Comment: The genealogy given here is not purposeless at all. Korah is a Levite (descendant of Levi) who is a cousin of Aaron the high priest, so he is assigned as an assistant to the priests. He leads a rebellion recorded in this chapter, maybe because he perceives “unfairness against” himself. He seems to covet for the position of priesthood (see v.10 later). Even among the assistants of the priests, i.e. among the Levites, he is not assigned to be the leader of his division; instead, his cousin Elizaphan from a lower genealogical priority is assigned as the division leader (according to Rashi’s comments for the current verse) .


16:3          They came together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, You take overmuch on yourselves, seeing that all the people are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then have you put yourselves in authority over the people of the Lord?

Comment: A lot of conflicts in this world arise from similar arguments. Marxists (by the way, Marx might be a descendant of Levite too) consider people to be divided in different classes and encourage “class struggles”. In Marx’s mindset, the ancient Israelites would be divided into three classes: the priests (descendants of Aaron who is a descendant of Levi a son of Israel), the Levites (other descendants of Levi a son of Israel), and the Israelites (other descendants of Israel). The Israelites pay 10% “tax” to the Levites, and the Levites pay 10% “tax” to the priests. However, a positive consequence arises as an after fact of Korah’s rebellion: These three “classes” of Israelites accept their respective roles willingly and cooperate in harmony. Even nowadays, during public Bible-reading in Jewish synagogues,  a priest reads the Bible first, then a Levite, and then the Israelites.


16:7          And put spices on the fire in them before the Lord tomorrow; then the man marked out by the Lord will be holy: you take overmuch on yourselves, you sons of Levi.

Comment: Rashi mentioned here that a descendant of Korah is the future prophet Samuel. I noticed that although here Korah is the “bad guy” who challenges the authority of priesthood, and Aaron is the “good guy” and the high priest, the roles of their respective descendants are reversed in the Book of I Samuel.  Samuel, a descendant  of Korah, willingly accepts his role of a Levite and assists the high priest Eli (a descendant of Aaron). The Levite Samuel corrects the mistake of his ancestor Korah and becomes a successful judge and prophet. On the other hand, the high priest Eli does not successfully carry out the heritage of his ancestor Aaron. Eli’s sons sin and cause their descendants to be cursed with shortened lives. We see here that being in a lower “class” of Levites or in a higher “class” of priests (or even the high priest) is not the decisive factor to one’s success. If a “class” is assigned by Gd, then serving Gd wholeheartedly in this position is the best “class”. In addition to Samuel, Korah had other righteous descendants(I Chronicles 6:31-38; 25:4-6)who are very satisfied with their roles as Levites and they sing praises of Gd in Gd’s House. Quite a few psalms were written by Korah’s descendants. One of them says (Psalm 84:10) “For a day in your house is better than a thousand. It is better to be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to be living in the tents of sin.”

The essence of high class for the priests is not in the priesthood as a profession per se, but in its special role in serving Gd. Indeed, let us all remember: Serving our Gd is the best profession! 



Numbers 17

17:5          And the rod of that man who is marked out by me for myself will have buds on it; so I will put a stop to the outcries which the children of Israel make to me against you.

Comment: Who is this chosen one “marked out by me for myself” whose staff will bud? Aaron the high priest (v.8 later). But “his staff will bud” מטהו יפרח has the same numerical value 358 as “Messiah” משיח,  which usually refers to the anointed king of the ideal world!  (See, e.g.,

So this verse alludes to both the high priest and the great king Messiah. But how can the high priest, who has to come from the tribe of Levi, be also the king, who has to come from the tribe of Judah? Well, as the budding staff suggests, this is not going to be an ordinary phenomenon. The New Testament (in Hebrews 7) suggests that the Messiah takes both the roles of a king and a priest, as the king Melchizedek did in the very ancient time. While the Messiah reigns like a king who defeats enemies of Gd, he also functions like a high priest, bringing people closer to Gd.



Numbers 18

18:8          And the Lord said to Aaron, See, I have given into your care my lifted offerings; even all the holy things of the children of Israel I have given to you and to your sons as your right for ever, because you have been marked with the holy oil.

Comment: Rashi comments here that the priests are given 24 kinds of gifts. They also serve in 24 divisions. See also The Pirkei Avot 6:6  ( says that priesthood requires 24 virtues. An ordinary Israelite may be precluded by birth to be a priest (if not a descendant of Aaron) or precluded by birth to be a king (if not a descendant of David), but fortunately he is always welcome to be a Bible scholar. 

The crown of Torah (or Bible) is bigger than the crown of priesthood and the crown of kingship, since it requires 48 virtues (Pirkei Avot 6:6). These three crowns correspond to the three crowns in the tabernacle ( In the tabernacle, correspondingly, the crown on the ark (holding Torah verses on two stone tablets) is 48 handbreadths in perimeter, doubling the 24 handbreadth perimeter of the crown of the incense altar (used in priestly service). It is noted that the (36 handbreadth) perimeter of the crown of the table in the tabernacle (corresponding to kingship) is also smaller than that of the crown of the ark. (There is a discrepancy between the 36 handbreadth perimeter of the crown of table and the 30 virtues needed by the crown of kingship. A detailed analysis is included in the Appendix below commenting on Exodus 37.)

The “crown of Torah” corresponds to the crown of ark, which is not only the largest of the three crowns in the tabernacle, but is also the only crown located in the holy of holies. In the New Testament, correspondingly, “the crown of Torah (God’s word in writing)” corresponds to the crown of the Messiah in his highest divine identity, Gd’s word in flesh (John 1). Since the messiah also functions both as the king (Luke 23:3) and as the high priest (Hebrews 4:14), he in fact has all three crowns on his head (crown of Torah, crown of king, and crown of priest). His followers will reign together with him on the ideal earth in the thousand year millennium, teaching Gd’s words , bringing people to Gd.  So they will also figuratively wear all three crowns: of the kings, priests, and the Bible teachers (Matthew 28:19-20). This is alluded to in the New Testament (Revelation 20).



Appendix: Comments on Exodus 37 regarding the three golden crowns

Exodus 37:1          And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:

Comment: A cubit is an elbowlength, which is 6 handbreaths. So the perimeter of the top surface of the ark is (2.5+1.5+2.5+1.5)*6=48 handbreadths.  The ark contains the two tablets with the ten commandments from the Torah. 

Exodus 37:2          And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.

Comment: From the computation in v1, the perimeter of the ark’s golden crown is (2.5+1.5+2.5+1.5)*6=48 handbreadths, corresponding to the 48 cities assigned to the Levites (Numbers 37:5) who teach Torah (Deuteronomy 33:8-10). The crown of the ark corresponds to the crown of Torah, which is said to be acquired with 48 virtues in Pirkei Avot 6:6  ( . (One of these 48 virtues stresses the importance of citing other peoples’ work.)

(For the function of the 48 Levite cities as torah centers of instruction, see: Harvie M. Conn, Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City the People of God, InterVarsity Press, Feb 12, 2010 , p89.)


Exodus 37:10          And he made the table of shittim wood: two cubits was the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof:

Comment: The table’s perimeter is (2+1+2+1)cubits*6handbreadth/cubit=36handbreaths. The table may allude to the Jewish kingship/rulership, which belongs to David and his descendants. Scripture allusions may be found at David’s Psalm 23:5 “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”, as well as at Ezekiel 44:3 “the prince, he shall sit … to eat bread before the LORD”.

Exodus 37:11          And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made thereunto a crown of gold round about.

Comment: The golden crown of the table’s has a perimeter of (2+1+2+1)cubits*6handbreadth/cubit=36handbreaths. This crown of the table in Jewish tradition symbolizes the Jewish kingship/rulership ( The kingship is said to require 30 virtues in Pirkei Avot 6:6. The value 30 is related to the numerical value of Judah יהודה (, the name of the tribe to which kingship belongs until the time of the messiah (Genesis 49:10). The additional 36-30=6 virtues come from the Holy Spirit and are required for the ideal king messiah.

These are the 6 additional virtues of the ideal king messiah (, as mentioned in Isaiah 11:2: “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,  the spirit of (1) wisdom and (2) understanding, the spirit of (3) counsel and (4) might, the spirit of (5) knowledge and of (6) the fear of the LORD.”

These 6 additional virtues are from the spirit of Gd, bringing the total number of virtues to 36, which now has the same numerical value of Leah לאה, a maternal ancestor of the Messiah, instead of the patriarch Judah יהודה. This hints at the New Testament account of the birth of the Messiah, as conceived from the Holy Spirit and born by a woman. 

The New Testament accounts for the Messiah’s ministry starting at age 30, when he receives the Holy Spirit, which endows him with the extra 6 spiritual gifts for the messiah. These values also add to 36. (Source: Luke 3:22-23 “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, …”)


Exodus 37:25          And he made the incense altar of shittim wood: the length of it was a cubit, and the breadth of it a cubit; it was foursquare; and two cubits was the height of it; the horns thereof were of the same.

Comment: The incense altar has a perimeter of (1+1+1+1)cubit*6handbreath/cubit=24 handbreaths. The incense altar is a place of service for the priests, who are descendants of Aaron (Exodus 30).

Exodus 37:26          And he overlaid it with pure gold, both the top of it, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns of it: also he made unto it a crown of gold round about.

Comment: The incense altar’s golden grown has a perimeter of (1+1+1+1)cubit*6handbreath/cubit=24 handbreaths. This corresponds to the 24 shifts of the priests (I Chronicles 24). So the crown of the incensed altar symbolizes the crown of priesthood. Pirkei avot 6:6 mentions that the crown of priesthood requires 24 virtues.