• Ernst Wendland Stellenbosch University


Careful readers often become confused when trying to follow the graphic account of Korah’s rebellion against Moses recorded in Numbers 16:1–40. Bible commentators do not help very much because either they avoid discussing the apparent narrative inconsistencies, or they are divided on how to construe the Hebrew text. Furthermore, Korah is not the only rebel involved, and his dramatic downfall is just one of two uprisings that are reported, which subsequently spark an even greater insurrection that involves all the people (16:41–50). One also wonders: is this the main message of the chapter — namely, that the Lord will punish, most severely, all those who rise with impunity against his authority and the leaders whom he has chosen as well as the religious rules that he has instituted? This study reflects upon certain aspects of the elaborate structural organisation that characterises the book of Numbers as a whole in order to suggest a way of explaining the intricate arrangement that we find in the text of Chapter 16, one which serves to highlight important themes that constitute its main paraenetic message for the people of God. After an overview of some pertinent background information that provides a frame of reference for understanding this pivotal chapter, the pericope covering verses 1–40 is outlined and explained in sections, including several important intertextual references to Korah. Finally, the significance of this investigation for interpreting as well as formatting the biblical text is summarised and illustrated.


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