Introduction: Have you ever had a dispute within your church? (Now
that is a dumb question, right?) How can you know who is right and
who is wrong? Sometimes it is obvious, but sometimes there are good
arguments on both sides. What happens if you supported the losing
side? How should you handle that? This week we look at a power
struggle within the Israelite community. Let’s dive in and see what
lessons we can learn for church community today!

  1. The Dispute

    1. Read Numbers 16:1-2. What credentials does Korah have?
      (Very high. Not only was he the grandson of Levi, but he
      was the son of Kohath. The Kohathites “were responsible
      for the care of the sanctuary.” Numbers 3:28. Of all the
      special work of the Levites, the Kohathites had very
      exalted work.)

    2. Read Numbers 16:3 and Numbers 16:12-14. What is the
      complaint against Moses and Aaron? (They considered
      themselves above everyone else, when their leadership
      brought obviously poor results.)

      1. If you were a bystander listening to the charges
        against Moses, would the evidence make you think the
        charges were true?

    3. Read Numbers 16:8-10 and Numbers 16:15. What is Moses’
      defense to these charges? (The people bringing the
      charges already have great authority, and they just want
      more because they are power-hungry. Moses has never taken
      anything from them, and he has never wronged them in any

      1. Is Moses meeting the charges made against him? (When
        the charge is poor leadership, the answer “I have
        not taken any of your goods” does not meet the
        charge. As to authority, they both seem to be
        charging that the other has exceeded their
        legitimate authority.)

    4. Let’s revisit one of Korah’s claims. Re-read Numbers
      16:3. Is it your impression that the whole community was
      holy? (If I were Moses’ lawyer, I would have argued that
      the reason they were in this sorry situation is not due
      to a lack of leadership on the part of Moses, but rather
      due to the fact that the people were far from holy!)

    5. Read Numbers 16:4-7. What does Moses propose? (That God
      will settle this.)

      1. Is that an argument? (In any dispute, we should
        first turn to God. If I were Moses, I would have
        defended by saying “God chose me. I’m not usurping
        any of your authority. God did this.” Saying that
        “God will settle this,” is the practical

  2. The Showdown

    1. Read Numbers 16:16-19. Create a picture of this in your
      mind. It seems to me that Moses and Aaron are standing
      with a large group that is opposed to them. In human
      terms, they are badly outnumbered!

      1. Why is the whole assembly there? (This must have
        created great excitement in the camp. Now we’ve got
        something to talk about!)

        1. If you took a poll of the people, how do you
          think they would vote? Would they support
          Moses or Korah? (Since the Levites were the
          only ones who were faithful before (Exodus
          32:26), and now they are in revolt, I’ve got to
          believe that Korah has the support of the
          crowd. Especially, he was arguing that they
          were all were holy – what an encouraging
          message! It seems the crowd has come in support
          of Korah, not just out of curiosity.)

    2. Read Numbers 16:20-22. Who should the assembly have
      supported? (It is clear from God’s response that the
      people supported Korah. God is going to execute judgment
      on them, but Moses and Aaron intercede for them. You
      could not have a better friend than Moses.)

      1. How many times have you asked God not to harm your
        accusers? Not to harm those who wish to do you

    3. Read Numbers 16:23-27. Do you think Korah and his
      followers are still confident in God’s judgment in their

    4. Read Numbers 16:28-30. Is this how we should settle
      church disputes?

      1. What if you are on the wrong side of the argument?

      2. Read the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38-39. Is this
        the practical equivalent of what Moses is doing?

    5. Read Numbers 16:31-33. Have we a clear answer about who
      was right and who was wrong?

      1. In Numbers 16:27 we saw a reference to the “children
        and little ones” of the rebels. What do you say
        about the justice of swallowing them up? (God will
        make the judgment about eternal life or death.
        However, some of these little ones simply had the
        wrong parents.)

        1. Is this true today? If you are a parent, how
          important is it that you be faithful to God?
          (We can trust God to be more than just because
          He died for us, but this shows the sobering
          reality of the influence of parents on the
          welfare of their children.)

    6. Read Numbers 16:34. Why would they say that? (This makes
      clear that they had chosen the side of Korah.)

    7. Read Numbers 16:35 and Numbers 16:41. I’m sure that some
      of my readers are shaking their heads and thinking “God
      is pretty harsh.” If that is your opinion, how to do
      explain Numbers 16:41?

      1. What would you have done, if you were God, to show
        the people that Moses and Aaron were your
        established leaders? (The people somehow think that
        Moses and Aaron did this in their own power. That
        they manipulated a god to do their selfish will.
        They don’t understand that the great God in heaven
        is showing them His decision about leadership.
        Anything less dramatic than the earth opening up and
        fire coming down would certainly not have convinced
        the people.)

    8. Read Numbers 16:42-44. Is God right? (Friends, I vote
      with God here. How could His will be more plain? He
      needs a new crew.)

    9. Read Numbers 16:46-48. Aaron the High Priest “stood
      between the living and the dead.” Of what does this
      remind you? (Read Hebrews 8:1-2. My judgment is that
      these people deserved death. My judgment is that I
      deserve death. Praise God for Jesus who paid the death
      penalty for me and now stands as my High Priest to give
      me eternal life!)

  3. The Case for Stupid

    1. Read Numbers 17:1-5. What persisted despite all of these
      terrible signs of God’s power and judgment? (Grumbling!)

      1. What does God think will cure the problem? (A
        miracle that doesn’t involve anyone dying.)

        1. What is your thought on this approach?

    2. Read Numbers 17:6-11. Who has God clearly chosen?

      1. Why does God have the staff displayed publicly? (So
        all can see and understand the miracle and God’s

    3. Read Numbers 17:12. Just how stupid are these people?
      Just how stupid are we?

      1. Has there been any learning whatsoever from this
        terrible experience? (Yes. In Numbers 16:41 they
        thought that Moses had some special (and evil) power
        to kill “God’s people.” Now, at least they
        understand that it is God who is doing this to the

      2. Let’s venture that you believe that you are not as
        dumb as these people seem to be. What is the lesson
        they should have learned? (God is in charge, God has
        His leaders. Rebellion against God and His leaders
        results in death. Only the intervention of the High
        Priest can save us from a deserved death.)

    4. Let’s think back a few studies and consider the lessons
      we should have learned.

      1. What is the lesson we should learn from the failure
        of the people to enter Canaan? (We need to trust God
        when our lives are in danger. We need to trust God
        when difficult opportunities lie before us. Fear is
        not only contempt towards God, it will keep us from
        great blessings.)

      2. What is the lesson we should learn from the Sabbath
        wood gatherer? (We might believe that God has failed
        us, when it was our own failure of faith. Defiantly
        turning away from God and sinning only ends in

    1. As you put this week’s lesson together with the last two,
      how would you summarize our choice in life? (God is this
      wonderful and frightening power. If you trust Him,
      fabulous things are possible. If you rebel against Him,
      you are stupid. Into the middle of this terrifying
      Presence comes Jesus, who offers to save us from our

    2. Friend, the choices are clear. Which one will you make

  1. Next week: Priests and Levites.