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Korah’s Attempted Coup


One of the most famous Bible translation mistakes in history put horns on Moses’ head. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was shining or “radiant,” translated from the word karan in Hebrew. But when the church father Jerome translated Hebrew, which is written without vowels, into Latin, he wrote the word as keren, meaning “horned.” Centuries of paintings and sculptures showed Moses with horns!

Korah and his followers were also badly wrong about Moses. They thought he was just a normal human leader. After the incidents recorded in recent chapters, it seems incredible that anyone would challenge his leadership. Yet Korah, a leader of a prominent Levite clan, recruited allies among the Reubenites and launched another coup attempt.

The Kohathites and Reubenites offered a democratic rationale for their rebellion. They said that, since all Israelites were “holy,” Moses had no right to claim special status and set himself above the people (v. 3). They were wrong. God had already affirmed Moses’ leadership. Moses was not prideful; it was they who were “insolent” and motivated by ambition (vv. 1, 10). They claimed that leaving Egypt meant leaving a life of prosperity—when in reality, it was enslavement. They blamed Moses for their failure to enter Canaan, showing the extent of their self-deception (vv. 13–14).

The matter was decided via a public test, one in which the rebels refused to participate, showing the depths of their disrespect for Moses and contempt for the Lord. The results were predictable. They were executed by God, and Moses was once again confirmed as His choice to lead the nation. Moses and Aaron again interceded to save Israel from God’s wrath (v. 22). And once again, the people failed to learn from their experience (see vv. 41–50).

Apply the Word

Like Korah, we are capable of tremendous selfdeception. In order to see God’s hand at work, we must pray for His wisdom and discernment. Thankfully, God promises to answer this prayer! We can make this request for ourselves (see James 1:5) or as part of our intercessory prayer for others (Col. 1:9; see Eph. 1:17).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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