Tag Archives: Korah

Ungodly Men in the Church

The book of Jude — which I’ve blogged about quite a bit — addresses ungodly men in the church, not those outside the church.

Jude’s key passage is verse 11, where he compares ungodly men in the church to Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

It’s noteworthy that each of these men has an overlooked connection with God, as do ungodly men in the church. Despite this, it’s their failings for which they are noted. But even in these, we may be looking at things too simplistically. Upon deeper consideration:

These examples give us pause. The ungodly in the church: do not control sin, mix different religious ideas, and oppose God’s leaders.

Given this, we have much to guard against, less we become the very people in the church that Jude warns us against.

The Sons of Korah

Several of the Psalms are attributed to “the sons of Korah.”

These sons of Korah could have been the writers of those songs/prayers or perhaps the ones tasked with sharing them with others; that would effectively make them performers. It makes me wonder if the group called “The Sons of Korah” ever performed to standing-room-only crowds at the temple gates.

Pushing my imagination aside, I wonder, who were the sons of Korah?

There are at least two guys named Korah in the Bible, possibly more depending on how the various references are reconciled. So the sons of Korah could have hailed from one of them — or a different, unknown Korah.

Though it is strictly speculation on my part, I want these sons of Korah to be descendants of Korah, the rebellious one, mentioned in Numbers 16. Korah was killed for his rebellion, as were the men who followed him and the families of his co-conspirators. However, Korah’s children are not explicitly mentioned as being killed or as surviving.

I want to think they did live and their offspring would write or perform songs and prayers to God.

That is a legacy worth noting.

More on Korah’s Rebellion

Last year in my post on Korah’s rebellion, I noted that Korah had some progressive ideas about God and the people’s relationship to him. While these views are widely accepted today (thanks to Jesus), they were quite radical in Korah’s day.

However, I don’t think that Korah’s rebellion was theological in nature, that is, it was not about beliefs and doctrine, about what is right and what is wrong.

Korah’s rebellion was against Moses, God’s chosen leader, and therefore it was against God himself.

Korah arguably had the right ideas, but he was wrong in opposing God’s leader in order to promote his progressive perspectives.

Korah’s error was in disrespecting God’s ordained leadership — an error we need to carefully guard against.

[Numbers 16]

The Error of Balaam

We’ve covered Cain’s path and Korah’s rebellion; now it is time to address Balaam’s error.

Frankly, I am perplexed to as to what Balaam’s error actually was.  In reading his saga, I see a man who affirmed God as “my God,” heard God’s voice, and fully obeyed God’s instructions.  Indeed Balaam had a better track record them me.

God told Balaam to not go and he stayed.  Then God told him to go and he went — but God was angry because he did.  Based on this, it would not be a stretch to conclude that God was bipolar.  However, I will reject that diagnosis as being inconsistent with God’s character, instead seeking a different explanation.

Perhaps the first time that God said “no” should have been enough.  Balaam had no need to ask again — unless he didn’t like the first answer.  It might be like kids pestering their folks for something.  Eventually the parents relent, not because they changed their mind, but because they want to teach their offspring a lesson about making good choices or learning what happens when bad paths are selected.

Another consideration is the implication that Balaam was mixing his pursuit of God with divination, a practice strictly verboten.  This is a common practice today, where practitioners cherry pick the choice parts of various religions or philosophies, forming their own belief system.

Is there any expectation that their outcome will be different from Balaam’s, who was ultimately killed for his error?

[Numbers 22-24, Joshua 13:22]

 

Korah’s Rebellion

While the story of Cain killing his brother may be commonly known, the rebellion led by Korah is quite obscure.

Korah was from the tribe of Levi; he and the other Levites were assigned God-given tasks to serve in the temple; they were set apart for this. However, they were not to serve as priests; that fell only to Aaron and his descendants.

Korah didn’t like these distinctions; he advocated all people were holy, had God (the Holy Spirit) in them, and should be elevated to the level of priests.  (Interestingly, these were something that Jesus would later proclaim and that his followers would embrace, but in Korah’s time, this was not the case. There were distinctions and that’s how God wanted it at that time.)

Korah stirred up some followers, insisting on equal status for all. Then he and Moses had the equivalent of a modern-day smack down.  Moses won and was affirmed by God; Korah lost — big time; the ground beneath him opened up and he and his family fell in and died.

Today, we would hail Korah as a martyred reformer who pursued justice and equality, advocating that anyone can approach God.

Although Jesus would later usher in these changes, that is not what God had put in place in Korah’s day. He had a different plan and, no matter how well intended, Korah opposed it — and will forever be associated with a failed rebellion against God.

[Numbers 16]

Cain, Balaam, and Korah

In Jude’s brief exposition of ungodly people in the church, he evokes three Old Testament characters: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.  Cain, we know to be a murderer; Balaam, greedy; and Korah, rebellious.  However, it is simplistic to see them merely as evil men, for they also had an air of godliness to them, seeking God or having a connection to him.

It is astonishing, but each of these men did things that were seemingly right and godly.  Despite that, the results of their actions went badly awry.  The outcome renders them as emblematic of ungodly people in the church.

As we study what they did, we might find that we may be a lot closer to falling into their errors than we would normally dare to think possible.

Carefully consider then, the lives of Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

[Jude 1:11]

The Third Time’s a Charm

In Jude’s short letter, he often writes in triads, listing three items or offering three examples.  He does this with such regularity that when he deviates from this in verse 12, I thought I had misread the text.  Consider the following triplets:

  • three actions of God: called, loved, and kept (and if you implicitly see the Holy Spirit in doing the calling, then the Trinity is implied here as well: Holy Spirit, Father, and Jesus); verse 1.
  • three blessings: mercy, peace, and love; verse 2.
  • three historic warnings: leaving Egypt, deserting angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah; verses 5-7.
  • three negative actions: pollute their bodies, reject authority, and slander angels; verse 8.
  • three bad examples: Cain, Balaam, and Korah; verse 11.
  • five negative allusions: shepherds who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, dead autumn trees, wild waves, wandering stars; verse 12.
  • three characteristics of ungodly men in the church: cause division, follow natural instincts, and do not have the Spirit; verse 19.
  • three prescriptions: build up your faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and stay in God’s love; verses 20-21.
  • three ways to show mercy: help doubters, save others from destruction, and carefully rescue others without being taken down; verse 22.
  • three attributes of God: keeps us from falling, presents us without fault, and has great joy; verse 24.
  • four praises for God: glory, majesty, power, and authority; verse 25.

As someone who also has a propensity of writing in threes, Jude’s style is especially appealing to me.

[read Jude 1]

Biblical References in Jude

As covered a few weeks ago, the book of Jude contains three cryptic references to ancient non-biblical texts.  In addition, Jude also includes references to biblical accounts.

The first is in verse 6, where Jude mentions angels who abandoned their role and their home.  This is likely a nod to Genesis 6:1-4, which talks about the son’s of God marrying the daughters of man.  That is a bit perplexing itself, but at least it is the Bible.  (Alternately, some scholars think Jude is referring to an ancient non-biblical text, The Book of Enoch.  I opt for Genesis 6.)

Another non-biblical reference is found in verse 17-18.  Here Jude cites other apostles who warn that in the last days there will be scoffers who follow ungodly desires.  Although the New Testament of the Bible did not exist at the time of Jude’s writing, he may have been privy to Paul’s and Peter’s letters or more likely, he simply heard them — or heard of them — issuing this warning.  Jude’s words are recorded almost verbatim by Peter in 2 Peter 3:3, as well as being alluded to in 2 Peter 2:1-3.  Likewise, Paul, in his letters to Timothy, covers this theme in 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

Last, and perhaps most significant, is references to CainBalaam, and, Korah, which I will address in future posts.

Jude was certainly well read and well-informed, peppering his letters with many references and illustrations.  Though they would have been helpful to his audience then, that is not so much the case today.  Even so, Jude’s central warning to guard against ungodly people in the church is well founded — and timeless.

[Jude 1:6, Genesis 6:1-4, Jude 1:17-18, 2 Peter 3:32 Peter 2:1-3, Timothy references]