Inspired by What does Cain say to Abel in Genesis 4:8?, at the beginning of Numbers 16, we have another incomplete sentence (all translations here):

וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן׃

And Korach, the son of Izhar, the son of Kehath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took (My translation)

The verse does not say "what" was taken. For this reason, every single translation ignores the original text, and offers some level of interpretation, whether by adding in what was taken (Young, WEB, Webster's, ERV, ASV, AKJV, Jubilee, JPS, NAS, and many others), or by changing the word "took" to something else (NIV, NLT, BSB, and others).

My question is twofold:

  1. What do other texts and/or older translations change or add, and do they indicate any errors or omissions in the MT?
  2. Which of the two approaches (adding in what was taken, or changing the meaning of "took") is more accurate here?
  • You can add to your incomplete biblical verses Gen. 37:2 – Bach Jun 12 '18 at 1:00
  • This is not "ignoring" the original text. This is resolving the problem present in the text (of course by choosing an imperfect synonym). – Luke Sawczak Jun 12 '18 at 1:35
  • The KJV has ... took men (fully admitting - by italic - that 'men' is not in the original). Robert Young has Korah ... taketh both Dathan and Abiram ... I am satisfied with these two translations, myself.The KJV thinks the whole plurality took (I presume) the 'certain of the children of Israel' which follows. But Young seems to have it correctly, as far I can tell. – Nigel J Jun 12 '18 at 3:58

I would think the simplest explanation is that Korach took the other named people. This fits the immediate continuation in the next verse where it says that they got up before Moses and it also explains why the word ויקח is in singular form (as opposed to your translation which has the taking as the action of all of them). All that would be necessary to have this reading is to remove one letter:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י דָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן

And Korach, the son of Izhar, the son of Kehath, the son of Levi, took Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, (Your translation modified)

On second thought it might require a slightly bigger change because presumably if he was taking the people the verse would need to use the word את. However, I see that Joseph Kara in his commentary explains that Korach took the people (though without discussing any potential corrupted text), and Hezekia Ben Manoah actually states explicitly that the verse means that Korach took Dathan, Abiram, and On, and that the letter "ו" before Dathan's name is simply extra.

As for old texts/translations, the Syriac and Samaritan versions are identical with our text. The Septuagint translates the verb as "spoke", and the Vulgate leaves out the verb altogether and goes straight into the next verse.

Since you specified "Did he take anything at all?" I will note that David Halevi Segal states in his supercommentary on this verse that there is no possible way to interpret the verse within the limits of the simple textual meaning (i.e. without resorting to extra-Biblical traditions or speculations). That is to say that "Korach took..." is meaningless unless we invent something that he took that is not in the Biblical text, so in that sense "he did not take anything at all".



Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

  1. Korah was a Levite of the family of the Kohathites, whose service was the transportation of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle. He was probably a first cousin of Moses and Aaron. See Exodus 6:18, and Numbers 4:18, note. The prince who stands next to the throne is most tempted to supplant the king.

Dathan and Abiram — Reubenites of the family of Pallu. Numbers 26:8-9. On, also a Reubenite, is not mentioned again. The rabbinical tradition is, that he was prevailed upon by his wife to withdraw from his accomplices after Moses spoke with them. Josephus omits the name of On, but retains that of his father in the form of Phalous, thus identifying him with Pallu. Numbers 26:5, note. These may have felt sore because the birthright and headship of Israel had been taken away from their ancestor on account of his crime. See Numbers 2:3, note.

Took men — In the original the verb “took” has no object. “There is an anakolouthon rather than an ellipsis, and not merely a copyist’s error in these words, ‘took and rose up against Moses with two hundred and fifty men,’ for they took two hundred and fifty men, that is, gained them over to the conspiracy, and rose up with them,” etc. Dr. A. Clarke forgets a plain principle of Hebrew syntax when he makes Dathan, etc., the objects and Korah the sole subject of “took” because it is singular. When the verb stands before several subjects it often agrees only with the first.

"The word anacoluthon is a transliteration of the Greek ἀνακόλουθον (anakólouthon), which derives from the privative prefix ἀν- (an-) and the root adjective ἀκόλουθος (akólouthos), "following". This, incidentally, is precisely the meaning of the Latin phrase non sequitur in logic. However, in Classical rhetoric anacoluthon was used both for the logical error of non sequitur and for the syntactic effect or error of changing an expected following or completion to a new or improper one."


Really interesting question. While the search result from Whedon was satisfying, there remained a niggle - because most of the anacolutha definitions stated an 'incoherent' statement follows the first. If Whedon's interpretation is correct, then the 'follow-up' is coherent.

Anyway, the second find from Tamar Zewi may resolve the terminology question:

https://tinyurl.com/ydar3q8s (Google Books)

Parenthesis in Biblical Hebrew (2007) By Tamar Zewi

p. 22 - ""...rejects the possibility of including anacoluthon uner the title of parenthetical clauses: "The difference between PCs and anacolutha is this that the former follow a clear and relative predictable pattern, whereas the later fall into the category of performance error, caused by working memory limitations."

As to the second question, in an earlier paper I tried to show that interrupted relative clauses in the Hebrew Bible are not anacolutha but systematic Biblical Hebrew patterns. Interrupted relative clauses in Biblical Hebrew, in my opiinion, are only one type of a general syntactic organization....


It's not WHAT he took but WHO.

The answer is that he took those people that were "strangers" to each other (this why we see not just the names but their "geneology").

Why he took those people? The answer is the question that asked verse after: if all Bney Israel are God's chosen people why Moses is the leader? Korach wasn't the only one that felt like that, and he got support from those honored people (the text say that they were אנשי שם).

What is the problem with Moses's leadership? He take his dicisions only after he speaks alone with God and this way the journy from Egypt to Cnaan taking too much time. Of course Korach couldn't know that this was God's will and not Moses so when he took " his" people and say that they want to split from the others and stay where they are (or go to another place).

ויקח here simply point that he was the leader. On the OT too this act and those people are קורח ועדתו mean: Korach's party/people.

I agree that is most cases ויקח should come with את and i agree with (lot of others) that this was simply ommited before the text was Holly (like in other places).

This why the punishment was so outstanding (the earth swallow them alive) - those people that Korach took was indeed אנשי שם and this behavior is not appropiate from them.

Got the idea from Rashi, who add that in Aunkolus the word is אתפלג in Korach words.

  • Sorry for my bad english. Will edit it soon - i hope – A. Meshu Jul 26 '18 at 19:18

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