When Korah rebelled against Moses & Aaron he brought along Dathan & Abiram but when the judgement was executed it seems his conspirators suffered heavier casualities than him.Its clear in the text that Korah was the instigator of the rebellion but his conspirators lost everything including wives & children.

Later we are told that the children of Korah survived the judgement that was meted on their father(Numbers 26:11)

Numbers 16 KJV

27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.

When this incident is mentioned again in Deutoronomy only Dathan & Abiram are named.

Deutoronomy 11:6 KJV

6 And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel:

Again in the book of Psalms it is Dathan & Abiram who are named as the offenders

Psalms 106 KJV

16 They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD. 17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. 18 And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

In the above texts Korah is not mentioned by name as one of the offenders. Why does it look like the blame is more on the conspirators than the instigator?

Could it have because Korah was a levite?

1 Answer 1


Regrettably, the scriptio continua (‘continuous writing’, that is, the omitting into the text the punctuation marks, or equivalent symbols of start/end of a term/phrase), in which we have found the Bible texts, triggers these ambiguities. We may see a classical example of the consequences of the scriptio continua in Gen 49:10 (see Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of thr Hebrew Bible, p. 3, ft. 2).

As regards the question presented by Collen (Num 26:10), we may say that a number of translations operate a link between the first part of the verse (“And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up”, KJV), and the second part of it (“Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign.”, ibid.), compounding the verse in the following way: “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with [ואת] Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign.” (ibid.).

From a linguistic viewpoint this translation is correct.

Nevertheless, the collation of all the passages speaking about the end of those rebel ones (along with their supporters) may permit us to arrive to an another reading, that is, Korah died through a fire from God, whereas the other two died through a God-operated splitting of the soil.

Without be dogmatic, I allow some commentators explain themselves this possibility.

Joseph Benson, Commentary on the Old and New Testament (my emphasis): “Together with Korah — These words seem to import that Korah was swallowed up with Dathan and Abiram. But it being more probable, as was observed on Num 16:32, that Korah was consumed by the fire of God with those who offered incense, the words may be otherwise translated thus: ‘The earth swallowed them up; namely, Dathan and Abiram; and as for Korah, he died with that company, what time the fire devoured, &c.’ — To the same purpose speak the Samaritan text and Josephus. “Also we have the testimony of the apostolical constitutions, and in effect of Clement of Rome, of Ignatius and Eusebius, that the Septuagint version originally gave the same account.” — Whiston. Junius and Tremellius render the passage, The earth swallowed them up, and what things belonged to Korah; namely, his tent, and goods, and family, his children excepted, as they are here. The psalmist seems to confirm the opinion that Korah was burned with his Levites, mentioning only Dathan and Abiram as being swallowed up, Psa 106:17.

Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible (my emphasis): “Together with Korah - The Samaritan text does not intimate that Korah was swallowed up, but that he was burnt, as appears in fact to have been the case. And the earth swallowed them up, what time that company died; and the fire devoured Korah with the two hundred and fifty men, who became a sign.

To separate the two parts of the verse is not an odd way to translate. In fact, other passages presents a similar introductive structure (as regards what is said previously), that triggers a separation between what is said before ואת as regards what is said after.

A good example of this structure is Numbers 3:46, that many translation agree to convey: “And for…”, “But for…”, “And as…”, making a clear-cut separation as regards what is said before.

Similar reading ways we may found in Num 35:6, Eze 17:21.

So, a more consistent (from my viewpoint) translation should be:

The earth open his mouth and swallowed them up [Datan and Abiram]. And as for [ואת] Korah, he died with his supporters when the fire consummed…

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