The Terminal Meeting in the Tent of Korah
“Who sends away his wife and children to a foreign land so he could spend 40 days on a mountaintop with his manservant?” questioned one man—“I'll tell you who: Moses! Y'all think he was up there writing the Ten Commandments? Ha, he was on honeymoon!” A very old man in his company then inquired: “What are you saying, Dathan? Are you suggesting that Moses, the leader of the congregation of Israel, under the charge of the God of our forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, is homosexual?” But the man replied: “No, I'm not ‘suggesting’ that anybody is gay! I'm just . . . I'm just saying. You know what they say about the quiet, sneaky ones, especially those with authority over, say, a large number of people? They walk around under the guise of meekness but, privately, be doing something nasty! I don't know about you guys, but for me, until I see the dried-up bones of Moses, I'm keeping my butt to the wall!”
Tonight is a momentous night for the people who have gathered in the tent of Korah, namely, Korah himself, a Levite, former treasurer of Pharaoh and the wealthiest man in the congregation of Israel, and his wife; brothers Dathan and Abiram, from the tribe Reuben; On, also a Reubenite; and Salu, a very old but influential man from the house of Simeon. Earlier in the afternoon, these men, together with 250 prominent members of the congregation of Israel, had stood up against Moses to negotiate a democratic form of governance. Moses, however, rejected the idea as not being the will of God by issuing the following ultimatum: “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him.” So it is agreed: whomever the LORD chooses shall have their office firmly established without any opposition. Could tomorrow see these men become the faces of a new administration over the nation of Israel?
Part 1: “A Levite upon whom the Spirit of God rests”
Salu, the old man, began to speak: “All of us in this room are children of Leah, the wife of Israel who was hated because she was fertile but her rival sister was not. Therefore, acts of oppression and hatred against us is in our blood. But did our fathers, Simeon and Levi, not show courage by killing the Hivites when Shechem defiled Dinah and treated her as a harlot? Although the numbers of Jacob were few, did the LORD not fill them with wisdom to outwit the depraved inhabitants of the city of Hamor? Why, then, do we sit here scratching our testicles while the oppressor remains?” “Watch your language, Salu,” cautioned Abiram—“There's a woman in our company.” Dathan then added: “Yes, you're right, brother. That linguistic construct he used is totally flawed because, since there's a woman, she can't possibly be having a testicle to scratch. But I hear the Egyptians can put testicles on a woman so he may be right after all. Unless, of course, we verify by—”
But On, their fellow Reubenite, interrupted: “I believe what Salu is trying to say is that we must act to end the rulership of Moses instead of kvetching about it.” Dathan then said: “Oh, I get it. In that case, I know an Anakite who can do him for just 50 shekels!” Korah, who had been quiet all this while, then began to speak: “Men of Israel, you sons of Jacob, do you not know what day tomorrow is?” “It's not the Sabbath, is it?” Dathan queried. Korah continued: “Ah, why do I bother with you people!? Do you not know that the die is cast, that on the morrow each man takes a stand before the LORD, and whomever the LORD chooses shall be the holy one? Of what use is it to scheme about what should become of Moses when the matter will be resolved in the morning? Furthermore, you must exercise prudence in how you judge the man, for he is a chosen one, the one who led you out of the land of Egypt into this wilderness, a Levite upon whom the Spirit of God rests.”
“As it does also upon you!” interjected his wife—“Because you're a Kohathite too, a descendant of Levi! My husband, there are cries among the people for liberation, loud shouts among the populace for freedom. The people are calling the name of Korah and you must not let them down. You and the house of Levi shall rise up tomorrow morning and give to our sons fruits of liberty, and to our daughters drinks of justice!” Dathan said: “Er, shouldn't that be the other way round? You know, the fruits for the girls but the drinks for the boys, because of the liquor? Or fruits for both sexes because there may be teenagers?” But after seeing the reprehensive stare from Korah's wife he yielded: “Maybe it's fine just the way it is: fruits for the boys, booze for the girls. Yay!” Korah then said: “Tell me, Dathan, when Moses sent for you this afternoon, I do not think he was seeking your counsel, was he?” He replied: “I've no idea, but the refusal was pretty cool, right?”
On, who appeared worried, asked: “I pray you, men of Israel, can we not hold back from taking a stand before the LORD tomorrow morning?” Abiram promptly answered: “No, we cannot! Why, we are sons of Reuben, the might of Jacob, the first fruits of the strength Israel, preeminent in pride and preeminent in power! It's our sworn duty to protect our brothers.” But On persisted: “What if we perish as was in the case of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron?” Abiram replied: “We shall not perish! It is madness to think the LORD would destroy us for standing up against tyranny. In the affair of Nadab and Abihu, they died because they offered unholy fire before the LORD such as he had not commanded them. They died of breaking the Law! Or do you think it is unlawful that we seek freedom for our brothers? For it is not!” Seeing On now confounded, Dathan mocked: “Looks like somebody wasn't paying attention when the elders were teaching—hehe.”
“My chief concern,” Salu said, “is the prohibition of the many winged insects that used to serve as food for us. My favorite were the dung beetles because they are fortified with many nutrients. It is what our forefathers fed on to make them live as long as they did. But now, Moses says we may only eat locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers! He knows well my family has been in the dung beetles business since the days of Egypt so why is he banning them now? O LORD what has become of this generation and the constant changing of things!?” But Abiram replied: “It is not what has become of this generation, but what has become of the man Moses! Does he not tell us not to have relations with the Midianites nor bring them to our family among the congregation? Yet, he is harboring his brother-in-law Hobab, a Midianite, right here among us! Moses may have been the right man to bring us out of Egypt but we now need someone like Korah to lead us to Canaan!”
“I agree with you, brother,” Dathan said—“Moses has gone bonkers! He used to say the LORD says he's taken all the firstborns of Israel but later changed his words, saying, instead of all firstborns, the LORD has taken only the Levites. That doesn't make any sense! If the LORD was going to pick one tribe in place of the collective firstborns, shouldn't it have been us, the Reubenites, the sons of the firstborn of Jacob? But I guess we all know why it had to be the Levites!” Korah's wife then said: “He enforces the whimsical suggestions of his father-in-law who is not even an Israelite, but refuses to take counsel from men like yourselves!” On said: “We are not priests, but Jethro is. Is he not?” Abiram answered: “That's what he claims. But he can't be a true priest of God since he's not one of us, a worshiper of the God of Jacob. You know, pagans have priests too.” “So he's taking advice from pagans now?” Dathan questioned—“No wonder the Law is such a mess!”
Part 2: “The parable of Korah shows errors in the Law”
“Hearken,” called out Korah, “to this parable so that you may know fully the matters concerning the Law that Moses has written for you and your sons, to serve as a perpetual statute for your wives and daughters throughout your generations; and perceive in no lacking measure the understanding that may be eluding your mind's eye: An Israelite widow, the mother of two young daughters, had a field as the only possession from her late husband. When she came to plow it, Moses told her not to plow it with an ox and an ass together (Deut. 22:10); when she came to sow it, Moses told her not to sow it with mingled seeds (Lev. 19:19); when she came to harvest it, Moses told her not to reap every part of the field (Lev. 19:9); while from the harvested grain she had to give Aaron, Moses's brother, his share. (Num. 18:24) She cried out in pain, saying: ‘I have become desolate, for I have gleaned my field but the grain in my sack is not enough to feed my family!’”
Korah continued: “The woman then sold the field and bought two sheep with the proceeds. But the firstborn of these she was obliged to give to Aaron (Ex. 34:19); and at the time of shearing Aaron required the first of the fleece also. (Deut. 18:4) The widow said: ‘I cannot bear this man’s demands any longer. It is better for me to slaughter the sheep and eat them!' Aaron adjudged it a sacrifice so came for the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the stomach. (Deut. 18:3) The widow then blurted out: ‘If you so persist in your demand, I declare them devoted to the LORD!’ Aaron replied: ‘In that case, the whole belongs to me,’ (Num. 18:14) whereupon he took away the meat. The widow, now without means of subsistence, wandered into the territory of Moab where she dined to a great feast. Alas, it was food sacrificed to their gods so she was brought outside the camp and stoned to death, (Deut. 17:5) leaving the two orphaned children of hers wholly unprovided for.”
“May such a calamity never befall a soul among us!” Salu vehemently exclaimed—“May the LORD have mercy upon Jeshurun and deliver us from the tyranny of Moses and his brother! This time, he has gone too far!” Abiram seconded: “Indeed! The parable of Korah shows errors in the Law—grave ones!” Korah's wife then said: “I'm glad my husband's parable has opened your eyes. But did you also know that in one part of the Law he writes that all Levites are holy to the LORD; yet, in some other part, says that only the sons of Aaron may draw near to offer holy fire? This contradiction is what disgusts me the most and makes it undoubtedly clear that Moses is doctoring the Law to favor him and his brother Aaron!” Dathan scorned: “Wish he had actual ‘doctoring’ skills to circumcise his sons himself instead of letting his wife, that annoying Cushite woman, do it for him! Oh, and his lips too. Yuck! I feel like throwing up every time I hear him speak!”
“That reminds me,” On said, “about Moses's wife Zipporah. We all know how Isaac charged Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman but, take as wife, a woman from the house of his mother's brother Laban. Esau, on the other hand, sought to displease his father by doing exactly that! Why, then, did the LORD choose Moses, a man who had followed in the path of Esau and did not marry from the house of Jacob but chose to adjoin himself to our enemies, as our leader to bring us out of Egypt?” Abiram replied: “Good question; but the answer is simple: it was for our protection. You see, there was a real probability that Pharoah would kill anyone who approached him to ask for the release of the Israelites. Therefore, the LORD did not want to risk a pure-blood descendant of Jacob. We all know that Moses is an incestuous child, for his father Amram married his own sister Jochebed. So the LORD used him as a scapegoat just in case Pharoah should get angry and order the person killed. After all, he is a murderer himself so it would have been a life-for-life affair.”
“Hallelujah!” shouted Korah's wife—“What a wonderful God we worship! A God of infinite wisdom and unsurpassing sapience! As for Moses, he should be glad he's still got his head on. How different, though, life would have been if Pharoah had chopped him. Why, we'd still be in Egypt eating meat, cucumbers, melons, and onions instead of being stuck in this accursed wilderness!” On oppugned: “Come on, brothers. Is our current situation that bad?” Dathan got up and screamed: “What?! Did you mean that as a joke? Because if you did, then my undergarments are all wet from laughing too hard. We're talking about this desert, dude; open your eyes and look: a barren, waterless land infested with snakes, scorpions, and countless number of preying birds. All in all, more men have died in these two years since we left Egypt than the previous 20 combined. Yes, unclog your ears: Mosaic freedom has killed more of your brothers than Egyptian slavery ever did!”
“That is an interesting statistic,” Salu said—“If slavery treated us better, then we should appoint a captain and go back to Egypt. Besides, this wilderness lifestyle is not good for my age. Just the other day, I was in the outliers of the camp doing my usual morning business when a spider sprang up from nowhere and stung my left testicle. For a moment I thought it was an asp so I began scream-running through the bushes, in the sight of the Midianites and to my great shame; all the while my naked hanging bells trailing me.” Korah's wife, seemingly fed up, said: “Salu, how many times do you want to paint mental pictures of a man's private parts?” “I think the spider's poison is having a delayed reaction with his head,” Dathan mocked. But Salu apologized: “Pardon me, my dear woman. But it happened. However, I was afraid to tell anybody about it.” Abiram then said: “You were wise for not telling anybody; because if Moses had heard, he would have declared you unclean and locked you up outside the camp for seven days!” “True that,” Dathan complimented.
Part 3: “Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me!”
“O what a relief it is to know that our misery ends tomorrow!” sighed Korah's wife—“No longer will one man's word be written into law, nor a single Israelite's impulsive opinion be the judicial verdict for a whole nation!” But On challenged: “Frankly, I don't really get this desire for democracy. Why, there are heads over us: commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens; and officers too, throughout all of our tribes! Is this not democratic enough?” “No, that's not what democracy is,” Abiram responded—“Democracy is a system where the power of governance lies in the hands of the majority of the people by means of elected representatives. Did you elect Moses to be your leader, or any of his commanders? Okay, fine, we may have elected the commanders ourselves but did you elect Moses? Do not be fooled by those sycophantic tribal heads, for they are Moses's sock puppets. They do exactly as he tells them and cannot challenge him in any way!”
On, still unsatisfied, asked: “But what if the majority are mistaken, and so elect the wrong persons to office?” Abiram replied: “It is madness to think the majority can be wrong! Do you mean to say you like how the younger is placed ahead of the elder, Kohathites ahead of Gershonites, Levi ahead of Reuben? Moses may have succeeded in trumping his older brother Aaron but he must not do so with his tribe!” Dathan then said: “Has he not done so already? Every tribe pays tithe except who? The Levites! And to whom do the tithes go? The Levites! And every male over 20 must go to war and have his head chopped off except who? The bloody Levites, that's who!” “But Korah is a Levite too,” On chipped in. Dathan, realizing the rashness of what he just said, apologized: “Oh, I forgot that. I'm sorry, Korah. You know I didn't mean it that way.” Korah responded: “I understand; for, concerning you, matters in the heart reach the mouth before they do the brain.”
“I believe the Levites have been consecrated to service in the tabernacle for which reason they do not pay tithes,” Salu said—“Or is that not what the Spirit of the LORD decreed?” Dathan chuckled: “Spirit of who? Please, fellas; God left us to our fate when we left Egypt.” “Lie!” On objected—“Is he not performing miracles among us today?” Dathan replied, triggering a give-and-take between the two: “Bro, it's been a long time since he parted the Red Sea. I think he's now taking a vacation or something.” “How, then, would you explain the great fire that burned on Mount Sinai?” “It's called a volcano, dude! It happens all the time. Moses capitalized on our ignorance to put fear in us so as to make himself ruler over us.” “Okay, what about the manna that falls from heaven to serve as food for us?” “Hey bright eyes, I did not come into this tent to satisfy your childish curiosity. If you're so curious, go back to Egypt and get yourself some scientific education!”
“Enough with your banter!” Korah called out—“The midnight hour is fast approaching and you must all return to your tents and have some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day for us!” Dathan said: “Ah, since Moses says we can't do the doo when our wives are doing their doo, I don't even know what I'll be going back to my tent to do.” On, with a grin of glee on his face, responded: “Well, not everybody's wife is doing their doo so some of us have something to do.” Dathan shot back: “Go ahead then and do your doo and stop telling me about your wife's doo! For all you know, your doo is not even good doo.” Salu joined in: “Unlike you two, I can do the doo anytime I want to, since my wife has stopped doing her doo.” “Salu!” exclaimed Korah's wife—“I can't believe you are participating in this silly exchange. I say, if the angel of the LORD had seen you men as you are today, he would have blessed Sodom and Gomorrah and taken them to the Promised Land instead of us!”
“About the Promised Land,” On said—“Does anyone know what it is like? All I've heard is that it is a land flowing with milk and honey. But is it literally so?” Abiram replied: “Of course not! Have you ever seen a land literally flowing with milk and honey before? Or did your mother lie with a donkey to beget you?” Salu said: “Well, if you pour some milk and honey down a slope, it would be a land flowing with milk and honey, wouldn't it?” Korah's wife, ostensibly out of patience, censured: “Do you men realize that this stay in the wilderness is slowly erasing the brain cells of some of you? It is just an expression to show how good the land is for raising sheep and sowing seeds!” Salu said: “Then wouldn't it be easier on everybody if we just said ‘a goodly land’? All this talk about ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ makes me wonder if we are going to be living in barns and beehives.” Dathan said: “In that case it would be a land flowing with sheep droppings and—er, what do we call the fecal matter of bees? Oh, don't tell me it's honey!” “I won't,” Abiram replied.
“Pray,” On began to ask,“if it is not offensive to Korah, do you know exactly what will be happening at sunrise?” “Yes,” Korah replied, “it will be as in the matter of Mount Sinai. Moses will separate us: my company and I on one end, and he and his brother Aaron on the other. Then he will say, ‘Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me!' And whereupon he sees that he has many numbers on his side, will declare: ‘Put every man his sword on his side, and go from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, his companion, and his neighbor.’ But this time, it will not happen as such for we have the house of Levi on our side. Moreover, every head in the congregation knows that we are the people of the LORD so they will not raise so much as a finger to touch us. Hence, when the time comes that the many numbers are on our side, I shall raise my voice and give the command against Moses; and so will he perish, he and the few who belong to him.”