Death of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, Gustave Doré, 1865.

Korah (Hebrew: קֹרַח Qōraḥ; Arabic: قارون Qārūn), son of Izhar, is an individual who appears in the Biblical Book of Numbers of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and four different verses in the Quran, known for leading a rebellion against Moses. Some older English translations, as well as the Douay–Rheims Bible, spell the name Core,[1] and many Eastern European translations have "Korak" or "Korey".[2]

The name Korah is also used for at least one other individual in the Hebrew Bible: Korah (son of Esau).

In the Torah


Punishment of the Sons of Korah. Fresco by Sandro Botticelli in the Sistine Chapel, 1480–82.

Exodus 6:21 cites Korah as being the son of Izhar, son of Kehath, son of Levi. Exodus 6:24 lists his three sons. Korah's brothers through Izhar were Nepheg and Zichri. Exodus 6:18 connects this Korah with Hebron, Uzziel and Amram, who were his father's brothers (Izhar son of Kohath). 1 Chronicles 6:2,18,38, and 23:12, repeat this genealogy; however, this reference could have been inspired by the Exodus genealogies.

Numbers 16:1 traces this lineage back further to Levi, son of the patriarch Israel. According to Numbers 16:1, his lineage runs: "Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kehath, the son of Levi", making him the great-grandson of the patriarch Levi and the first cousin of Moses and Aaron.


Numbers 16:1–40 indicates that Korah rebelled against Moses along with Dathan and Abiram and 250 co-conspirators. The 250 co-conspirators were punished for their rebellion when they offered incense to God in fire pans and the heavenly fire from the incense pans consumed all 250 of them. Korah from the tribe of Levi and his allies Dathan and Abiram from the tribe of Reuben were also punished when God caused the ground to split open beneath their feet swallowing them, their families, anyone associated with Korah, and all their possessions.

Furthermore, the Israelites who did not like what had happened to Korah, Dathan and Abiram (and their families) objected to Moses, and God then commanded Moses to depart from the multitude. God then smote 14,700 men with plague, as punishment for objecting to Korah's destruction (Numbers 16:41ff.)

"Notwithstanding, the children of Korah died not" (Numbers 26:11).

In rabbinical literature

The rabbis of the Talmudic era explained the name "Korah" as meaning "baldness." It was given to Korah on account of the gap or blank which he made in Israel by his revolt.[3] Korah is represented as the possessor of extraordinary wealth, having discovered one of the treasures that Joseph had hidden in Egypt. The keys of Korah's treasuries alone formed a load for 300 mules.[4] He and Haman were the two richest men in the world, and both died on account of their rapacity, and because their riches were not the gift of Heaven.[5] On the other hand, Korah is represented as a wise man, chief of his family and as one of the Kohathites who carried the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders.[6]

Cause of revolt

According to the Rabbis, the main cause of Korah's revolt was the nomination of Elizaphan, son of Uzziel, as prince over the Kohathites,[7] Korah arguing thus: "Kohath had four sons.[8] The two sons of Amram, Kohath's eldest son, took for themselves the kingdom and the priesthood. Now, as I am the son of Kohath's second son, I should be made prince over the Kohathites; however Moses gave that office to Elizaphan, the son of Kohath's youngest son".[9]

Korah asked Moses the following questions: "Does a tallit made entirely of tekhelet need fringes?" To Moses' affirmative answer, Korah objected: "The blue color of the ṭallit does not make it ritually correct, yet according to your statement four blue threads do so".[10] "Does a house filled with the books of the Law need a mezuzah?" Moses replied that it did; whereupon Korah said: "The presence of the whole Torah, which contains 175 chapters, does not make a house fit for habitation, yet you say that one chapter of it does so. It is not from God that you have received these commandments; you have invented them yourself." He then assembled 250 men, chiefs of the Sanhedrin, and, having clad them in tallitot of blue wool, but without fringes, prepared for them a banquet. Aaron's sons came for the priestly share, but Korah and his people refused to give the prescribed portions to them, saying that it was not God but Moses who commanded those things. Moses, having been informed of these proceedings, went to the house of Korah to effect a reconciliation, but the latter and his 250 followers rose up against him.[11]

Korah consulted also his wife, who encouraged him in the revolt, saying: "See what Moses has done. He has proclaimed himself king; he has made his brother high priest, and his brother's sons priests; moreover, he has made you shave all your hair[12] in order to disfigure you." Korah answered: "But he has done the same to his own sons." His wife replied: "Moses hated you so much that he was ready to do evil to his own children provided the same evil would overtake you".[13]

Modern Jewish reform[14] and secular interpretations of the Korah revolt supply new causes for the revolt to reflect new agendas and concerns of the authors.[15]

Korah's parable

Moses and Korah, 1466 manuscript miniature, National Library of Poland.

Korah incited all the people against Moses, arguing that it was impossible to endure the laws Moses had instituted. He told them the following parable: "A widow, the mother of two young daughters, had a field. When she came to plow it, Moses told her not to plow it with an ox and an ass together;[16] when she came to sow it, Moses told her not to sow it with mingled seeds;[17] At the time of harvest she had to leave unreaped the parts of the field prescribed by the Law, while from the harvested grain she had to give the priest the share due to him. The woman sold the field and with the proceeds bought two sheep. But the first-born of these she was obliged to give to Aaron the priest; and at the time of shearing he required the first of the fleece also.[18] The widow said: 'I cannot bear this man's demands any longer. It will be better for me to slaughter the sheep and eat them.' But Aaron came for the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw.[19] The widow then vehemently cried out: 'If you persist in your demand, I declare them devoted to the Lord.' Aaron replied: 'In that case the whole belongs to me',[20] whereupon he took away the meat, leaving the widow and her two daughters wholly unprovided for".[21]

The question how it was possible for a wise man like Korah to be so imprudent as to rebel is explained by the fact that he was deceived through his own prophetic ability. He had foreseen that the prophet Samuel would be his descendant, and therefore concluded that he himself would escape punishment. But he was mistaken; for, while his sons escaped, he perished.[22]

Destruction of Korah

At the time of Korah's engulfment, the earth became like a funnel, and everything that belonged to him, even linen that was at the launderer's and needles that had been borrowed by persons living at a distance from Korah, rolled till it fell into the chasm.[23] According to the Rabbis, Korah himself underwent the double punishment of being burned and buried alive.[24] He and his followers continued to sink until Hannah prayed for them;[25] and through her prayer, the Rabbis declare, Korah will ascend to paradise.[26] Rabbah bar bar Hana narrates that while he was traveling in the desert, an Arab showed him the place of Korah's engulfment. There was at the spot a slit in the ground into which he introduced some wool soaked in water. The wool became parched. On placing his ear to the slit, he heard voices cry: "Moses and his Torah are true; and we are liars".[27]

Other references

Korah is referenced in the New Testament in Jude 11: "Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion." (NIV)

The rebellion of Korah is also made reference to in chapter 11 of 2 Meqabyan, a book considered canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[28]

Korah is mentioned in the 1768 edition of The New England Primer. Here, as part of an alphabet, we read that "Proud Korah's troop was swallowed up" which is a paraphrasing of Numbers 16:32.

Korah is also mentioned by Irenaeus in his anti-Gnostic work Against Heresies (Koinē Greek: Ἔλεγχος καὶ ἀνατροπὴ τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως), written in about 180. He criticized the excuse that some evil people in the Bible were credited with obtaining their power from God. Specifically he wrote that there are some who "declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves."

The Dead Sea Scrolls also provide additional details about Korah, though which Korah is not certain.

Quranic reference

Korah is also mentioned in the Quran by the name of Qārūn (Arabic: قارون). He is recognized as wealthy, and became very arrogant due to his pride and ignorance.[29] He gave the credit for his wealth to his knowledge instead of to God.[30][31]

Indeed, Qarun was from the people of Moses, but he tyrannized them. And We gave him of treasures whose keys would burden a band of strong men; thereupon his people said to him, "Do not exult. Indeed, Allah does not like the exultant.

The Quran states he was punished due to his extreme arrogance by being swallowed by earth along with all his great material wealth.[32]

He said, "I was only given it because of knowledge I have." Did he not know that God had destroyed before him of generations those who were greater than him in power and greater in accumulation [of wealth]? But the criminals, about their sins, will not be asked.

— Q28:78

And We caused the earth to swallow him and his home. And there was for him no company to aid him other than God, nor was he of those who [could] defend themselves.

— Q28:81

In the Malay and Indonesian language, the term for treasure is literally Harta Karun ("Qarun's treasure"). It is also often referred to in Turkish as "Karun'un Hazineleri". In Muslim culture, he is referred to as a tyrant who is the epitome of arrogance based on wealth.

Other individuals named Korah

Main article: Korah (son of Esau)

See also


  1. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Core, Dathan, and Abiron" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sanhedrin 109b
  4. ^ Pesachim 119a; Sanhedrin 110a
  5. ^ Numbers Rabbah 22:7; compare Exodus Rabbah 51:1
  6. ^ Tanhuma, ed. Buber, Ḳoraḥ, Supplement, 5; Numbers Rabbah 18:2
  7. ^ Numbers 3:30
  8. ^ Exodus 6:18
  9. ^ Numbers Rabbah 18:1; Tanhuma, Ḳoraḥ, 3
  10. ^ Numbers 15:38
  11. ^ Numbers Rabbah 18:2; Tanhuma l.c.; compare Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Numbers 16:2
  12. ^ Compare Numbers 8:7
  13. ^ Midrash Aggadah to Numbers 16:8; Yalkut Shimoni Numbers 750; compare Numbers Rabbah l.c.; Tanhuma l.c.; Sanhedrin 110a
  14. ^ Biale, David (2016-05-19). "Korah in the Midrash: The Hairless Heretic as Hero". Jewish History. 30 (1–2): 15–28. doi:10.1007/s10835-016-9251-z. ISSN 0334-701X. S2CID 159952701.
  15. ^ Schramm, Netta (January 2019). "Radical Translation as Transvaluation: From Tsene-Rene to The Jews Are Coming: Three Readings of Korah's Rebellion". PaRDeS: Zeitschrift der Vereinigung für Jüdische Studien = Transformative Translations in Jewish History and Culture.
  16. ^ Deuteronomy 22:10
  17. ^ Leviticus 19:19
  18. ^ Deuteronomy 18:4
  19. ^ Deuteronomy 18:3
  20. ^ Numbers 18:14
  21. ^ Numbers Rabbah 18:2-3; Tanhuma, Ḳoraḥ, 4-6
  22. ^ Numbers Rabbah 18:7; Tanhuma, Ḳoraḥ, 12
  23. ^ Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10 1; Numbers Rabbah l.c.
  24. ^ Numbers Rabbah l.c. 14; Tanhuma, Ḳoraḥ, 23
  25. ^ Genesis Rabbah 98:3
  26. ^ Avot of Rabbi Natan 36; Numbers Rabbah 18:11; compare Sanhedrin 109b
  27. ^ Bava Batra 74a; compare Tanhuma, ed. Buber, Ḳoraḥ, Supplement
  28. ^ "Torah of Yeshuah: Book of Meqabyan I - III".
  29. ^ Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "The Story of Qarun: Picture of Perfidious Rich – Your Guide to get to know the Quran". 12 August 2016. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  31. ^ Al-Qasas 28:76
  32. ^ Al-Qasas 28:78-81

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Korah". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.