Haftarah Korach

“Affirmed Man of God”

1 Samuel 11:14-12:22


by Mark Huey

With the wilderness journey of Israel prolonged by the lack of faith, instigated by the ten spies’ bad report, tensions began to mount in the camp. Even though the Levites had been given their respective responsibilities regarding the Tabernacle, there was some growing jealousy about the leadership of Moses. The rebellious nature of Korah, one of the Kohathites, and his co-conspirators Dathan and Abiram from the tribe of Reuben, voiced their complaints by challenging Moses before the congregation of Israel. We see this pattern, of various recalcitrant people speaking out or working against God’s anointed servants, repeated centuries later as recorded in our Haftarah selection from 1 Samuel. The connection between Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32), and things witnessed in Samuel’s life, direct our attention to what might be considered righteous indignation by both Moses and the Prophet Samuel.

In Korach, we see Moses defending his leadership. He stated that during his tenure as Israel’s leader, he never took a single donkey from the people he has served:

“Then Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, you sons of Levi, is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; and that He has brought you near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking for the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD; but as for Aaron, who is he that you grumble against him?’ Then Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, ‘We will not come up. Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!’ Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, ‘Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them’” (Numbers 16:8-15).

Similar to this, when the aged Samuel defended his actions, he asserted that he had taken neither an ox nor a donkey, nor defrauded anyone during his time in leadership:

“Then Samuel said to all Israel, ‘Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king over you. Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.’ They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.’ He said to them, ‘The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.’ And they said, ‘He is witness’” (1 Samuel 12:1-5).

From what else we know about both Moses and Samuel, there is a distinct connection between their leadership roles, whether it was during Israel’s transition from slavery to freedom, or Israel’s later transition from the era of the judges/prophets to rule by kings. The Psalmist noted the correlation by expressing their qualities of justice, equity, and righteousness, imbued upon them by the Almighty:

“The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble; He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake! The LORD is great in Zion, and He is exalted above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name; Holy is He. The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His footstool; Holy is He. Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was among those who called on His name; they called upon the LORD and He answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept His testimonies and the statute that He gave them. O LORD our God, You answered them; You were a forgiving God to them, and yet an avenger of their evil deeds. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the LORD our God” (Psalm 99:1-9).

We also see Moses and Samuel lauded in the prophecies of Jeremiah. As he heard from the Lord about the fate of the Southern Kingdom, and specifically for the sin of the wicked King Manasseh, the Lord evoked the names of Moses and Samuel as potential righteous intercessors for Judah. Yet, the wickedness was so bad that even if Moses and Samuel were to intercede, God would not be able to heed their pleas and would still be required to bring down His justice upon the people:

“Have You completely rejected Judah? Or have You loathed Zion? Why have You stricken us so that we are beyond healing? We waited for peace, but nothing good came; And for a time of healing, but behold, terror! We know our wickedness, O LORD, the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against You. Do not despise us, for Your own name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of Your glory; remember and do not annul Your covenant with us. Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not You, O LORD our God? Therefore we hope in You, for You are the one who has done all these things. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go! And it shall be that when they say to you, “Where should we go?” then you are to tell them, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Those destined for death, to death; and those destined for the sword, to the sword; and those destined for famine, to famine; and those destined for captivity, to captivity.’” I will appoint over them four kinds of doom,’ declares the LORD: ‘the sword to slay, the dogs to drag off, and the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. I will make them an object of horror among all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem’” (Jeremiah 14:19-15:4).

Finally, both Moses and Samuel were given the title “man of God” in the Scriptures, as an honorificate of their service.

Moses was given this title by the narrator of Deuteronomy, immediately before his death:

“Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God [ish ha’Elohim] blessed the sons of Israel before his death” (Deuteronomy 33:1).

Samuel was referred to as a “man of God” by Saul, prior to becoming the king of Israel:

“He said to him, ‘Behold now, there is a man of God [ish-Elohim] in this city, and the man is held in honor; all that he says surely comes true. Now let us go there, perhaps he can tell us about our journey on which we have set out.’ Then Saul said to his servant, ‘But behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is gone from our sack and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?’ The servant answered Saul again and said, ‘Behold, I have in my hand a fourth of a shekel of silver; I will give it to the man of God [l’ish ha’Elohim] and he will tell us our way.’ (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he used to say, ‘Come, and let us go to the seer’; for he who is called a prophet now was formerly called a seer.) Then Saul said to his servant, ‘Well said; come, let us go.’ So they went to the city where the man of God [ish ha’Elohim] was” (1 Samuel 9:6-10).

As you reflect upon the account of Korah and his rebellious comrades this week, and then consider how the Ancient Israelites disregarded the advice of Samuel, and turned themselves over to human kings like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:11-20)—do you identify with either the selfless sacrifice of Moses and Samuel, or rather the baseness of the Israelites? Have you ever been in a position of leadership where you knew your motives were pure, and yet you were questioned or rebuked by your subordinates? Or on the other hand, can you remember times when in your heart you were unable to follow the instructions of others, because you thought you might know better or have a better way of doing things?

Is it possible that like most, you can remember times on both sides of the equation? Perhaps these were times when you were misunderstood, or when you simply decided that you would not follow the lead of those in positional authority over you?

In the case of Moses, the dramatic way that the Lord showed his contemporaries that He was on Moses’ side, resulted in the death of his detractors.[1] In the case of Samuel, his vindication came when he prayed for rain during the wheat harvest, and rain suddenly appeared. A reiteration of the people’s choice of a human king, and the consequences resulted, notably preceded the sign of God’s approval of Samuel’s request for rain:

“When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the Lord by asking for yourselves a king.’ So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. Then all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.’ Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself” (1 Samuel 12:12-22).

Today, we are not necessarily witnessing the ground opening up and swallowing people, or less frequently rain immediately appearing when prayed for on the spot. But, we are certainly able to notice the fruit of someone’s labors in the field of serving God. Both Moses and Samuel exemplified integrity, justice, and His blessing. Although questioned by their peers and followers, their examples have stood up through the test of time as the Psalmist, Jeremiah, and many others rightly recognized them as “men of God.”

In time, no matter what side of the equation we fall upon, we should hope that our own service in God’s Kingdom be recognized as beneficial eternal fruit! Let us follow the examples of these great servants of God, who endured with integrity during their respective walks of faith!

NOTES

[1] Numbers 16:23-35.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.