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Ch. xv. is a section of various fragments of priestly law, and, having no connection whatever with the story, is accordingly omitted. In ch. xvi. the mutiny of Korah, Dathan and Abiram is related. Certain prominent individuals aspire to the priesthood, and raise a rebellion against Moses. Moses protests, and appeals to Yahweh ; vv. 1-19. Yahweh intervenes; Korah and his followers are swallowed up by the earth, (consumed by fire from the sanctuary); vv. 20-35. An altar-covering is made from the censers of the burnt; vv. 36-40. The people, sympathizing with the punished rebels, are visited by a plague ; v. 41-50. Aaron's rod buds, as a token of the preëminence of Levi; xvii. 1-11. Israel's complaint of the danger of approaching the Tabernacle is met by the appointment of the Levites for its service ; xvii. 12—-xviii. 7. (Chh. xviii. 8-xix. contain only Levitical laws unconnected with the narrative, and are accordingly omitted). Arrived at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, the people murmur for water, and are supplied by Moses' smiting the rock with the rod : xx. 1-13.
It is difficult even to frame a synopsis of these chapters without exhibiting the patent self-contradictions which they embody. In the story of Korah's mutiny, for example, it is impossible to conceive how after “ the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up (the mutineers), and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods," so that “ they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them ” (xvi. 32f.), it could still be possible not only for “ fire to come forth from Yahweh and devour the 250 men that offered the incense,” but for Eleazar to take up the censers out of the burning and scatter the fire (vv. 35ff.). But after we have adjusted our minds by some harmonistic process to a double destruction of Korah and his followers, and all that appertained to them, and their households; one is really staggered to read in Num. xxvi. 11., “ Notwithstanding the sons of Korah died not. Moreover in xvi. 3 the complaint of the mutineers is that Moses and Aaron have arrogated to themselves as Levites a special priestly right which properly belongs to “ all the assembly.” In accordance with this both Reubenites and 250 · princes of the congregation, presumably from all the tribes, are mentioned as of the company of Korah. In xxvii. 3 it is unequivocally
* An interpolation intended to account for the Levitical guild of templesingers “the sons of Korah :" see titles of Pss, and cf. Num. xxvi. 58.
implied that this company was not exclusively of Levites. Yet the representation of vv. 8-11 is positive that the mutiny was a revolt of Levites against the exclusive privileges of the Aaronic priesthood. It would appear, however, from xxvii. 3 that this representation comes from a later hand than P2, and this conclusion is established with certainty by the story of xvii. and xviii, 1–7, according to which Aaron's rod which buds is “the rod of Levi” as against the other eleven tribes, xvii. 1-3, and the Levites are first endowed with their peculiar office in consequence of the event of ch. xvi. and xvii. 12–xviii. 7. The story of the revolt of Korah and others of the laity (P2) is therefore to be distinguished from a later element (P3) observable in vv. 8ff. where the mutineers are Levites.
But a much more remarkable phenomenon appears when we look at the references of Deuteronomy, supposed by the Grafian critics to depend on JE, but regarded as older than P2. Deuteronomy not only ignores any distinction between priests and Levites, treating the words as synonyms, but in xi. 6 makes explicit reference to this story as the story of what Yahweh 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 every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel.” Either the Deuteronomist practised “higher criticism,” or else the story of Num. xvi. to him was not a mutiny of Korah at all ; but of “ Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben.” Curiously enough there are portions of Nu. xvi. also, where Dathan and Abiram appear alone, as sole leaders of the mutiny; and others where Korah appears alone in a like capacity (cf. VV. 12, 25, 27b.; with 5, 8, 16, 19, 32, 40, 49). The latter appears as the representation of P2 in subsequent passages (Vs. 49; xxvii. 3). It is also remarkable that according to Dt. xi. 6 the fate of the mutineers was to be swallowed up alive by the earth, and this again in Nu. xvi. 27b-32a is certainly the fate of Dathan and Abiram, and apparently of Korah's companions (32b), though “ the 250 men who offered the incense ” met a very different fate, and what became of Korah can only be inferred. Again it is to be observed that where Moses is speaking with Dathan and Abiram (vv. 12-15, 25, 27b-32) the subject of priestly or Levitical rights does not enter into the controversy at all. Dathan and Abiram accuse Moses of wanting to make himself a prince over them, of having been untrue to his promise to lead them to “a land flowing with milk and honey,” of wishing to bore out the eyes of these (?) men.” Moses on his part prays that their offering (?) may not be respected (cf. Gen. iv. 4f.), and denies having injured a single individual. But nothing whatever is said of priestly rights. It is needless to refer in addition to minor difficulties, such as vs. 1. where the verb “ took” has no object; vs. 24, 27a. where Korah, Dathan and Abiram appear to have one tent in common, and that not a tent at all, but a sacred tabernacle” (mishkan) for mishkan is never used in prose of anything but the sanctuary of Yahweh; and vs. 7b, which so singularly and inappropriately repeats a part of 3a. From what has already been said minds in any degree susceptible to critical evidence cannot fail to recognize the probably composite character of ch. xvi. and that the story told in Dt. xi. 6 represents at least one element of JE, while even P is here composite also.
The priestly element as a whole is easily separated. The two characteristic features, that Korah alone is leader of the revolt, and that the subject of controversy is the priestly prerogative, are amply sufficient for the extrication of vv. I-II (exc. traces in vv. 1- 3), 16-24a, 26, 27a, 32b. and from vs. 35 to xviii. 7 as the element of P? and P8. The phraseology and point of view are alike unmistakable. Only in the portion where a close combination of JE and P has been attempted, viz. vv. 2432, is there any difficulty in the separation ; and here the linguistic criteria are decisive. The association of the words “ tabernacle (mishkail) of Korah, Dathan and Abiram ” in vv. 24 and 27a has been already spoken of as an impossible one. To make assurance doubly sure it is only necessary to observe that “all the congregation,” according to vs. 19, have already been assembled by Korah “ at the door of the Tent of Meeting,” and hence cannot possibly be in the vicinity of the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan and Abiram,” supposing such a place to be conceivable. There is only one Mishkan ; hence we have no trouble in replacing the impossible “ Korah, Dathan and Abiram " of Rp by the original “ Yahweh.” The harmonistic purpose of Rp in making the change is very obvious, as he is intent upon weaving together the story of Korah (P) and that of Dathan and Abiram (JE). It should be obvious, although apparently overlooked by critics, that vs. 26, built upon the model of vs. 23f., and priestly in tone and language, is purely the work of Rp, a kind of solder whose material is derived from the verses 23-27 which it is intended to unite, but which melts and separates without the application of a great amount of analytical heat. The same is true of vs. 32b, where Rp betrays himself further by the use of the late priestly word rekush, “ goods” (Gen. xiv. 11f.; xv. 14; xvi. 21); it may be true also of the last clause of vs. 33.
Nor is the separation of the element P3 from P2 a difficult matter. Vv. 36-40 are shown in vs. 40 to take the view of P3, that the controversy concerns the prerogative of Aaron and his sons over the other Levites, as in vv. 8-11. Vv. 16f. simply illustrate the usual practise of Rp and the late priestly interpolators, of leading back to the point of interruption by repeating the preceding context (cf. vv. 16f. with 5-7; and both with.Ex. vi. 10-12 and 28-30). The result of this awkwardness is that Moses makes three consecutive addresses to Korah of nearly the same import, viz., vv. 4-7 ; 8-11; 16ff.
A far more difficult matter is the separation of JE into its elements; for we must agree with critics generally, in view of the patent duplications of vv. 28–34 (see text below), and the incongruities of vv. 12-15, that the JE strand is also duplicate. To begin with, it is a very singular thing that Rp should have attempted a combination of wo such widely different narratives as (a) a story of the mutiny of Dathan and Abiram, (JE), and (b) the aspiration of Korah and others to the priesthood (P), if in JE there was no allusion at all to the priestly prerogative, and no resemblance in the names (in a and b). What then of the names in vs. 1, and the minchah, (“sacrificial offering ”; impossible to identify with incen:e-burning) which the leaders of the revolt (“their offering ") are preparing to make in vs. 15?
Vs. I is in fact an extraordinary complex. We may take as the most reliable portion the words “Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, the son [so LXX. and Dt. xi. 6] of Reuben.” In all subsequent JE references these, and these alone, appear as the leaders of the revolt. We may safely say that this was the representation of E ; for in vs. 27b, where they thus appear, the language is E's (see refs.), and the reference in Deuteronomy is also an indication. Whence then is “ On the son of Peleth,” who is just as unknown to P as to E? And whence has P, who nowhere gives the slightest indication of independent sources, the
Korah,” which he certainly did not get from E? There is none but J to whom they can be attributed. But the argument is not merely negative. for there is one more item in the dramatis personae of vv. if. reappearing neither in P nor E, viz. the men of renown,” vs. 2. The only other instance of this phrase in the Old Testament is Gen. vi. 4 (J). The remaining portion of vs. I gives the pedigree of Korah ; but this pedigree agrees neither with P’, according to whom “ Korah and his company,” are not Levites (ch. xvii. ; xx. 3 ; xxvii. 3) ; nor could it with J, if, as there seems reason to suppose, the subject of controversy here also was the priestly prerogative (Ex. xxxii. 25-29). It comes then from P3, and P’ agreed with J in making Korah a non-Levite. On independent grounds Wellhausen has conjectured that the Korah of the original narrative was of the tribe of Judah (Comp. p. 108). Strictly the pedigree of I Chron. ii. 43 makes him a descendant of Caleb, i. e. a Kenizzite, and not an Israelite at all. As to the other individual who we have reason to suppose, figured in J, but whom P2 does not take over, we need only point out for the present that Peleth is a name significant of nothing else than the royal bodyguard established by David, whose popular designation (“ Pelethites ”) seems to have been formed by paronomasia with the
Cherethites,” or Cretans, always named with them, from the regular word for “ Philistine,” and with reference to their alien origin. If, then, by process of exclusion from all the other sources we may take as I's the objectless verb · took ” of vs. I, we may conjecture for the original J element of this verse, “ Now Korah the son of Kenaz, and on the son of Peleth, men of renown, took”
We have next to enquire whence P2 derived the idea of an assault by Korah and others upon the priestly prerogative of Moses and Aaron, vv. 2f., and how Rp came to combine his narrative with that of JE. If we look first at Moses' petition in vs. 15a we see at once that it has no connection with the story of Dathan and Abiram's revolt in the midst of which it stands. Dathan and Abiram have no apparent notion of offering sacrifice, and if they had, E's legislation offers no objection, but rather commends the idea (Ex. xx. 24 ; xxiv. 5). In vs.
15 on the other hand, the complaint of the mutineers is at least accompanied by a proposal to sacrifice, if this be not indeed the principal casus belli. Moreover Moses' intercourse with Yahweh in vs. 15 is much freer than in E, and the two verses preceding are full of characteristic J phrases (see refs. ; " fields and vineyards” with which Dillmann would compare xx. 17 ; xxi. 22 is no exception, cf. I Sam. xxii. 7, J), vs. 14a refers verbally to Moses' promise Ex. iii. 17. Vv. 13-15 accordingly are J's fuller companion piece to 12b (E). Here the offering (minchah) of certain men opposed to Moses is the subject of dispute. Looking back now to the fragments of J in vs. I it would not be unnatural to supply as the missing object of “took an offering (minchah) for Yahweh," and if Dillm. is right in claiming for J the clause “and Yahweh is among them,” in vs. 3 (cf. Ex. xvii. 7; xxxiii. 16; Num. xi. 20) his story may well have contained also the equivalent of vs. 3, together with the stray clause 7b, which must belong after this verse. Vv. 12, 25, 27b (Dathan and Abiram) must of course be attributed to E. But in E Moses is no talker. Preliminary announcements of the miracle Yahweh is going to perform, as we saw in the plague stories, belong to J. Vv. 28-30 should therefore be J's, and this judgment is confirmed by the language (see refs). One of the most striking instances to be found anywhere is in fact the persistent contrast between J's habitual use of “ground” (adamal) and E's “ earth ” (eretz), which is finely exemplified here in the palpable duplicates, 31, 33a (cf. 30a), J=32a, 33b, 34, E. Here the