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Using the Principle of Undesignedness to Corroborate Biblical History: The Rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

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In previous articles, I have been using the principle of undesignedness to corroborate aspects of Biblical history, both in the Old and New Testaments. For my previous posts on this subject, I refer readers to my articles here, here, here, here and here. I recommend reading my previous articles if you are unfamiliar with the principle of undesignedness. You may also want to consider purchasing and reading Dr. Lydia McGrew’s recently-published book, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (available from Amazon).

Here, I want to discuss a particularly neat example from the book of Numbers.

Numbers 16 tells us of a rebellion which took place against Moses. In verses 1-3, we read,

Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

The principle parties responsible for this conspiracy against Moses, we are told, were Korah of the family of Kohath and Dathan, Abiram and On, of the family of Reuban.

Here is the cool part. No fewer than thirteen chapters before this, in Numbers 3:29, it is mentioned in a completely different context and totally incidentally that,

The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.

In the chapter previous to this one (Numbers 2:10), we are also told incidentally, and in a manner totally unconnected to the verse I just quoted from the following chapter, that,

On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben by their companies, the chief of the people of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur,

It turns out, then, that the family of Kohath and the family of Reuben were camped on the same side of the Tabernacle, thus making them conveniently placed for taking secret counsel together against Moses!

Such a harmony between texts that are scattered around the book of Numbers might easily escape the notice of the reader. Indeed, this pattern is only detectable by putting together the various unconnected passages. It is this pattern which makes this example exhibit the property of undesignedness.

What was the fate of those rebels against Moses? Their fate is given in Numbers 16:31-34:

31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This gives rise to yet another undesigned coincidence. Compare this with what we read 10 chapters later, in Numbers 26:9-11:

9 The sons of Eliab: Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord 10 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured 250 men, and they became a warning. 11 But the sons of Korah did not die.

Wait a minute. The sons of Korah did not die? We just read in Numbers 16 that “all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods” were swallowed up by the ground. Do we here have a Bible contradiction?

Take a closer look at Numbers 16:25-27:

25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.” 27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.

Mention is made here of the wives, sons and little ones belonging to Dathan and Abiram (who were about to be the victims of the approaching calamity) standing at the door of their tents. No mention is made, however, of the sons of Korah.

How can we account for this? Korah was a Levite, and we know that the Levites pitched their camp closer to the Tabernacle than the other tribes. The Levites formed three sides of the inner square, whereas the other tribes would form the four sides of the outer square. Thus, the dwelling-tent of Korah would be a considerable distance from those of Dathan and Abiram, who were of the tribe of Reuben. This makes it plausible that the sons of Korah were a considerable distance from the catastrophe that befell the others — a disaster that we know was of limited extent given that the congregation of Israel is instructed by Moses to “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins” (Numbers 16:26).

In conclusion, then, in this one event of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram against Moses we have seen there to be two independent cases of coincidence without design. The first was based on two independent and incidental mentions of the dwelling place of the family of Kohath and the family of Reuben (whom we are told dwelt on the same side of the Tabernacle), placing them conveniently for taking secret counsel against Moses. The second coincidence was based on the incidental mention in Numbers 26 of the survival of Korah’s sons, the implicit omission in Numbers 16:27 of Korah’s sons being present at the place of destruction, and our independent knowledge of where Korah’s tent would have been relative to those of Dathan and Abiram.

As one continues to document case after case in the Scriptures of coincidence without design, we unearth more and more evidence for the substantial historical veracity of Scripture. In future posts, we will continue to document yet further cases, using the principle of undesignedness to yet further corroborate Biblical history.


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