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Sabbath School Lessons on Numbers
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 7: Power Struggle *
Introduction: Have you ever had a dispute within your church? (Now
that is a dumb question, right?) How can you know who is right and
who is wrong? Sometimes it is obvious, but sometimes there are good
arguments on both sides. What happens if you supported the losing
side? How should you handle that? This week we look at a power
struggle within the Israelite community. Let's dive in and see what
lessons we can learn for church community today!
- The Dispute
- Read Numbers 16:1-2. What credentials does Korah have?
(Very high. Not only was he the grandson of Levi, but he
was the son of Kohath. The Kohathites "were responsible
for the care of the sanctuary." Numbers 3:28. Of all the
special work of the Levites, the Kohathites had very
- Read Numbers 16:3 and Numbers 16:12-14. What is the
complaint against Moses and Aaron? (They considered
themselves above everyone else, when their leadership
brought obviously poor results.)
- If you were a bystander listening to the charges
against Moses, would the evidence make you think the
charges were true?
- Read Numbers 16:8-10 and Numbers 16:15. What is Moses'
defense to these charges? (The people bringing the
charges already have great authority, and they just want
more because they are power-hungry. Moses has never taken
anything from them, and he has never wronged them in any
- Is Moses meeting the charges made against him? (When
the charge is poor leadership, the answer "I have
not taken any of your goods" does not meet the
charge. As to authority, they both seem to be
charging that the other has exceeded their
- Let's revisit one of Korah's claims. Re-read Numbers
16:3. Is it your impression that the whole community was
holy? (If I were Moses' lawyer, I would have argued that
the reason they were in this sorry situation is not due
to a lack of leadership on the part of Moses, but rather
due to the fact that the people were far from holy!)
- Read Numbers 16:4-7. What does Moses propose? (That God
will settle this.)
- Is that an argument? (In any dispute, we should
first turn to God. If I were Moses, I would have
defended by saying "God chose me. I'm not usurping
any of your authority. God did this." Saying that
"God will settle this," is the practical
- The Showdown
- Read Numbers 16:16-19. Create a picture of this in your
mind. It seems to me that Moses and Aaron are standing
with a large group that is opposed to them. In human
terms, they are badly outnumbered!
- Why is the whole assembly there? (This must have
created great excitement in the camp. Now we've got
something to talk about!)
- If you took a poll of the people, how do you
think they would vote? Would they support
Moses or Korah? (Since the Levites were the
only ones who were faithful before (Exodus
32:26), and now they are in revolt, I've got to
believe that Korah has the support of the
crowd. Especially, he was arguing that they
were all were holy - what an encouraging
message! It seems the crowd has come in support
of Korah, not just out of curiosity.)
- Read Numbers 16:20-22. Who should the assembly have
supported? (It is clear from God's response that the
people supported Korah. God is going to execute judgment
on them, but Moses and Aaron intercede for them. You
could not have a better friend than Moses.)
- How many times have you asked God not to harm your
accusers? Not to harm those who wish to do you
- Read Numbers 16:23-27. Do you think Korah and his
followers are still confident in God's judgment in their
- Read Numbers 16:28-30. Is this how we should settle
- What if you are on the wrong side of the argument?
- Read the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38-39. Is this
the practical equivalent of what Moses is doing?
- Read Numbers 16:31-33. Have we a clear answer about who
was right and who was wrong?
- In Numbers 16:27 we saw a reference to the "children
and little ones" of the rebels. What do you say
about the justice of swallowing them up? (God will
make the judgment about eternal life or death.
However, some of these little ones simply had the
- Is this true today? If you are a parent, how
important is it that you be faithful to God?
(We can trust God to be more than just because
He died for us, but this shows the sobering
reality of the influence of parents on the
welfare of their children.)
- Read Numbers 16:34. Why would they say that? (This makes
clear that they had chosen the side of Korah.)
- Read Numbers 16:35 and Numbers 16:41. I'm sure that some
of my readers are shaking their heads and thinking "God
is pretty harsh." If that is your opinion, how to do
explain Numbers 16:41?
- What would you have done, if you were God, to show
the people that Moses and Aaron were your
established leaders? (The people somehow think that
Moses and Aaron did this in their own power. That
they manipulated a god to do their selfish will.
They don't understand that the great God in heaven
is showing them His decision about leadership.
Anything less dramatic than the earth opening up and
fire coming down would certainly not have convinced
- Read Numbers 16:42-44. Is God right? (Friends, I vote
with God here. How could His will be more plain? He
needs a new crew.)
- Read Numbers 16:46-48. Aaron the High Priest "stood
between the living and the dead." Of what does this
remind you? (Read Hebrews 8:1-2. My judgment is that
these people deserved death. My judgment is that I
deserve death. Praise God for Jesus who paid the death
penalty for me and now stands as my High Priest to give
me eternal life!)
- The Case for Stupid
- Read Numbers 17:1-5. What persisted despite all of these
terrible signs of God's power and judgment? (Grumbling!)
- What does God think will cure the problem? (A
miracle that doesn't involve anyone dying.)
- What is your thought on this approach?
- Read Numbers 17:6-11. Who has God clearly chosen?
- Why does God have the staff displayed publicly? (So
all can see and understand the miracle and God's
- Read Numbers 17:12. Just how stupid are these people?
Just how stupid are we?
- Has there been any learning whatsoever from this
terrible experience? (Yes. In Numbers 16:41 they
thought that Moses had some special (and evil) power
to kill "God's people." Now, at least they
understand that it is God who is doing this to the
- Let's venture that you believe that you are not as
dumb as these people seem to be. What is the lesson
they should have learned? (God is in charge, God has
His leaders. Rebellion against God and His leaders
results in death. Only the intervention of the High
Priest can save us from a deserved death.)
- Let's think back a few studies and consider the lessons
we should have learned.
- What is the lesson we should learn from the failure
of the people to enter Canaan? (We need to trust God
when our lives are in danger. We need to trust God
when difficult opportunities lie before us. Fear is
not only contempt towards God, it will keep us from
- What is the lesson we should learn from the Sabbath
wood gatherer? (We might believe that God has failed
us, when it was our own failure of faith. Defiantly
turning away from God and sinning only ends in
- As you put this week's lesson together with the last two,
how would you summarize our choice in life? (God is this
wonderful and frightening power. If you trust Him,
fabulous things are possible. If you rebel against Him,
you are stupid. Into the middle of this terrifying
Presence comes Jesus, who offers to save us from our
- Friend, the choices are clear. Which one will you make
- Next week: Priests and Levites.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.