Eldest son of Izhar, Kohath’s son from Levi’s tribe (Ex 6:21,24), who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, accusing them of exalting themselves above the assembly of the Lord (Nm 16:1-3). Numbers 16:1 also records a revolt led by two brothers, Dathan and Abiram, and a man named On, all of the tribe of Reuben, who also challenged the authority of Moses. Dathan and Abiram accused Moses of making himself a prince over the people and of failing to lead them into the Promised Land (Nm 16:12-14). The stories of the two rebellions are interwoven in such a way that it is difficult to separate them. It may be that the two revolts occurred simultaneously.
Moses challenged Korah and his followers to a trial by ordeal. Together with Aaron they were to take censers filled with fire and incense to the tent of meeting the next day; the Lord would then select from among them whoever should be the holy priest before the Lord (16:4-10,15-17). Moses accused Korah and his company of rebelling against God rather than against Aaron (16:11). When the men gathered as Moses had instructed, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. The Lord ordered Moses to tell the congregation to separate themselves from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (16:19-24). Moses proposed a test to show the source of his authority, but while he was still speaking, the earth opened and swallowed all the rebels, their families, and their possessions. Fire consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense. The rest of the Israelites were terrified and fled from the scene (16:31-35). Numbers 26:11 adds, however, that "the sons of Korah did not die" with the others (Nm 26:58, kjv Korathites).
Then, through Moses, the Lord instructed Eleazar, the son of Aaron, to take the censers of the men who had died and have them made into hammered plates to be used as a covering for the altar; thus they would serve as a reminder to the Israelites that no one who was not a priest and a descendant of Aaron should ever draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest that person meet the same fate as Korah and his company (16:36-40).
Instead of being convinced that God had vindicated Moses and Aaron, the next day the congregation began complaining that they had killed the Lord’s people. For this act of rebellion God threatened to destroy the congregation, and sent a plague among them. Moses interceded and averted complete catastrophe, but not before 14,700 Israelites had died (Nm 16:41-50). The rebellious incident of the Korahites is last mentioned in Jude 11 (kjv Core).
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Map on lining papers. (1293).
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.