A Biblical Lesson in Demagoguery

We sometimes read the Bible as if it’s simply a story from long ago. There were some strange things that happened back then, and strange people who did them.

We tend to think we live in different times. And we think we don’t have those problems today. For a variety of reasons, we think we’re somehow exempt from them.

I want to propose that God did not give us these eternal words for us to come to that conclusion, whatever faith path we choose.

Korach was a quintessential demagogue. He came from an advantaged position and wanted yet a greater position with greater power. He affiliated with the unstable and ambitious to overthrow God-serving leaders. He used the mission statement of the people as his own rallying cry, cynically to bring them to his side. And he attacked the leadership of the community when it was the most vulnerable and his chance of taking it down was the strongest.

Have we not seen this story throughout history? Yet, don’t we also perhaps too often and too easily tend to brand our political opponents as demagogues? The Biblical lesson of Korach is there, among other things, for us to be able to see the difference.

As the Bible teaches, the actions of Korach and his followers are utterly despicable to God. Korach is fundamentally out for personal gain, not what’s in the best interest of heaven. Especially when times are hard for people, God does not tolerate, nor should we, the self-seeking and ambitious pretender who preys upon our weakness to get power and lead the people away from the principles God has given to guide us.

The Jewish mystical work known as the Zohar teaches that such a person who makes the right left and the left right lays waste the world.

With God’s help, it is our duty to separate ourselves from Korach in whatever form we find him, oppose him, and defeat him.

Living as God expects is grounded in a fundamental principle: God shows us the path; and we are, under the guidance of God-devoted leaders, to follow it in order to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.


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