Bamidbar 16:29

אִם־כְּמ֤וֹת כָּל־הָֽאָדָם֙ יְמֻת֣וּן אֵ֔לֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת֙ כָּל־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם יִפָּקֵ֖ד עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם לֹ֥א יְהוָ֖ה שְׁלָחָֽנִי׃

If these men die as all men do, if their lot be the common fate of all mankind, it was not the LORD who sent me.

How can Moshe say that if Korach and his followers aren't killed miraculously, then that means that Hashem didn't send him? Maybe Korach and his followers will do Teshuva and live!

  • I think you need to analyze the first few words a bit more. It says "If they die..." I'm inferring that if they do teshuva, they will not die. Assuming this interpretation, there is no conflict.
    – DanF
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:01
  • @DanF, so they'd live forever?
    – msh210
    Jun 22, 2017 at 2:57
  • @msh210 Die immediately. Also, it says, "die as all humans die". I'm inferring that means from aging, illness, etc. in short a "natural" death, not by some miracle.
    – DanF
    Jun 22, 2017 at 3:11
  • @DanF So if they do Teshuva and die of old age wouldn't that mean that Moshe is saying Hashem didn't send him?
    – Eliyahu
    Jun 22, 2017 at 3:13
  • @Eliyahu that's what I infer. It may be incorrect. But, I'm also inferring that Moshe may not be implying that they would die immediately. It may be an incorrect interpretation, though.
    – DanF
    Jun 22, 2017 at 3:16

3 Answers 3


Had Korach done teshuvah, then he would have admitted that Moshe Rabbeinu was correct and begged for forgiveness. Thus, Moshe's prophecy and mission would have been proven correct by Korach's own admission. It is only the fact that they indeed died shows that they did not do teshuvah and the misah meshuna was in order to teach the special lesson.Rav Hirsch points out:

[If] they had died ordinary deaths and met with ordinary fatal accidents which would be no less the fulfilment of Hashem's pronouncement, still such a death and such a fate could not sserve as a proof of the mission of Moshe being at Hashem's behest. For that mission was based on the intervention of Hashem which was accomplished in a manner beyond the natural order of things, by which Hashem wished to show Himself as standing in free power over and beyond the laws of nature


I just saw that Rabbi Zweig answered this in the Insights last year:

The answer is that in this case teshuvah would not have worked to save them from death. Moshe was not predicting that Hashem would perform a miracle in order to demonstrate who was correct. Rather, he was invoking his authority as the king of B’nei Yisroel to have those who rebelled against his authority put to death. The Torah gives a king that right, and Moshe exercised that right by asking Hashem to carry out the sentence through a miracle. The sentence of death itself, though, was based on his royal prerogative.

In the Torah’s judicial system, no sinner can save himself by repenting from a punishment imposed by man. In fact, we are required to urge every person who is about to be executed to engage in teshuvah, even though the execution will not be cancelled as a result. Clearly, the purpose of the teshuvah is to have a beneficial effect on his soul in the World to Come, even though the Beis Din is still required to carry out the sentence of death. Likewise, Korach and his cohorts were unable to save themselves by repenting, because their deaths were the result of Moshe’s decree, not a divinely imposed punishment. Moshe simply asked Hashem to carry out that decree for him.

Although it isn't 100% clear, I understand this to mean that this was proving that Moshe was appointed king, not that Aharon was supposed to be Kohen Gadol.


Doing Teshuva doesn't prevent God from killing you, particularly when there is lingering damage.

Once Moses essentially threatened Korach, if Korach would just say "never mind, I do teshuva, everyone obey moses" people would see Moses' leadership questioned and their faith in him would weaken, even if Korach did repent his transgression.

Secondly, it wasn't much of a gamble because Moses knew God sent him and he knew God could do all sorts of miracles.

Thirdly, God could have told Moses what he planned to do

Fourthly, Moses could have personally killed Korach's people the same way he killed the Egyptian even if God decided not to do a miracle.

  • As is, this answer seems based on your own analysis, but nothing is sourced. I think the 2nd paragraph is the "trend" explained by most commentators. "Fourthly" seems impossible in line with what Moses is saying. He clearly indicates that the death would be caused by G-d, not by him.
    – DanF
    Jun 21, 2017 at 15:08

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