We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicates bold, italics, underline by using
repetition. In other words if a modern author wanted to emphasize
a word they would either underline, bold or italicize it. However when the Biblical
author wishes to emphasize a word He repeats it. The effect - whether
thru repetition or using underline - is the same. It is only the
means of conveying this emphasis that is different.
Verse Nu16-30b discussing the punishment that will befall the
Korach rebellion states
But if the Lord creates a creation,
and the earth opens her mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then you shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.
The underlined phrase - creates a creation - is a verb-noun repetition.
General Repetition indicates emphasisis. The great 19th century Biblical exegete, the
Malbim, explained that the specific noun-verb repetition applies its emphasis by requiring
the noun to be intrinsic and not haphazard. Thus cooking a cookie indicates
not haphazard cooking but rather cooking with a specific structure, the structure
of a cookie. Similarly, sitting in a seat indicates that the seat is
an actual seat, not, sitting e.g. on a table or bed.
Consequently Rashi interprets the phrase create a creation to indicate not
something entirely new but rather the creation of something established to punish those
who rebel against prophecy. In other words God traditionally punishes cities and countries
that rebel against prophecy by earthquakes. So Moses says here If these people die
normally - either a natural death or something totally unforseen - then Korach is right,
I am not God's messenger. But if they die through an earthquake which God uses to punishes
rebellions against prophecy then you will know that I am God's prophetic messenger and these
people, Korach, have rebelled against God.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally says: If a creation
from the six days of creation exists
fine, but if not God should create a new creation and devour Korach. Such
a formulation is simply a poetic play on words. Similarly the reference to the six
days of creation is a poetic description of something established for rebellions,
not entirely new.
But why did I deviate from Rashi's poetic translation and classify it as poetic but
not the real reason. The answer is very deep. I have chosen an explanation method -
repettion or verb-noun repetition that is common to many verses and is always
interpreted the same way. Such an approach is more satisfying since it enables the student
to learn and apply new principles. For this reason I chose Malbim's verb-noun repetition
principle. Malbim himself chose this principle because of its universality. Once this
principle was chosen we then re-reviewed Rashi and perceived the phrases he used -
six days of creation - if it exists fine - as referring to established
punishments against prophecy rebellions. As we go thru
the yearly cycle we will have other opportunities to see this principle in action.