What they tell us is that Korach was at least partly right when he criticised the situation in the Israelite camp. His motives were largely self-seeking and personal, but when he said that there were faults and failings in the community structure he may have been justified. So why be so negative towards him?
The answer is suggested by a phrase associated with Martin Luther King. Recognising that parades and demonstrations made a lot of noise but did not in themselves eradicate deep-seated problems like hunger, homelessness, poverty and lack of education and opportunity, he said that drawing public attention to social problems creates “a constructive crisis” that focusses on the options for improvement and encourages a community and its leadership to take themselves in hand.
What Korach did was to create a crisis, but not a constructive one. He was anxious to tear down but had no positive platform for improvement. Kohelet says, “There is a time to pluck up that which is planted” – but that’s not where he leaves it. He also says, “There is a time to plant” (Koh. 3:2).
Korach wants to pluck up but he has no constructive ideas about replanting. As far as he is concerned, having torn down the communal edifice he would leave the ruins and rubble in place for ever.