The Strange Story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

Thomas Paine

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Old ballads sing of Chevy Chase,
Beneath whose rueful shade,
Full many a valiant man was slain
And many a widow made.

But I will tell of one much worse,
That happ'd in days of yore,
All in the barren wilderness,
Beside the Jordan shore,

Where Moses led the children forth,
Call'd chosen tribes of God,
And fed them forty years with quails,
And ruled them with a rod.

A dreadful fray once rose among
These self-named tribes of I Am;
Where Korah fell, and by his side
Fell Dathan and Abiram.

An earthquake swallowed thousands up,
And fire came down like stones,
Which slew their sons and daughters all,
Their wives and little ones.

'T was all about old Aaron's tithes
This murdering quarrel rose;
For tithes are worldly things of old,
That led from words to blows.

A Jew of Venice has explained,
In the language of his nation,
The manner how this fray began,
Of which here is translation:

There was a widow old and poor,
Who scarce herself could keep;
Her stock of goods was very small,
Her flock one single sheep.

And when her time of shearing came,
She counted much her gains;
For now, said she, I shall be blest
With plenty for my pains.

When Aaron heard the sheep was shear'd
And gave a good increase,
He straightway sent his tithing man
And took away the fleece

At this the weeping widow went
To Korah to complain,
And Korah he to Aaron went
In order to explain.

But Aaron said, in such a case,
There can be no forbearing,
The law ordains that thou shalt give
The first fleece of thy shearing.

When lambing time was come about,
This sheep became a dam,
And bless'd the widow's mournful heart,
By bringing forth a lamb.

When Aaron heard the sheep had young,
He staid till it was grown,
But then he sent his tithing man,
And took it for his own.

Again the weeping widow went
To Korah with her grief,
But Aaron said, in such a case
There could be no relief;

For in the holy law 't is writ,
That whilst thou keep'st the stock,
Thou shalt present unto the Lord
The firstling of thy flock.

The widow then, in deep distress,
And having naught to eat,
Against her will she killed the sheep,
To feed upon the meat.

When Aaron heard the sheep was killed
He sent and took a limb;
Which by the holy law, he said,
Pertained unto him;

For in the holy law 't is writ,
That when thou kill'st a beast,
Thou shalt a shoulder and a breast
Present unto the priest.

The widow then worn out with grief,
Sat down to mourn and weep;
And in a fit of passion said,
The devil take the sheep!

Then Aaron took the whole away,
And said, the laws record
That all and each devoted thing
Belongs unto the Lord.

The widow went among her kin,
The tribes of Israel rose,
And all the widows, young and old,
Pull'd Aaron by the nose.

But Aaron called an earthquake up,
And fire from out the sky;
And all the consolation is-
The Bible tells a lie.

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