Sons of Korah

INTRODUCTION: There are eleven Psalms that identify the sons of Korah in the heading. Psalm 43 had no heading, but some ancient scripture copies have 42 and 43 connected together as one Psalm. The history about Korah provides an interesting aspect to the fact that his descendents had a key role in temple worship beginning during the reign of King David. There is variety in the content of those Psalms and they may have been written and/or performed by the sons of Korah. Some of them are the subject of separate Bible studies in the Psalms section of the MPNHome.net web site.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the King James 21st Century Version.


A - AN EVERLASTING PRIESTHOOD THROUGHOUT THEIR GENERATIONS

Exodus 40 "12 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. 13 And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him and sanctify him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office. 14 And thou shalt bring his sons and clothe them with coats; 15 and thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto Me in the priest's office. For their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations." 16 Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he."

Numbers 3 "5 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 6 "Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. 7 And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle. 8 And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. 9 And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel. 10 And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office; and the stranger who cometh nigh shall be put to death.""

Deuteronomy 18 "1 The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and His inheritance. 2 Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren; the LORD is their inheritance, as He hath said unto them."

1 Chronicles 6 "1 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 2 And the sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 And the children of Amram: Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron: Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar."

1 Chronicles 23 "13 The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses; and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name for ever. 14 Now concerning Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer."

COMMENTS: Among the descendents of Levi, and then of Kohath, only those descendents of Amram exclusively through the line of Aaron had been chosen for the priesthood as shown in the passage from Exodus chapter 40 and from the one in Numbers chapter 3. All of the descendents of Levi through Kohath, Gershon, and Merari were distributed throughout the territories of Israel without possessing any territory separate from the other tribes of Israel, as mentioned in Deuteronomy chapter 18 and other passages. All of the Levites were to have a role in leading worship for the nation. The genealogy passage from 1 Chronicles chapter 6 lists only Aaron and Moses as sons of Amram, the son of Kohath. Though Moses was the prophet of the LORD who led Israel out of Egypt, his descendents were only identified to be among the Levites with no special service given to them because of their father.


B - THE BEGINNING OF KORAH'S REBELLION

Numbers 16 "1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up before Moses with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown. 3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?" 4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face; 5 and he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, "Even tomorrow the LORD will show who are His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto Him. Even him whom He hath chosen will He cause to come near unto Him. 6 This do: Take you censers, Korah and all his company, 7 and put fire therein and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow. And it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy. Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi." 8 And Moses said unto Korah, "Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: 9 Seemeth it but a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? 10 And He hath brought thee near to Him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee. And seek ye the priesthood also?"

COMMENTS: While Israel was in the wilderness the LORD had directed Moses to establish Aaron and his sons to be priests for worship, and the rest of the tribes of Levi were to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them. Korah, a grandson of Kohath, and two men who were descendents of Reuben, decided to challenge the leadership of Moses claiming he had no special position before God and had lifted himself up over the congregation. Korah was a Levite and Dathan and Abiram were descendents of the firstborn son of Israel. They had a group of men who were following them, and they confronted Moses and Aaron with an attitude that Moses should have no special authority over them. Moses was apparently very disturbed by this event as he fell upon his face. But he set a test before those who had approached, and gave them directions for the next day. Moses addressed Korah as a Levite and told him he should not consider it to be a "small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them." The desire to place himself into the priesthood was going past boundaries set by the LORD, not by Moses.


C - MOSES APPEALED TO THE LORD FOR GRACE IN JUDGMENT

Numbers 16 "16 And Moses said unto Korah, "Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou and they and Aaron, tomorrow. 17 And take every man his censer and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers, thou also and Aaron, each of you his censer." 18 And they took every man his censer and put fire in them and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron. 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation. 20 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 21 "Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." 22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, "O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?""

COMMENTS: Korah and 250 men appeared at the tabernacle as Moses had instructed, and apparently many others were close enough to the tabernacles to observe what would happen. When the glory of the LORD appeared at the tabernacle before all the congregation and the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, they both fell upon their face and asked that not all be destroyed for the sins of certain ones. This was not the first time recorded in Numbers chapter 18 when Moses had appealed to the LORD for mercy when members of the congregation had blatantly sinned in their dissatisfaction with Moses or the LORD. This had even affected Miriam and Aaron at one point and the LORD afflicted Miriam with leprosy which was limited to only seven days as Moses prayed to the LORD in her behalf.


D - THE LORD BROUGHT JUDGMENT BY A METHOD NOT POSSIBLE FOR MAN

Numbers 16 "23 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 24 "Speak unto the congregation, saying, 'Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.'" 25 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke unto the congregation, saying, "Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins." 27 So they got up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram on every side; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives and their sons and their little children. 28 And Moses said, "Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited according to the visitation of all men, then the LORD hath not sent me. 30 But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD." 31 And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground cleaved asunder that was under them; 32 and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses and all the men who appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 They and all that appertained to them went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation. 34 And all Israel who were round about them fled at the cry of them, for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up also!""

COMMENTS: Moses had confidence to follow the directions given by the LORD as he warned the others of Israel all around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to move away from them so they would not be consumed. Those people had to act if they believed something terrible was going to happen. After the others had moved far enough away, Moses made it clear that the thing that would happen next could only be performed by the LORD. This would demonstrate that Moses had not made plans of his own, but he had been sent by the LORD. Many of the elders of Israel were with Moses and therefore observed as the earth opened up and took the lives of those who had provoked the LORD. Those who had already moved some distance away, were so alarmed that they fled further away in fear of that sudden destruction. This judgment of the LORD came upon those of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram because Korah had wanted his own desire to be in the priesthood, not just a supporting role as a Levite. Dathan and Abiram were not Levites, but they agreed with the attitude of Korah and did not accept the will of the LORD as revealed through Moses.


E - A MEMORIAL TO VERIFY THE EXCLUSIVE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

Numbers 16 "35 And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense. 36 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 37 "Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder, for they are hallowed. 38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them into broad plates for a covering of the altar; for they offered them before the LORD. Therefore they are hallowed, and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel." 39 And Eleazar the priest took the brazen censers, wherewith those who were burned had offered, and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar 40 to be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, who is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah and as his company, as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses."

COMMENTS: The men who had been so bold as to carry censers only assigned for priests to use were all killed by a "fire" from the LORD. The LORD gave instructions through Moses and there censers were then gathered by Eleazar, the son of Aaron. Eleazar formed the metal into broad plates and made a covering for the alter. This was to be a memorial to the children of Israel of this event to make it clear that only descendents of Aaron could offer incense before the LORD.


F - THE MIRACLE OF THE LORD WAS SO SOON IGNORED

Numbers 16 "41 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, "Ye have killed the people of the LORD." 42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation; and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. 43 And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. 44 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 45 "Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment." And they fell upon their faces. 46 And Moses said unto Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire therein from the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation and make an atonement for them. For there has wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague has begun." 47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and behold, the plague had begun among the people. And he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, besides those who died in the matter of Korah. 50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the plague was stayed."

COMMENTS: This may seem amazing to think that the very next day an angry crowd would form to accuse Moses of killing some of the children of Israel because they did not believe the LORD was directing Moses. But again on this day Moses saw that the judgment of the LORD was beginning to unfold, and he directed Aaron to an act that was accepted by the LORD to stop the reign of death, but only after thousands had died. This pattern of disbelief in the LORD and the refusal to accept Moses as the chosen leader would finally result in an entire generation dying in the wilderness with only their offspring and Caleb being led into the promised land by Joshua.


G - SONS OF KORAH SANG FOR THE LORD DURING THE REIGN OF KING DAVID

1 Chronicles 6 "31 And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest. 32 And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem; and then they served in their office according to their order. 33 And these are those who served with their children. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman a singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, 34 the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, 35 the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, 36 the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, 37 the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah,"

COMMENTS: After several centuries of disorganization for Israel during the period of the Judges, there was finally a fully united Israel under King David. David brought the Ark of the Covenant to a tent he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, and he was instrumental in assigning those who would lead worship before the LORD. This began service by the sons of Korah that carried into the reign of King Solomon as recorded in scripture. Though a Holy God brought judgment many times to the children of Israel, he also demonstrated his great mercy for those who would call upon his name, and certainly the sons of Korah were among those, as they did not follow the way of their rebellious ancestor. There are eleven Psalms that are specifically associated with the sons of Korah by inscription in the heading, with seven in book two and four in book three of the five books of the Psalms. Psalm 84 contains one of the most cogent passages expressing the joy that can accompany service that has been given by the LORD. Psalm 84 "10 For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!"

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, as I study the various Psalms of the sons of Korah help me to remember that your mercy had such beautiful results many generations later in the descendents of a man who so blatantly provoked you among the children of Israel in the wilderness. He had accused Moses of placing himself in the leadership position that you had given, and that you had openly validated in miraculous ways. As I read and reflect on the content of the Psalms of the sons of Korah may I understand how I also should willingly accept your purpose for my life as a member of your coming kingdom. Keep me from any jealousy of the gifts and the authority you give to others in the body of Christ. I have been redeemed from the bondage of my own sin by your mercy and grace just as though I had come out of Egypt with the children of Israel. Your Word stands to give an abundance of proof of your great worthiness to receive all honor, glory, adoration, and worship. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being my faithful high priest who has offered the atoning sacrifice for my sin to grant me the gift of eternal life. Hallelujah and amen!

Published 21 July 2014