Sons of Korah Bible faces of four young boys

Sons Of Korah Bible Dedication of the Old Testament

Sons of Korah Bible Study — Son of Esau

The sons of Korah have both a famous — and an infamous — reputation in the Bible. Nonetheless, the history of the sons of Korah is a splendid example of God’s grace.

Sons of Korah Bible Study — Esau’s Son

There is more than one person named “Korah” in the Bible. The first mention of anyone named “Korah” is in Genesis chapter 36. This was one of Esau’s sons, according to Genesis 36:5 “And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.” (KJV) Not much is known about this man. Later, in Genesis chapter 36, he is described as a duke in the land of Edom.

Sons of Korah Bible Study — Korah’s Rebellion

Exodus 6:16-25 records the genealogy of some of the sons of Levi. Moses and his brother, Aaron, were both from the tribe of Levi, a tribe that God chose to perform the nation of Israel’s priestly duties. Within this tribe was a man by the name of Korah. At first glance, he blends in with all of the other names mentioned. But later, his rebellious actions gave him an infamous name in Israel.

Silhouette of three men at sunset

Korah, along with two other men of Israel named Dathan and Abiram, became jealous of Moses’ leadership. Lead by Korah, these three men gathered 250 other leaders in Israel and rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, whom God had ordained to lead His people.

Numbers 16:1-3

“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: 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: 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: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?” (KJV)

This attempted coup escalated, despite Moses’ warning that their complaint and rebellion was not against him and Aaron, but rather, against the Lord God Who placed them in the position of leadership.

It appears that Korah and his relatives were of the priestly tribe of Levi, but not priests themselves, though they had a particular place of service to God. Moses then answered those rebels with these words: “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?” – Numbers 16:9 (KJV)

Since this rebellion was against God Himself, despite it being directed against God’s men, Moses called on God, the living God, to intervene.

golden censors with burning incense

The next day Moses and Aaron met with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and the 250 princes to ascertain who God wanted to lead His people. All of them offered incense before God near the entrance of the tabernacle, as this offering of incense was a type of prayer to God for His direction. As they offered the incense, God told Moses to separate himself from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Korah, his co-conspirators, and their families stood together in the door of their tents.

As they stood waiting for God to answer, suddenly, the earth below them opened up and they, their family members, and all they possessed dropped down alive into a great chasm. After they fell, the earth closed up again.

Numbers 16:32-22

“And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 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.” (KJV)

Earthquake in desert area

As for the 250 followers of these rebellious ringleaders, God, punished them, too. God destroyed them, but in a different way. “And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.” Numbers 16:35 (KJV)

Read the entire account of the events of this rebellion and the details of the story of Korah in the Book of Numbers chapter 16.

This unprecedented, dramatic, and devasting deaths of more than two hundred and fifty people who complained against God was both a solemn warning and also a source of embarrassment to the people of Israel. Some years later, when the daughters of Zelophehad requested a petition from Moses concerning the inheritance of their late father, the girls were careful to say that their deceased father was not part of the rebellion of Korah.

Numbers 27:3

“Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.” (KJV)

The story of Korah was referenced by the New Testament writer Jude when he wrote about unbelievers, ungodly men, who infiltrate assemblies of Christians with their false and prevented doctrines. Jude 1:11 “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” (KJV) The word “Core” used in this verse is the Greek translation for the Hebrew name Korah.

Sons of Korah Bible Study — Successive Generations of Korah

Not all of the relatives of Korah who rebelled against Moses and Aaron were destroyed on that fateful day in Israel; the name of Korah was not totally wiped out. The sons of Korah who did not follow in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron were still entrusted with the important job of ministering to God, especially duties that revolved around the Ark of God.

In the time of David, after he became king of Israel, he desired to build a temple for God, a permanent dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant in the city of Jerusalem, but God did not allow David to build this temple for Him. Rather, David’s son, Solomon, accomplished this great task. But David, in preparation for the future temple, instructed and organized some men from the tribe of Levi, including some of the descendants of Korah, to minister to God in the tabernacle, especially in singing praises to God.

1 Chronicles 6:31-32

“And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. 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 waited on their office according to their order.” (KJV)

Hebrew writing with violin neck

Of the Levitical tribe, after the Ark of God was settled in Jerusalem, King David appointed a number of men to be singers during public worship of God. He had three distinct worship leaders who were in charge of the service of song — Heman, Asaph, and Ethan. The singer Heman was the grandson of the prophet Samuel, according to 1 Chronicles 6:33. “And these are they that waited with their children. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman a singer, the son of Joel, the son of Shemuel.” (KJV) Despite the spelling, the genealogy shows that Shemuel is actually the prophet Samuel. This verse also shows that Samuel was in the line of Korah.

The sons of Korah were musicians, but they also helped in the worship duties associated with the tabernacle, the house of God, which housed the Ark of the Covenant of God. The sons of Korah were keepers of the entrance of the tabernacle — the worship facility and dwelling place of God that housed the Ark of God before the temple was built.

1 Chronicles 9:17-19

“And the porters were, Shallum, and Akkub, and Talmon, and Ahiman, and their brethren: Shallum was the chief; Who hitherto waited in the king’s gate eastward: they were porters in the companies of the children of Levi. And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, being over the host of the LORD, were keepers of the entry.” (KJV)

Part of the sacrifices to God were non-meat offerings that needed to be baked, as it was the duty of the priests to bake the unleavened bread daily. The Levite Mattithiah, oldest son of Shallum, of the family of Korah, had the priestly duty of overseeing all things regarding the worship of the Lord that needed to be baked.

1 Chronicles 9:31

“And Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the set office over the things that were made in the pans.” (KJV)

unleavened bread in pan

Sons of Korah Bible Study — Psalms of the Sons of Korah

In addition to their protective work, the sons of Korah were part of the choir to sing praises to God.

In the book of Psalms, there are exactly eleven psalms preserved in the Bible that were written specifically “for the sons of Korah.” Why this designation was used is unknown.

This distinction may have been written by the psalmist specifically to be sung by the choir, which may have consisted primarily, or solely, of the sons of Korah.

Of the eleven psalms that are indicated as psalms of the sons of Korah, nine also indicate that the particular psalm is also for “the chief Musician,” who could be considered the choir director.

man directing choir

Here are the dedication and the first verses of these beautiful psalms for the sons of Korah:

Psalm 42:1

“To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (KJV)

Psalm 44:1

“To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil. We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” (KJV)

Psalm 45:1

“To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves. My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” (KJV)

Psalm 46:1

“To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (KJV)

Psalm 47:1

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.” (KJV)

Psalm 48:1

“A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.”

Psalm 49:1

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world” (KJV)

Psalm 84:1

“To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!” (KJV) 

Psalm 85:1

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.” (KJV)

Psalm 87:1

“A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah. His foundation is in the holy mountains.” (KJV)

Psalm 88:1

“A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:” (KJV)

The term “maschil” associated with four of the songs of the sons of Korah means “instruction.” Whether the words or the music, or both, were used to instruct theologically or only musically, it is not known. However, these psalms for the sons of Korah are recorded in the Bible, without the music, for our personal instruction since they, too, are divinely inspired words.

Sons of Korah Bible Study — God’s Grace

The story of Korah and the children of Korah showcases God’s grace in the Old Testament. Korah himself was a rebellious man who dropped down alive into hell, along with many others who got caught up in his rebellion. But God showed grace unto his sons and gave them a special place of service, even to the point of singling out this particular group of men to have eternal dedication in God’s holy Word. God took an infamous man and made his descendants famous.

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The entire story of the sons of Korah is an Old Testament example of how God can take something awful and make it into a thing of great value and beauty. The long story of the sons of Korah, which spans generations, also shows how God can take an empty, hollow person, without purpose or hope, and if they are willing, mold them into a special and valuable servant of His. This is the moral of the story of Korah.

To read about other Biblical sons, check out Nine Honorable Sons of King Solomon in the Bible.

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