You may have heard of the story of the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16:25-34, where the children of Israel watched while the earth swallowed up the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, as well as the families of Dathan and Abiram, in judgment by God for their acts of rebellion. We may remember that the sons of Korah did not rebel and were therefore not condemned to die for the sins of their father. What we may not know is what happened to the sons of Korah? It is this mystery that I wish to solve today.
A Biblical Principle
Before we examine what happened to the sons of Korah throughout the history of the Bible, we need to understand a biblical principle of judgment. Let us turn to Ezekiel 18:19-20, where we see a biblical principle for judgment that is important to remember and that applies to the situation of Korah and his children. Ezekiel 18:19-20 reads as follows: “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them; he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be on himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be on himself.”
What we see here is that people will be judged for their own works, whether they are righteous or not. No one will be condemned because of the sins of others, though they may have to deal with the consequences in this life from the bad examples set by others. Likewise, no one will enter into God’s kingdom on the coattails of anyone else. Everyone will be judged for their own works, for their own obedience, or lack thereof, and for their own relationships with God and with other people. Since the sons of Korah did not rebel against God and Moses, they were not judged, and they retained their honored position, as the Bible says in Numbers 26:11.
The Sons of Korah
Just how famous are the sons of Korah? More famous than you might realize. To give one idea of how famous the sons of Korah are, I am going to read to you the numbers of the psalms that are written by the “Sons of Korah” as a whole. Psalm 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, and 88 are all written by the Sons of Korah. The record of service of the Sons of Korah is such that if the rebellion of Korah were not so well known the family would be best known for their faithful service to God, faithful service that continued for many centuries.
In fact, in some of the more obscure passages of scripture we see just how noteworthy the sons of Korah were. In the genealogies of 1 Chronicles we have a list of the sons of Korah that includes some names that we might even recognize, and others whom we should recognize if we have studied the Bible closely. I would like to spend the rest of my time today in 1 Chronicles briefly examining what the Bible says here about the duties of the sons of Korah, and about their honored place within Israel.
Let us turn first to 1 Chronicles 6:33-38. In 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 we read the genalogy of one Heman, who David appointed over the music service once the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, and who was one of the authors of Psalms. 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 reads as follows: “And these are the ones who ministered with their sons: Of the sons of the Koathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebisaph, the son of Korah, the son of Ishar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. Aside from the fact that there are a lot of Elkanahs in this genealogy, and many other names hard to pronounce, let us notice that a few of the names ought to be familiar. Among the men chosen to sing before the very Ark of the Covenant by David, and a man inspired by God to write Psalm 88, was a man named Heman, who was of the sons of Korah. He was the son of Joel, and the grandson of the prophet and judge Samuel, about whom the Bible speaks much, and for whom two of the books of the Bible are named. We see here that Samuel, one of the more important figures of Israel, who anointed the first two kings of Israel, Samuel, and David, was himself a descendent of Korah.
What does this mean? For one, it means that God does not hold a grudge. Simply because one is descended from a rebel who was judged by God does not mean that God continues to judge others simply for the sins of an ancestor. God, rather, judges each person for their own deeds, for their own heart, for their own spirit, and not by reputation or ancestry. We ought therefore to, like the sons of Korah, recognize that the causes of our ancestors were not always just, but that we need not be tarred with the sins of our fathers if we do not share in them ourselves. Just as the sons of Korah kept away from the rebellion against God and were spared, but later served God in mighty and spectacular ways, so if we keep from the sins of our fathers we need not suffer condemnation ourselves.
Nor are Samuel and Heman the only illustrious sons of Korah who make their mark on scripture. If you will turn in your Bibles a couple of pages to 1 Chronicles 9:19 and 31-32 we will see some of the other responsibilities of the Korahites. 1 Chronicles 9:19 we read: “Shallom the son of Kore, the son of Korah, and his brethren, from his father’s house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, gatekeepers of the tabernacle. Their fathers had been keepers of the entrance to the camp of the Lord.” In verses 31 and 32 we read: “Mattihiah of the Levites, the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the trusted office over the things that were baked in the pans. And some of their brethren of the sons of the Kohathites were in charge of preparing the showbread for every Sabbath.”
Let us stop here to examine a little bit about what these verses say. These verses give some very important tasks assigned to the sons of Korah. We see them assigned as gatekeepers, determining who could enter the tabernacle. We also see them in charge of the food, the showbread and the pans, and no one can deny that being in charge of the bread is important, seeing how much we enjoy food at our fellowships. So, we have seen from 1 Chronicles alone that Korahites were deeply involved in the work of God—from prophets to singers and musicians to gatekeepers in charge of security to being in charge of the pans and the showbread. What does all this mean?
Let us conclude today by examining the service of the Sons of Korah in light of the biblical principle we began with. The sons of Korah did not have their ancestor’s sin held against them—they held an honored place in the service of God’s people in the tabernacle and the temple for many generations. Included among their number were prophets, psalmists, and other decent and upstanding servants of God. Though we may be inclined to think of rebellion when we hear of the name Sons of Korah, the Bible shows us, as we have seen today, that the Sons of Korah were judged for their own deeds of service and worship and not for the rebellious deeds of their ancestor. The same is true of us today. If we will obey God, if we will serve His people, God will not condemn us for those things done by our ancestors in the past. We will instead be judged, for better or worse, by what we have said and done ourselves. Let us remember that the sons of Korah did not perish in the earth for rebellion, but instead lived on to provide Israel with an example of service and obedience that we can all follow today.