The Sons of Korah are unusual supporting actors in the pages of scripture. If one is reading the Bible without looking for them, it is easy to miss their presence, but when one knows who and what to look for, one is startled to find they appear quite frequently in scripture, particularly in the books of Chronicles, which take special effort to view the history of Israel (and particularly Judah, in the Divided Kingdom era) from the perspective of the priesthood and Levites. The fact that the Sons of Korah also appear in Ezra and Nehemiah, which also provide a closer look at the priesthood and the Levites and their actions would also seem to indicate that if one is looking for the Levites, one will probably find them. Most people never bother to look.
One of the more astounding appearances of the Sons of Korah in a supporting role (along with their fellow singers and musicians among the Levites) occurs in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14. This episode as a whole forms part of the soaring and eloquent biblical homage to Solomon’s temple. While some parts of this narrative are justly well-known, the role of the Sons of Korah in these proceedings has been largely forgotten, perhaps because their named representative is the obscure Heman  and because most people are not sufficiently interested in the Levites to inquire after their responsibilities within the tabernacle and temple service .
That said, if we are sensitive to the importance of the song service within church in praising and honoring God, the actions of the Sons of Korah in this particular story ought to provide us with an example of how our music service may honor God and how He may choose to show His praise for our worship of Him. The Sons of Korah therefore serve as an example of how the brethren are to praise God with worship in music. Since this is an aspect of worship that is accessible to all brethren, it ought to be studied carefully by all of us.
Singing At The Dedication
In 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 we read about the singing of the Sons of Korah (along with the other Levite musicians) at the dedication of Solomon’s temple and the response of God to that song: “And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without keeping to their divisions), and the Levites who were the sings, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets–indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
This is an extraordinary passage. Here we see a grand ceremony, the Sons of Korah and their fellow Levites dressed in white linen, singing and playing musical instruments (especially trumpets, cymbals, and stringed instruments), and their song and the unity of its performance please God to the extent that his visible Shekeniah glory appeared within the house of God, making the place holy and preventing the priests from continuing their service inside the temple. This was an incredible moment, one that all of its participants and witnesses would have remembered (and faithfully passed on to others) for the rest of their lives. Not many performances bring the house down, but this performance brought God into His house in such a way that his believers recognized and understood it, and celebrated it.
The Song They Sang
Let us comment some on the song that the Levites (including the Sons of Korah) sang to God that day. The lyrics “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” which are repeated in 2 Chronicles 7:3 sung by the entire congregation of Israel in response to the Levites and to the presence of God, are themselves found several other times in scripture.
Incidentally enough, they are found at least two other times where the sons of Korah are concerned. Once, in 1 Chronicles 16:37-43, they are found after David has composed a hymn (itself largely a combination of previously existing psalms) referring to Heman and his brethren among the Levites “giving thanks to the Lord, because His mercy endures forever.” The second time the Sons of Korah are mentioned is as the “children of Kohathites” (another one of their names) singing to the army of Judah as it faced the coalition of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir that were defeated by God in 2 Chronicles 20:21, singing, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” shortly before God destroyed the enemies of Judah in the sight of the people of God.
It is not coincidental, therefore, that this exact song appears three times in the books of Chronicles, all of them connected specifically, by name, to the Sons of Korah. And what psalm is this? Psalm 106, a formally anonymous song that deals specifically with the salvation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and with the mercy of God in forgiving Israel and delivering them from sin. We see here the connection between sin and slavery, a clear relationship to the Exodus, the wilderness experience, and with God’s mercy to a rebellious and stubborn people who are called to repent, but with a gentle closing praising God for His deliverance in hearing their cry, and a call to praise God and sing glory to His name for all time.
This theme is also repeated in Psalm 136, also known as the “Great Hillel,” and sung at the close of a traditional Jewish Seder at the opening of the Days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, this song carried with it multiple references to the glorious events of Passover and to the deliverance of Israel from sin and their need to trust and rely on God. And who delivered that message in song, recorded three separate times in the history of Israel in the reigns of David, Solomon, and Jehoshaphat? None other than the Sons of Korah.
Therefore, let us gain in appreciation for the faithful service of the Sons of Korah, living reminders of the mercy of God in not judging the innocent for the sins of their fathers and for his rebellion, who at least three times sang before the people of Israel and Judah about God’s mercy enduring forever, once leading to God’s presence as the cloud of glory within the temple, and another time leading to the destruction of Judah’s enemies by the hand of God. As we are also in need of salvation, of deliverance from sin and of His mercy, let us also follow the godly example of the Sons of Korah and praise God for his everlasting mercy.