Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph were not famous or illustrious people in the Bible. But their role is very important, nonetheless. They were the original sons of Korah, whose refusal to join in the rebellion of their father set them apart as righteous and godly individuals content with where God had placed him, and the fathers of many generations of faithful servants whose often-forgotten deeds fill the pages of scripture in ways that are often known (even by casual readers of the Bible) but often unrecognized and obscure nonetheless because the whole context of their family service is largely obscure and neglected.
Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph are nearly entirely unknown by readers of the Bible. Assir and Abiasaph are completely neglected, and the Elkanah of whom I speak is unknown, though his more famous relative (who himself was a descendant of Abisaph, whose name is spelled Ebiasaph in 1 Chronicles 6:37) is remembered largely as the bigamous father of Samuel, one of the Bible’s most famous judges and prophets. What then makes them important figures in biblical history, even as obscure ones? They are important not so much for what they did, as for what they refused to do—join in the rebellion of their much more notorious father, Korah.
These Are The Families Of The Korahites
One reason that Assir, Elkanah, and Abisaph are largely unknown, even by serious readers of the Bible, is because they are only named in the most ignored passages of the Bible, those lengthy lists of genealogies that are only of interest to people who enjoy genealogy. The passage where they are first named in scripture ought to clue in the reader of the Bible as to the importance of the Sons of Korah (or Korahites, as they are here called), but sadly this passage is often completely overlooked. Exodus 6:24 reads as follows: “And the sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abisaph. These are the families of the Korahites.”
This is a very modest introduction. Nonetheless, it is important. For one, this passage occurs in the midst of the family lineage of the Levites, introducing the names of Moses and Aaron and their relatives (Korah was a cousin of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam). For another, the fact that Korah is infamous in the Bible for rebellion (see Numbers 27:3, Jude :11) but that he is listed as having a family ought to be very significant. The principle that people are to die for their own sins and not the sins of their fathers is not a new one in Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 18:20), but is at least implicit in the survival of Korah’s family. The sons who refused to rebel but kept their place did not suffer for the sins of their father. But neither was Korah delivered by the righteousness of his sons—each generation was judged by their own obedience or disobedience by God.
Nevertheless The Children Of Korah Did Not Die
Although the names of Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph, the three children of Korah, are never again mentioned in the history of Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness, their actions are important, and the brothers remain important historical figures from scripture. Let us look both at what is important about what Assir, Elkanah, and Abisaph did in the wilderness, and what they did not do.
First, let us look at what the Bible records of their actions. Numbers 10:21 tells us that: “Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. (The tabernacle would be set up for their arrival).” Ahead of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin (among whom they would live), the Kohathites (including the Sons of Korah) were responsible for carrying the holy articles of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Though they were not priests, they had a highly important and well-respected job, which gave them the right to touch and to carry the items of God and to place these in the tabernacle whenever the the march of the children of Israel ceased.
By far the most famous deed of the sons of Korah was the deed the avoided committing. They did not die in the rebellion of Korah, because they did not join it, as the Bible explicitly mentions in Numbers 26:9-11: “The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These were the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contented against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die.”
Why didn’t the children of Korah die? They did not die because they were not rebels. God does not assess guilt by association. We will neither be condemned by the sins of our fathers nor will we be saved by their righteousness. We each must walk God’s way for ourselves. And if we reject the rebellion of our fathers, and choose the bond of the Spirit to be more important than the bond of blood, then we too can rise above evil family influences to become godly individuals. The Sons of Korah showed that kind of faith, and for that faith, and their refusal to join their father in rebellion against God, they deserve our appreciation and respect. It is hard to avoid following in the sins of our fathers and to obey our Heavenly Father instead, but that’s exactly what the Sons of Korah did.
Even though the three sons of Korah, Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph, are nowhere near as well-known as their father, they were obedient to God’s will unlike their father, and so they were not swallowed up by the earth in judgment for Korah’s rebellion. Their descendants, including such illustrious heroes of faith as Shallum the gatekeeper, Samuel the judge and prophet, and Heman the king’s counselor and melancholy musician, along with many other unnamed but famous Sons of Korah, fill the pages of scripture with faithful and godly deeds, all of which were possible because of what they did not do—rebel against God and His will. Let that serve as an example for us today.