Saturday, March 19, 2011

Earthquakes, Psalms, and The sons of Korah

I don't know about you, but I often wondered about some of the beautiful Psalms that were written by the "sons of Korah" and I wondered if this was the same Korah who rebelled against Moses.  In the Bible story in the book of Numbers, it clearly says that Korah was swallowed up by the earth.  It sounds like maybe there was a giant earthquake with a crack so wide that it opened up and swallowed them.

My dilemna was not that Korah was destroyed.  When I read the passage  where it talks about this, I assumed that Korah's family was there with him as were Dathan and Abiram's families.  This would leave no surviving relatives.  However, when I began researching this I realized that it doesn't say Korah's family chose to rebel with him.  See selected verses below from Numbers chapter 16..

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites - Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth - became insolent and rose up against Moses.  With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 

Moses said to Korah, "You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow..."  He warned the assembly, "Move back from the tents of these wicked men!  Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins."  So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.  Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents...  And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions.

So, this made me think about several things.  Number 1 - No wonder some of the Psalms that were written by the "sons of Korah" were written with such lamenting and recalling of history.  They never forgot their past, but they did not let their father's past define them. One part of the family became temple gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 9:19), and another became the singers and musicians in the temple choir (1 Chronicles 6:31-37).

Some of my favorite Psalms were written by the descendants of Korah.  Check out Psams 42 through 49.   Psalm 46 is one of those.  It portrays some of the worst calamities imaginable that can come upon the earth - were they remembering the possible earthquake that swallowed up Korah?  But then they come back with strong assurance that we can trust our immovable Rock and Refuge, the God of Israel.

And secondly, I can't help but think how brave Korah's wife and children were to take a stand against Korah's rebellion.  It saved their lives, but what a price they paid!  They lost the head of their household.  The very mention of his name probably brought embarrassment and shame to them. 

The descendants of Korah are an example to me.  I don't want to let happenings of the past define who I am according to who God declares me to be.  And I want to be strong enough to stand up for what is right no matter how hard it is. 

1 comment:

MTJ said...

Hi Esther Joy,

Like you, I was curious about the notation of the sons of Korah, and I had to know. Exodus 6:24, mentions their names as "Assir and Elkanah and Abiasaph". In describing the judgement of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 26:11 says, "The sons of Korah, however, did not die."

1 Chronicles 6:31-43, lists "...those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark rested there." Included in this list is the genealogy of Herman, whose ancestor, Ebiasaph (i.e., Abiasaph) is the son of Korah (v. 37).

I found researching this topic quite interesting because I learned that even though Korah (who was a first cousin to Moses and Aaron) challenged the leadership of Moses and ultimately became a historical footnote on rebellion, his sons took a different approach to their service to God.

They never became as famous as Moses, and although most people view the Book of Psalm as being authored by David, the sons of Korah were blessed by God to participate in writing devotions of praise. I am not certain, but I think the reference to the sons of Korah is speaking of his descendants and not his biological sons (Assir and Elkanah and Abiasaph).

I like what you say about not letting the "happenings of the past define who I am according to who God declares me to be."

Blessings and peace.