Who were the Sons of Korah in the Bible?

By Melissa McLaughlin

A Family Line

“You sound just like your mom!” Ever heard those words? As the years pass, we often see more of our parents’ habits and traits reflected in our own lives. From our favorite recipes, to our favorite hymns to our ways of mowing the lawn. How easy it is to follow in our parents’ footsteps.

Unfortunately, we sometimes pick up on the less than desirable qualities, as well. Squeezing the toothpaste tube at the wrong end, chronic lateness or dislike of broccoli.

Although passing down family characteristics may seem insignificant, this experience often leaves a deeper imprint than is seen at first glance.

If you have been blessed with Godly, Christlike parents, then this is a great gift. But what about those who have not been given this precious blessing? What about those whose parents struggle with drugs or alcohol, parents who are in jail for theft or murder, parents who abused or abandoned them. What about them?

Enter the grace of God.

Enter the sons of Korah.

Who were the sons of Korah?

The events surrounding the sons of Korah, found in Numbers 16 (and Numbers 26:9-11), offer a strong warning and ray of hope. This story involves terrible sin, resulting in fearful consequences. All of which is followed by God’s grace.

How the grace of God speaks so loudly.

How the grace of God echoes on and on.

To anchor our understanding of this Old Testament account, we must remember that God sees all and knows all. Therefore, His judgments are just and true. 1 Samuel 16:7b – People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Rebellion Against God

As the story begins, Korah and several other Levites, banded together with 250 other men from among God’s people, the Israelites. Korah and his rebellious comrades rose up against Moses and Aaron, claiming they were all capable of leading as priests. However, they primarily rose up against God who had appointed and established Moses as the leader and Aaron as the high priest of the Israelites.

The Lord had already set apart Korah and the other Levites, from among the 12 tribes of Israel. God separated the Levites and brought them near himself to “do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them.”

And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” Numbers 16:8-11

Is it too small a thing for you?

The Levites, descendants of Levi, were assigned holy duties attending to the Tabernacle and all its elements, according to their ancestral lineage. Levi’s three sons were Gershon, Merari, and Kohath. Each of their descendants carried on tasks in the Tabernacle according to their direct family line. Only the descendants of Aaron, however, were appointed to serve as priests.

The Kohathites were responsible for and carried the most sacred objects of the Tabernacle as the community moved from place to place. These objects included the ark, the table, the lamp stand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use. Since the other Levites cared for objects like the frames, curtains and posts, these less sacred items were moved via carts. However, the Kohathites carried the holy objects, with no carts and no touching. These objects were carefully wrapped before being gripped in their hands and hauled over the miles. (Numbers 4:15) Korah was a grandson of Kohath and as his descendant, was among those wielding this heavy responsibility for the community.

Is it too small a thing for you?

However, in this story, Korah’s main demand was that he and the others should be granted the leadership and high priestly duties afforded to Moses and Aaron.

The arrogance of this thought is truly staggering. After Moses and Aaron led the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, met with God on Mt. Sinai and then experienced His Presence throughout the wilderness, it had to be evident that the LORD had appointed them to these high positions. For a mere man, after all this, to lift his meager voice against the LORD’s anointed ones, revealed a self-centered pride that defies logic. Who in their right mind would suggest such a thing?

God’s judgment against this overt pride was swift and terrifying.

The Most High God caused the ground beneath Korah and the leaders of the rebellion, to open up, swallow them, then close up once again. Fire then came out from the LORD and consumed the remaining 250 men engaged in this defiance toward God. (Numbers 16:28-33)

Interestingly, just a few chapters later, during a God-ordained census, we read that the sons of Korah were spared from God’s judgment and punishment during this event. (Numbers 26:9-11) God’s mercy prevailed for them.

The Sons of Korah are Saved

Scripture does not explicitly state why the sons of Korah were saved. Bible scholars infer that either they were too young to join the rebellion against God or they did not side with their father in his opposition. Personally, I wonder if these remaining sons were already grown, not part of the household and had made a decision to stand with the LORD and not with their earthly father, because the scripture stated (Numbers 16:32) that Korah and his household were swallowed up in the earth.

Perhaps the most telling point about these saved sons of Korah is the way the LORD graciously used them in His service in years to come. The prophet Samuel was a descendant of Korah (1 Chronicles 6:31-38). The Korahites were assigned the task of custodian and doorkeeper for the Tabernacle (1 Chronicles 9:19-21). Among King David’s military men were a group of Korahites commended for their expertise. (1 Chronicles 12:1-6)

The Sons of Korah in the Psalms

Yet most moving to me is that the sons of Korah were included among the writers of the Psalms.

The sons of Korah are credited with writing eleven different Psalms: Psalms 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 88. These Psalms include verses that express highest praise and devotion to the Lord. While other verses provide images of deep humility and recognition of our frail humanity before a Holy God. Glimpses of their forefathers’ dreadful past seep into some of these verses, as well. Take a look at these excerpts:

Psalm 42:1 – “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”

Psalm 46:1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

Psalm 47:1 – “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”

Psalm 48:1a – “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised”

Psalm 49:20 – “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”

Psalm 84:1, 10 – “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

Psalm 87:3 – “Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God.”

Psalm 88 – The humble cry expressed throughout this Psalm rings clearly with an aching understanding of their ancestors’ sins. Some believe this Psalm was the clearest example of the internal agony Christ endured on the cross. Knowing more about the sons of Korah, when I read this Psalm again, I hear the lament of their life story in these soulful cries.

What can we learn from the sons of Korah?

There are four important lessons to learn from the sons of Korah in the Bible:

1. Devotion to God, despite family failures – These men were devoted to the Lord, despite what they witnessed in their family lineage. We do not have to walk in the sins of our past or our forefathers. May we have the courage to stand with God, no matter what our family may choose. God is merciful to those who seek Him.

2. Obedience in the “small” tasks given by God – When this story began in Numbers 16:9, Moses said, “Is it too small a thing for you?” May we never consider ourselves too great to do the small things God has asked. For it is a privilege and honor to be included in His kingdom and in His kingdom work, no matter the visibility or accolades.

3. Humility – Though listed in passing in other scriptures, the individual names of the sons of Korah were not listed in the Psalms. They carried the shameful name of their forefathers and lived out their humble reverence and remembrance before God and others. One can only wonder if they kept this name at the forefront in order to keep themselves right before our Holy God.

4. Awe of God – The sons of Korah demonstrated an awe of God’s holiness and power, as expressed in their service to the Lord in the Temple and their poetic images lingering on as a legacy in the Psalms.

As it turns out, these insignificant, often unnoticed sons of Korah, with a less than noble ancestry, left for us profound and Godly lessons to learn. Lessons that echo on through the pages of the Bible and into our lives today. God extended mercy to these sons of Korah and their hearts were true to Him.

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

1 Peter 3:12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

Additional Resources:

What is the Tabernacle? 8 Ways Jesus is our Tabernacle By Melissa McLaughlin

Is the Fear of the Lord a Good Thing? By Melissa McLaughlin

The Sons of Korah By Messianic Light

Who were the Sons of Korah in the Old Testament By Got Questions

34 thoughts on “Who were the Sons of Korah in the Bible?”

  1. Another great blog with so much detail. Once again, I have learned something new from you. I know I read this story before but I really don’t remember it. It is hard to believe that arrogance would allow them to rise up against Moses and God. Great work. Thanks

    • Thank you for reading and sharing, Yvonne! I remembered this story, but never put all the pieces together until this most recent time I was reading through this portion of the Bible. The more I read God’s Word, the more I see His holiness and HIs grace.

    • Thank you, Valerie. Glory to God! For me, I found that I read these Psalms differently, knowing how they carried the lessons of their family’s past. These were powerful connections for me. God bless you!

  2. Melissa, thank you for your thoughtful contemplation on Korah’s sons. You made connections to them I had not picked out yet. Samuel the Prophet. (where 1 Chron 6:37 does give us one of Korah’s sons name “Ebiasaph, son of Korah,” which I connected to in your article), and the mighty men of David, some of which were descendants of Korah.

    One of the things I noted in Numbers 16, was the fact that in verse 25, Moses and Aaron, along with the crowd that had gathered at the entrance of the tabernacle, went to Dathan and Abiram’s tents. Num. 2:10 tells us that the tents of the Reubenites were located in the encircling camp/tents of Israel, while Korah’s tent would most likely have been with Kohath’s tents on the immediate southside of the tabernacle Num. 3:29, see also Num. 1:52, 53. Somehow in my mind, I have the idea that there was quite a space…like as much as perhaps half a mile between the tabernacle and it’s surrounding tents of the Levites, and the encampment of the rest of the tribes of Israel. See Num. Ch 2 in regards to the layout. Quite organized!

    So with that setting in mind, Moses and Aaron’s movement from the doors of the tabernacle, along with Korah (their cousin), and the 250 princes with their censors, to the tents of Dathan and Abiram – was no small secret, nor was it too close to Korah’s tent. But the wording in verses 24, and 27, of Num. 16 suggests that their tabernacles/tents were together…that is puzzling to me? Verse 27 says that Dathan and Abiram’s families – wives, sons, and their sons’ children, as being there with them…but I see no mention of Korah’s family. My ponderings have thought perhaps that Korah’s wife did not side with her husband’s rebellion and that that may have been the reason for the sparing of his children. Pure speculation…we are not told. I am in agreement with you that perhaps his children were grown, seeing the mention of Dathan and Abiram’s sons with their little ones.

    I have thought what wisdom there was in God’s appointing the sons of Korah to be gatekeepers. These children witnessed the growth and fruition of rebellion, and it’s consequences firsthand. The fact that so many of them supported David at the time of Saul’s reign…speaks volumes.

    Thank you!!!

    • Thank you, Karen, for adding such wonderful scriptural detail to this account! Wow, I appreciate your deep and thoughtful input!
      Yes, I should clarify a bit, some of their individual names are mentioned in certain passages, yet in the Psalms, they simply go by “sons of Korah”.
      I appreciate your help in visualizing the layout of the encampment. It must have been something to see and experience. One thing is clear, Despite the large numbers, God knew exactly who was pridefully opposing His rule and only those people we brought into judgment. He spared all who did not take part, down to the sons of Korah.
      For me, this really highlights how God looks upon the heart. Truly looks upon the heart. I pray for the humility they displayed.
      Yes, it is fitting that the sons of Korah were appointed gatekeepers. They knew the seriousness of what we let into our hearts, lives and worship before the LORD.
      And supporting David at the risk of their own lives. They knew what mattered… to stand with the LORD and His anointed ones.
      Oh God, give us a heart like the sons of Korah, to remain true to You!
      God bless you, sister! Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Such an inspiring post! Those particular psalms are some of my favorites. Thank you for sharing so much information with us. You are a gifted teacher! I believe that the little things God asks us to do adds up to a great deal. Always, He sees the big picture. But just like a large puzzle, all the pieces are needed. We scramble to look for even one tiny lost piece…otherwise, the puzzle is incomplete. So it is with the plans of God…everything fits together beautifully; we do not have to see the whole thing, but we must each do our part.

    • What a beautiful analogy, Linda! Thank you for sharing your insights. I agree, learning more about the sons of Korah and their family history, gave me a deeper appreciation for their words and images in the Psalms they have written. May we treasure the small pieces God has assigned us in His beautiful kingdom work. Yes, one Day soon, we will see it all together. How beautiful it will be!

    • Thank you, Melissa, for reading and commenting. It is such a blessing when one scripture explains or enriches another scripture. The more I learned about the sons of Korah, the more beautiful their writing in the Psalms became. I pray it enriches the reading for you and others, too!

  4. Melissa, another WOW-message from your heart and no doubt, God’s heart. Love each lesson we learn from this story and the sons of Korah. While I can’t choose one as more significant over the others, the first one, “Devotion to God, despite family failures” resonates most with me, since it’s my story. My sisters and I stay devoted to the Lord and are intentional for grave generational missteps and curses to stop at us!

    • Thank you, Karen. Glory to God! He is our Wow! But I do appreciate your kind words. I was wondering about the sons of Korah as I was reading through the Bible and after looking it up, was able to see how this remarkable background story was tied to their writing in the Psalms. I was taken by their wholehearted devotion to the Lord, despite their family’s defiance toward God. Karen, I have been deeply touched by the story of how you and your sister gave your lives to Christ, though you did not see this faith in your earthly father. And then to think, how you prayed for him until he became a Christian! So powerful. I believe your hearts are precious to the Lord, just as the Sons of Korah. We have much to learn from people, like you, who will follow Jesus, even if they walk alone. You are an inspiration, sister. God bless you and your family!

  5. My favorite part was:
    Enter the grace of God.

    Enter the sons of Korah.

    It is amazing the depth of the scriptures and how lives weave in and out of the tapestry of the bible’s pages. I sense God’s loving compassion on these descendants of Korah. And on us, descendants of Adam.

    • So beautifully stated, Tom. Thank you for sharing your feedback and insights! I found these often overlooked Biblical characters to be so inspiring. And most of all, God’s deep love and mercy is the golden thread.

    • Hello Chimaobi Okpala! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I receive your kind blessing and pray for God’s grace in every word I attempt to write. May it honor Jesus, The Word. I learned a lot, too, in studying to find the links between the rebellion of Korah and his later descendants, the Sons of Korah. God bless you!

  6. Your post is, once again, excellently written and researched. It actually convicted me because I have been thinking what I am doing in God’s kingdom is “too small.” I will repent of that attitude, and am grateful to God that He used this post to show me my heart. (Ugh. It ain’t always pretty in there!) Thanks, my friend.

    • Thank you, Lisa! I understand. I feel that way, too, sometimes. I think we all do. The greatest work to be done in Christ’s kingdom is mostly what we consider “the small things”. But God sees all and every small thing done for His glory is precious in His sight. May the words of the Sons of Korah, preserved for us in the Psalms, inspire us anew! Bless you, dear friend!

  7. Thank you for this inspiring post, Melissa. The arrogance and pride of the sins of Korah and the outcome that resulted are important truths for us should we feel that our assignment from the Lord is small and that we are worthy of far more than what the Lord has given us to do and to be. Additionally, the fact that the next generation did not have to bear the sins of their prideful fathers is also a blessing. God is good to provide for us the intricate details of this event that occurred thousands of years ago.

    • All glory to God! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Melinda. I always appreciate your deep insights. You are right, arrogance and pride so easily creep into our minds and hearts, even in the work we do for the Lord. May we ever guard against feeling that our assignment from God is “beneath us”. And yes, what an incredible mercy that God will set us free from the sins of our past and our parents’ past. I was so moved by the story of these descendants of Korah. The fullness of God’s character, seen here in His truth, holiness, grace and mercy, leaves me in awe.

      • Very good information. Is there a class available? I just stumbled onto this lesson would love to be part of on going teachings.

      • Kandee, thank you for asking. I am not offering any classes at this time, but am considering doing an online Bible study at some point in the future.
        My best suggestion for free online classes is BiblicalTraining. https://www.biblicaltraining.org/
        I have participated in many of their classes and earned a certificate in Foundations of Biblical Studies there.
        I also invite you to check out other articles posted in my Blog. Thank you for the words of encouragement. It means so much to me. I pray daily for God to put my writing into the hands of those He wants. I thank God for leading you to stumble here. May God bless you as you seek to know Him in His Word!

  8. Good day.

    I trust you are well in the Lord Jesus.

    Thank you for the summery. Very few people mention that Samuel was from Korah’s line. It is interesting to note that Elkanah was not doing temple service. Although Korah’s sons were spared for separating them from their father’s rebellion, they were not allowed to do temple service from then on. Hannah’s cry to the Lord restored Elkanah’s line to service in the temple.
    Also notable is that the Psalms before Ps 45:10 are all a cry, a seeking and yearning for God. The mood of the Psalms after that change notably to praise, thanksgiving and worship.
    In 2 Chron 29 we find the same family line, and they changed their name from “sons of Korah” to “sons of Heman”, who was a son of Samuel.

    Thanks again. God bless you richly. Shalom

    Nickie Roodt

  9. thank you Melissa for this I just was curious today as i read through the Psalms 84 and 85 to try to find out more about these sons of korah. I have personally learnt so much from your writing this morning and i am grateful that i came across this today. The Lord bless you and keep you.

    • Dear Rachel, thank you for the kind words of encouragement. All glory to God! I was also blessed to learn more about the sons of Korah. Such humble, faithful, true men of God. I thank God He led you to this article. The Lord bless you and keep you, too!

  10. Melissa.. this morning my Bible reading was Numbers 14-16..which of course included the rebellion of Korah, Dathan & Abiram and their followers. My Psalm for the day was Psalm 44 – attributed to the descendants (sons) of Korah. Immediately I was confused as to how this could be and I errands across your blog!

    Thank you so much for helping me to clarify this by reading further into Numbers and reading that these “sons of Korah” were spared. It IS interesting to reflect on why this may have been. Your words not only brought Koran’s story full-circle, but they made such beautiful application for me to consider in my own faith journey. Truly inspired!


    • Dear Joan, thank you for taking the time to write to me and let me know how the LORD worked through your personal Bible reading time to connect you with my writing here on the Sons of Korah. Their faith and devotion to the LORD, despite the rebellion of their family, is truly inspiring. It always captures my heart when I see the Psalms that are attributed to the Sons of Korah. What pure, humble hearts of faith they displayed. I pray to have a heart for God, like theirs.
      God bless you and continue to fan the flame of your faith as you study God’s Word.
      Melissa McLaughlin

  11. Wow! Such profound insights on the sons of Korah and such lessons! Thank you for this. I now have a great example of legacy for indeed God is Faithful, when you have made a deliberate decision to follow Him, your legacy can be different. More so, I found myself reflecting on instances that I have felt like that the Kingdom tasks were too ‘small’ and this is a sobering reminder of being faithful in the little or small as it is a privilege to serve and be part of God’s work and kingdom. Thank you and God bless.

    • Dear Beatrice, thank you for taking the time to read this post and share your feedback. Your thoughtful reflection and kind words are an encouragement to me. Like you, I was blown away at the profound truths to be learned from the Sons of Korah. God allows us to set a new legacy when we follow Him. And yes, God’s eye is on the heart, how are we offering our service to Him. Even if it appears small to us or to others, we are working for the King of the universe! What a privilege, no matter how small. God bless you and keep you ever near His heart!

  12. Thank you for writing this. Reading those psalms after reading your piece made them even so much more special. The part of how important it is to never devalue the positions of where God has placed us to serve Him is such a good lesson. It’s amazing to me that even after witnessing such horror, the sons of Korah were still able to write about the Lord such beautiful, honest and raw worship.
    Thanks again for sharing this.
    ~ Izhar

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Izhar! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I was so moved when I studied these humble, devoted Sons of Korah in the Bible. When I read the Psalms written by them, like you, I see their beautiful, honest and raw worship of the Lord.
      May we have hearts of faith like the Sons of Korah. God bless you!


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