International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ko'-ra, (qorach, "baldness," possibly; Kore):
(1) One of the 3 sons of Oholibamah, Esau's Hivite wife. The account says that the 3 were born in Canaan before Esau withdrew to the Seir mountain country. They are mentioned 3 times in the brief account from 3 points of view (Genesis 36:5, 14, 18 1 Chronicles 1:35), the 3rd mention being in the list of "chiefs."
(2) One of the sons of Eliphaz, the son of Adah, Esau's Hittite wife (Genesis 36:16). He is mentioned as one of the Edomite "chiefs."
If one has the habit, finding a statement anywhere, of thinking that the statement ought to be changed into something else, he will be interested in the attempts to identify these Edomite Korahs with Korah (3).
(3) A son of Hebron (1 Chronicles 2:43), the son of Mareshah, mentioned in the Caleb group of families in Judah.
(4) The son of Izhar the son of Kohath the son of Levi (Exodus 6:16 Numbers 16:1 1 Chronicles 6:18, 31-38), a younger contemporary of Moses. There may have been generations, omitted in the record, between Izhar and Korah; that is a natural way of accounting for Amminadab (1 Chronicles 6:22-30).
1. The Catastrophe in the Wilderness:
This Korah is best known as the man whom the opening earth is said to have swallowed up along with his associates when they were challenging the authority of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Numbers 16; Numbers 17). Korah is presented as the principal in the affair. The company is spoken of as his company, and those who were swallowed up as being "all the men that appertained unto Korah." (Numbers 16:11, 32). It is under his name that the affair is referred to (Numbers 26:9; Numbers 27:3). But Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben are not much less prominent than Korah. In Numbers 16 and 26 they are mentioned with Korah, and are mentioned without him in Deuteronomy 11:6 and Psalm 106:17. Another Reubenite, On, the son of Peleth, was in the conspiracy. It has been inferred that he withdrew, but there is no reason either for or against the inference. Equally baseless is the inference that Zelophehad of Manassel joined it, but withdrew (Numbers 27:3). The account implies that there were other Levites in it besides Korah (Numbers 16:7-10), and it particularly mentions 250 "men of renown," princes, such men as would be summoned if there were a public assembly (Numbers 16:2, 17, 35). These men, apparently, were of different tribes.
The position taken by the malcontents was that "all the congregation are holy, every one of them," and that it was therefore a usurpation for Moses and Aaron to confine the functions of an incense-burning priest to Aaron alone. Logically, their objection lay equally against the separation of Aaron and his sons from the rest of the Levites, and against the separation of the Levites from the rest of the people. On the basis of this, Moses made expostulation with the Levites. He arranged that Korah and the 250, along with Aaron, should take their places at the doorway of the tent of meeting, with their censers and fire and incense, so that Yahweh might indicate His will in the matter. Dathan and Abiram insolently refused his proposals.
The record says that Korah's "whole congregation," including himself and the 250 with their censers, met Moses and Aaron and "all the congregation" of Israel at the doorway of the tent of meeting. For the purposes of the transaction in hand the tent was now "the mishkan of Korah, Dathan and Abiram," and their followers. Yahweh directed Moses to warn all other persons to leave the vicinity. Dathan and Abiram, however, were not at the mishkan. The account says that Moses, followed by the eiders of Israel, went to them to their tents; that he warned all persons to leave that vicinity also; that Dathan and Abiram and the households stood near the tents; that the earth opened and swallowed them and their property and all the adherents of Korah who were on the spot; that fire from Yahweh devoured the 250 who offered incense. The narrative does not say whether the deaths by fire and by the opening of the earth were simultaneous. It does not say whether Korah's sons participated in the rebellion, or what became of Korah himself. In the allusion in Numbers 26 we are told, apparently, that Korah was swallowed up, and that "the sons of Korah died not." The deaths of the principal offenders, by fire and by being swallowed up, were followed by plague in which 14,700 perished (Numbers 16:49 (Hebrew 17:14)).
2. Critical Treatments of This Story:
Any appreciative reader sees at once that we have here either a history of certain miraculous facts, or a wonder-story devised for teaching religious lessons. As a story it is artistically admirable-sufficiently complicated to be interesting, but clear and graphic and to the point. In the Hebrew there are 2 or 3 instances of incomplete grammatical construction, such as abound in the early literary products of any language, when these have been fortunate enough to escape editorial polishing. In such a case it is possibly not unwise just to take a story as it stands. Nothing will be added to either its religious or its literary value by subjecting it to doubtful alleged critical processes.
If, however, one has committed himself to certain critical traditions concerning the Hexateuch, that brings him under obligation to lead this story into conformity with the rest of his theory. Attempts of this kind have been numerous. Some hold that the Korah of this narrative is the Edomite Korah, and that Peleth means Philistine, and that our story originally grew out of some claim made by Edomites and Philistines. It is held that the story of Korah was originally one story, and that of Dathan and Abiram another, and that someone manipulated the two and put them together. See the treatments of the Book of Numbers in Driver, Introduction; Addis, Documents of the Hexateuch; Carpenter and Battersby, Hexateuch; Bacon, Exodus; Paterson on Numbers, in the Polychrome Bible. These and other like works give source-analyses of our story. Some of the points they make are plausible. In such a case no one claims any adequate basis of fact for his work; each theory is simply a congeries of ingenious guesses, and no two of the guessers guess alike.
As in many other Biblical instances, one of the results of the alleged critical study is the resolving of a particularly fine story into two or more supposed earlier stories each of which is absolutely bald and crude and uninteresting, the earlier stories and the combining of these into their present form being alike regarded as processes of legendary accretion. The necessary inference is that the fine story we now have was not the product of some gifted mind, guided by facts and by literary and religious inspiration, but is an accidental result of mere patchwork. Such a theory does not commend itself to persons of literary appreciation.
Willis J. Beecher
KORAHITES; SONS OF KORAH
ko'-ra-its (qorchi), (beno qorach; in the King James Version appears also as Korhite, Kohathite, Kore): This phrase is used to denote Assir and Elkanah and Abiasaph, Korah's 3 individual sons (Exodus 6:24; compare Numbers 26:11). But its more frequent use, and that to which interest attaches, is in the titles of some of the Psalms.
The genealogical details concerning Korahites are rather full. In 3 places we find the list of the 7 successive generations closing with the prophet Samuel and his son Joel (1 Chronicles 6:31-38, 22-30 1 Samuel 1:1, 20; 1 Samuel 8:2); the two in Ch mention most of the generations between Korahites and Joel. The fragmentary lists in 1 Chronicles 9:25; 1 Chronicles 26 connect the list with the 4 generations following Joel (1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 9:19-31; 26:1), and with 2 generations in the very latest Bible times (1 Chronicles 9:31).
The adjective "Korhite" appears also in the King James Version as "Korathite," Kore," and "Korahite," the last being the form preferred in the English Revised Version. It is used 4 times in the singular. Once it designates an individual (1 Chronicles 9:31); 3 times it denotes the successors of Korahites taken collectively (Exodus 6:24 Numbers 26:58 1 Chronicles 26:19); 4 times it is used in the plural, denoting the members of this succession of men (1 Chronicles 9:19; 1 Chronicles 12:6; 1 Chronicles 26:1 2 Chronicles 20:19). As variants of this use, "the sons of the Korahites" appears once, and "the children of the Korahites" once (1 Chronicles 26:19 2 Chronicles 20:19).
In these various passages the Korahites families are counted like the other Levitical families. In 1 Chronicles 12:6 we have an account of 5 men who are designated as "the Korahites," who joined David when he was at Ziklag-Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, Jashobeam. They are described as expert warriors, especially with the bow and sling, and as being "of Saul's brethren of Benjamin." Some of them may plausibly be identified with men of the same name mentioned elsewhere. These Korahites may have been cousins of the Samuel family, and they may have resided not very far apart.
The record speaks with some emphasis of a line of Korahites doorkeepers.
In the latest Old Testament times one Mattithiah, "the first-born of Shallum the Korahite," held "the office of trust over the things that were baked in pans" (1 Chronicles 9:31). Shallum was "the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah." In this expression 15 or more generations are omitted between Ebiasaph and Kore, and perhaps as many between Kore and Shallum. The record proceeds to supply some of the omitted names between Kore and Shallum. The representative of the line in David's time was "Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah" (1 Chronicles 9:21). In all periods the Korahites were "keepers of the thresholds of the tent." Back in the time of "Phinehas the son of Eleazar," "their fathers had been over the camp of Yahweh" (1 Chronicles 9:19, 20). Zechariah was, in his time, "porter of the door of the tent of meeting" (1 Chronicles 9:21), and Shallum was still the chief of the porters (1 Chronicles 9:17). The record for David's time supports and supplements this. It says that the doorkeepers, according to the arrangements made by David, included a Korahites contingent, its leading men being Meshelemiah and his son Zechariah (1 Chronicles 26:1, 2, 9, 14), and that Meshelemiah was "the son of Kore, of the sons of Asaph." Adopting the common conjecture that Asaph is here a variant for Ebiasaph, we have here the same abridgment of the genealogical list as in 1 Chronicles 9.
More interesting, however, than the fighting Korahites who claimed succession from Moses to Nehemiah, are the."sons of Korah" who were somehow connected with the service of song. One of the genealogies is introduced by the statement: "These are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of Yahweh, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of Yahweh in Jerus" (1 Chronicles 6:31, 32). Then the writer proceeds to mention first "Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel," and so on, carrying the genealogy back to Korah and Levi. After thus mentioning Heman, he speaks of "his brother Asaph, who stood on his right hand," and traces Asaph's descent back to Gershom the son of Levi; and then says, "and on the left hand their brethren the sons of Merari." Of these the principal leader is Ethan (otherwise called Jeduthun), and his descent is here traced back to Levi.
In this way we are introduced to David's 3 great leaders in choral and orchestral music. Among them Heman the Korahite has at first the place of primacy, though Asaph, later, comes to the front. The events just referred to are mentioned again, more in detail, in the account of David's bringing the ark to Jerusalem. There it is said that at the suggestion of David "the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel," and also Asaph and Ethan, "and with them" several others, "their brethren of the second degree" (1 Chronicles 15:17, 18). The record proceeds to speak of the services of "the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan," and their associates, in the pageantry of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. After that, it says, Asaph had charge of the services of thanksgiving and praise before the ark in Jerusalem, while Heman and Jeduthun served in the high place at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:4; 1 Chronicles 37, 39-42). Later, the record says (1 Chronicles 25), David made an elaborate organization, under Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, for prophesying with song and instrumental music.
As the records of David's time, according to the Chronicler, thus attribute to him great achievements in sacred music and song, so the records of subsequent times reiterate the same thing. David's interest in sacred music is mentioned in connection with Solomon's temple, in connection with the times of Joash and Hezekiah and Josiah, in connection with the institutions and exploits of the times after the exile (e.g. 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 29:25;; 35:15:00; Ezra 3:10 Nehemiah 12:24, 36, 45, 46). Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun led the magnificent choir and orchestra at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 5:12). One of the sons of Asaph prophesied, and the sons of the Korahites sang at the crisis in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:14, 19). The sons of Asaph and the sons of Heman and the sons of Jeduthun were present, and there was instrumental music and loud singing, according to the appointment of David and his associates, at the time of Hezekiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 29:13). Singing, and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun and David have an important place in the record concerning Josiah. And the records of the post-exilian times make the singers and the "sons of Asaph" and the arrangements of David as conspicuous as the law of Moses itself.
Add to this that the names Asaph or Heman or Ethan or Jeduthun, or the designation "the sons of Korah" are attached to 25 or more of the Psalms (e.g. Psalms 42-49; 50; 62; 72-85), and we have a body of testimony that is at least abundant and intelligible. It is to the effect that there was elaborate organization, on a large scale, in connection with the musical services of the temple at Jerusalem; that this began in the time of David, as a part of the preparation for building the temple, under the influence of the family traditions of the prophet Samuel; and that the movement continued in the generations following David, either surviving the exile, or being revived after the exile. In connection with this movement, the phrases "sons of Korah," "sons of Asaph," "sons of Heman," "sons of Jeduthun" denote, in some cases, merely lineal escent; but in other cases they denote each an aggregate of persons interested in sacred song and music-a guild or society or succession or group-arising out of the movement which originated in David's time. See, for example, "sons of Asaph" (1 Chronicles 25:1, 2 2 Chronicles 20:14; compare 2 Chronicles 20:19; 2 Chronicles 29:13; 2 Chronicles 35:15 Ezra 2:41; Ezra 3:10 Nehemiah 7:44; Nehemiah 11:22) and "sons of Korah" in the titles of Psalms 42-49 and 84; 85; 87-89. Traces of these aggregates appear in the times of Solomon, of Jehoshaphat, of Joash, of Hezekiah, of Josiah, of Zerubbabel, of Ezra and Nehemiah.
If a person holds that the mention of an event in Chronicles is to be regarded as proof that the event never occurred, that person will of course deny that the testimony thus cited is true to fact. He is likely to hold that the guilds of singers arose in the exile, and that, some generations after Nehemiah, they fabricated for themselves the ecclesiastical and physical pedigrees now found in the Books of Chronicles. If, however, we accord fair play to the Chronicler as a witness, we shall be slow to discredit the minute and interfitting testimony which he has placed before us.
Willis J. Beecher