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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 6:16-30 The Sons of Korah

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 26, 2023

16 The sons of Levi were Gershom, Kohath, and Merari. 17 These are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei. 18 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their ancestry.

Moses spells the name of Levi’s firstborn son Gershon with an “n” (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16-17). He consistently refers to the descendants of Gershon as the Gershonites (Numbers 3:18). His own son was called Gershom with an “m” because the name sounds like the Hebrew phrase “an alien there” and, he said, “I have become an alien living in an alien land” (Exodus 2:22). The eight references to Levi’s son Gershon in this book that occur prior to David’s organization of the temple are all spelled Gershom. When our author records David’s organization of the Levites for their work in the temple, the name is once again spelled as Moses spells it, with an “n” (1 Chronicles 23:6,7,21, 26:21, 29:8; 2 Chronicles 29:12). Either the ancestral name had two spellings (as with Luther’s many spellings of his own name), or else a copyist made an understandable error in one part of the book and did not notice later on that he had made it when he switched to the older spelling. The inspired text of the Bible does not contain errors, but human beings—copyists, translators, and most especially commentators and men typing out devotions—make many mistakes. We are flawed, fallen, sinful men.

20 The line of Gershom: his son Libni, his son Jahath, his son Zimmah 21 his son Joah, his son Iddo, his son Zerah, his son Jeatherai. 22 The line of Kohath: his son Amminadab, his son Korah, his sons Assir, 23 Elkanah, and Ebiasaph. The line of Assir, 24 his son Tahath, his son Uriel, his son Uzziah, and his son Shaul. 25 The sons of Elkanah were Amasai and Ahimoth.

The genealogy in this section seems to use similar language for brothers as for sons. When the name Assir is doubled, it is likely that the names preceding the second Assir were his brothers (I have reflected this in the translation) and the names following the second Assir were Assir’s sons. The last name in verse 25, Ahimoth, is given as Mahath in other places in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 6:35; 2 Chronicles 29:12), but a man might be known by more than one name, and Mahath and Ahimoth are quite similar.

The appearance of Moses’ cousin Korah is significant. Korah “became insolent and rose up against Moses” (Numbers 16:1-2). He led a group of 250 leaders of the Israelites to oppose Moses and Aaron and to accuse them of going too far in their position of leadership. This was after the spies brought back their unfavorable report but the people (without Moses) tried to enter Canaan anyway, and were defeated (Exodus 14:44-45). Moses told Korah and the 250 leaders to fill censers with coals, so that the Lord would choose which among them was holy (Korah had claimed that “the whole community is holy—why do you (and Aaron) set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3). The ground opened up and swallowed Korah and the others leaders, their families, and all their possessions (Numbers 16:32). The bronze censers remained above ground, and Aaron’s son Eleazar hammered them into an overlay on the altar, as a reminder that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord.

Some of Korah’s children survived because they did not take part in their father’s rebellion. Moses says: “The line of Korah, however, did not die out” (Numbers 26:11). The family of the son Elkanah appears later on (1 Chronicles 12:6), sometimes as gatekeepers and guards (1 Chronicles 9:19, 26:1), sometimes as musicians (2 Chronicles 20:19). Eleven Psalms (in the 40’s and in the 80’s) were written by “the Sons of Korah,” a humble name taken on by a family with a reputation to overcome. They embraced the name of their rebellious father, refrained from making any other name for themselves, and instead turned their skills and godly gifts to the praise of the Lord. Such familiar phrases as “As the deer pants for streams of water,” “My heart is stirred by a noble theme,” “Be still and know that I am God,” and “How lovely is your dwelling place” are all from the Psalms by the Sons of Korah.

26 The line of Elkanah: his son Zophai, his son Nahath, 27 his son Eliab, his son Jeroham, his son Elkanah, and his son Samuel.  28 The sons of Samuel were Joel his firstborn, and Abijah, second. 29 The line of Merari: Mahli, his son Libni, his son Shimei, his son Uzzah, 30 his son Shimea, his son Haggiah, and his son Asaiah.

Here our author inserts the line of Samuel. He is eager to begin telling the story of the worship life of Israel and the transition from the tabernacle that was used from Moses’ time (1446 BC) to Solomon’s time (959 BC), that is to say, for 487 years. Toward the end of that time, David made plans for the new temple and for the duties of the priests; there was a plan for the rotation of the priestly families that was made public knowledge (more about this in chapter 24, which will help us to understand the date of Christmas!).

Samuel is shown here to be a descendant of the Levite tribe, through Korah the descendant of Gershon. So when the book 1 Samuel describes the prophet’s parents as “from the hill country of Ephraim” (1 Samuel 1:1) and “an Ephraimite” (verse 2), we feel it is wise to count Samuel’s father as a Levite by clan who happened to live in the territory of Ephraim. The genealogy of Samuel’s father Elkanah appears to line up with the names here in verse 26-27 in this way (Samuel first, Chronicles second):

Zuph / Zophai
Nahath / Tohu
Eliab / Elihu
Jeroham / Jeroham
Elkanah / Elkanah
Samuel / Samuel

These men were leaders in God’s church. Some like Korah made the terrible mistake of getting too big for their britches. Others like Moses, Aaron, and Samuel served with humility and with reverence, and carried the word of God to God’s dear people. Their example is here in Scripture for us to follow, and to see that God condemns sin, but he offers forgiveness to everyone who looks to him with faith and trust.

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy. (Psalm 99:6,7,9)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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