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KORAH, KORAHITE (kō'ra, -īt, Heb. qōrah)

2. The son of Eliphaz, the son of Esau by Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Gen 36:16). This is thought to be a gloss by some scholars, since it does not occur either in Genesis 36:11 or 1 Chronicles 1:35.

J. Liver argues that Deuteronomy 11:6 and Psalm 106:16-18 mention only the revolt of Dathan and Abiram, indicative of its earlier existence. During the time of Solomon when the priestly service was organized and consolidated for the large Temple, tensions arose over positions in the service. The Korahite Levites, one of the leading families, opposed the Jerusalem priesthood. To establish their position by tradition, this story was produced for authoritative support. It could not, however, achieve independent status and was thus appended to the tradition of the revolt of Dathan and Abiram against the authority and leadership of Moses.

There is no insuperable difficulty in viewing the passage as a harmonious unit. The proposed solutions to the various inferred problems are not only hypothetical, but often are equally problematic.

With regard to the miraculous judgments against Korah, Dathan, Abiram and the 250 leaders, some have pointed to flash floods in the desert area accompanied by lightning, or to the mudflats in the region of the Arabah, which under certain circumstances could well have swallowed up whatever was upon them (cf. G. Hort). While it may not be necessary to demonstrate natural phenomena which appear to corroborate the miracles in the Bible, it is always possible that God used such phenomena for His purposes.

4. The son of Hebron, son of Mareshah, son of Caleb, son of Hezron, the son of Perez whom Tamar, the daughter-in-law, bore to Judah (1 Chron 2:43).

5. The grandson of Kohath, son of Levi (1 Chron 6:37). Psalms 42-49, 84, 85, 87, 88 are given the superscription as “belonging to the Sons of Korah.” It is probable that they originated among this guild of singers and were perhaps sung by them in the worship of the Temple. In 2 Chronicles 20:19 when Jehoshaphat came before God, “the Levites, the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord.”

Shallum, one of the gatekeepers appointed by David, was also a descendant of Korah. Together with his kinsmen, “the Korahites were in charge of the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent, as their fathers had been in charge of the camp of the Lord, keepers of the entrance” (1 Chron 9:19). Shallum’s son, Mattithiah, was in charge of baking the sacrificial cakes (1 Chron 9:31).

6. Five of the men from the tribe of Benjamin who joined David at Ziglag were called Korahites (1 Chron 12:6), which suggests the possibility of Korah also being a geographical name.


G. Hort, “The Death of Qorah,” ABR, 7 (1959), 2-26; J. Liver, “Korah, Dathan and Abiram,” Scripta Hierosolymitana, VIII (1961), 189-217; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (1969), 628-630.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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 (Ge 36:5,14,18;, 1Ch 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 (Ge 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 (1Ch 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 (Ex 6:16 ff; Nu 16:1; 1Ch 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 (1Ch 6:22-30).

1. The Catastrophe in the Wilderness:

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 Nu 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 (Nu 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