Dead Men Talking

For the music director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.Psalm 49:1 (no number in English) NASB

Korah – It is a dark day for the tribes.  Korah challenges Moses.  “You have gone far enough! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3).  In other words, “Who made you our leader?  What makes you so special?  I should have just as much authority as you?”  Jealousy.  Arrogance.  Rebellion.

And how did God deal with this insurrection?  Well, . . .

They all died.

Notice who died: “and all the people who belonged to Korah with all their possessions” (Numbers 16:32).  That brings up an interesting problem.  If they all died, how is it that David gives us a psalm of the sons of Korah?  Perhaps you will say, “Well, it was a song from long ago.  David just writes it down.”  You might offer this explanation, but when we read the psalm, it doesn’t sound like the words of a rebellious group at all.  It sounds like people who recognize their humility before God.  So, let’s suppose that not all the lineage of Korah died.  Let’s imagine that they continued to be part of Israel, and during David’s reign they wrote this praise song to YHVH.  That’s possible, but it raises another interesting question.  Everything about Korah, including God’s judgment, is bad news.  It’s offensive to Moses, to the people of Israel, and to God.  Korah is infamous.  So why include anything attributed to his line?  Why even mention his name?  But there it is, right at the beginning:

לַמְנַצֵּחַ  לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח מִזְמוֹר

לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח (le-be-nai korach).  No avoiding it, even though about half of the English translations tend to put this in very small print as if it could be ignored.  But it can’t be ignored.  In fact, I would argue that the whole tenor of the psalm depends on this little phrase.  Korah is associated with rebellion.  The psalm says something very different.  And that’s the point!  Contrast is the theme of this song, as we shall see.

Tiny print matters.  Be sure you have a Bible that doesn’t ignore it.

Topical Index:  Korah, Numbers 16:1-40, Psalm 49:1

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Jacqualine Avery

Excellent contrast! So, so true! And so good to be reminded about this, thanks Skip.

Richard Bridgan

What is wisdom? (מַשְׂכִּיל)

Who is the wise man that can understand this? And to whom has the mouth of Yehovah spoken, so that he may declare it? (Jeremiah 9:12)

Go to a land flowing with milk and honey… but I will not go up among you, because you are a stiff-necked people, lest I destroy you on the way. (Exodus 33:3)

But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future. (Psalm 37:38)

The favor of a king is for the servant who deals wisely, but his wrath will be on him who acts shamefully. (Proverbs 14:35)

Although we are living in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh… for we 
destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God, taking captive each proud, lofty opinion and swallowing up every rebellious thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians10:3,5)

Ric Gerig

The STORIES are so important; more than just flannel board material for Sunday school! And so is the “Tiny Print!” Thank you, Skip. Looking forward to walking thru this one!