Reading through the Bible: day 59

Numbers 25 – 27

Sorry I’m a bit late on this, but the issue of Korah’s children had me digging through books and re-reading the relevant excerpts, it seems like very little has been done to address the issue, so I’ll give it a go.

Did Korah’s children die with him

The issue is, the implication of Numbers 16:27; 32-33 is that the children of the conspirators all died with them. But in 26:11;58, it’s clear that they didn’t. What is apparent later is that Korah’s offspring were a well respected division of the Levites and made up a group in the temple choir. This all tells me that children (not necessarily all) of Korah did survive, or else we have a major problem. So it’s the texts from chapter 16 that need closer examination.

I’ve isolated verses 27; 32 and 33 here, the bold type is mine. I used the ESV, but any formal equivalence translation will do here.

So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones […] And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

If I was only worried about v27, it would be fine, since it is clear that:

  1. People moved away from the tents of the three conspirators, and…
  2. it was the children of Dathan and Abiram who were standing with their parents, not necessarily the children of Korah. The Hebrew word for little ones is related to a Hebrew root regarding a tripping gait, much like a young child may use, so the children referenced weren’t infants, but at least toddler age, perhaps a bit older.

This gives us no problem, even if we assume Korah’s kids were with him, infants aren’t necessarily mentioned and it is these (infant) children that are mentioned in chapter 26.

The problem is the text I emboldened from verse 32, “all the people who belonged to Korah,” that would be his kids too, presumably. While I could switch translations at this point and solve the problem by pointing out that the KJV and NKJV phrase this bit in the masculine, with the implication that it’s only adult men, that would be dishonest. The Hebrew words used here make clear that it is all human beings related to Korah.

Thus I’m left going back to the above comment which seems to omit infants, and pointing out that infants aren’t counted in a census. Perhaps the author felt no need to mention the infant children at this point since they didn’t provide much function to society and were never included in the census, thus they aren’t included in all those who belong to Korah. I wouldn’t stake my existence on this, but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with.

The rest of today’s texts seem unproblematic, but if you have an issue, just pop it in the comments block, with any other thoughts you may have.

Please give the reading through the Bible page a look if you haven’t already, there are some background posts and the index to this reading plan. Share it with others who you think can benefit from Reading the Bible.


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