I was listening to a podcast interview with a famous YouTuber.
As he shared his personal story and childhood in a matter of fact way, both of the hosts were in shock. Even the YouTuber’s emotional detachment from his to-the-point narrative style could not hide the trauma.
“Wait, you mean your step-dad almost killed you and your mom?” the host asked at one point. The YouTuber explained how his step-dad closed the garage door, put on a gas mask, cranked the car, and left it running.
The YouTuber’s story made his success that much more meaningful. Here was someone who did not allow his past to determine his future. Here was someone who, against all the odds, turned his life around.
Here was someone who was not defined by his parents and their mistakes.
Maybe you come from a broken family. Maybe your parents were not nurturing and caring. Maybe they even abused you or took advantage of you. Despite the impossibility of me understanding your hurt, I want to share a story of hope with you.
The 40-year wilderness wandering had begun for the Hebrews.
And no one was more disgruntled than Korah. When he looked at the leaders – Moses and Aaron – he felt anger and jealousy at his cousins. Although he was a Levite, all he did was transport the tabernacle, assist the priest, and help with preparation for worship.
In response, Korah instigated his close friends, rallied 250 men, and rose up against Moses and Aaron. His argument seemed innocent enough, but Moses sensed the deeper tension. This was a power struggle against God-ordained leadership.
Moses and Aaron let God settle it. The result?
“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…
And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.” (Numbers 16:31, 35)
A dark day for the family of Korah.
Sons of Korah
As the chapter closes, the family line of Korah ends. Or so I thought. Numbers 26:11 is a verse buried in a list of names. While Moses is taking a census of the congregation, he adds this note:
But the sons of Korah did not die.
This new information was intriguing, triggering me to begin searching for any references to Korah’s sons in the Bible. And what I found blew me away. Stay with me! We’re going to have to dig into some ancestry archives.
“These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting…
These are the men who served and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Herman the singer the son of Joel, son of Samuel…” (1 Chronicles 6:31-33)
Wait. What happened?
David chose 3 music leaders for the temple worship. One of the leaders was Herman, the grandson of the prophet Samuel. Samuel also happens to be the 12th great grandson of Korah.
One of the greatest judges and prophets in history is a direct descendant of Korah!
The mistakes of Korah did not define the heritage of Korah.
Was Samuel just a freak “accident”? One faithful person amidst a family legacy of unfaithfulness? The answer is no.
Remember how Herman was chosen as a music leader for the temple worship? Herman, the 14th great grandson of Korah, coauthored Psalm 88. In fact, the “sons of Korah” composed over 10 Psalms!
One of their most famous Psalms is Psalm 42:
As a deer pants for flowing
So pants my soul for
you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for
the living God.
When shall I
come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
This Psalm has helped me and so many others through difficult times. And it was written by someone who would not be defined by their family’s past.
Your Past ≠ No Hope for the Future
I hope this story gives you hope. I want you to know that with God’s strength, you can do incredible things regardless of what has happened in your past. No matter how terrible, messed up, or broken it is.
Whatever mistakes your parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents have made, it does not have to define you. They may be on a destructive path, but in God’s book, there is a side note next to your name that says:
But the son/daughter of _____ did not die.
Take heart. Your parents do not have to define you.
Yes! Even when our parents make mistakes, we don’t have to follow in their footsteps and make those same mistakes.
Amazing! I never knew that the prophet Samuel was related to Korah.
I never knew this either until I was studying for a teen class in the book of Numbers (I know, Numbers for a teen class). I was trying so hard to find the application and then stumbled across the verse in 1 Chronicles!
This was amazing! Very well written and well thought out!
Thank you so much Emma! Glad you enjoyed the post.
Samuel, this topic really speaks to my own life. Just as the sons of Korah, I too have been set free from the poor choices of my parents. Grace makes all things new! Grace defines me, not generational sin.
I have been blessed to attend a class quite simply called “Freedom class.” I remember the first time I went, I met with the leaders afterward to share my story and get next steps I could take on recovery. I sat there, in tears, and told that woman that my whole life I had been told that I was just like my Dad, but that I didn’t want to be like him at all.
She looked at me hard, and then told me something I will never forget. She said, “You are not your father. You are Haley, child of the Almighty God. You were made in His image, and He defines your past and future. I don’t want you to ever say that you are like your father again, unless you are referencing the Lord!”
Although those were strong words, they were an amazing starting point in the journey of finding my identity in Christ.
Haley, thank you so much for sharing this with everyone!
I can’t even imagine the pain you have gone through. There is only One Father who defines us, giving us a new identity and a new humanity. He brings hope and healing even into the darkest, most broken places of our lives and of our hearts.
And for you to share such a personal testimony provides a powerful testimony to these truths. Despite the pain in your past, you are going to be able to make such an impact in the lives of others – now and in the future! Again, thanks for sharing this.
This was a really great article! Very true! And it is really cool how God used Samuel. I had no idea that he was related to Korah!
Thanks for sharing this, Samuel! I had noticed those Psalms by the sons of Korah and was confused because I thought they had died. This cleared it up for me. And what an encouraging story, too!
Oh my goodness!! The more I read, the more excited I got. I have read the story of Korah again and again in the last year and a half since first reading it. It was a story that I kept going back to. I have spoken, more than once, about generational sin. I go back to Korah, I look at the destruction his unrepentant sin brought upon his family and those close to him. I have read in verse 27 where it says he and his household (wives, sons, little ones) stood at the tent entrance and were swallowed up. I have been heartbroken by this, and continue to be; I have thought a lot about the sins of the father and I look around my community and see generational sins (addiction, sexual immortality, dishonesty, and so forth) as a result of parents passing down their favorite sins to their children. I never knew not all of them died with Korah, and to not know that they lived is to not know the whole story, and not knowing the whole story leaves one very desperate. It’s like knowing what happened to Jesus, knowing he died, but not knowing he rose again. One can see the power, beauty, and heartbreak in his death, but we are left irreparably broken because we do not know of His life. Knowing Jesus is alive changes the story, it makes all the difference. Knowing Korah had sons who lived changes the story.
All that to say, thank you. I’m excited to find and read these scriptures for myself.
Thanks Gabrielle! It so exciting to find these often overlooked gems in the Bible! It proves the Bible is a fascinating book, even when you’re in the middle of Numbers (of all places).
I love how you compare not knowing some of Korah’s sons lived is like not knowing Jesus rose from the grave. It is so true! Read only Numbers and it sounds depressing. But then you look at what God does with this family and it is truly incredible.
“Knowing Jesus is alive changes the story…Knowing Korah had sons who lived changes the story.”
^ I wish I thought of this quote for my article! Thanks for sharing.