The ‘Sons of Korah’ Psalmists

Posted on March 14, 2023


By David Ettinger

The “Others”
Naturally David is the most famous of the Psalm writers as 73 of the 150 are attributed to him. Most Bible teachers are convinced David wrote quite a bit more than those 73.

This leaves many other Psalms not written by David, several of their writers named in Scripture, among them Asaph (of whom I wrote, link below), and the “Sons of Korah.” The Sons of Korah are credited with writing 11 Psalms (42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, and 88).

Let’s take a brief look at who these Sons of Korah were.

Yes, That Korah
If the name “Korah” sounds familiar, it should. We read about him in Numbers 16:1-3:

Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men, and they stood before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, 250 leaders of the congregation chosen in the assembly, men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “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?”

This rebellion ended with the ground opening up and swallowing the rebels alive (vss. 31-33). But note Numbers 26:11: “The sons of Korah, however, did not die.” So though Korah of the tribe of Levy died, his sons did not. Not only that, but Korah’s descendants actually merited favor with God.

These descendants of Korah – particularly those living in the time of David and beyond – are the sons of Korah referenced in the Psalms.

Their Duties
What qualified them to write Psalms?

Well, we know that from the time of David onward they were the Levitical singers in the Temple who led worship:

The sons of Kohath were Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son, Assir his son, Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son. … Now these are the ones whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark rested there (1 Chronicles 6:22-24, 31, italic added).

The Sons of Korah ‘In Action”
We come across these Levitical singers about 130 years later during the reign of Judean King Jehoshaphat. In 2 Chronicles Chapter 20, we read of a frightening massing of troops from Moab and Ammon who “came to make war against Jehoshaphat” (v. 1). The wise king handles the situation the best way possible:

Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord; and he proclaimed a period of fasting throughout Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the Lord … (vss. 3-4).

The Lord accepts Jehoshaphat’s prayer, proclaiming:

Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. … You need not fight in this battle; take your position, stand and watch the salvation of the Lord in your behalf, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed … for the Lord is with you (vss. 15, 17).

The people fell on their faces to worship God (v. 18), and then the “Sons of Korah” – and their fellow Levites – did this:

The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and from the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel, with a very loud voice (v. 19).

Their ‘Maskils’
The first three “Sons of Korah” Psalms are referred to as “A Maskil.”

The Hebrew word for Maskil means “enlightenment” or “to impart wisdom.” Therefore, Maskils are Psalms specifically focusing on instruction in practical wisdom or contemplations.

Gracious Recipients
Despite the failings of their ancestral namesake, the Sons of Korah served the Lord in a very special way. They were among the leaders of Temple worship, and – some at least – were given the privilege of being inspired by God to write words which would be immortalized in God’s Holy Scriptures.

Though their ancestral father brought shame to Israel, these “Sons of Korah” were the gracious recipients of God’s goodness, serving Him faithfully, their words of praise kept alive for eternity!

Getting to Know the Psalmist Asaph”