Escaping ‘SURE DEATH’ only by the MERCIES of GOD: "And the son of Pallu was Eliab. The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die." (Num. 26:8-11)
The above passage is part of the narrative of a census (v. 2) taken just before the Israelites are about to end their wilderness wanderings and enter the land of Canaan. We may recall that their journey through the wilderness had begun with a census (Num. 1:2–19), and as before, the census counted only men of military age 20+ years old. The fact that the Israelite population did not increase over the 40 years is due to the fact that all those who refused to enter the land (14:3, 29, 32) had died. In fact, during the wandering years, some 1,200,000 people had died in the wilderness!
Korah was a Levite mentioned here because of his association with Dathan and Abiram, who were from the tribe of Reuben. Korah along with 250 men and their families had rebelled against the leadership of Moses, and had died when the earth parted and swallowed them up. However, during this tragic incident, it is mentioned clearly that the sons of Korah, whose names are Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph did not die (Exo. 6:24; compare Num. 26:11). The sons of Korah were perhaps too young to understand their father’s uprising and did not participate in their father's rebellion or, they withdrew from it through a timely repentance. So, God spared them out of His rich mercy!
God judged those who turned against Him in active rebellion and purified His people, but He still had a purpose and plan for even the descendants of Korah. After seven successive generations, the prophet Samuel arose from the line of Korah (see 1 Chron. 6:31-38; 38, 1 Sam. 1:1, 20). Some of Korah’s descendants later became doorkeepers and custodians for the tabernacle (see 1 Chron. 9:19-21, 1 Chron. 2). One group among them joined King David in his various military exploits, and won the reputation of being expert warriors (1 Chron. 12:6). However, the most remarkable thing to note about the sons of Korah is that during the time of King David, they became the great leaders in choral and orchestral music in the Tabernacle and the Temple (e.g. Heman, Asaph and Ethan). These individuals played an important role in the thanksgiving services when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. Of all of the Psalms, about twenty-five are attributed to the sons of Korah!
Let us note that the sons of Korah escaped sure death only by the mercies of God! As we relate their situation to our lives, our own songs of redemption should flow out of a heart of humility as we remember the fallen state from which He has raised us and the redemption that we experience through His grace alone. This was certainly one instance when God’s mercy triumphed over His judgment (James 2:13b). Thank God for His boundless mercies over our lives that we experience every day!