Korach’s Children: Quick Comment: Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

The sons of Korach did not die.” (Numbers 26:11)

Although their father led many into a grave sin, and was punished accordingly, God did not hold Korach’s sons responsible.

“The sons of Korach did not die,” is a metaphor for why my wife Vickie and I spent ten weeks in Germany last fall and will eagerly do so once again this year.

One of the most meaningful moments of our trip was when our hosts, Pastor Martin Pommerening and Pastor Ursula Sieg and I studied the Exodus 34:6-7. The passage teaches that God’s love and mercy extends a thousand generations, but God’s anger to only three or four.

We each preached in a Lutheran church on this text the next day, and we each learned from one another.

For me the point of the passage is the vast difference—between one thousand and four–between God’s capacity for love and mercy opposed to God’s much smaller capacity for anger and punishment.

There are specific biblical examples (Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:28-29; Ezekiel 18:19-20) that emphasize children are not accountable for their parents’ sins.

“The sons of Korach did not die,” is perhaps the most magnificent example of this vital teaching!

I trembled as I spoke at the Michaeliskirche in Kaltenkirche because the one time pastor of that church, Ernst Biberstein, left the church to become a Nazi Oberkommando. The Nuremberg tribunal convicted him of the deaths of thousands of Jews.

I addressed the ghost of Biberstein, saying, “You continue to rot in hell, but we Jews are still here!”

Then, I saw tears in the eyes of many worshippers when I said:

”You are not responsible for what this man did! We cannot undo the past, but the future is ours to shape—together!

Today’s Agenda

Today, I have been invited to preach at the Michaelis-Kirche in Kaltenkirchen.The church is very close to a former concentration camp. The Pastor of the church during the nazi era, Ernst Biberstein, was an ardent Hitler supporter, a Lt. Colonel in the SS and commanding officer of Einsatzkommando 6. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials for having overseen at least two mass murders and was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life, but he was released due to church pressure in 1958 and lived until 1986.
The Michaelis-Kirche displays a broken cross as a symbol of its atonement. The current Pastorin Martina Dittkrist and the congregation see my visit as part of that process. I am humbled and excited by this opportunity.

I will have more to say after I process this experience.