I am always amazed when attempting to resolve Bible difficulties how a simple careful studying of the wording in each passage will clear up any apparent discrepancies! Here I am referring specifically to the King James Bible! I have found difficulties and contradictions in modern versions that could not be reconciled because of the way they have played around with the text.
The Bible is its own commentary. If you want to know what God meant by a word or phrase, trace its usage throughout the Bible. If you have a problem with numbers or passages that seem to contradict, studying out the wording in each passage will resolve the difficulty.
Here is an explanation of a difficult portion in the book of Numbers:
In Numbers 15, Korah and company rebel against Moses' leadership, and God opens up the ground to swallow them and their families alive.
There are some people who make much of the fact that the Bible later talks about Korah's children (including in some Psalm titles) as a contradiction. Did Korah's children die as well? Or did God or the Old Testament writers make a mistake?
Well, we know God's Word is perfect and inerrant, and it contains no errors!
Numbers 26:9-11 And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. This is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.
A careful reading of the passages in question shows that God did not kill Korah's children; therefore there is no error:
Numbers 16:25-33 And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
Always give the Lord the benefit of the doubt. The fact that it only mentions the families of Dathan and Abiram in verse 27 leapt out at me tonight when I was reading the passage. I always noticed the phrase just before where all three names are mentioned, but never saw the distinction that was made until now. God's Word is vindicated again!
Thoughts added on April 6th/07:
Everytime I read these passages of Scripture and think about the Lord sparing Korah's children, I am amazed by His mercy. I do not know why He spared them, except perhaps it is because these children did not share in the rebellion of Korah - whereas perhaps Dathan's and Abiram's children did somehow share in their fathers' rebellion.
This passage comes to mind:
Ezekiel 18:19-20 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Whether I am right in this possible scenario or not, it is a blessing to be reminded of God's mercy and lovingkindness everytime I come to the Psalms and see these words:
Psalm 42:1 (To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah.) As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
Psalm 44:1 (To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil.) We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.
Psalm 45:1 (To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves.) My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
Psalm 46:1 (To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 47:1 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.) O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
Psalm 48:1 (A Song and Psalm for the sons of Korah.) Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Psalm 49:1 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.) Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
Psalm 84:1 (To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.) How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
Psalm 85:1 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.) LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Psalm 87:1 (A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah.) His foundation is in the holy mountains.
Psalm 88:1 (A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.) O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
That makes 11 of the Psalms written for the sons of Korah - 12 if you count Psalm 43, which is closely connected to Psalm 42. By the way the title of Psalm 88 is worded, I understand that these Psalms were written by various Psalmists for the sons of Korah to sing - just as other Psalms were dedicated to or for other song leaders (such as Jeduthun) as they led the nation of Israel in the worship of the Lord God. Psalm 42-43, 45-46, and 84 are some of my all-time favourite chapters of the Bible.
Notice how four of these Psalms include the term maschil in their title. This word means "instructive." While those particular Psalms are specifically designated by the Lord to be instructive to His people in the content they contain (we know all Scripture is profitable for us), I find it these 12 Psalms to be very instructive to my soul, because of whom they are addressed to: for the sons of Korah.
When you fail and are discouraged because of how your sins and foolish choices have worked havoc in your life, or are reminded of your troubled past, remember that our Lord is a God of second chances - these Psalms are proof of that!
To quote another Biblical term from the Psalms:
Selah - "Pause and think of that"!