Who Was Asaph In The Bible

Asaph (Hebrew: אָסַף, Modern Asaf Tiberian ʾāsap̄, “protected by God”) was a Levite who was credited with playing a leading role in the founding of several important musical institutions and practices during the time of King David and King Solomon.

Asaph (pronounced ah-SAFF) is hard to pin down, in a way. He’s one of the most accomplished men in scripture – maybe the most accomplished of the people who wrote psalms. Yet he’s mentioned only in passing, referred to in a few different pieces of ancient literature. You’d almost think he was someone who just outshone everybody else and could be referenced without further explanation. Possible, as we’ll see.

Asaph was a musician, who lived in Judah during the time of King David and King Solomon. We know very little about Asaph and his life, but through the Bible we learn a lot about his music.

The Bible narrative of the Book of Psalms speaks about the character known simply as Asaph. The Bible says that he wrote a number of the Psalms in that book. However, there is much more to learn about who was Asaph in the Bible narrative.

Who Was Asaph In The Bible

Asaph was a prominent Levite singer and seer in David’s court and was the son of Berachiah of the tribe of Levi. (1Chr 6:39, 1Chr 15:17, 1Chr 15:19; 1Chr 16:4-7; 2Chr 29:30). He is the ancestor of the Sons of Asaph, one of the great family guilds of temple musicians.

Asaph is featured prominently in Chronicles. He is described as the chief of the Levites appointed to minister before the ark of the Lord, and he and his brothers are appointed to sing the songs of thanksgiving to the Lord (1Chr 16:4-7). His description as a seer (2Chr 29:30) also suggests a connection with cultic prophecy. Asaph’s descendants formed an important guild of temple singers in the reconstruction following the exile. In Ezra 2:41 and Neh 7:44, the temple singers are simply referred to as the “sons of Asaph.” It is also an Asaphite, Uzzi, who is established as the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem during the temple’s reconstruction (Neh 11:22-24).

The importance of Asaph and his descendants in the cult probably contributes to the preservation of the psalms bearing their name. Twelve psalms (50, 73-83) are introduced with the phrase le’asaf in the superscription. This phrase, most often translated in English “of Asaph,” can indicate authorship: that it was Asaph himself or one of his descendants who wrote these psalms. It can also indicate a group of psalms associated with Asaph and his family, or psalms that are sung in the style associated with Asaph’s guild of musicians. For further discussion of the themes of the collection, see M. J. Buss, “The Psalms of Asaph and Korah,” Journal of Biblical Literature 82 (1963): 382-91.

Who Was Asaph In The Bible

There were a number of Levites that King David assigned as worship leaders in the tabernacle choir, according to 1 Chronicles 6:31–32. Asaph was one of these men (1 Chronicles 6:39). Asaph’s duties are described in detail in 1 Chronicles 16. According to 2 Chronicles 29:30, both Asaph and David were skilled singers and poets. Asaph is also mentioned as a “seer” or prophet. The “sons of Asaph” are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 20:14, and Ezra 2:41. The sons of Asaph were likely a guild of skilled poets and singers, modeling themselves musically after Asaph, their master. The church musicians of our day can be considered spiritual “children of Asaph.”

Psalms 50 and 73—83 are called the “Psalms of Asaph” because his name appears in the superscription at the head of those psalms. Regarding Asaph’s role as a prophet, of particular interest is the imprecatory Psalm 83, which deals with God’s judgment of Israel’s enemies: Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarites, Gebal, Ammon, the Amalekites, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria. If we examine the psalms written by Asaph, we can see that all of them have to do with the judgment of God, and many involve the prayers of the people at the prospect or moment of a particular event.

Asaph was a gifted individual. He understood where the gift came from, and he used his music to praise the Lord and communicate His Word to a needy world.

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