Who was Asaph?

This morning we will read the last of the Psalms attributed to Asaph (Ps. 83).  The superscriptions indicate that he also wrote Psalms 50 and 73-83.  So who was this man who wrote a dozen of the collected songs in the Israelite hymn book?

From 1 Chron. 16:4-5, we know that he was a leading Levite musician and cymbalist.  Part of the duties of the Levites was to write and lead the music in corporate worship.  Asaph apparently was a significant man among these musicians.

While no one passage offers a full explanation of who he is (the inscriptions in his psalms offer nothing more than his name, for instance), the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible offers this summary of his life:

Four of Asaph’s sons conducted under him and participated in the dedication of the Temple (2 Chron 5:12). The “sons of Asaph” are mentioned as choristers in the Temple (1 Chron 25:1; 2 Chron 20:14). The office seems to have been hereditary (1 Chron 25:1, 2). From all indications, in addition to leading the singing and sounding the cymbals before the Ark, Asaph headed a school of music, where his children are said to number 148 (Neh 7:44). The sons of Asaph do not appear to be very prominent before the Exile. Some 128 of his family returned from Babylon (Ezra 2:41) and served in Zerubbabel’s temple (Ezra 3:10). The sons of Asaph of later times formed a guild and were prominent in the revivals of the nation’s faith. They shared the ministry of music with the sons of Korah in the later period of OT history.

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