Asaph the Musician-Prophet


John R. Houk

© July 16, 2012


I was meditating on the Psalms authored by Asaph under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and I began to wonder who he was. All I knew about Asaph is that he was in Psalms and that he had an association with King David. I began if there were more details about Asaph’s life.


Here is the Psalm that enlarged my curiosity about Asaph:


Psalm 79 NKJV


1 O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.
2 The dead bodies of Your servants
They have given as food for the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.
3 Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and derision to those who are around us.


5 How long, Lord?
Will You be angry forever?
Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You,
And on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name.
7 For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his dwelling place.


8 Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Your name;
And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins,
For Your name’s sake!

10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let there be known among the nations in our sight
The avenging of the blood of Your servants which has been shed.

11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You;
According to the greatness of Your power
Preserve those who are appointed to die;
12 And return to our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom
Their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.

13 So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture,
Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations.


So I was thinking if Asaph lived during David’s day, how in the world was Jerusalem laid waste and the Holy Temple defiled?


The answer is that Asaph served through the reigns of David and Solomon and in the beginning of Rehoboam the son of Solomon.


Asaph lived to a ripe old age and his descendants were spiritual leaders through Judah’s captivity to Babylon and Persia’s release for the return of the Jews to their homeland.


Here are some cross posts from three different websites that brings clarity to the importance of Asaph as a Musician-Prophet.


JRH 7/16/12

Please Support SlantRight 2.0 – Donations are not tax deductible but are appreciated to help with the bills.


Who was Asaph?


Written by Richard Thompson

Monday, 30 May 2005 00:00

Last Updated Monday, 01 May 2006 19:44


Have you ever been disillusioned with people? Have you ever had life just not work out the way you expected it to? Have you ever wondered why it seems the faithful suffer while the wicked prosper? Have you ever questioned God when it seemed like He wasn’t keeping His promises? If so, you will want to learn about one of the great men of faith in the Bible who faced all of those tests and asked all those questions. His name was Asaph. Most Christians do not even recognize his name. Even those who do, do not seem to recognize his importance. They probably just know he had something to do with the Psalms.


It is recognized that Asaph was David’s music director, and probably wrote much of the original, now lost, music for David’s Psalms, but much more importantly, he wrote twelve Psalms. He wrote more of the Bible than Peter, James, Jude, Jonah, Amos, Micah, Joel, Malachi, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Nahum, Haggai, or Obadiah. Interestingly enough, if we take the time to dig it out, the Bible tells more about Asaph’s life than it tells us about any other author of scripture except Moses, David, Samuel, and perhaps Isaiah, Hosea, and Jeremiah. We know the times Asaph lived in (circa 1020 – 920 BC), from David’s reign, through Solomon’s to Rehoboam’s. We know he lived in Jerusalem. We know that he worked as the director of music at David’s Tent of Meeting and at Solomon’s Temple. We also know a great deal about his personal and family life. We also know the great historical and spiritual events which were the context of Asaph’s life. It is important to reconstruct Asaph’s life because, without understanding his life and times, it is impossible to fully comprehend the faith amidst adversity that Asaph’s Psalms reflect!


Who was Asaph? I have included the scriptural support for much of this in Appendix 1, but here I will include only a summary. Asaph was a young priest from the tribe of Levi, when David brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem in about 1000 to 995 BC. His father, Berekiah was appointed Doorkeeper of the Ark, and Asaph was so talented that David put him in charge of the music before the Ark of the Covenant. He was assisted there by his brother Zechariah. He was probably in his twenties at the time.[1] At that time the main tabernacle and the most senior priests and Levites were at Gibeon, but Asaph was in charge of the music in Jerusalem where the Ark and the King were.[2] We know that Asaph kept that position at least until the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem almost forty years later. At that time the worship services of the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were consolidated in the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant was reinstalled in its rightful place in the Holy of Holies next to the Holy Place.


Asaph served in Jerusalem for all of David’s reign, and no doubt set to music, many of the Psalms that God gave David. He was in Jerusalem when God gave David the great promise that David would have a son who would be the Messiah, and reign forever. He had to have been very close to David. He was probably afflicted by a little hero worship of David. Who wouldn’t have been? He also heard David tell the people and elders of Israel that his son Solomon was the answer to God’s promise of a son who would build God’s temple and establish a kingdom that would last forever. He saw the death of David, the accession of Solomon, and the building of the Temple. He thought he was standing on the verge of Israel’s Millenium (sic). He was on the mountaintop!


After Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, Asaph saw Israel’s “golden age” turn into something quite apart from what he expected. After a promising beginning, Solomon turned his back on God and pursued power, wealth, luxury, and human wisdom,[3] as well as worship of other gods.[4] To finance these pursuits the people were oppressed with slavery [5] and taxes.[6] Asaph saw Solomon become a wicked man who entrusted the administration of his Kingdom to other wicked men. There is good reason to believe (see Appendix 5) that during Solomon’s reign, Asaph’s brother Zechariah [7] was assassinated in the Temple by Solomon’s agents. Neither Asaph nor Zechariah would keep silent about Solomon’s wickedness. Zechariah paid the ultimate price.


After Solomon’s death, Asaph, now an (sic) very old man saw David’s kingdom torn in two by God’s decree The northern part, restless under Solomon’s punishing taxes and resentful at his wasteful luxury, rebelled and took Jeroboam as King, and the southern part, mostly the tribe of Judah, went with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The northern kingdom rejected the Levites and the temple. After that, the Egyptians invaded, along with Israel’s neighbors, took Jerusalem, burned and stripped the Temple, killed many of the priests, and left, mocking Israel, and Israel’s God. Since many of Asaph’s relatives served in the temple as either musicians or doorkeepers, many of them must have perished in this attack. In the winter of his years Asaph surveyed the wreckage of his hopes. The Kingdom was destroyed, the Temple was in ruins, many of his own family had been killed, and “Solomon as the Messiah” had been exposed as a fraud!


If there was ever a man who had an excuse for being disillusioned, Asaph was that man. David, his hero, who had been used mightily by God in his earlier years, had, in his last years, deceived the people, and himself, about what God had told him about Solomon. David had indicated that Solomon was the Messiah! Then Solomon, who God spoke to twice, and had greatly blessed, turned from the wisdom and grace of God to the worship of idols and a philosophy more suited to Neitsche than the son of David. Pick almost any verse in Ecclesiastes for confirmation! Asaph and his family, who had remained faithful to the truth, for a recompense, became victims of violence and murder at the hands of the Solomon and the Egyptians.


Yet, through it all, Asaph finds God’s faithfulness a strong tower of hope. God reveals to Asaph the ultimate truth of what He had promised. It was not what man’s ignorance and David’s impatience sought, but what God’s wisdom provided. And it was better! Oh, so much better! It was not Solomon! It was not Solomon’s destroyed kingdom and burned Temple! And not Solomon’s worldly despairing wisdom! It was not Solomon’s corrupting and corruptible riches! It was Jesus Christ the “Solomon” (Prince of Peace) who was to come! It was His eternal Kingdom, His perfect wisdom, His true riches, and the Temple of His body!


As you read the Psalms of Asaph you will see how much his Psalms speak to the events of his life and times. Psalm 73 reflects Asaph’s bitterness at the murder of his brother. It also gives us a much needed commentary on what was happening in Israel in the years between the dedication of the Temple and the end of Solomon’s reign. In the narration in Kings and Chronicles this period is almost a blank! Psalm 82 and 75 reflects Asaph’s disillusionment with Solomon and his realization that Solomon was not the Prince of Peace that would come. Psalms 76 and 80 reflect Asaph’s pain during the division of Solomon’s kingdom when Rehoboam took Judah and Jeroboam took Ephraim and nine other tribes. Psalms 74 and 79 reflect Asaph’s distress at the invasion of Shishak the king of Egypt. Asaph was an old man of at least a hundred years old when he wrote many of his Psalms. (see also Appendix 8)


I have grouped the Psalms of Asaph into six categories. I have also added some commentary on them that might be useful. Following that are Appendixes 1-8 which I document some of my conclusions. I have put them at the end of the paper to keep the body of it from being too dry and academic. I wanted, however to provide some answers for those who might ask, “Where in the world did he get that!”

With that introduction, I give you the Psalms of Asaph.




[1] Though in the beginning under Moses the age of Levites who served was 30 to 50 years, under David it was 20. Numbers 4:1-3 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting. 1 Chronicles 23:24 These were the descendants of Levi by their families–the heads of families as they were registered under their names and counted individually, that is, the workers twenty years old or more who served in the temple of the LORD. If Asaph’s father was young enough to serve as doorkeeper (under 50), it is likely that that asaph was under 30, but at least 20.


[2] For the first thirty years, Asaph was technically under Heman, but Heman ministered at the tabernacle in Gibeon, while Asaph ministered at the tent of meeting where the Ark of the Covenant was located on Mount Zion next door to David’s palace in Jerusalem.


[3] Ecclesiastes 1:17-18 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.


Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly–my mind still guiding me with wisdom.


Ecclesiastes 2:4 I undertook great projects:


Ecclesiastes 2:7a I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house.


Ecclesiastes 2:7b I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.


Ecclesiastes 2:8a I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.


Ecclesiastes 2:8b I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man.


[4] 1 Kings 11:5-10 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.


[5] 1 Kings 9:15 -21


[6] 1 Kings 5:13,12:4


[7] He was the man Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:32-35 and Luke 11:50-51. It is also possible that he was the man who wrote Psalms 94.




Who was Asaph?


Posted by Terry Enns

July 1, 2012

Words of Grace


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.




My name is Terry Enns and I have served as the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Granbury, Texas since August, 1990. My wife, Raye Jeanne, and I were married in May, 1987 and we have two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily.


I am a graduate of the University of North Florida (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). My father, Paul Enns, is also a graduate of DTS. READ MORE





Holman Bible Dictionary


(ay’ ssaf) Personal name meaning, “he collected.” 1. Father of court official under King Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.), who in sadness reported the threats of Assyria to the king (2 Kings 18:1). 2. Levite musician David appointed to serve in the tabernacle until the Temple was completed (1 Chronicles 6:39). Asaph was the father of the clan of Temple musicians who served through the history of the Temple. A member of the clan was among the first to return from Exile in 537 B.C. (1 Chronicles 9:15). Part of the musical responsibility included sounding the cymbal (1 Chronicles 15:19). David established the tradition of delivering psalms to Asaph for the Temple singers to sing (1 Chronicles 16:7). Asaph and the singers ministered daily (1 Chronicles 16:37). Their musical service could be called “prophesying” (1 Chronicles 25:1-7). Descendants of Asaph delivered prophetic messages under God’s Spirit (2 Chronicles 20:14-19). Later generations sang the songs of Asaph “the seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50:1, Psalms 73-83 are titled “Psalms of Asaph” or similar titles. This may refer to authorship, the singers who used the Psalms in worship, or to a special collection of Psalms. See Psalms 73-83. (Bold Emphasis Mine)


Excerpt on Asaph



Asaph ministered at the tabernacle as a Levite. When David recaptured the ark of the covenant and returned it to Jerusalem, Asaph was appointed by the other Levites “to raise sounds of joy” on the cymbals (1 Chron. 15:16). Later on, Asaph was elevated from cymbal player to chief musician. David commissioned him to be among those who ministered and worshiped regularly in the tent of meeting, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD (1 Chron. 16:5).


When David assembled other musicians for worship in the tent of meeting, he chose some who were the “sons of Asaph.” The “sons of Asaph” could refer to Asaph’s blood relatives or those he was mentoring. These “sons” were to serve the Lord by prophesying with lyres, harps and cymbals (1 Chron. 25:1-2).


Asaph and his sons served so faithfully under David that Solomon appointed them to serve at the dedication of the temple. It was there that “the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD.” And they sang, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chron. 5:13). Side-by-side, Asaph faithfully taught, instructed, and ministered with his sons and others, who in turn did the same to their sons, who in turn taught their sons, and on down the line for generations.


About 100 years later, king Jehoshaphat prayed for protection against the invading armies and received a prophetic word given by Jahaziel, one of the sons of Asaph (2 Chron. 20:14). 140 years after that, during when Hezekiah was king, the sons of Asaph were among the Levites who cleansed and consecrated the temple so worship to God could be restored. (2 Chron. 29:12-15)


80 years later, after the great apostasy and the Book of the Law was found, King Josiah wanted to celebrate Passover again. The singers turned out to be descendents of Asaph (2 Chron. 35:15).


When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon, nearly 400 years after the dedication of the temple, Ezra records that numbered the exiles included 148 “singers: the sons of Aspah (sic).”  And when the foundation of the temple was laid, once again it was the sons of Asaph who led the worship (Neh. 7:44; 11:17).


Asaph and his descendents were purposeful and intentional in passing on the practice and understanding of musical worship to future generations. And their focus was unmistakeable (sic): “God is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” They took seriously the command to proclaim that truth to coming generations.


How seriously do we take the command to tell the coming generations what we know of God and worshiping God?


… (The Legacy of Asaph – Learning to Sing in the Same Room; by Bob Kauflin; 9/3/09; Worship Matters)

%d bloggers like this: