1 CHRONICLES 25
1 Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was:
The Temple Psalmody
-"In the employment of psalmody in the public worship of the Temple, David established a choir of 4,000 singers and musicians, over which he placed 288 skilled musicians and 'masters of song.' These he divided into twenty-four courses, twelve in each course, to take the services in rotation.
There were three accomplished leaders or 'choir-masters' chosen from the three Levite families-Heman of the Kohathites, Asaph of the Gershonites, and Jeduthun (Etham) of the Merarites. They were musical teachers, prophets, and seers" (1 Chron. 25:1-7).
-Bible and Contemporary History.
The Christadelphian, Apr 1888
When David divided the courses
Date: Circa 970 BC - Since Asaph's appointment: 30 years
AFTER their appointment, the House of Asaph were left alone to sing before the ark, but another thirty years would elapse before the courses of the singers would be confirmed. 1 During this time, the family pondered the significance of their role, but in this same period David began his great endeavour of organising the praises of Israel.
The result of his enormous undertaking, guided by the Spirit, was the setting down of a pattern of worship in writing, which covered all aspects of the temple system. 2 Only later would it be seen how deeply Asaph had been involved in this work; but much of it must have occurred during these fruitful years, when God had granted David respite from all his enemies. 3
A time of relative peace enabled him to turn his focus to the spiritual needs of his people, but it was only at the end of these thirty years that David was moved to formalise the arrangements upon which all the temple music would depend.
1 The appointment of Asaph to office (1 Chronicles 16:4,5) could only have occurred after David took the stronghold of Zion, and after he reigned in Hebron for seven years (2 Samuel 5:5-7). The division of the singers, however (1 Chronicles 25:1), took place towards the very end of David's reign (23:1), and probably in his last year (26:31). These two episodes therefore spanned the beginning and the end of his reign in Jerusalem, which lasted for thirty-three years.
2 1 Chronicles 28:11,12,19.
3 1 Chronicles 17:7-10.
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph
2 Of the sons [Bnei] of Asaph; [Zakkur, and Yosef, and Netanyah], and Asarelah, the [Bnei] Asaph under the hand of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king [HaMelech].
The singers would be divided in the same way as the priests, and David again invited the princes of Israel to share with him as witnesses to the ordering. 13 All three families of the singers were assembled for the occasion, as part of the great convocation of the Levites which David had gathered to Jerusalem. 14
Of course, the family of Asaph were already present, but the families of Jeduthun and Heman had made the journey from Gibeon for the event. 15 Within the House of Asaph there were smiles and nods of recognition, as the oldest of the singers recognised members of the other choirs with whom they had sung on the day that David brought the ark to Zion.
But that was thirty years earlier, and many of those singers were no longer there at all. Some had retired from office, others had died, and still more had been added since, as younger members of each household joined their choir at the proper age.
Each family would contribute to the courses, but even in their naming, Asaph was given priority. The connection between monarch and conductor was marked from the outset, for the sons of Asaph were "under the hands" of their father, but their father was "under the hands of the king". 16
The relationship between David and Asaph could not have been closer. That which David had envisaged, through the inspiration of the Spirit, was now delegated to Asaph as his representative. Through this man, the great objectives of spiritual worship were to be both realised and preserved when David was dead.
13 The phrase "captains of the host" (we-sare ha-tsaba) does not relate here to the leaders of the army. The Levites were also God's "host" (tsaba, Numbers 4:3; 8:24), and the term "captain" (sar) is used throughout this section to denote the princes of Israel (1 Chronicles 22:17; 23:2; 24:6; 25:1; 28:1,21), who worked with David to superintend the entire system of temple worship.
14 1 Chronicles 23:2-6.
15 1 Chronicles 16:39-42.
16 The word yad ('hands') in the phrase "under the hands" (1 Chronicles 25:2) convey the sense of coming under both authority and supervision. Hence Rotherham: "the sons of Asaph under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king."
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph
3 Of Yedutun, the Bnei [sons of ] Yedutun: Gedalyah, and Tzeri, and Yeshayahu, Chashavyahu, and Mattityahu, six, under the hands of their av [father] Yedutun, who prophesied with a kinnor, to give thanks and to praise Yahweh.
4 Of Heman, the Bnei [sons of ] Heman: Bukiyahu, Matanyahu, Uzziel, Shevuel, and Yerimot, Chananyah, Chanani, Eliatah, Giddalti, and Romamti, Ezer, Yoshbekashah, Maloti, Hotir, and Machazi'ot;
5 All these were the sons [banim] of Heman the king's [HaMelech] seer [chozer ] in the words [devarim] of Elohim, to lift up the horn [keren]. And Elohim gave to Heman 14 sons and 3 daughters [fourteen banim and three banot].
To the four sons of Asaph were added the six sons of Jeduthun, 17 who likewise were "under the hands" of their father for song; and, consistent with the role first granted to Asaph, these also would give thanks and offer praise by means of their music. 18 Heman, however, had the most children of all the musical choirs, for his household numbered fourteen sons and three daughters.
God had indeed exalted his horn, 19 in blessing him with so large a family, and the house of Heman must have resounded to the music of many voices and instruments being practised at home. Heman was known as the king's seer, a term indicative of his special ability to discern the future. 20
But his gift was not unique, for all three fathers of the choirs were blessed with the same power of prophetic insight. 21 As a result, all three families gave utterance to divine truths in their choral offerings, each choir led by a father who was endowed with a similar gift.
It was this unique aspect that set the songs of Israel apart from the music of the surrounding nations. There was a deep didactic element to the hymns of Israel, which preserved the heritage of their national faith, for sound doctrine and acceptable worship are inseparable.
No praise is acceptable to Yahweh in the absence of words which reflect His teaching. No song, however moving or earnest, is a delight to God if its words are devoid of His truth, or, worse still, at variance with it. These singers however were to "prophesy" with their instruments, an indication that their songs were far more than the simple expression of their own feelings about the God whom they worshipped.
17 The narrative specifies six sons of Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 25:3) but only five names are recorded. The missing name is presumably Shimei (verse 17), who therefore fits between Jeshaiah and Hashabiah.
18 The words yadah and halal here (1 Chronicles 25:3), are both derived from the earlier passage (16:4).
19 The phrase "to lift the horn" does not refer to the playing of a musical instrument.
There are no passages which suggest that horns were ever used in temple worship. The phrase relates to God's exaltation of Heman by blessing him with so large a family, hence NKJV: "All these were the sons of Heman ... to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters." Similar uses are found elsewhere (1 Samuel 2:1; Psalms 75:10; 112:9).
20 The word "seer" (chozeh, from chazah, 'to see or perceive') relates to the power of prophetic insight, used of Gad (1 Chronicles 21:9), Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29), Amos (Amos 7:12) and others.
21 Hence "seer" (chozeh) is used of Asaph (2 Chronicles 29:30), Jeduthun (35:15), and here of Heman (1 Chronicles 25:5).
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 3
The songs of the temple would become a musical archive of divine teaching, and a literary treasury of divine principle. The psalter of Israel, first composed and arranged by David, would establish the benchmark for all that was good about spiritual praise; and the choirs of the singers were the guardians of divine truth.
Temple worship invoked the power of oral tradition. Words set forth the clarity of divine principle, while music became an aide memoire to remember thoroughly every line and every thought.
Music enabled the words to be stored in the memory of an entire nation, and it was the choirs who embedded those thoughts so deeply in the minds of the people as they came to hear the singers at the temple. To hear them was to be instructed in the Truth, for they sang it in their songs.
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 3
6 All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of Yahweh, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of Elohim, according to the king's order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman.
6 All these were under the hands of their av for shir in the Beis Hashem, with cymbals, nevalim, and kinnorot, for avodas Beis HaElohim, under the support of HaMelech to Asaph, Yedutun, and Heman.
Learning the discipline of practice
So important was their role amidst the nation that the singers needed to be the masters of their music. What was required was a rigorous programme for practice, and Asaph was given the responsibility to superintend the whole. 22 All the singers identified with their own family choir under the headship of their father, whether of Asaph, Jeduthun or Heman. But the direction of Asaph was paramount, since they all came under his ultimate supervision, in preparing for the service of song in the house of Yahweh. 23
His earlier appointment as chief of the singers 24 was but the precursor to the greater role he would now play in the musical arrangements of the temple. He would not fail David in this sregard, for, just as the singers and players would be under his hands, so he came under the hands of the king. For the rest of his life, Asaph always felt the spirit of the king's direction upon him.
Besides, the passage of time meant that choirs would need to be renewed as older choristers were retired and newer ones inducted. The only way to ensure that they would always be ready for song was to institute the discipline of regular practice, and confirm the routine of regular presentations. The music of the temple was to be marked by the highest standard of endeavour.
Offering the sacrifice of praise could only be achieved when every singer had striven to the utmost in their preparations, and it was the special charge of Asaph to see that it was so. But every choir included also players on instruments, whose skill with harp, psaltery or cymbal added to either the richness of the sound or the rhythm of their song. To become a cunning player required effort in practice, that they might be trained in the proper use of their instruments.
These, then, were the standards of excellence that Asaph was anxious to ensure. He wanted to be certain that every player would play his instrument with the requisite skill, and that they were completely familiar with the tunes to be played for every piece. He needed to be satisfied that every singer could sing his part with beauty and control, and that they knew the melody for every song.
Lastly, he was determined to ensure that every singer and player knew the words of their songs from memory, and that they had a thorough grasp of their meaning. There was no place for hymn sheet or musical score for singers and players to use. Every song of the house needed to be played with perfect recall and sung with perfect memory, the one assisting the other as the music accompanied the words.
The discipline of practice was an essential element in maintaining the excellence of temple worship, and these choirs would always be ready to praise when every occasion required.
The singers were "separated to the service" by means of this intensive training which accompanied their selection. The very effort of their practice led to a deepening of their awareness, and with it a growing sense of the high privilege which was theirs, in coming into the presence of Yahweh on behalf of all Israel.
In total there were two hundred and eighty-eight members of this elite group of singers. Massed together, their voices would have been magnificent, but it was rare to hear them in mutual assembly, for they were immediately divided into the twenty-four courses of twelve, each of whom was led by a son of Asaph, Jeduthun or Heman.
But only when they had completed their rigorous training were they deemed to be "instructed" in the songs of worship, 25 and only when they could sing as "every day's work required" were the singers counted as ready for service in the sanctuary.
22 The words "all these" (1 Chronicles 25:6) are taken to refer only to those of Heman.
But as the phrase has already been used of his family (verse 5), it is more likely that it is used here as a subscription to the enumeration of all the singers just listed (verses 2-5). The words "with cymbals, psalteries, and harps" are a counterbalance to the earlier phrase "with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (verse 1), which clearly relates to all the singers, not just those of Heman. The words "under the hands of their father ... under the hands of the king" (verse 6, margin) answer to the earlier "under the hands of Asaph ... under the hands of the king" (verse 2, margin). In the former, Asaph was the head of his family choir; in the latter, his role was enlarged to be the head of all the choirs.
23 The phrase "under the hands of their father" (1 Chronicles 25:6) has been taken in a distributive sense as relating to Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman as the respective fathers of their family choirs. But the word "father" (ahihem) is in the singular, and we suggest relates to Asaph as the chief of the singers, and thereby the official superintendent of them all.
24 1 Chronicles 16:5.
25 The word "instructed" (lamad) is one of several Old Testament words for teaching (1 Chronicles 25:7). It conveys not just education, but training, and hence the idea of practice. A cognate word (maImed, 'ox goad') refers to the sharp prick of pain which both guided and urged the animal. The discipline of practice indeed!
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 3
7 So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs [shir] of Yahweh, even all that were cunning [skilled], was 288.
But besides the twenty-four orders of Aaron's sons, there were, in the ecclesiastical department of David's kingdom, twenty-four orders of Levites, sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, whom he separated for the temple service, "to prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals, to give thanks and to praise Yahweh Tz'vaoth."
The number of those "who were instructed in the songs of Yahweh," were two hundred and eighty-eight, and were divided into twenty-four companies of twelve each, "as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar" being reckoned in each twelve (1 Chron. xxv. 1,3,7).
These were also typical of those symbolized by the twenty-four elders who were represented to John in (Apoc) ch. v. 8, as "having each one harps and golden censers full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song."
There are twenty-four symbolical elders because the sons of the High Priest and the singers who did the service of the temple under David's reign were twenty-four orders each; and in the aggregate typified the saints, the Elohim of Israel, who shall perform the temple service of the restored kingdom of David, when David's Son, the "Greater than Solomon," shall be High Priest of the kingdom after the Order of Melchizedec.
The twenty-four elders represent both the priests and singers of the Ezekiel Temple which is to be built by "the man whose name is The Branch" (Zech. vi. 12,15). There will be twenty-four orders "as in the days of old" (Amos ix. 11); who will be "the harpers harping with their harps, and singing a new song" (Apoc. xiv. 2,3); even "the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (xv. 2-4).
8 And they cast lots [goralot,], ward against ward [shift against shift], as well the small [katon] as the great [gadol], the teacher [meiven] as the scholar [talmid].
Dividing the twenty-four courses
Casting lots was used in Israel to determine and resolve matters of either uncertainty or dispute. The divine lot, cast by the High Priest using Urim and Thummim, dealt with matters of national importance, while the domestic lot, which could be cast by any appointed person, settled matters of family concern.
Both, however, were recognised as being subject to the overriding hand of God, 26 and therefore brought the benefit of agreement and finality to any issue. 27 The courses of the priests, Levites, singers and porters were all made subject to Yahweh's guidance by means of the lot, so that ever after there could be no dispute that the orders and arrangements were all of Him.
In each case the families involved submitted to the process of appointment by lot, every participant alike, without regard to seniority or experience, without respect for age or ability. 28 They accepted the decision of the lot as the unequivocal proof of the divine will. In the case of the priests and Levites, Zadok and Ahimelech witnessed the procedure, 29 and now, with the singers, Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman would do likewise. 30
But everything occurred under the watchful eye of David, who superintended all, and before whom the courses were written down. 31 As with the priests and the Levites who served them, there would be twenty-four divisions of the singers, but their orders were not apportioned in equal numbers across the three families. Asaph had only four sons, Jeduthun would number six, whilst Heman counted fourteen.
Yet, when the ordering was done, the evidence that the House of Asaph would continue to hold the pre-eminence was made certain. Repeating the process of the lot twenty-four times gave substance to the reality of the divine selection, and, as the orders were gradually revealed, they were recorded for posterity.
When complete, it was clear to all the singers that the House of Asaph ranked as foremost among the choirs. Although only holding four of the orders, their family led in the reckoning, for their lots came out for the first, the third, the fifth and the seventh.
Each lot was assigned to a son of Asaph, Jeduthun or Heman, each son being mentioned by name as the head of his course, which comprised twelve singers. But of all twenty-four courses, only one was also classified under the father's name. The first lot fell not just to Joseph the son, but came forth to Asaph, by family. 32
That primacy would never be lost, as their subsequent history in successive generations would show. 33
26 Proverbs 16:33. 2'7 Proverbs 18:18.
28 1 Chronicles 24:5,31; 25:8; 26:13. 29 1 Chronicles 24:6,31.
30 1 Chronicles 25:6.
31 1 Chronicles 24:3,6,31; 25:1; 26:26.
32 The phrase "Now the first lot came forth for Asaph to Joseph" was unique in the record of the courses of the singers (1 Chronicles 25:9). Neither Jeduthun nor Heman would receive mention in this way.
33 The use of their names throughout the Bible record (relating to these three individuals) confirms this, for Asaph is mentioned thirty-nine times, Jeduthun / Ethan nineteen times, Heman fifteen times. Asaph is therefore referred to on more occasions than the other two names combined.