This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Psalm 73 ‘A psalm of Asaph’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Psalm 73  

‘A psalm of Asaph’

    Who was Asaph? The name is set before us in several contexts, most notably, in connection with the psalmody of Scripture. The reader is informed from the second book of Kings, that the Joah who is referred to, in chapter eighteen of that book, is mentioned as a son of Asaph, the recorder [to record: bring to remembrance]. This would amount, would it not, to our understanding in the 21st century? So the author of 2 Kings is saying that the Asaph who was the recorder, was also the father of one Joah. What was a recorder in the days of David; one source explains that the meaning of the name, Asaph, is collector, or gatherer. These two terms seem to be easily reconcilable with the term, recorder. Does not a collector, say of taxes, not also record those collections; and does this not hold equally with ‘a gatherer’? Would he not also record that which he had gathered?

    Neither of these thoughts, or terminologies, help us in determining who was the Asaph of a good number of the Psalms. We must acknowledge that the name of Asaph is found more often in the titles, or superscriptions, of several of the psalms, than any other place in the Word of God. It would be reasonable to conclude from that, that this Asaph of the psalms is none other than the Asaph found in the book of 1st Chronicles 18, where we find, beginning at the seventh verse, the following: 

Then on that day did David first ordain to give thanks unto Jehovah, by the hand of Asaph and his brethren.

which is immediately followed by a psalm, beginning with the common exhortation, O give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, followed by some thirty verses, that appear to be something of a compendium of numerous psalms found in the psalter, and closing with this verse, “And all the people said, Amen, and praised Jehovah. This seems clearly suggestive that Asaph and his brethren were among those who were called upon to lead God’s people in the singing of His praise; and according to the superscriptions of Psalm 50, as well as, Psalm 73 through Psalm 83, was author, under God the Holy Spirit, of these several pieces of praise and thanksgiving. This may be further confirmed earlier in the 2nd book of Chronicles, by the following display of the worship of Jehovah at the time of the bringing in of the Ark of God.

And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place (for all the priests that were present had sanctified themselves, and did not keep their courses: also the Levites who were the singers, all of them, even Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and their brethren, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets); it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in thanking and praising Jehovah; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised Jehovah, saying, For he is good; for his lovingkindness endureth for ever; that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of Jehovah, so that the priests could not stand to minister by the reason of the cloud: for the glory of Jehovah filled the house of God.—2 Chronicles 5:11-14.


One Old Testament theologian spoke admirably, of Asaph, this psalmist, writing, “If David is, without controversy, the prince of the psalmists, Asaph stands next to him in honor. The psalms in which the Levites sang praise to the Lord in the days of Hezekiah are called “the words of David and of Asaph the seer” (2 Chron. xxix. 30). The emphatic manner in which the prophetic title is here annexed to Asaph’s name suggests that he was favoured (sic) with a larger measure of the prophetic spirit than any of the Levitical prophets who were his contemporaries. The facts known respecting him are few. He was a Levite, of the family of Gershon. He was one of the three presidents of the Levitical singers, standing at Heman’s right hand, as Ethan-Jeduthun did at his left. His four sons presided, under him, over four companies. Their descendants continued to minister in the service of song so long as the first temple stood, and are mentioned in this connection in the histories of Jeho-shaphat and Hezekiah.” (2 Chron. xx.14; xxix 13.)—William Binnie (1823-1886). 

            William Binnie was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. He was born in Glasgow on August 20, 1823, the second son of an elder of the Church who took a prominent part in all its affairs. He was trained in Glasgow University, where he graduated M.A. in 1844, and at the Reformed Presbyterian Hall in Paisley, 1843-6; he was licensed by the Glasgow Presbytery on September 1, 1847, and on May 24, 1849, was ordained at Stirling. He was professor of Systematic Theology to the Reformed Presbytery Synod as well as being their minister in Stirling. On the breach in the Reformed Presbytery he joined the Majority Synod. 

            In 1875 the chair of Church History in Aberdeen Free Church College fell vacant, and Dr. Binnie was elected to the post by the general assembly. Dr. Binnie accepted the office, and “in loosing him from his chair and his congregation the Presbytery recorded the deep sense they have long entertained, of his high excellence as a man, a Christian, a minister of the gospel and a Professor of Theology. Professor Binnie died unexpectedly at Glasgow while on a visit, September 22, 1886; his wife of thirty years, Janet, had preceded him, in January, of the very same year as his death. He was an author publishing works on the Psalms and on the church. 


    Returning to the primary subject of the week’s focus, Asaph, as being among the most prominent number of contributors of the psalms that we enjoy, we learn that, “There appear to have been several members of this family who inherited at once their father’s name and his gift of minstrelsy; for of the twelve Asaph-psalms, several are of a date long subsequent to David’s reign. It deserves to be noticed, how-ever, as confirmatory of the testimony of the superscriptions in prefixing the name to all twelve, that they constitute a class to themselves.”—ibid.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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