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Asaph was one of the three Chief Musicians of worship for the Tribe of Levi during the reign of King David over Israel. Specifically Asaph was a cymbal player and led music related to the Ark of the Covenant; both in the Tabernacle and the First Temple. Asaph was also a seer, a prophet with the ability of foresight. Asaph wrote several psalms that were eventually included in the Book of Psalms.


Early life[]

Asaph was the son of Berechiah[1] and the grandson of Shimea. Asaph was a Levite and was part of the Gershomite Clan. Therefore, Asaph was born into an ecclesiastical responsibility, but was not a priest since he was not descended of Aaron. Asaph may have grown up in a town allocated to Gershom somewhere in Manasseh's territory.[2]

Sometime in his life Asaph became a musician and a cymbal player. Asaph also had the special ability of foresight as a prophet seer. Asaph also had a son named Zichri.[3]

Cymbal Player for the Ark's Parade[]

After David captured Jerusalem he constructed a palace for himself and centers of administration for his government. Wanting the Ark of the Covenant to also have a house, David set up a tent in Jerusalem and ordered the Ark to be relocated there.

David decided to have a large parade during the transfer of the Ark from Obed-Edom's house. Part of the parade would be a musical procession led by the Levites. At the King's request the tribal leaders of Levi appointed musicians to play various instruments. Asaph was appointed to be a cymbal player alongside Heman and Ethan.[4]

Musical Chief to the Ark[]

After the Ark was brought into his tent David decided to select Levites (maybe whose musical performance in the parade stood out to him) to be full time musicians for the Ark. Asaph was selected by David to play cymbals and to be Chief of the group responsible for the Ark's music ministry.[5]

Asaph's first assignment was to lead the music for a thanksgiving song to God that David wrote.[6] Asaph was given a musical staff and returned home,[7] to return daily to manage the music.

Prophet and Psalmist[]

Throughout his tenure as a Chief Musician Asaph wrote many songs and psalms. Asaph "prophesied" through his music and cymbal playing.[8] Asaph literally prophesied as a seer and some of his prophecies are recorded in his songs.[9]

Some of Asaph's songs record his doubts and struggles with God.[10]

In the Temple[]

At the end of David's reign, David created a more formal organization for the Tribe of Levi to prepare for Solomon's kingship. At the time Asaph was at least thirty-four.[11] Many of the musicians under Asaph were specially appointed to manage the music in the future temple. Asaph was also re-affirmed as one of the three chiefs over Levi's music ministry.


Following the captivity, 128 singers from this family returned from Babylon and conducted the singing when the foundations of Zerubbabel's Temple were laid.[12]


Asaph's name is the translation of the Hebrew word אָסָף (transliterated: aw-sawf). אָסָף means collector and comes from the Hebrew root word אָסַף (transliterated: aw-saf), which means to gatheror receive, take away, or even remove (in the sense of to destroy, leave behind, put up, restore, etc.).


  1. 1 Chronicles 6:39, 15:17 (Link)
  2. 1 Chronicles 6:71 (Link)
  3. 1 Chronicles 9:15 (Link)
  4. 1 Chronicles 15:16-19 (Link)
  5. 1 Chronicles 16:5 (Link)
  6. 1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Link)
  7. 1 Chronicles 16:37 (Link)
  8. 1 Chronicles 25:1 (Link)
  9. Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:35 (Link)
  10. Psalm 77 (Link)
  11. 1 Chronicles 23:3 (Link)
  12. Ezra 2:41, 3:10 (Link)