(Aʹsaph) [He [God] Has Gathered].
1. A son of Levi through Gershom. (1Ch 6:39, 43) During King David’s reign (1077-1038 B.C.E.) Asaph was appointed by the Levites as a chief singer and player of cymbals, accompanying the Ark as it was brought up from Obed-edom’s home to “the City of David.” (1Ch 15:17, 19, 25-29) Thereafter Asaph, along with Heman and Ethan, served before the tabernacle in directing the music and singing. (1Ch 6:31-44) Like Heman and Jeduthun (apparently the same as Ethan), Asaph is called a “visionary,” who did “prophesying with the harp.”—1Ch 25:1-6; 2Ch 29:30; 35:15.
Asaph’s sons continued to form a special group in the orchestral and choral arrangements, taking a prominent part at the time of the temple’s inauguration and the bringing up of the Ark from Zion to the temple location (2Ch 5:12); at the time of King Hezekiah’s reforms (2Ch 29:13-15); and at the time of the great Passover celebrated during King Josiah’s reign. (2Ch 35:15, 16) Some of his descendants were also among the first group returning to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile.—Ezr 2:1, 41; Ne 7:44.
The superscriptions for Psalms 50 and 73 to 83 credit these songs to Asaph. However, it seems likely that the name is there used as referring to the house of which he was paternal head, since some of the psalms (Ps 79, 80) evidently describe events later than Asaph’s day.
3. Among the officials of King Hezekiah (745-717 B.C.E.) is mentioned “Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.” (2Ki 18:18, 37; Isa 36:3, 22) While John Kitto’s Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature (1880, Vol. I, p. 233) applies the term “recorder” to Asaph, most scholars view it as applying to Joah (thus, Joah ben Asaph, the recorder). Since the term “son” is often used in the sense of “descendant,” some suggest that this Asaph is the same as No. 1.
4. “The keeper of the park” for King Artaxerxes at the time of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem (455 B.C.E.). (Ne 2:8) The park was a wooded area, perhaps in Lebanon, which was also under Persian control. The park keeper’s Hebrew name may indicate that he was a Jew occupying this official position, even as Nehemiah had served in the relatively important position of the king’s cupbearer.—Ne 1:11.