Asaph is the author of twelve Psalms (Psalm 50 and 73-83). It may be argued that not all twelve of these Psalms were written by the same Asaph. Some argue that the name Asaph was common and likely passed down from generation to generation making it impossible to determine who is who. Others argue that the dates of the twelve Psalms span too great a time to be from the pen of one man. It may be equally argued; however, that these twelve Psalms were written by the same man. Each Psalm bears the same name. The time frame of the considered Psalms can in no way be determined with exactness. This article shall approach the character of Asaph from the view that one man wrote all twelve of the Psalms that bear his name in the superscriptions.
Asaph was a man of many hats in society. The scriptures tell us that he was a Levite (1 Chronicles 6:39), prophet (Matthew 13:35), poet (2 Chronicles 29:30 and Nehemiah 12:46) and musician (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph lived during the days of King David and was very trusted. Nehemiah writes, "46 for in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God' (Nehemiah 12:46). David appointed Asaph, along with Heman and Ethan, to preside over the singing and music during worship (1 Chronicles 15:16-19). Asaph's sons all followed in their father's footsteps as musicians in the worship of God (1 Chronicles 25:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 20:14). The sons of Korah and the sons of Asaph and Jeduth were Levites whose official duty was to sing songs of praise to God (see 2 Chronicles 5:12 and Nehemiah 7:44).
We get to know Asaph by studying his twelve Psalms. There are a few obvious characteristics of Asaph that are brought out in his writing. First, Asaph was a man that paid careful attention to his surroundings. Asaph was very concerned about the spiritual welfare of not only his own person but others too. Asaph exposed insincere worship by his fellow Jews at Psalm 50. The prophet took note of the people's mishandling of God's laws at Psalm 82.
Rather than using God's laws to be the standard book to make their judgments they showed partiality to the rich and masters of their society. Asaph took note and wrote about the worldliness of riches at chapter 73. The prophet argued that God's people, if not careful, may come to be envious of the rich to the point of giving up their spiritual pursuits to attain the wealth of this world.
Asaph also took note of his fellow man's suffering for their sins. Israel was God's "treasured people" yet they were not without chastisement for their distress at the hands of enemies due to their sins. Asaph calls for man's conviction and faith to be better developed by looking into the errors of their forefathers at Psalm 78. The prophet explains that those who choose a life of sin will live lives of great trouble and heartache (Psalm 79 and 81). Those who live lives of obedience will have great joy in this life (Psalm 81). Asaph warns that God has an appointed day of judgment and all men's actions will be weighed alongside the word of God (Psalm 75).
A second characteristic of Asaph was meekness. People display a spirit of meekness when they have the desire or passion to comply with God's laws. When God's expectations are not met the meek are bothered, ashamed, and moved to repentance. Asaph, on more than one occasion, not only admits his personal sins but prays to God fervently about them (see Psalm 73:3). God, in his anger against Asaph, struck the prophet with a lifelong tribulation due to his sins and would not relieve him (Psalm 77). The prophet of God knew; however, that God was omnipotent and would protect his beloved people throughout the ages (Psalm 76). Asaph, like Habakkuk, believed by faith that he would "walk upon the high places of God" one day (see Habakkuk 3:19).
To study the life of Asaph is to study a man whose life revolved around pleasing God. Asaph held positions in the kingdom of God that manifest a spirit of godliness. Asaph's personal evaluation and determination to live more godly reveals a man filled with the Spirit of God. Asaph's observations of God's love and man's responsibilities illustrated a heart that truly loved the Lord. Asaph's watchful eye on the world he lived in showed a man who was concerned about not only his own soul but the souls of others. Asaph is no different than any man or woman today who truly professes to be a Christian. Such a person will live Godly in the eye of man and in the privacy of their home. Such a person's prayers to God will be spiritual and genuine.
John C. Roberson