Ancient Israelite poets and singers (Psalm 73)

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Throughout the ancient world music and hymnody played an important role in temple worship, and many temples had musical guilds that composed and sang hymns to the gods. (Examples of such liturgy are available from as far back as the Sumerian period.) The situation was similar for ancient Israel.

Unlike David, who was a renowned and yet amateur musician, Asaph, Heman, Ethan and the sons of Korah were in effect professional singers who created and sang psalms as part of their Levitical service in the temple.

  • Asaph, a Levitical choir leader during the time of David (1 Chronicles 6:39), is mentioned alongside David in 2 Chronicles 29:30 as a composer of psalms and as “seer”. He is credited with Psalm 50 and 73-83.
  • Heman the Ezrahite and Ethan are linked to the compositions of Psalms 88 and 89. 1 Kings 4:31 indicates that both were highly esteemed for their wisdom.
  • Numbers 16 describes Korah’s attempt to usurp the priestly position from Aaron and of Korah’s consequent death. Nevertheless, the “sons of Korah” served as gatekeepers at the sanctuary (1 Chronicles 9:19) and rose to prominence as temple musicians. Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85 and 87-88 are all attributed to the Korahites.

Evidently these psalmists, beyond being talented vocalists and songwriters, were highly respected as prophets and sages.


 

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