The steadfast love of Yahweh (Ps 89:1-89:2)

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

“I will sing of your steadfast love forever!

Yahweh!

With my mouth,

I will proclaim your faithfulness

To all generations.

I declare that

Your steadfast love was established forever.

Your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.”

Psalm 89 is a long psalm proclaiming the faithfulness of God. This psalm is not from David, but rather from Ethan the Ezrahite. Ethan was one of the 4 wise sons of Mahol mentioned in 1 Kings, chapter 4, who was not quite as wise as Solomon. This long psalm begins with the psalmist singing about the steadfast love of Yahweh. This wise psalmist will proclaim the faithfulness of Yahweh for all generations to hear. Yahweh’s love lasts forever. His everlasting faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

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The musicians prepare to transport the ark (1 Chr 15:16-15:24)

“King David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kindred as the singers to play on musical instruments, on harps, lyres, and cymbals, to raise loud sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel with his kindred Asaph son of Berechiah. Of the sons of Merari and their kindred, was Ethan son of Kushaiah. With them were their kindred of the second order Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals. Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth. But Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah also were to be gatekeepers for the ark.”

Ever the musician King David, in fact, wanted some kind of band or orchestra to accompany the ark on its travels. He wanted the Levites to be in charge of music, to play the harp, the lyre, and the cymbals.  The Kohathite Levite Heman, son of Joel and the grandson of the prophet Samuel, was appointed by King David as one of the leaders of the temple-singing earlier in chapter 6 of this book. Although Asaph the son of Berechiah is called Heman’s kindred he is actually a Gershonite Levite, not a Kohathite Levite, as in chapter 6 of this book. The 3rd leader was the Merarite Ethan, so that all three main braches of the Levites were included. There was a 2nd order of 11 singers or musicians. The 3 leaders were to play the cymbals. 8 people were to play the harps according to Alamoth, which means some kind of high pitch like a female voice. 6 people were to play the lyres according to Sheminith, which is a lower pitch or the lowest pitch of a male voice. Chenaniah was in charge of the music because he seemed to understand it better than anyone else. There were 7 horn blowers. This seems like it was very organized here, while in 2 Samuel, chapter 6, it seemed more haphazard. It looks like here there are about 24 people playing 4 different instruments, cymbals (3), harps (8), lyres (6), and trumpets (7). Obed-edom keeps showing up as a gate keeper, but actually the ark was at his house, since there is no indication that they are different people.

The Levite cantor Asaph the Gershonite (1 Chr 6:39-6:43)

“The brother of Heman, Asaph, stood on his right hand, that is Asaph, son of Berechiah, son of Shimea, son of Michael, son of Baaseiah, son of Malchijah, son of Ethni, son of Zerah, son of Adaiah, son of Ethan, son of Zimmah, son of Shimei, son of Jahath, son of Gershom, son of Levi.”

Here we have a truncated reverse genealogy that goes back 15 generations to (1) Levi, but via (2) Gershom, not Kohath, even though Asaph was called a brother of Heman. There are 2 other people with the name of (15) Asaph. Some Psalms (73-83) are attributed to this Asaph as well as a group of singers who called themselves the sons of Asaph later in this book. Here we may be close to the genealogy of Gershom earlier in this chapter that mentioned Levi, Gershom, Libni, (3) Jahath, (4) Shimei and (5) Zimmah. (6) Ethan is the name of 3 people in the biblical literature including another singer from Merari. There were 8 people with the name of (7) Adaiah. (8) Zerah was the same name as Perez’s twin brother, the son of Judah. In fact there were 4 other biblical persons with the name of Zerah. (11) Baaseiah and (9) Ethni only appear here, but there were 13 biblical different people with the name of (10) Malchijah, a popular name. There are 11 people named (12) Michael, including an archangel. There were 4 people with the name of (13) Shimea in the biblical literature, including someone in the family of Merari. There were 7 different people with the name of (14) Berechiah in the biblical literature.

The descendants of Zerah (1 Chr 2:6-2:8)

“The five sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara. The son of Carmi was Achar, the troubled one of Israel, who transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing. Ethan’s son was Azariah.”

Zerah, like Esau, was the lesser known twin brother of Perez. He formed the group known as the Zarhites. There was a grandson of Esau with the same name. One of Simeon’s sons had the same name also. Zerah had 5 sons. There is an interesting notation in 1 Kings, chapter 4, where there is a mention of a famous wise man Ethan the Ezrahite, who were the sons of Mahol. His sons were Heman, Calcol, and Darda, almost the same as here. There might be some confusion here. There is also a problem with (1) Zimri since that was the name of the 5th king of Israel (885 BCE). There also was a Zimri who was Simeon’s chief as well as a few other people with the name Zimri. (2) Ethan was also the name of some Levites. His son Azariah had the same name as over 20 other biblical people, including the king of Judah known sometimes as King Uzziah of Judah (781-740 BCE). (3) Heman was also the name of the grandson of Samuel. (4) Calcol and (5) Dara do not appear elsewhere in the biblical literature. Why is Carmi here? Carmi was the name of a son of Reuben. However the Carmi here was the father of Achar, the troubled one. This refers to Joshua, chapter 7, where Achan not Achar as here, stole some money and statues from a foreign god temple. He was punished by Yahweh for his transgressions as Joshua and his fellow Israelites stoned him to death. In that chapter this Achan was the son of Carmi, who was the son of Zabdi, who in turn was the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah. This possibly could be a reference to Zimri who was called Zabdi. In fact, at one point in Joshua they call Achan the son of Zerah.