Prayer for help (Ps 88:1-88:2)

A song, a psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster leader, according to Mahalath Leannoth, a Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite

“Yahweh!

God of my salvation!

At night,

I cry out in your presence!

Let my prayer come before you!

Incline your ear to my cry!”

Psalm 88 is a psalm of the sons of Korah, the Temple singers. However, this Mahalath Leannoth refers to some kind of musical instrument for those who were sick. On top of that this is called a maskil of Heman, the Ezrahite. Who is he? He may have been a grandson of Samuel, the man called Heman appointed by David to be a Temple Singer in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6. However, there he is called a Kohathite, not an Ezrahite. This is a cry of desperation. God is his salvation. He cries all night in the presence of God. He wanted his prayers to come to God. In the classical sense he wanted God’s ear to listen to his cry.

They cast lots to determine the perfect day (Esth 3:7-3:9)

“In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Artaxerxes, Heman came to a decision by casting lots. This casting of lots takes the days and the months one by one, in order to fix on one day in order to destroy the whole race of Mordecai. The lot fell on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, which is the twelfth month.”

Haman came to a decision on when to destroy the Jews by casting lots, known as pur. This was a common practice in the Middle East. It happened a lot in the biblical literature, even for such important things as allocating the land for the tribes of Israel in Joshua, chapters 14-19. This was now the 12th year of King Artaxerxes, 5 years after Esther has become queen. There never seems to be any mention of the king’s children, either with Queen Vashti or Queen Esther. The date chosen for destroying the race of Mordecai is the 14th day of the 12th month, so that there will 11 months to get ready for this perfect massacre day.

The response of the Levites (2 Chr 29:12-29:15)

“Then the Levites arose. Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites arose. Of the sons of Merari, Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel arose. Of the Gershonites, Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah arose. The sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also arose. Of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah arose. Of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei arose. Of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel arose. They gathered their brothers. They sanctified themselves. They went in as the king had commanded, by the words of Yahweh, to cleanse the house of Yahweh.”

The Levites responded positively. 2 people from each of the Levitical tribes arose from the Kohathites, the Merarites, and the Gershonites. The same was true for the 3 groups of singers or cantors, the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, all had 2 people stand up. On top of that, the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also rose up. They gathered their brother Levites and sanctified themselves. Then they went in to cleanse the house of Yahweh. I wonder why they had not done more to sustain the house of Yahweh even in the face of indifference.

The three cantors (1 Chr 25:1-25:1)

“King David and the officers of the army also set apart certain of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for the worship service. They should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.”

As mentioned earlier in chapter 6 of this book, King David was associated with songs, music, and psalms. Thus it does not seem strange that he should appoint Levites to sing songs in the house of Yahweh. The problem is that the house of Yahweh was only established under Solomon. Therefore, this section talks about songs around the tabernacle in the tent of meeting. However, once the temple was complete, they performed there. The 3 people in charge were Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. Earlier in chapter 6 it was Ethan rather than Jeduthun who was in charge. The other 2 people are the same as the 2 mentioned in chapter 6.

The service of the Levites before the ark (1 Chr 16:39-16:43)

“KIng David left the priest Zadok and his kindred, the priests before the tabernacle of Yahweh in the high place that was at Gibeon. There he offered burnt offerings to Yahweh on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, according to all that is written in the law of Yahweh that he commanded Israel. With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to Yahweh, because his steadfast love endures forever. Heman and Jeduthun had with them trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate. Then all the people departed to their homes. KIng David went home to bless his household.”

The high priest Zadok, who was a descendent of Eleazar the son of Aaron, with his family were in charge of the tabernacle that was at Gibeon, which was about 6 miles from Jerusalem. He followed the Mosaic Law about burnt offerings. Heman and Jeduthun were in charge of the cymbals and trumpets. Jeduthun’s sons were the gatekeepers, which seems like an important job. At last, all the people went home as King David returned to his house, with the Ark of the Covenant safe in Gibeon not Jerusalem. The last verse is taken literally from 2 Samuel, chapter 6. The only addition is that King David blessed his household that was not in 2 Samuel.

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 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.