ASAPH (Heb. אָסָף), name of four biblical figures.
(1) The ancestor of one of the principal families of singers in the Temple. According to i Chronicles 6:24–26, Asaph himself, who is dated to the Davidic period, was descended from Gershom son of Levi (ibid.). The tradition of tracing families of singers back to eponymous ancestors of the age of David appears elsewhere in Chronicles and in Ezra-Nehemiah. Asaph is numbered among the levitical singers who participated in the bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem (i Chron. 15:17, 19); David appointed him and his brother to serve before the Ark (i Chron. 16:37; cf. 25:1 ff.). In many passages a special position is assigned to Asaph among the ancestors of families of singers, and he alone is mentioned in association with David (ii Chron. 29:30; Neh. 12:46). Only singers of the family of Asaph appear in the register of the returnees from exile (Ezra 2:41; Neh. 7:44) and in other passages in Ezra-Nehemiah. It is only in the register of inhabitants of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah that singers of the descendants of Jeduthun are included along with the Asaphites (Neh. 11:17; i Chron. 9:15–16). Evidently the Asaphite singers, who possibly had already served in the first Temple since they are numbered among those returning from exile, played a leading part in the musical service of the Second Temple.
Asaph is designated in ii Chronicles 29:30 as a seer (ḥozeh) and in i Chronicles 25:1–2 the musical function of the sons of Asaph was referred to as prophesying (cf. ii Chron. 20:14–23). The institution of the levitical chanting of hymns is attributed to him in association with David (cf. Neh. 12:46). The psalms in the collection of Psalms 73–83, as also Psalm 50, have the caption "of Asaph." It is possible that this designation is based on a tradition which assigned their composition to him, although it is also possible that the purport of the caption was that the psalms in question pertained to a collection which the Asaphites used to sing, or perhaps that they were sung in a style peculiar to the Asaphites.
In the Aggadah
According to one view, Asaph was not the son of the wicked Korah, but merely a descendant of his branch of the tribe of Levi (Lev. R. 17:1); others, however, regard him as the son of Korah, and as an example of how the son of a wicked person can become religious through the study of the Torah (Song R. 4:4). He helped King David write the Book of Psalms (bb 14b). He sang while the Temple was burning, justifying his action, by stating: "I am happy that God has wrought His vengeance only on wood and stones" (Lam. R. 4:14). Even when God Himself wept at the destruction of the Temple, Asaph refused to do so, but instead exhorted Him to action with the words of Psalms 74:3: "Lift up Thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary" (Midrash Zuta, Buber ed. (1894), Lam. 75, p. 166).
(2) The ancestor of a family of gatekeepers according to i Chronicles 26:1, but the name should probably be emended to Ebiasaph; cf. i Chronicles 9:19.
(3) The Father of Joah, "recorder" of King *Hezekiah (ii Kings 18:18; Isa. 36:3).
(4) Keeper of the royal park of *Artaxerxesi, king of Persia (Neh. 2:8).
J.W. Rothstein and J. Haenel, Kommentar zum ersten Buch der Chronik (1927), iii, 313 ff., 345 ff.; Albright, Arch Rel, 126 ff.; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 382–5, 389, 392; S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 (1962), 95 ff.; em, s.v.add. bibliography: S. Japhet, i & ii Chronicles (1993), 294–96. agaddah: Ginzberg, Legends, 3, 462; 6, 105.