THE first eleven psalms of Book III are headed "of Asaph." Asaph is mentioned in I Chronicles 16:5, as the chief of the Levites appointed by David "to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to celebrate and to thank and to praise the Lord." The sons of Asaph are mentioned in the reign of Josiah as Levitical singers, II Chronicles 35:15. They are also mentioned in Ezra 2:41, among those who returned from the Babylonian Exile. The Asaph family had functioned as Levitical singers for centuries. Hence, any psalm headed "A Psalm (or Maschil) of Asaph" belongs to a family or guild collection whose separate psalms may have been written at any period from the time of David until after the Exile. The heading, "of Asaph," therefore, can give us no indication as to the date of the psalm.
While the Asaph psalms occasionally deal with personal themes such as the prosperity of the wicked and the misfortunes of the righteous, the favorite subject of the Asaph psalms is the history of Israel. The psalms describe either an invasion or the exile, or present a long historical retrospect in order to prove a definite theory as to the relationship which existed between God and Israel.