Have you ever read the Bible and found people similar to you? Have you ever found people in God’s Word whose personalities were like your own? That experience has happened to me, and today I would like to share with you all an example of a person in the Bible who is much like me, in the hope that it may teach all of you that we can read the Bible to find out more about ourselves. Today I would like to talk about the life and writings of Heman the Ezrahite, a person who is mentioned several times in scripture, but who is nearly entirely unknown because few people have bothered to look him up.
What The Bible Says About Heman The Ezrahite
First, let us look at what the Bible says about Heman the Ezrahite. We can find a variety of information about Heman from the Bible, if we know where to look. Let us begin by examining his family history in 1 Chronicles 6:31-38. 1 Chronicles 6:31-38 gives the genealogy of Heman, and it reads as follows: “Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of Lord, after the ark came to rest. They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they served in their office according to their order. And these are the ones who ministered with their sons: Of the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Ahaziah, the son of Zephaniah, the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel.”
Let us remark a little bit about Heman’s ancestry. His grandfather was Samuel, for whom two books of our Bible are named, who was a great judge and prophet who annointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Heman’s father was Joel, a corrupt and ungodly leader who took bribes, as the Bible says in 1 Samuel 8:3, but Heman himself is said by the Bible to have been a godly man. One of Heman’s distant ancestors was Korah, who the Bible considers a notorious rebel in Numbers 16, so famous that he is mentioned in Jude verse 11 as synonymous with rebellion. So we see that Heman had a family who was famous and known for its leadership, both for good and for evil. In that he is like many of us, with some family members who are very good examples of how to live, and others who are very wicked people. If you, like me, have had to grow up in a “godly” family whose bad examples you had to overcome, you can understand what difficulties a man like Heman faced.
We read again of Heman in 1 Chronicles 15:17-19, which tell us of Heman’s position within the Levite musicians. 1 Chronicles 15:17-19 reads as follows: “So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of their brethren, the sons of Merari, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; and with them their brethren of the second rank: Zechariah, Ben, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Elpheleh, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, and Jeiel, the gatekeepers; the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound the cymbals of bronze.” We see here that Heman, along with two other Levites named Asaph and Ethan, who are also known authors of psalms, were in charge of all of the Levite musicians at the tabernacle and temple of God in Jerusalem. This was an important responsibility, and the Levites took it seriously.
Let us also note what the Bible says about Heman’s family in 1 Chronicles 25:4-5. 1 Chronicles 25:4-5 gives the names of some of Heman’s sons and Heman’s title in service of King David and King Solomon: “Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti Romamti-Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.” Heman was so highly thought of by God that the Bible specifically tells us that God deliberately strengthened his power by giving him a large family. It is indeed a special blessing for God to care for us in this way.
Heman was present at the dedication of the temple, when God’s spirit came into the temple of God, in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14. 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 reads as follows: “And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all of the priests who were present had sanctified themselves without keeping to their divisions), and the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthan, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets—indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” We see here that Heman was present at that miraculous moment when God’s glory filled the Temple of God, showing that God was present with His people of Israel.
And that is not all that is said about Heman. Heman is said to have been one of the wisest men of Israel during his life. Let us turn to 1 Kings 4:29-31, which talks about the wisdom of Solomon and also mentions Heman. 1 Kings 4:29-31 reads as follows: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.” Heman was here counted as a son of Mahol because he was part of the guild of musicians and dancers. But we see from 1 Kings that Heman was recognized as a wise man during his time, almost as wise as King Solomon.
A Look At Psalm 88
Having examined what the Bible says about the wise and godly and musical Heman, let us see what Heman himself wrote in scripture, for he was one of the godly men inspired by God to write the Book of Psalms. Let us therefore turn to Psalm 88, which Heman wrote, and we may gain from Psalm 88 a greater understanding both of Heman as a man, and of God’s purpose for the psalms. When I was a child around the age of 10 or 11, I wrote the location of one psalm in the table of contents of my first Bible. That psalm was Psalm 88. Let us now read it, so that we may understand why.
Psalm 88 is one one of the most distinctive psalms of the Bible, a psalm of lament that has no happy ending, and no resolution of its unhappiness. It stands as virtually the only psalm without any praise or happiness whatsoever. And yet God inspired this psalm. Why would He do such a thing? Psalm 88 reads as follows: “O Lord, God of my salvation. I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave. I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and who are cut of from Your hand. You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves. Selah. You have put away my friends and acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up , and I cannot get out; my eye wastes away because of my affliction. Lord, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You. Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah. Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But to You I have cried out, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer comes before You. Lord, why do you cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught. Your fierce wrath has gone over me; Your terrors have cut me off. They come around me all day long like water; they engulfed me altogether. Loved one and friend You have put far from me, and my acquaintance into darkness.”
What would lead a child of ten or eleven to think of this psalm in particular, above all others? Even as a young person I related to the anguish and sorrow of Heman’s words. Before I knew anything about the man, I was drawn to his heartfelt lament of a struggle against depression that he had suffered from his youth. Here was a man, a godly man, an intelligent man, and a wise man, who had known trouble all the days of his life, and who had felt that the trials and suffering He endured were because of the wrath of God. How many of us are like that in our own lives, dealing with trials that seem never to end, wondering when things will ever be right and good, not knowing when God will show His mercy and kindness to us and lift us up from the depths of despair?
For God does show mercy and kindness to the dead—He sent us Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was resurrected to be the Firstborn into eternal life from the grave. All of us who believe will follow Him, to thank God for His lovingkindness in the grave, His faithfulness in the place of destruction, His wonders known in the dark, and His righteousness in the land of forgetfulness. Let us not forget either that Heman was a man whom God did richly bless. Why did he suffer despair and depression for so many years, for maybe his whole life? Did he bear the burden of something horrible in his childhood, from the sins of his fathers? Many people bear such burdens today—I among them. This psalm belongs not only to Heman, but to all of us as well who wonder when God will remove the curse of sin and death from our lives and bring us into the joy of His salvation. That day will come when the dead will arise and praise God, and when we will be raised incorruptible to enjoy His kingdom for all time. In the meantime, we wait and we pray and we work to practice God’s righteous ways as best as we know how to do, much like Heman did some three thousand years ago.
Why do you think that the words of Heman the grandson of Samuel have spoken so long and so well for me? It is because we have similar minds and similar hearts, similar requests and petitions to God, and similar struggles to overcome the evils that we have suffered from our youth. What people in the Bible are each of you like? If you do not know, why not seek them out? For there are many different personalities and gifts among the godly people in scripture. When you find a godly person in the Bible who appears to think and act like you, you know that since God was with that person, then He can be with you and bless your life as well. For do we not need all the encouragement that we can find to live the way of God in an evil world trapped in darkness and misery? And are we not called to be a light to others? Therefore let us ask God first to give us that light of understanding, so that we may share it with other people, like the wisdom shared to all of us through the words and deeds of the godly and intelligent and wise Heman.