Question: "Who was Heman the Ezrahite in the Psalms?"
Answer: Heman the Ezrahite is the named author of Psalm 88 in the Old Testament. The title to this psalm notes, “A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.” It is clear from this title that Heman was from “the sons of Korah,” meaning from the family of Korah, and that Heman was likely both a songwriter and musician. Heman worked closely with King David and is also named a seer in 1 Chronicles 25:5.
Another Heman is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:5, but he is from the tribe of Judah and a different Heman from the one mentioned in Psalms. The Heman in Psalm 88 is a Levite mentioned with his family line in 1 Chronicles 6:33: “From the Kohathites: Heman, the musician, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel.”
Heman was the grandson of Samuel, the final judge of Israel who anointed King Saul and King David. In addition, Heman is listed as one of three main musicians appointed by King David “for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals” (1 Chronicles 25:1).
Heman’s family was well known, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 25:4–6: “As for Heman, from his sons: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth. (All these were sons of Heman the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.) All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God.” His musical family of fourteen sons and three daughters was prominent during the reign of King David.
Heman and his family were also present when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem: “All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets” (2 Chronicles 5:12). Heman and the other Levites were formally dressed, sang, and played instruments at this time.
It seems that Heman was still serving during the time of King Solomon, son of David. Heman was considered very wise. Solomon, the wisest of all, was compared to Heman: “He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman” (1 Kings 4:31).
The musician and sage Heman served in Israel as a Levite, a seer, a songwriter, a godly father, and a man of influence during the time of David and Solomon. Today, his only known song is Psalm 88, a song of one passionate for God: “Lord, you are the God who saves me; / day and night I cry out to you” (Psalm 88:1).