Heman’s sons sang and prophesied with musical instruments at the sanctuary. Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman.
What catches a number of scholars’ attention is I Chronicles 24:4, which lists the sons of Heman:
“Of Heman: the sons of Heman; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamtiezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth” (KJV).
More than one scholar believes that there is a sentence, or a piece of a psalm, in this verse.
The commentator on this verse in Peake’s Bible commentary believes that the sentence starts at “Hananiah” and ends at “Mahazioth.” He translates it to say: “Be gracious unto me, Yah, be gracious unto me; my God art Thou, Thee do I magnify and exalt; my helper when I am in trouble, I say, give me fullness of visions.”
Roddy Braun in the Word Biblical Commentary quotes W. Rudolph’s rendering of the psalm piece: “Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, be gracious to me; You are my God. I exalt (you), I praise (my) Helper. Sitting in adversity, I said, [or, Fulfill my request] Clear signs give plentifully.”
E.W. Bullinger starts the sentence later, at “Giddalti”: “I have magnified, and I have raised up help; Sitting in trouble, I have spoken many oracles.”
The commentator in Peake’s commentary speculates that “Although these appear now as proper names they were possibly not so originally…” The commentator still notes that the names appear as proper names “elsewhere in the chapter.”
E.W. Bullinger says that Heman may have named his sons with that psalm in mind, since parents at that time often named their children with some purpose in mind—-to convey a message. Indeed, we do see this in the Bible, especially in Genesis. Still, I have a hard time envisioning Heman naming one son in reference to the first word in a Psalm, then the next son in reference to the next word, and so on. How would he even have known that he would eventually have enough sons to complete the sentence? Maybe he was just trying, not knowing if it would work out or not. “The names are good names, even if I do not get to finish the sentence,” Heman may have thought. Or perhaps Heman prophetically knew at the outset that he would have enough sons to complete the sentence/psalm. He is said to have prophesied in I Chronicles 25:1, and v 5 calls him the king’s seer.
Braun refers to Rudolph’s view that “individuals or groups of singers may actually have taken their names from psalms which were especially sung by them” (Braun’s words), but he goes on to say that D.L. Petersen “finds unconvincing the Sumerian parallels that are quoted.”
Braun refers to another idea: that the names are not one psalm verse but rather are the beginnings of various psalms. Braun does not find that convincing, however, for “no satisfactory psalms are apparent in our psalter for the last two groups of names.” Braun may be correct that there are no psalms that start with, say, “abundance,” or “visions” (the meanings proposed for some of the names). Still, I wonder if a psalm could have such titles: if a Psalm is about visions, could it have had a title of “visions”?
I looked up the meaning of the names. I went to Brown-Driver-Briggs, Strong’s, and Blueletterbible, which referred to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon and also an “Outline of Biblical Usage.” I will share my findings here:
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “whom Jehovah gave”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “God has favoured”
Strong’s: “Jah has favored”
BDB: “Yah hath been gracious”
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: : “favourable”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “gracious”
BDB: maybe abbreviation of Hananiah
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “to whom God comes”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “God has come”
Strong’s: “God of (his) consent”
BDB: “God has come”
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: doesn’t give meaning
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I make great”
Strong’s: “I have made great”
BDB: “I magnify (God)”
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: none
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I have exalted the helper”
Strong’s: “I have raised up a help”
BDB: “I have made lofty help”
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “seat in a hard place”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “seated in hardness”
Strong’s: “a hard seat”
BDB: pertains to “seat”
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “my fullness”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I have uttered”
Strong’s: “I have talked”, “loquacious”
BDB: “I have uttered” (from piel of m-l-l)
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: none
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “abundance.”
Strong’s: “he has caused to remain”
BDB: “abundance, superabundance” (from y-t-r, “remain”)
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “visions”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “visions”
As I look at these, I can see the bases for the various translations of the alleged psalm piece. Some of the translators understand certain words differently, however: more than one, for example, translate “Eliathah” as “you are my God,” the idea being that “Eli” is “my God” and “athah” here is the second person singular, “you.” I question whether the names come together to create a smooth-flowing sentence. Moreover, as I double-click on the names on my BibleWorks, I notice that many of the words do not appear in psalms in the Book of Psalms, and that leads me to doubt if these names are all part of a psalm fragment at the outset. But some believe they are.