Who was Jeduthun and what was his relationship to David?
With the exception of the implication that the origin and background of the musical system of the Levites traced back to Egypt through and Moses and the period in which the Israelites resided there, we have no historical or scriptural references to rely upon. On the surface, the same is also true with the musical background and training of David.
What we do know from the scriptures is that David was well known as a musician as a young man, even being summoned before King Saul to play away his numerous mood swings (1 Samuel 16:14-23). From the plethora of works found within the Psalm manuscripts that are attributed in some manner to him, it is reasonable to conclude that David was intimately familiar with and well trained in the inner workings of music from a compositional, lyrical, instrumental and performance standpoint. Along all his many other traits, David was a very talented individual in music. The question is, how did a young shepherd boy become one of the most famous musicians and composers of all time? The answer may lie in his association with one of the prominent Levites named Jeduthun.
Jeduthun was one of the three primary singers and musical directors appointed by David to serve along with his Levite brethern at the Tabernacle, the tent in Zion and the later Temple systems in a musical capacity before YAHVEH. Looking at the accounts relating to the selection of these three key individuals we find the following references:
If you look in your Bible at these accounts, the first thing you find is that the accounts above do not occur in a chronological sequence, 1 Chronicles 15 occurs before 1 Chronicles 6. The second thing you will find is the chapter and verse numbering systems of 1 Chronicles 6 in the King James and the Jewish Publications Society (JPS) do not agree (same information is being referenced, just different numbering systems). The third thing you will notice is that when you compare who the three primary singers and musicals directors were, you will find two individuals mentioned along with Heman (the lead singer) and Asaph (the choir director): Ethan (1 Chronicles 15:19 and 6:29 [6:44]) and Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 16:41-42 and 1 Chronicles 25:1, 25:3, 25:6).
From the contexts of each these accounts, it is apparent that Ethan and Jeduthun are referencing the same individual, with the earlier accounts listing him as Ethan and the later accounts as Jeduthun. As was a common practice in key Biblical personalities, the lineage is often included for clarification. Interestingly, the lineage of Ethan is included (1 Chronicles 6:29 [6:44 KJV] and 1 Chronicles 15:17), but the linage of Jeduthun is not. The fact that Jeduthun does not have his father's linage listed in any of the accounts may indicate that the name Jeduthun was a nickname or title of some sort for the formal name of Ethan.
Assuming that Jeduthun and Ethan are referring to the same individual, we find that Jeduthun (Ethan) was a descendant from the family of Merari (1 Chronicles 6:29-32 [6:44-47 JPS] and 1 Chronicles 15:17). With this piece of the puzzle in place, we see our first possible link between David and Jeduthun. From the scriptural texts we find that the Levite families of Merari were allocated cities from the family of Zebulon as part of their inheritance for their positions as support personnel in relation to the Tabernacle, one of these cities was Bethlehem (Joshua 19:10-16, 21:7). David and Jeduthun may have lived in the same town of Bethlehem.
Although billeted as one of the three primary singers and musical directors along with Heman and Asaph, Jeduthun was apparently also one of the heavy-weight string players, serving as the musical director over the Levite string section and the patriarch of a family of string players and no doubt one of their teachers (1 Chronicles 25:1-8). Jeduthun is also one of the few individuals who had two of the Psalm manuscripts written specifically to be performed, as the Scriptures say over Jeduthun (Psalm 62, 77 with a third Psalm (Psalm 39:1) written for or by Jeduthun. In the same way that the superscription found in Psalm 61:1, for conducting over music of David, meant that the text was performed over a composition of David, the phrase over Jeduthun may indicate that the manuscripts was performed over the accompaniment of a specific individual, which in this case was Jeduthun. This is common practice even today where a composition or song is written with a particular singer, instrumentalist, or accompanist in mind.
From the sons of Jeduthun we find two of the original six lyre players, Mattithiah (1 Chronicles 25:3) and Obed-Edom (1 Chronicles 16:38) in the initial Levite marching ensemble when the Ark was relocated to Jerusalem. It is also from the sons of Jeduthun that six of the string players were selected by David and the Levite leaders, all under the direction of their father (Jeduthun) (1 Chronicles 25:1-31). For the last piece of this puzzle, let us go back to when the transport of the Ark to the City of David was initially attempted by David and his troupes.
When the initial attempt to move the Ark to the City of David by his troupes failed, David relocates the Ark temporarily to the house of Obed-Edom in Gath for three months (2 Samuel 6:10-12, 1 Chronicles 13:-14). Gath-hepher may have also been one of the cities of Zebulon that had been assigned to the Levite families of Merari (Joshua 19:10-16 , 21:7). So why did David trust that the Ark would be properly secured at the house of Obed-Edom? Could it have been that the Obed-Edom in whose house the Ark had been relocated was the same Obed-Edom, the lyre player (1 Chronicles 16:5) and the son of Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 16:38)?
Even though not specifically detailed in the Biblical texts, from the information we do have within the scriptures, we have a possible scenario as to how David learned his art as a musician and his connection to the Levite musical system. Jeduthun was his teacher and David, no doubt one of his prize students. This interconnected relationship between the Levite singers/musicians and David is further emphasized when we see that the Levite Heman, the lead singer, was also the grandson of Samuel the prophet,3 David's mentor. David was, on many levels, intimately familiar with the key players and personalities within the Levite musical system by time he became king over reunited and combined nation of Israel.
1 "Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers' houses of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of YAHVEH out of the city of David, which is Zion." - 1 King 8:1
2 1 Samuel 17:12
3 1 Chronicles 6:18 (6:33 KJV)