The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Nehemiah 7

Neh 7:1

Neh 7: "Nehemiah not only directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem; he also set out to rebuild the nation and to strengthen its morality. His work does not cease with the building, but he was careful to follow up with regulations that were calculated to help the development of the nation. How important that example! So he [1] set out security regulations: vv 1-4. [2] The population problem considered: vv 5-73.

"Nehemiah undertook his labours on behalf of Yahweh. He recognised the importance of determining who were the true seed of Israel, for it was to this end that careful genealogies were kept. How otherwise would it be established that Jesus was of the lineage of David? So he set out the register of those who had come from Babylon with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah used it as a basis of comparison for the census he plans to undertake. We might spend less time reading such a chapter, or avoid the difficult names, but we should remember that if our name were included, how delighted we would be to have everyone read the chapter!" (GEM).

AFTER THE WALL HAD BEEN REBUILT AND I HAD SET THE DOORS IN PLACE, THE GATEKEEPERS AND THE SINGERS AND THE LEVITES WERE APPOINTED: Having finished the walls Nehemiah took steps to insure that the city would remain secure by appointing guards; now temple worship could flourish. The gatekeepers usually guarded the temple entrance, but Nehemiah posted them at the city gates because of the imminent danger there.

Neh 7:2

MY BROTHER HANANI, ALONG WITH HANANIAH...: Or possibly, "Hanani, that is, Hananiah" -- being two names for the same person.

HE WAS A MAN OF INTEGRITY: Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

Neh 7:3

THE GATES OF JERUSALEM ARE NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL THE SUN IS HOT. WHILE THE GATEKEEPERS ARE STILL ON DUTY, HAVE THEM SHUT THE DOORS AND BAR THEM: To minimize the threat of potential invaders, Nehemiah ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be open only during the busiest hours of the day.

Neh 7:4

BUT THERE WERE FEW PEOPLE IN IT: Many of the builders had been "commuters"! People had not been living in Jerusalem because it was vulnerable to attack; the small population rendered it more vulnerable than it would have been with the city full of people. Nehemiah later proposed a plan that would increase the population and consequently the security of Jerusalem (Neh 11:1,2).

Neh 7:5

Vv 5-73: The record of those who returned. This is not a list of the people who accompanied Nehemiah to Jerusalem in 444 BC, but a record of those who returned with Sheshbazzar (Zerubbabel) and Jeshua in 537 BC (v 7). It is almost identical to the list in Ezra 2.

Why did Nehemiah repeat this list? Apparently he wanted to encourage the Jews to move into Jerusalem (cp Neh 11:1,2), this being one of the goals of the return. To determine who were pure-blooded Israelites, he did some research and uncovered this list. He then used it as the basis for his plan (cf Neh 11:1-24).

The repetition of this list also confirms God's faithfulness in preserving His chosen people, and God's loyal love in bringing them back into the land that He promised to give their ancestors. It is a second witness to His faithfulness and love, the first list being the first witness. (The Nehemiah of v 7 is therefore not Nehemiah the wall-builder: cf Ezra 2:2.)

The total number who returned was 49,942 (vv 66,67; Ezra 2:64,65). However the sum of the individuals the writer mentioned in this chapter is 31,089 (and 29,818 in Ezra 2).

Vv 5-38: The register of returned exiles (25,406).

THE FIRST TO RETURN: That is, with Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:1).

Neh 7:39

Vv 39-42: The register of the priests (4,289).

Neh 7:43

Vv 43-45: The register of the Levites (360).

Neh 7:46

Vv 46-56: The register of the temple servants (392) (see v 60).

TEMPLE SERVANTS: Or "Nethinim" (AV). They are said specifically to be those "whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites" (Ezr 8:20), thus indicating both their realm of activity and their historical origin. In most of the occurrences they are listed with and after the Levites (cf 1Ch 9:2; Ezr 7:7; Neh 7:73). Because of this reference to the activity of David and their being joined with Solomon's servants (Ezr 2:58; Neh 7:60; cf 1Ki 9:21) and the foreign names that they bear, it has been thought that they were foreigners, mostly captives of war, put into this service. For example, Mehunim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to those overcome by Uzziah (2Ch 26:7). Nephusim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to the Hagarite clan of Naphish (Gen 25:15; 1Ch 5:19). Because of the similarity of duty, some have sought their background in the Gibeonites, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Jos 9:23,27) and also in the Midianites (Num 31:30,47). The correlation is probably no more than that of similarity of service, not direct relationship. Whatever may be the roots of their origin, they were treated as part of the people of God, at least as proselytes (Neh 10:28...). They are mentioned by name in the OT in post-Exilic times. From Babylon 612 returned, 392 with Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:58: Neh 7:60) a count which includes "the children of Solomon's servants") and 220 with Ezra (Ezr 8:20) as "ministers for the house of our God" from the place Casiphia (Ezr 8:17) "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king (Ezr 7:7). Like other sacred ministers, they were exempted from taxation (Ezr 7:24).

Neh 7:57

Vv 57-60: The sons of Solomon's servants. These appear to be a subset of all the "temple servants" (vv 46-56), and the total of both classes seems to have been 392 (v 60).

Neh 7:61

Vv 61-64: Priests with unproven descent (642).

Neh 7:65

THE GOVERNOR: "Tirshatha" in KJV. Lit "the fear, or reverence". A title given to Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:63), and now to Nehemiah.

THE SACRED FOOD: "The most holy food" (RSV). That is, the tithes for the priests (Neh 10:32-39).

UNTIL THERE SHOULD BE A PRIEST MINISTERING WITH THE URIM AND THUMMIM: That is, until a definitive answer from Yahweh could be obtained, as to the lineage of all the priests. For Urim and Thummim, see Lev 8:8; Num 27:21; 1Sa 14:41; 23:3; 30:7; 2Sa 2:1.

Neh 7:66

THE WHOLE COMPANY NUMBERED 42,360: A reconciliation of Ezra's numbers (Ezr 2:64) with Nehemiah's numbers (Neh 7:66):
* The totals in Ezra: Men of Israel: 24,144; priests: 4,289; Levites, singers, etc: 341; temple servants 392; men of unproven origin: 652. Total of 29,818.
* The totals in Nehemiah: 25,406 (vv 5-38) + 4,289 (vv 39-42) + 360 (vv 43-45) + 392 (vv 46-60) + 642 (vv 61,62) = 31,089.
* Ezra: 29,818 (from Ezr 2), plus 1,765 (others, in Neh) = 31,583.
* Nehemiah: 31,089 (from totals of Neh 7), plus 494 (others, in Ezr) = 31,583.
* The 31,583, plus 10,777 (possibly from other ten tribes) = 42,360 (the total congregation: cp Ezr 2:64 and Neh 7:66).

Neh 7:67

Vv 67-69: Other statistics of the assembly.

Neh 7:70

Vv 70-73: Gifts to the priests.

THE GOVERNOR: The "Tirshatha", who was Nehemiah himself (Neh 8:9; 10:1).

1,000 DRACHMAS: "The equivalent of between £10000 and £20000 in modern terms -- not an insignificant amount" (PC).

Neh 7:73

WHEN THE SEVENTH MONTH CAME AND THE ISRAELITES HAD SETTLED IN THEIR TOWNS: The month Tishri in the year 537 BC -- the year in which the returned exiles just named gathered in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (cf Ezra 3). It could hardly be the "seventh month" in the year the walls were completed (444 BC) since the people were in Jerusalem on the first day of that seventh month (Neh 8:2), not in their various towns. Therefore, this v 73b should be appended to the end of the Neh 7 list (as it is in the KJV) -- not made the first phrase of Neh 8 (as the NIV does).

"Nehemiah appears to be reminding the reader of that great gathering with the hopes that a comparison will be made with the gathering recorded in Neh 8" (Laney).
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