Nehemiah 12


‘These were the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and with Joshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluk, Hattush, Shekaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah, Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and their associates in the days of Joshua. The Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and also Mattaniah, who, together with his associates, was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services. Joshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua. In the days of Joiakim, these were the heads of the priestly families: of Seraiah’s family, Meraiah; of Jeremiah’s, Hananiah; of Ezra’s, Meshullam; of Amariah’s, Jehohanan; of Malluk’s, Jonathan; of Shekaniah’s, Joseph; of Harim’s, Adna; of Meremoth’s, Helkai; of Iddo’s, Zechariah; of Ginnethon’s, Meshullam; of Abijah’s, Zikri; of Miniamin’s and of Moadiah’s, Piltai; of Bilgah’s, Shammua; of Shemaiah’s, Jehonathan; of Joiarib’s, Mattenai; of Jedaiah’s, Uzzi; of Sallu’s, Kallai; of Amok’s, Eber; of Hilkiah’s, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah’s, Nethanel. The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law.’ Nehemiah 12:1-26

Priests And Levites

This chapter is a continuation of the previous chapter in the listing of names. Here the list focuses on the names of the descendants of the priests and Levites who originally went to Jerusalem in the exodus led by Zerubbabel that took place over 90 years before the ministry of Nehemiah.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The number of the names here given, which is 22, is probably to be connected with that of the Davidic ‘courses,’ which was 24, 1 Chronicles 24:7-18. Eight names are identical to those of the heads in David’s time. On comparing the present list with that of the families who sealed to Nehemiah‘s covenant, Nehemiah 10:2-8, we shall find that the first sixteen recur in that document nearly in the same order; but that the last six are absent from it. It would seem that as these six declined to seal Nehemiah‘s covenant, they were placed below the rest here in a sort of supplementary list. Note especially the ‘and’ which connects the second part of the lists with the earlier part, both in Nehemiah 12:6 and in Nehemiah 12:19.’

I Nehemiah 12:1-9 speaks about the leaders of the priests and the Levitical families who returned with Zerubbabel.

Nehemiah 12:10-11 names six of the high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua.

Nehemiah 12:12-21 goes back in time and lists the heads of the priestly families during Joakim’s reign, which was before Jerusalem’s captivity.

And finally, Nehemiah 12:22-26 lists the leaders of the Levitical families of Nehemiah’s time.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘In 1 Chronicles 9:17 / 1 Chronicles 9:24 / 1 Chronicles 9:26, four families of porters only are mentioned, six are implied here, in Nehemiah 7:45, and Ezra 2:42. From 1 Chronicles 26:14-19 it appears that the temple had four chief gates, fronting the cardinal points, and two minor ones, ‘toward Asuppim,’ and ‘at Parbar’.

Dedication Of The Wall Of Jerusalem

‘At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall.’ Nehemiah 12:27-30

These verses cover the details of the dedication of the rebuilt wall.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Although our text does not give us the exact date of the dedication, the historical note in, ‘Second Maccabees 1:18 gives the date of the dedication as the twenty fifth of the ninth month, Kislew, only three months after the completion of the wall.’

When the wall was finished being built, there was a cause of celebration because they had accomplished their task and Nehemiah was ready to dedicate the wall.

The Levites were called and they purified themselves, Hebrews 4:12 / 1 John 1:9, the people and the walls and gates and they also got all the singers and musical instrument players so they could celebrate this great event.

‘I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right, toward the Dung Gate. Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, along with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, as well as some priests with trumpets, and also Zechariah son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zakkur, the son of Asaph, and his associates—Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah and Hanani—with musical instruments prescribed by David the man of God. Ezra the teacher of the Law led the procession. At the Fountain Gate, they continued directly up the steps of the City of David on the ascent to the wall and passed above the site of David’s palace to the Water Gate on the east. The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people—past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, over the Gate of Ephraim, the Jeshanah Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate. At the Gate of the Guard they stopped. The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, as well as the priests—Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah with their trumpets—and also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam and Ezer. The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.’ Nehemiah 12:31-43

Here we find that Nehemiah takes the leaders of Judah to the top of the wall and had two thanksgiving choirs set up to sing. There were two groups, one led by Ezra and the other led by Nehemiah.

They marched around the top of the wall in opposite directions and came together at the area of the temple, where there was a great celebration.

Although the Jews were under the rule of the Persian Empire, they could rejoice in their identity as a people who had finally come together as one nation in the Promised Land. The Jews were so happy they had finished the wall that you could hear their rejoicing from a great distance away.

Notice that some people were involved with singing and playing instruments. It was David who prescribed musical instruments, that is, he introduced musical instruments into the celebrations of the Jews, 1 Samuel 10:5 / 2 Samuel 6:5 / Psalm 150:3 / 1 Chronicles 16:42 / 1 Chronicles 25:1 / 2 Chronicles 5:12 / 2 Chronicles 29:25.

Although women didn’t usually get involved in Jewish celebrations, here, we find the women and their children enjoying the celebrations. This was a day of national celebration and every one of those who represented the remnant of Israel were to participate in the joyous occasion.

‘At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites. They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did also the musicians and gatekeepers, according to the commands of David and his son Solomon. For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.’ Nehemiah 12:44-47

The reforms mentioned here that Nehemiah made after he returned from the Persian king. Nehemiah was initially in Palestine for twelve years, Nehemiah 5:14 / Nehemiah 13:6, after which he made a brief return to the Persian capital.

It’s here we learn that some men had been appointed to collect tithes for the storerooms in Jerusalem, this was to ensure that the priests and the Levites were supported, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. This hadn’t been practised for a long time and the Jews were filled with joy to start this again as God had commanded.

They also purified themselves, 1 Chronicles 23:28, and the singers and gatekeepers were to be given a portion of food from the Jews as well.

Cook, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The author is comparing the religious activity and strictness of Nehemiah’s time with that which had prevailed under Zerubbabel, described in Ezra 6:16-22, with the implication that the intermediate period had been a time of laxity.’

Go To Nehemiah 13


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."