Scriptures

Nehemiah 7

Introduction

‘After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do. I said to them, “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. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.” Nehemiah 7:1-3

Now that the wall had been completed, Nehemiah 6:15, Nehemiah wants the gates to be protected by men that he could trust and so, he chooses gatekeepers, singers and Levites to do so, 1 Chronicles 26:1-19.

He also put his brother Hanani in charge of Jerusalem, he is the same man that brought him the news about the Jews’ condition when he still serving as cupbearer for the king, Nehemiah 1:1-3. Nehemiah also put Hananiah in charge of Jerusalem, he is described as a man of integrity and God-fearing, 1 Timothy 1:12.

Normally the gates would be open from sunrise to sunset, but Nehemiah only wants them open for part of the day and he wants the people to keep an eye out at the gate and from their homes so that none of their enemies could pull a surprise attack on them.

This is why the gates were closed at night, and not opened until everyone was up and alert in the morning.

‘Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there: These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town.’ Nehemiah 7:4-6

From the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. to the time of Nehemiah, the city of Jerusalem had been depopulated. The number of those who returned with Zerubbabel was no more than 42,360, Nehemiah 7:66 and less than 2,000 people had come with Ezra, Ezra 8:1-20.

When it says that the houses weren’t rebuilt, it’s clear from the text that this didn’t mean all of them, because they did have some houses.

Notice how Nehemiah gives God all the credit again, this was all God’s plan. Nehemiah finds a list of men that came back with Zerubbabel, which is the same list found in Ezra 2:1-70, with just a few differences.

Nehemiah wants to make sure that only the pure Jews were added and so this list would help him do that. In order for Israel to exist as a nation, both Ezra and Nehemiah were very strict concerning the racial purity of the Jews.

The List Of The Exiles Who Returned

‘In company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah): The list of the men of Israel: the descendants of Parosh 2,172 of Shephatiah 372 of Arah 652 of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,818 of Elam 1,254 of Zattu 845 of Zakkai 760 of Binnui 648 of Bebai 628 of Azgad 2,322 of Adonikam 667 of Bigvai 2,067 of Adin 655 of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98 of Hashum 328 of Bezai 324 of Hariph 112 of Gibeon 95 the men of Bethlehem and Netophah 188 of Anathoth 128 of Beth Azmaveth 42 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 of Ramah and Geba 621 of Mikmash 122 of Bethel and Ai 123 of the other Nebo 52 of the other Elam 1,254 of Harim 320 of Jericho 345 of Lod, Hadid and Ono 721 of Senaah 3,930 The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah (through the family of Jeshua) 973 of Immer 1,052 of Pashhur 1,247 of Harim 1,017 The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua (through Kadmiel through the line of Hodaviah) 74 The musicians: the descendants of Asaph 148 The gatekeepers: the descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai 138 The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, Keros, Sia, Padon, Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai, Hanan, Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah, Besai, Meunim, Nephusim, Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, Barkos, Sisera, Temah, Neziah and Hatipha. The descendants of the servants of Solomon: the descendants of Sotai, Sophereth, Perida, Jaala, Darkon, Giddel, Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Amon. The temple servants and the descendants of the servants of Solomon 392. The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel: the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda 642. And from among the priests: the descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name). These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor, therefore, ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there should be a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim. The whole company numbered 42,360, besides their 7,337 male and female slaves; and they also had 245 male and female singers. There were 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys. Some of the heads of the families contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 bowls and 530 garments for priests. Some of the heads of the families gave to the treasury for the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. The total given by the rest of the people was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver and 67 garments for priests. The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns. ‘ Nehemiah 7:7-73

After reading through this list of names, we find there are seven distinct groups of people mentioned.

1. The leaders. 2. The men of Israel. 3. The priests. 4. The Levites. 5. The temple servants. 6. The sons of Solomon’s servants. 7. Those of uncertain genealogy.

These were the religious leaders of those who had returned from captivity, Ezra 2:1-70.

Zerubbabel, whose name means ‘seed of Babylon’, possibly because he was born there, appears as the leader of the return to Jerusalem. He’s usually described as the son of Shealtiel, Ezra 3:2, but 1 Chronicles 3:19 describes him as the son of Shealtiel’s brother Pedaiah.

It’s probable that Shealtiel died childless, whereupon a Levirate marriage, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, resulted in the birth of Zerubbabel, who was thus the actual son of Pedaiah but the legal son of Shealtiel.

Notice the name Nehemiah, this isn’t the same Nehemiah who returned to the land in order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah 1:1-13.

Also, notice the name Mordecai, this isn’t the same Mordecai who was the cousin of Esther, Esther 2:5-6. The event which is taking place here happened before the events of Esther and the later coming of Nehemiah.

Although we may find genealogies very boring to read, to the Jew they were vitally important, especially when it comes to possession of land.

The Levites are mentioned not for the purpose of owning land because God was their inheritance, Deuteronomy 10:8-9, they are mentioned in order to prove that they were from the tribe of Levi so that they could serve as priests in God’s temple and minister to God’s people, Numbers 3:3-37 / Numbers 4:3.

The total number of Levites was actually less than the number of priests that returned. This means that a remarkably small percentage of the Levites returned from Babylon. The priests were the descendants of Aaron and they were blessed to work in God’s temple, 2 Chronicles 31:19.

Most of the priests stayed behind in Babylon. The temple servants are called the ‘Nethinim’ in some translations. They were the descendants of the Gibeonites, who were made special servants of the Levites and the priests at the temple.

The descendants of Solomon were those employed by Solomon who came from other people groups. They came into Israel as foreign proselytes.

The Urim and the Thummim were kept inside the ephod of the priests, Exodus 28:30 / Leviticus 8:8 / Judges 20:18-28 / Ezra 2:63. Urim means ‘lights’ and Thummim means ‘perfections’. They were probably two jewels and although no one really knows how they worked, it appears they simply gave ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to specific questions.

Notice verses 61-65, in which we find that some that had been serving as priests weren’t on this list and they were dismissed from their work until their lineage could be proven, the reason for this is to highlight the fact that Nehemiah only wanted those that were qualified to serve.

There’s no doubt these first people who returned to Jerusalem were very generous. Their aim is simply to rebuild the altar so that they can begin sacrificing to the Lord. It’s clear that their offering was more than enough to get the job done.

Here again, we see the leadership skills of Nehemiah, he wanted to live by God’s laws and he encouraged everyone around him to do the same.

The temple had been rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra, and the city of Jerusalem was considered rebuilt by the completion of the walls. The Persians had willingly commissioned the work of both Ezra and Nehemiah in order to make Jerusalem an official city of authority for the Persian Empire.

Ezra Reads The Law

‘When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns.’ Nehemiah 7:74

This verse is actually the start of the next chapter.

Go To Nehemiah 7

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