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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Nehemiah 7

 

 

Verse 1

NEHEMIAH PREPARES TO RETURN TO BABYLON;

TACKLES THE PROBLEM OF REPOPULATING JERUSALEM THE SECURITY OF THE CITY

"Now it came to pass when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters, and the singers, and the Levites were appointed."

The singers and the Levites are here named along with the keepers of the city gates; and, because that was something of an unusual assignment for Levites and singers, the critics promptly claim that their mention here is, "A mistaken addition by the Chronicler."[1] Of course, Nehemiah is the author here, not the mythical `chronicler' of the radical critics, who, in their view was not merely incompetent, but an unqualified liar as well. This view regarding this verse was long ago disputed and disproved; but true to the critical `style,' succeeding generations continue to parrot their old shibboleths. Hamrick, for example, wrote that, the addition of singers and Levites to the gatekeepers was due to, "Confusion,"[2] on the part of the author. There was no possibility whatever that Nehemiah was confused about whom he appointed as gatekeepers of Jerusalem.

And why were singers and Levites needed and appointed to this work? They were loyal to God and to Nehemiah; and the single largest group who populated the city at that time were the priests; and they were not loyal. Nehemiah was preparing to return to Persia, and he was taking the utmost precautions to leave Jerusalem's security intact.

Williamson refuted the usual critical claim that these words regarding the singers and Levites `are a gloss,' adding that, "These were emergency arrangements only."[3] F.C. Cook also agreed that the singers and Levites were assigned to this work, "Because their experience (as guardians of the Temple) pointed them out as the fittest persons for this task."[4]


Verse 2

"I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the governor of the castle, charge over Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many."

Hanani here is the same person who brought Nehemiah the sad news about the state of Jerusalem while Nehemiah was still cupbearer to king Artaxerxes, Scholars are in disagreement on whether there is one man mentioned in this verse or two. As the translators have it, there are clearly two persons, Nehemiah's brother, and another person who was in charge of the castle. The RSV and most of the scholars we have consulted consider that two men are named. However, Bowman, in The Interpreter's Bible, wrote that, "Hanani and Hananiah are identical names, the former an abbreviation of the latter; and, obviously, the and joining the two names is explicative."[5] Nehemiah's use of the singular pronoun he in the final clause of the verse supports Bowman's view.

Despite this, we are unwilling to set aside the plain statements in the ASV and the RSV denoting two persons, not merely one. "He put his brother Hanani, and Hananiah the governor of the castle (on the north side of the temple, in charge of the city)."[6] "The high religious principle, as well as the patriotic spirit of these two men recommended them as being preeminently qualified for being invested with an official trust of such vast importance."[7] Supporting the apparent conviction of the translators of ASV and RSV, is the fact that Jerusalem was officially divided into two districts (Nehemiah 3:12), and that the custom of dual directorships of cities and districts was common (See also Nehemiah 3:18).

"It is believed that Nehemiah was preparing to return to Persia, and wanted to leave a dependable person in charge."[8]


Verse 3

"And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand on guard, let the doors be shut, and bar ye them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one his watch, and every one to be over against his house."

"Let not the gates ... be opened till the sun is hot." "The gates of Oriental cities were usually opened at sunrise,"[9] but Nehemiah ordered them to be opened somewhat later. Furthermore, "The gates were to be closed in the evenings prior to the departure of the guards."[10] After the closing of the gates, watchmen were to be placed along the wall, "every man over against his own house." As Cundall noted, "This is another example of Nehemiah's wise understanding of human nature."[11]


Verse 4

"Now the city was wide and large; but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded."

This verse is actually the key to the inclusion at once of that long list of genealogies. Jerusalem was in desperate need of more inhabitants, for it was far too large a city for the few who lived there; and "Nehemiah, at once, laid plans for populating the city with PURE JEWS; and the register of those who had returned with Zerubbabel becomes his basis for determining the purity of genealogy."[12]

And the houses were not builded. "This must be understood in a relative sense, because some houses are referred to in Nehemiah 7:3."[13]


Verse 5

"And my God put it into my heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of them that came up at the first, and 50found written therein:"

"God put it into my heart." Nehemiah always gave God credit for whatever he did, giving all the glory to God.

"The genealogy of them that came up at first." This can be understood only as a reference to them that came up with Zerubbabel, a number approaching 50,000. Older and more recent scholars alike affirm the identity of the following list with that in the Book of Ezra. "This list is approximately the same as that of the exiles who returned under Zerubbabel; and it must have been found by Nehemiah in the archives in Jerusalem."[14] "Except for Nehemiah 7:70-72, this register is identical with that in Ezra 2:1-70."[15]

Nothing is of less interest to current readers than these genealogical registers in the O.T.; but the importance of them is great indeed. The great promise of God looking to the redemption of fallen humanity, and the bringing into our world of the Dayspring from On High, specifically tied that promise to the "Seed (singular) of Abraham" (Genesis 12:3); and when Mary cradled the Son of God in the Bethelehem manger, it was absolutely necessary that all men should have been certain that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed that Seed. It was the concern and diligence of men like Nehemiah who preserved and honored the genealogies of the people that were absolutely the prerequisites of Christian confidence in the identity of Jesus Christ.

We shall have little or no comment on this register of names.


Verse 6

"These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity of them that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and that returned unto Jerusalem and to Judah, every one into his city; who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamaiah, Nahamani,, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

"The number of the men of the people of Israel: the children of Parosh, two thousand a hundred and seventy two. The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two. The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two. The children of Pahath-moab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen. The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five. The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore. The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight. The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight. The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two. The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven. The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven. The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five. The children of Ater, of Hezekiah, ninety and eight. The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight. The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four. The children of Hariph, a hundred and twelve. The children of Gibeon, ninety and five. The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, a hundred fourscore and eight. The men of Anathoth, a hundred twenty and eight. The men of Beth-azmaveth, forty and two. The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three. The men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one. The men of Michmas, a hundred and twenty and two. The men of Bethel and Ai, a hundred and twenty and three. The men of the other Nebo, a hundred fifty and two. The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred and fifty and four. The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty. The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five. The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one. The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty.

"The priests: The children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three. The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.

"The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four. The singers: the children of Asaph, a hundred forty and eight. The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, a hundred forty and eight.

"The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, the children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon, the children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Salmai, the children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephushesim, the children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, the children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Temah, the children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.

"The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida, the children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, the children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the children of Amon. All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two.

"And these were they that went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not show their fathers' houses nor their seed, whether they were of Israel: The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. And of the priests: the children of Hobaiah, the children of Hakkoz, the children of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name. These sought their register among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they deemed polluted and put from the priesthood. And the governor said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummin.

"The whole assembly together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, besides their man-servants and their maid-servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women. Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules two hundred forty and five; their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.

"And some from among the heads of fathers' houses gave unto the work. The governor gave to the treasury a thousand darics of gold, fifty basins, five hundred and thirty priests' garments. And some of the heads of fathers' houses gave into the treasury of the work twenty thousand darics of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pounds of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand darics of gold, and two thousand pounds of silver and threescore and seven priests' garments.

"So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. (And when the seventh month was come, the children of Israel were in their cities)."

The final parenthesis here is included as a part of Nehemiah 8 in our version.

For our comments on a number of things regarding this list, please see the parallel account in Ezra. There is nothing further which we wish to add here.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Nehemiah 7:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/nehemiah-7.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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