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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Nehemiah 7

Verses 1-4

B. The Rebuilding of the Walls 3:1-7:4

Nehemiah described the reconstruction of the walls, starting with the Sheep Gate near the city’s northeast corner, moving counterclockwise. This record honors those who-by building-helped reestablish Israel in the Promised Land, in harmony with God’s will (cf., e.g., Isaiah 52:11-12).

5. The completion of the work 6:15-7:4

The builders finished the walls only 52 days after construction had begun (Nehemiah 6:15). "Elul" is late August and early September. Israel’s enemies viewed their rapid progress as evidence that God had helped the workers (Nehemiah 6:16).

"The best answer to opposition is to keep working and fulfill God’s will; thus others will see God’s power." [Note: Breneman, p. 213.]

The writer mentioned another detracting ploy the enemy instigated. By doing so, he suggested that this additional problem may have plagued Nehemiah throughout the whole process of rebuilding the wall. As mentioned before, Tobiah’s name implies that he was a Jew. He had intermarried with Jews who had returned to the land and evidently participated in the restoration projects, though he himself did not approve of the restoration. His marital and social ties with the princes of the restoration community resulted in their commending him to Nehemiah. In short, Nehemiah suffered from pressure that Tobiah and Nehemiah’s colleagues brought on him. This powerful Jew, who did not share God’s desires for His people, had considerable influence with many of the restoration leaders.

Sometimes powerful brethren who have influential supporters create the Christian leader’s most difficult problems. They may really want to see something other than God’s will accomplished.

Note the following lessons in leadership from Nehemiah 1-6. A leader must be a person of prayer (ch. 1), have a vision (Nehemiah 2:1-3), and be a wise planner (Nehemiah 2:4-8). He must inspire his followers (Nehemiah 2:11-20), organize his task (ch. 3), and combine faith and common sense (ch. 4). He needs to be compassionate (Nehemiah 5:1-13), possess personal integrity (Nehemiah 5:14-19), be absolutely impartial (ch. 5), and display a sense of mission (ch. 6).

Having finished the walls, Nehemiah took steps to ensure that the city would remain secure by appointing guards. Now temple worship could flourish (Nehemiah 7:1). The gatekeepers usually guarded the temple entrance, but Nehemiah posted them at the city gates because of the imminent danger there. The "faithful man" (Nehemiah 7:2) was Hanaiah, not Hanani, though he too was, of course, reliable. To minimize the threat of potential invaders, Nehemiah ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be open only during the busiest hours of the day (Nehemiah 7:3). People had not been living in Jerusalem because it was vulnerable to attack (Nehemiah 7:4). 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 (Nehemiah 11:1-2).

Verses 5-73

C. The Record of Those who Returned 7:5-73

This is not a list of the people who accompanied Nehemiah to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. but a record of those who returned with Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, and Jeshua in 537 B.C. (Nehemiah 7:7). 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 (Nehemiah 11:1-2). This was one of the goals of the return. To determine who were pureblooded Israelites, he did some research and uncovered this list. There may have been a need to validate claims to property rights and similar matters as well. [Note: Merrill, p. 357.] Nehemiah then used the list as the basis for his plan (cf. Nehemiah 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 Nehemiah 7:7 therefore is not Nehemiah the wall-builder (cf. Ezra 2:2).

The total number who returned was 49,942 (Nehemiah 7:66-67; 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). [Note: See my notes on Ezra 2:2b-35. For a detailed study of the two lists, see H. L. Allrik, "The Lists of Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2) and the Hebrew Numerical Notation," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 136 (December 1954):21-27. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 688, compares the two lists side by side and notes the differences. It also contains possible explanations for the differences in numbers.]

The "seventh month" (Nehemiah 7:73) probably refers to the month Tishri in the year 537 B.C. This was 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 B.C.), since the people were in Jerusalem on the first day of that seventh month (Nehemiah 8:2), not in their various towns. Probably we should add Nehemiah 7:73 b to the end of this list.

"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 Nehemiah 8." [Note: Laney, p. 98.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Nehemiah 7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/nehemiah-7.html. 2012.