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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Nehemiah 12

Verses 1-26

Nehemiah - Chapter 12

Priests and Levites, Verses 1-26

These verses are numeration of the priests and Levites who were among the first repatriates who came back to Judah in the first return under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the high priest (verse 1). These numbered twenty-two. Some had prominent names, previous­ly borne by famous people, but are not to be confused with these; e. g., Amariah, Iddo, Abijah, Shemaiah, and Hilkiah.

The Levites among the initial returnees numbered eight (verses 8­9). Of them Mattaniah was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Two of these Bakbukiah and Unni, were over the porters, or those who stood watch. Since the number of priests and Levites (of all branches of their service) numbered far more than this when they returned from Babylon (see Ezra 2:36-42) ft is evident that those named here were the fore­most leaders among them.

The lineage of Jeshua the high priest who returned with Zerub­babel, is traced in verse 10-11: Jeshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Jona­than, Juddua. Of these Jeshua was active, of course, in the rebuilding of the temple; Joiakim served in the time from Zerubbabel to Ezra; Eliashib was high priest at the time of the rebuilding of the wall (Nehemiah 3:1); Joiada appears to have succeeded to the high priesthood during the lifetime of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:28); Jonathan and Jaddua may have been added here in anticipation of their succession, or inserted by a later scribe. Jaddua is the last named high priest in the Old Testament.

Verses 12 through 21 list the names of the chief priests, each one the ruler of a household among the priests. These men served in their places during the high priesthood of Joiakim, the son of Jeshua, before the coming of Nehemiah, although their descendants doubtless suc­ceeded them in the office. They numbered twenty or twenty-one. Actual­ly twenty are named, but the chief of the house of Miniamin (verse 17) is not listed, the reason of his omission not now known.

The registry of the Levites (verses 22-26) were maintained throughout the tenure of those from Eliashib to Jaddua. Verse 22 says they were priests in the time of Darius the Persian, who historians iden­tify as Darius Codommanus, the last of the Persian kings. Some think Jaddua was the high priest who met Alexander the Great when he came into Palestine. Verse 23 adds another historical note, that the names of these chief Levites were maintained in the Book of the Chronicles (a secular record) till the time of Johanan (or Jonathan) the father of Jad­dua. The song leaders are named in verse 24, the porters in verse 25, who served in these capacities during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra.

Verses 27-43

Wall Dedicated, Verses 27- 43

At verse 27 begins the record of the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem. It is probably not to be thought that a long interval had elapsed, as might be indicated by the relation of many other things (chapters 7:5-12:26), since the building was completed. On the contrary it would seem that the record of the dedication is an interjection here in the accounts of the work of the priests, Levites, etc., because of their prominent part in the ceremony.

The Levites especially played a great part in dedication of the walls. The Levites had composed the choir and orchestra associated with the temple worship since the times of David. Some of them must have been very talented in the vocation. The occasion was to be a glad and joyful one. The Levites were to give their chants of thanksgiving, sing, and play on their musical instruments, the cymbal, harp (or psaltery), and lyre (harp), as here named. These people were distributed in their towns and villages around the city of Jerusalem and among the Netophathites. These latter were a people known for their piety since the days of David, who lived in a district a short distance south of Bethlehem. According to Jewish tradition they were noted for helping people of the northern kingdom continue sending their offerings and tithes to the temple at Jerusalem after Jeroboam forbade it.

For the dedication Nehemiah required the ceremonial purification of the wall, gates, and people involved, after the ministering priests and Levites had purified themselves according to the law. When it began Nehemiah had the leaders come up on the wall and the people to form two processional choirs around the wall. The first of these proceeded to the right toward the Dung Gate. These included Hoshaiah as their leader, with several other prominent men of the Jews with them. Some of the priests sounded the trumpets, while members of the Asaphic choir were also included, bearing their musical instruments as well. Ezra the scribe went before them. When they reached the Fountain Gate they went up by stairs above the house of David to the Water Gate.

Opposite the first procession, turning to the left, went the second processional choir. These were followed by Nehemiah with the rest of the people who were participating. They crossed above the Furnace Tower, to a stretch called the Broad Wall; thence they crossed above the Ephraim Gate, Old Gate, Fish Gate, Tower of Hananel, Tower of the Hundred, the Sheep Gate, stopping at the Gate of the Guard (or Prison Gate, KJV). The two companies met here and took their stand at the temple. The priests bore the trumpets, and the singers sang loudly. It was a time of spontaneous rejoicing, men, women, and children all joining in with great joy. Great sacrifices were offered, for it was a day to praise and thank the Lord. The people of the surrounding area, who had so opposed the building could hear their glad shouts.

Verses 44-47

Temple Service Restored, Verses 44-47

Although the temple had been rebuilt and its service restored nearly a hundred years earlier some of its added services seem riot to have been made a permanent part of its worship yet. The singers and musicians became a regular part of the worship during the time of David and was extended by Solomon. The porters, or gatekeepers, also be­came organized during the time of these two great kings of Israel. While there were occasions after the return of the captivity when there was cel­ebration with singing and music, and when the porters were employed, it does not seem to have been permanently restored until this time.

The chambers were rooms provided in the outer walls of the temple enclosure for the storage of tithe and freewill offerings and other trea­sures belonging to the temple and its service. From these the priests and ministering Levites at the temple received their subsistence. There were times when there was not sufficient for them and the service was discontinued. The purpose of Nehemiah at this time, therefore, seems to assure that this condition would not recur.

Men from among the Levites were appointed to oversee the raising of the tithes from the outlying towns and their environs and caring for its storage in the chambers. Accordingly these, with the singers and porters, resumed the service as it had been carried out during the time of David and Solomon. This part of the temple worship as instituted in connection with the building of the first temple had been revived in the time of Zerubbabel, and now it is re-instituted by Nehemiah. Once again singers, porters, everyone got his portion of the holy things as it was intended. The business was performed by Levites sanctified, or set apart, for that purpose, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.

Some thoughts for meditation: 1) the Israelites maintained a pure lineage from Abraham, traceable generation by generation; 2) it is well to celebrate great accomplishments in service of the Lord; 3) joy of the Lord’s servants should be observable by people around (1 Thessalonians 1:8); 4) neglected deeds of Christian service should be restored when they fall into disuse.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Nehemiah 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/nehemiah-12.html. 1985.