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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 12

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


Lists of Priests and Levites. Dedication of the Wall of Jerusalem - Nehemiah 12:1-43

The list of the inhabitants of the province, Neh 11, is followed by lists of the priests and Levites (Neh 12:1-26). These different lists are, in point of fact, all connected with the genealogical register of the Israelite population of the whole province, taken by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7:5) for the purpose of enlarging the population of Jerusalem, though the lists of the orders of priests and Levites in the present chapter were made partly at an earlier, and partly at a subsequent period. It is because of this actual connection that they are inserted in the history of the building of the wall of Jerusalem, which terminates with the narrative of the solemn dedication of the completed wall in vv. 27-43.

Lists of the orders of priests and Levites. - Nehemiah 12:1-9 contain a list of the heads of the priests and Levites who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua. The high priests during five generations are next mentioned by name, Nehemiah 12:10, Nehemiah 12:11. Then follow the names of the heads of the priestly houses in the days of Joiakim the high priest; and finally, Nehemiah 12:22-26, the names of the heads of the Levites at the same period, with titles and subscriptions.

Verses 1-9

Nehemiah 12:1-7

Nehemiah 12:1 contains the title of the first list, Nehemiah 12:1-9. “These are the priests and Levites who went up with Zerubbabel ... and Joshua;” comp. Ezra 2:1-2. Then follow, Nehemiah 12:1, the names of the priests, with the subscription: “These are the heads of the priests and of their brethren, in the days of Joshua.” ואחיהם still depends on ראשׁי . The brethren of the priests are the Levites, as being their fellow-tribesmen and assistants. Two-and-twenty names of such heads are enumerated, and these reappear, with but slight variations attributable to clerical errors, as names of priestly houses in Nehemiah 12:12-21, where they are given in conjunction with the names of those priests who, in the days of Joiakim, either represented these houses, or occupied as heads the first position in them. The greater number, viz., 15, of these have already been mentioned as among those who, together with Nehemiah, sealed as heads of their respective houses the agreement to observe the law, Neh 10. Hence the present chapter appears to be the most appropriate place for comparing with each other the several statements given in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, concerning the divisions or orders of priests in the period immediately following the return from the captivity, and for discussing the question how the heads and houses of priests enumerated in Neh 10 and 12 stand related on the one hand to the list of the priestly races who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua, and on the other to the twenty-four orders of priests instituted by David. For the purpose of giving an intelligible answer to this question, we first place in juxtaposition the three lists given in Nehemiah, chs. 10 and 12.

Nehemiah 10:3-9 Nehemiah 12:1-7 Nehemiah 12:12-21 Priests who sealed the Covenant Priests who were Heads of their Houses Priestly Houses and their respective Heads 1. Seraiah 1. Seraiah* SeraiahMeraiah 2. Azariah 2. Jeremiah* Jeremiah Hananiah 3. Jeremiah 3. Ezra* Ezra Meshullam 4. Pashur 4. Amariah* Amariah Jehohanan 5. Amariah 5. Malluch* Meluchi Jonathan 6. Malchijah 6. Hattush* 7. Hattush 7. Shecaniah* Shebaniah Joseph 8. Shebaniah 8. Rehum* Harim Adna 9. Malluch 9. Meremoth* Meraioth Helkai 10. Harim 10. Iddo Idiah Zecariah 11. Meremoth 11. Ginnethon* Ginnethon Meshullam 12. Obadiah 12. Abijah* Abijah Zichri 13. Daniel 13. Miamin* Miniamin 14. Ginnethon 14. Maadiah* Moadiah Piltai 15. Baruch 15. Bilgah* Bilgah Shammua 16. Meshullam 16. Shemaiah* Shemaiah Jehonathan 17. Abijah 17. Joiarib Joiarib Mathnai 18. Mijamin 18. Jedaiah Jedaiah Uzzi 19. Maaziah 19. Sallu Sallai Kallai 20. Bilgai 20. Amok Amok Eber 21. Shemaiah 21. Hilkiah Hilkiah Hashabiah 22. Jedaiah 22. Jedaiah Nethaneel When, in the first place, we compare the two series in Neh 12, we find the name of the head of the house of Minjamin, and the names both of the house and the head, Hattush, between Meluchi and Shebaniah, omitted. In other respects the two lists agree both in the order and number of the names, with the exception of unimportant variations in the names, as מלוּכי ( Chethiv, Nehemiah 12:14) for מלּוּך (Nehemiah 12:2); שׁכניה (Nehemiah 12:3) for שׁבניה (Nehemiah 12:14, Nehemiah 10:6); רחם (Nehemiah 12:3), a transposition of חרם (Nehemiah 12:15, Nehemiah 10:6); מריות (Nehemiah 12:15) instead of מרמות (Nehemiah 12:3, Nehemiah 10:6); עדיא ( Chethiv, Nehemiah 12:16) instead of עדּוא (Nehemiah 12:4); מיּמין (Nehemiah 12:5) for מנימין (Nehemiah 12:17); מועדיה (Nehemiah 12:17) for מעדיה (Nehemiah 12:4), or, according to a different pronunciation, מעזיה (Nehemiah 10:9); סלּי (Nehemiah 12:20) for סלּוּ (Nehemiah 12:7). - If we next compare the two lists in Neh 12 with that in Neh 10, we find that of the twenty-two names given (Neh 12), the fifteen marked thus * occur also in Neh 10; עזריה , Nehemiah 10:4, being evidently a clerical error, or another form of עזרא , Nehemiah 12:2, Nehemiah 12:13. Of the names enumerated in Neh 10, Pashur, Malchiah, Obadiah, Daniel, Baruch, and Meshullam are wanting in Neh 12, and are replaced by Iddo and the six last: Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. The name of Eliashib the high priest being also absent, Bertheau seeks to explain this difference by supposing that a portion of the priests refused their signatures because they did not concur in the strict measures of Ezra and Nehemiah. This conjecture would be conceivable, if we found in Neh 10 that only thirteen orders or heads of priests had signed instead of twenty-two. Since, however, instead of the seven missing names, six others signed the covenant, this cannot be the reason for the difference between the names in the two documents (Neh 10, 12), which is probably to be found in the time that elapsed between the making of these lists. The date of the list, Nehemiah 12:1-7, is that of Zerubbabel and Joshua (b.c. 536); that of the other in Neh 12, the times of the high priest Joiakim the son of Joshua, i.e., at the earliest, the latter part of the reign of Darius Hystaspis, perhaps even the reign of Xerxes.

How, then, are the two lists in Neh 12 and that in Neh 10, agreeing as they do in names, related to the list of the priests who, according to Ezra 2:36-39 and Nehemiah 7:39-42, returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua? The traditional view, founded on the statements of the Talmud,

(Note: In Hieros. Taanith, f. 68 a; Tosafta Taanith, c. 11, in Babyl. Erachin, f. 12 b. The last statement is, according to Herzfeld, Gesch. i. p. 393, as follows: “Four divisions of priests returned from captivity, viz., Jedaiah, Charim, Paschur, and Immer. These the prophets of the returned captives again divided into twenty-four; whereupon their names were written upon tickets and put in an urn, from which Jedaiah drew five, and each of the other three before-named divisions as many: it was then ordained by those prophets, that even if the division Joiarib (probably the first division before the captivity) should return, Jedaiah should nevertheless retain his position, and Joiarib should be טפל לו (associated with him, belonging to him).” Comp. Bertheau on Neh. p. 230, and Oehler in Herzog's Realencycl. xii. p. 185, who, though refusing this tradition the value of independent historical testimony, still give it more weight than it deserves.)

is, that the four divisions given in Ezra 2 and Neh 7, “the sons of Jedaiah, the sons of Immer, the sons of Pashur and Harim,” were the priests of the four (Davidic) orders of Jedaiah, Immer, Malchijah, and Harim (the second, sixteenth, fifth, and third orders of 1 Chron 24). For the sake of restoring, according to the ancient institution, a greater number of priestly orders, the twenty-two orders enumerated in Neh 12 were formed from these four divisions; and the full number of twenty-four was not immediately completed, only because, according to Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63., three families of priests who could not find their registers returned, as well as those before named, and room was therefore left for their insertion in the twenty-four orders: the first of these three families, viz., Habaiah, being probably identical with the eighth class, Abia; the second, Hakkoz, with the seventh class of the same name. See Oehler's before-cited work. p. 184f. But this view is decidedly erroneous, and the error lies in the identification of the four races of Ezra 2:36, on account of the similarity of the names Jedaiah, Immer, and Harim, with those of the second, sixteenth, and third classes of the Davidic division, - thus regarding priestly races as Davidic priestly classes, through mere similarity of name, without reflecting that even the number 4487, given in Ezra 2:36., is incompatible with this assumption. For if these four races were only four orders of priests, each order must have numbered about 1120 males, and the twenty-four orders of the priesthood before the captivity would have yielded the colossal sum of from 24,000 to 26,000 priests. It is true that we have no statement of the numbers of the priesthood; but if the numbering of the Levites in David's times gave the amount of 38,000 males, the priests of that time could at the most have been 3800, and each of the twenty-four orders would have included in all 150 persons, or at most seventy-five priests of the proper age for officiating. Now, if this number had doubled in the interval of time extending to the close of the captivity, the 4487 who returned with Zerubbabel would have formed more than half of the whole number of priests then living, and not merely the amount of four classes. Hence we cannot but regard Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, and Harim, of Ezra 2:36, as names not of priestly orders, but of great priestly races, and explain the occurrence of three of these names as those of certain of the orders of priests formed by David, by the consideration, that the Davidic orders were names after heads of priestly families of the days of David, and that several of these heads, according to the custom of bestowing upon sons, grandsons, etc., the names of renowned ancestors, bore the names of the founders and heads of the greater races and houses. The classification of the priests in Ezra 2:36. is genealogical, i.e., it follows not the division into orders made by David for the service of the temple, but the genealogical ramification into races and houses. The sons of Jedaiah, Immer, etc., are not the priests belonging to the official orders of Jedaiah, Immer, etc., but the priestly races descended from Jedaiah, etc. The four races (mentioned Ezra 2:36, etc.), each of which averaged upwards of 1000 men, were, as appears from Nehemiah 12:1-7 and Nehemiah 12:12, divided into twenty-two houses. From this number of houses, it was easy to restore the old division into twenty-four official orders. That it was not, however, considered necessary to make this artificial restoration of the twenty-four classes immediately, is seen from the circumstances that both under Joiakim, i.e., a generation after Zerubbabel's return (Nehemiah 12:12-21), only twenty-two houses are enumerated, and under Nehemiah, i.e., after Ezra's return (in Neh 10), only twenty-one heads of priestly houses sealed the document. Whether, and how the full number of twenty-four was completed, cannot, for want of information, be determined. The statement of Joseph. Ant. vii. 14. 7, that David's division into orders continues to this day, affords no sufficient testimony to the fact.

According, then, to what has been said, the difference between the names in the two lists of Neh 10 and 12 is to be explained simply by the fact, that the names of those who sealed the covenant, Neh 10, are names neither of orders nor houses, but of heads of houses living in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Of these names, a portion coincides indeed with the names of the orders and houses, while the rest are different. The coincidence or sameness of the names does not, however, prove that the individuals belonged to the house whose name they bore. On the contrary, it appears from Nehemiah 12:13 and Nehemiah 12:16, that of two Meshullams, one was the head of the house of Ezra, the other of the house of Ginnethon; and hence, in Neh 10, Amariah may have belonged to the house of Malluch, Hattush to the house of Shebaniah, Malluch to the house of Meremoth, etc. In this manner, both the variation and coincidence of the names in Neh 10 and 12 may be easily explained; the only remaining difficulty being, that in Neh 10 only twenty-one, not twenty-two, heads of houses are said to have sealed. This discrepancy seems, indeed, to have arisen from the omission of a name in transcription. For the other possible explanation, viz., that in the interval between Joiakim and Nehemiah, the contemporary of Eliashib, one house had died out, is very far-fetched.

Nehemiah 12:8-9

The heads of Levitical houses in the time of Jeshua the high priest. - Of these names we meet, Nehemiah 10:10., with those of Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, and Sherebiah, as of heads who sealed the covenant; while those of Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son (?) of Kadmiel, are again cited in Nehemiah 12:24 as heads of Levites, i.e., of Levitical divisions. The name יהוּדה does not occur in the other lists of Levites in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and is perhaps miswritten for הודיּה (Nehemiah 10:10; Nehemiah 13:7). Mattaniah is probably Mattaniah the Asaphite, the son of Micah, the son of Zabdi, head of the first band of singers (Nehemiah 11:17); for he was היּדות על , over the singing of praise. The form היּדות , which should probably be read according to the Keri היּדוּת , is a peculiar formation of an abstract noun; comp. Ewald, §165, b.

Nehemiah 12:9

Bakbukiah and Unni ( Chethiv ענּו ), their brethren, were before them (opposite them) למשׁמרות , at the posts of service, i.e., forming in service the opposite choir. Nehemiah 12:24 forbids us to understand משׁמרות as watch-posts, though the omission of the doorkeepers (comp. Ezra 2:42) is remarkable. Bakbukiah recurs Nehemiah 12:24; the name Unni is not again met with, though there is no occasion, on this account, for the inapt conjecture of Bertheau, that the reading should be וענוּ or ויּענוּ .

Verses 10-11

A note on the genealogy of the high-priestly line from Jeshua to Jaddua is inserted, so to speak, as a connecting link between the lists of Levites, to explain the statements concerning the dates of their composition, - dates defined by the name of the respective high priests. The lists given Nehemiah 12:1 were of the time of Jeshua; those from Nehemiah 12:12 and onwards, of the days of Joiakim and his successors. The name יונתן , as is obvious from Nehemiah 12:22 and Nehemiah 12:23, is a clerical error for יוחנן , Johanan, Greek Ἰωάννης , of whom we are told, Joseph. Ant. xi. 7. 1, that he murdered his brother Jesus, and thus gave Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes Mnemon, an opportunity for taking severe measures against the Jews.

Verses 12-21

Nehemiah 12:12-21 contains the list of the priestly houses and their heads, which has been already explained in conjunction with that in Nehemiah 12:1-7. Nehemiah 12:22-26. The list of the heads of the Levites, Nehemiah 12:22 and Nehemiah 12:24, is, according to Nehemiah 12:26, that of the days of Joiakim, and of the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. Whence it follows, that it does not apply only to the time of Joiakim; for though Ezra might indeed have come to Jerusalem in the latter days of Joiakim's high-priesthood, yet Nehemiah's arrival found his successor Eliashib already in office, and the statements of Nehemiah 12:22 and Nehemiah 12:23 must be understood accordingly.

Verses 22-23

“With respect to the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua were recorded the heads of the houses, and also (those) of the priests during the reign of Darius the Persian.” To judge from the הלויּם with which it commences, this verse seems to be the title of the list of Levites following, while the rest of its contents rather seems adapted for the subscription of the preceding list of priests (Nehemiah 12:12-21). מלכוּת על , under the reign. The use of על with reference to time is to be explained by the circumstance that the time, and here therefore the reign of Darius, is regarded as the ground and soil of that which is done in it, as e.g., ἐπὶ νυκτί , upon night = at night-time. Darius is Darius Nothus, the second Persian monarch of that name; where also the meaning of this verse has been already discussed. In Nehemiah 12:23, the original document in which the list of Levites was originally included, is alluded to as the book of the daily occurrences or events of the time, i.e., the public chronicle, a continuation of the former annals of the kingdom. ימי ועד , and also to the days of Johanan, the son of Eliashib. So far did the official records of the chronicle extend. That Nehemiah may have been still living in the days of Johanan, i.e., in the time of his high-priesthood, has been already shown, p. 95. The statements in Nehemiah 12:22 and Nehemiah 12:23 are aphoristic, and of the nature of supplementary and occasional remarks.

Verses 24-25

The names Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, frequently occur as those of heads of Levitical orders: the two first in Nehemiah 10:12., Ezra 8:18.; the two last in Nehemiah 12:8, Nehemiah 10:10, and Ezra 2:40; and the comparison of these passages obliges us to regard and expunge as a gloss the בּן before Kadmiel. Opposite to these four are placed their brethren, whose office it was “to praise (and) to give thanks according to the commandment of David,” etc.: comp. 1 Chronicles 16:4; 1 Chronicles 23:30; 2 Chronicles 5:13; and בּמצות ד , 2 Chronicles 29:25. משׁמר לעמּת משׁמר , ward opposite ward, elsewhere used of the gatekeepers, 1 Chronicles 26:16, is here applied to the position of the companies of singers in divine worship. The names of the brethren, i.e., of the Levitical singers, follow, Nehemiah 12:25, where the first three names must be separated from those which follow, and combined with Nehemiah 12:24. This is obvious from the consideration, that Mattaniah and Bakbukiah are mentioned in Nehemiah 11:17 as presidents of two companies of singers, and with them Abda the Jeduthunite, whence we are constrained to suppose that עבדיה is only another form for עבדּא of Nehemiah 11:17. According, then, to what has been said, the division into verses must be changed, and Nehemiah 12:25 should begin with the name משׁלּם . Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub are chiefs of the doorkeepers; the two last names occur as such both in Nehemiah 11:19 and Ezra 2:42, and even so early as 1 Chronicles 9:17, whence we perceive that these were ancient names of races of Levitical doorkeepers. In Ezra 2:42 and 1 Chronicles 9:17, שׁלוּם , answering to משׁלּם of the present verse, is also named with them. The combination משׁמר שׁוערים שׁמרים is striking: we should at least have expected משׁמר שׁמרים שׁוערים , because, while שׁוערים cannot be combined with משׁמר , שׁמרים may well be so; hence we must either transpose the words as above, or read according to Nehemiah 11:19, בּשּׁערים שׁמרים . In the latter case, בּשּׁערים is more closely defined by the apposition השּׁערים בּאספּי : at the doors, viz., at the treasure-chambers of the doors. On 'acupiym, see rem. on 1 Chronicles 26:15, 1 Chronicles 26:17.

Verse 26

Nehemiah 12:26 is the final subscription of the two lists in Nehemiah 12:12-21 and Nehemiah 12:24, Nehemiah 12:25.

Verses 27-43

The dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. - The measures proposed for increasing the numbers of the inhabitants of Jerusalem having now been executed (Nehemiah 7:5 and Nehemiah 11:1.), the restored wall of circumvallation was solemnly dedicated. Nehemiah 12:27-29 treat of the preparations for this solemnity.

Nehemiah 12:27

At the dedication (i.e., at the time of, בּ denoting nearness of time) they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to keep the dedication. Only a portion of the Levites dwelt in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:15-18); the rest dwelt in places in the neighbourhood, as is more expressly stated in Nehemiah 12:28 and Nehemiah 12:29. ושׂמחה , to keep the dedication and joy, is not suitable, chiefly on account of the following וּבתודות , and with songs of praise. We must either read בּשׂמחה , dedication with joy (comp. Ezra 6:16), or expunge, with the lxx and Vulgate, the ו before בּתודות . בּ must be repeated before מצלתּים from the preceding words. On the subject, comp. 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:16, and elsewhere.

Nehemiah 12:28-29

And the sons of the singers, i.e., the members of the three Levitical companies of singers (comp. Nehemiah 12:25 and Nehemiah 11:17), gathered themselves together, both out of the Jordan valley round about Jerusalem, and the villages (or fields, חצרים , comp. Leviticus 25:31) of Netophathi, and from Beth-gilgal, etc. הכּכּר does not mean the district round Jerusalem, the immediate neighbourhood of the city (Bertheau). For, according to established usage, הכּכּר is used to designate the Jordan valley (see rem. on Nehemiah 3:22); and ירוּשׁלים סביבות is here added to limit the כּכּר , - the whole extent of the valley of the Jordan from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee not being intended, but only its southern portion in the neighbourhood of Jericho, where it widens considerably westward, and which might be said to be round about Jerusalem. The villages of Netophathi (comp. 1 Chronicles 9:16) are the villages or fields in the vicinity of Netopha, i.e., probably the modern village of Beit Nettif, about thirteen miles south-west of Jerusalem: comp. Rob. Palestine; Tobler, dritte Wand. p. 117, etc.; and V. de Velde, Mem. p. 336. Bertheau regards Beth-gilgal as the present Jiljilia, also called Gilgal, situate somewhat to the west of the road from Jerusalem to Nablous (Sichem), about seventeen miles north of the former town. This view, is, however, questionable, Jiljilia being apparently too distant to be reckoned among the סביבות of Jerusalem. “And from the fields of Geba and Azmaveth.” With respect to Geba, see rem. on Nehemiah 11:31. The situation of Azmaveth is unknown; see rem. on Ezra 2:24. For the singers had built them villages in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and dwelt, therefore, not in the before-named towns, but in villages near them.

Nehemiah 12:30

The dedication began with the purification of the people, the gates, and the wall, by the priests and Levites, after they had purified themselves. This was probably done, judging from the analogy of 2 Chronicles 29:20, by the offering of sin-offerings and burnt-offerings, according to some special ritual unknown to us, as sacrifices of purification and dedication. This was followed by the central-point of the solemnity, a procession of two bands of singers upon the wall (Nehemiah 12:31-42).

Nehemiah 12:31-34

Nehemiah brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of those who gave thanks, and two processions. These went each upon the wall in different directions, and stopped opposite each other at the house of God. The princes of Judah are the princes of the whole community, - Judah being used in the sense of יהוּדים , Nehemiah 4:2. לחומה מעל , upwards to the wall, so that they stood upon the wall. העמיד , to place, i.e., to cause to take up a position, so that those assembled formed two companies or processions. תודה , acknowledgement, praise, thanks, and then thankofferings, accompanied by the singing of psalms and thanksgivings. Hence is derived the meaning: companies of those who gave thanks, in Nehemiah 12:31, Nehemiah 12:38, Nehemiah 12:40. ותהלכת , et processiones, solemn processions, is added more closely to define תודה . The company of those who gave thanks consisted of a number of Levitical singers, behind whom walked the princes of the people, the priests, and Levites. At the head of one procession went Ezra the scribe (Nehemiah 12:36), with one half of the nobles; at the head of the second, Nehemiah with the other half (Nehemiah 12:38). The one company and procession went to the right upon the wall. Before ליּמין we must supply, “one band went” ( הולכת האחת התּודה ), as is evident partly from the context of the present verse, partly from Nehemiah 12:38. These words were probably omitted by a clerical error caused by the similarity of תּהלכת to הולכת . Thus the first procession went to the right, i.e., in a southerly direction, upon the wall towards the dung-gate (see rem. on Nehemiah 3:14); the second, Nehemiah 12:38, went over against the first ( למאל ), i.e., in an opposite direction, and therefore northwards, past the tower of the furnaces, etc. The starting-point of both companies and processions is not expressly stated, but may be easily inferred from the points mentioned, and can have been none other than the valley-gate, the present Jaffa gate (see rem. on Nehemiah 2:13). Before a further description of the route taken by the first company, the individuals composing the procession which followed it are enumerated in Nehemiah 12:32-36. After them, i.e., after the first company of them that gave thanks, went Hoshaiah and half of the princes of Judah. Hoshaiah was probably the chief of the one half of these princes. The seven names in Nehemiah 12:33 and Nehemiah 12:34 are undoubtedly the names of the princes, and the ו before עזריה is explicative: even, namely. Bertheau's remark, “After the princes came the orders of priests, Azariah,” etc., is incorrect. It is true that of these seven names, five occur as names of priests, and heads of priestly houses, viz.: Azariah, Nehemiah 10:2; Nehemiah 12:1; Meshullam, Nehemiah 10:7; Shemaiah, Nehemiah 10:8 and Nehemiah 12:6; and Jeremiah, Nehemiah 12:1. But even if these individuals were heads of priestly orders, their names do not here stand for their orders. Still less do Judah and Benjamin denote the half of the laity of Judah and Benjamin, as Bertheau supposes, and thence infers that first after the princes came two or three orders of priests, then half of the laity of Judah and Benjamin, and then two more orders of priests. Nehemiah 12:38, which is said to give rise to this view, by no means confirms it. It is true that in this verse העם חצי , besides Nehemiah, are stated to have followed the company of those who gave thanks; but that העם in this verse is not used to designate the people as such, but is only a general expression for the individuals following the company of singers, is placed beyond doubt by Nehemiah 12:40, where העם is replaced by הסּגנים חצי ; while, beside the half of the rulers, with Nehemiah, only priests with trumpets and Levites with stringed instruments (Nehemiah 12:41) are enumerated as composing the second procession. Since, then, the priests with trumpets and Levites with musical instruments are mentioned in the first procession (Nehemiah 12:35 and Nehemiah 12:36), the names enumerated in Nehemiah 12:33 and Nehemiah 12:34 can be only those of the one half of the סגנים of the people, i.e., the one half of the princes of Judah. The princes of Judah, i.e., of the Jewish community, consisted not only of laymen, but included also the princes, i.e., heads of priestly and Levitical orders; and hence priestly and Levitical princes might also be among the seven whose names are given in Nehemiah 12:33 and Nehemiah 12:34. A strict severance, moreover, between lay and priestly princes cannot be made by the names alone; for these five names, which may designate priestly orders, pertain in other passages to laymen, viz.: Azariah, in Nehemiah 3:23; Ezra, as of the tribe of Judah, 1 Chronicles 4:17; Meshullam, Nehemiah 3:4; Nehemiah 10:21, and elsewhere; Shemaiah, Ezra 6:13; Ezra 10:31; 1 Chronicles 3:22; 1 Chronicles 4:37 (of Judah), 1 Chronicles 5:4 (a Reubenite), and other passages (this name being very usual; comp. Simonis Onomast. p. 546); Jeremiah, 1 Chronicles 5:24 (a Manassite), Nehemiah 12:4 (a Benjamite), Nehemiah 12:10 (a Gadite). Even the name Judah is met with among the priests (Nehemiah 12:36), and among the Levites, Nehemiah 12:8, comp. also Nehemiah 11:9, and that of Benjamin, Nehemiah 3:23 and Ezra 10:32. In the present verses, the two names are not those of tribes, but of individuals, nomina duorum principum (R. Sal.).

Nehemiah 12:35-36

The princes of the congregation were followed by certain “of the sons of the priests” (seven in number, to judge from Nehemiah 12:41) with trumpets; also by Jonathan the son of Zechariah, who, as appears from the subsequent ואחיו , was at the head of the Levitical musicians, i.e., the section of them that followed this procession. His brethren, i.e., the musicians of his section, are enumerated in Nehemiah 12:36, - eight names being given, among which are a Shemaiah and a Judah. “With the musical instruments of David, the man of God:” comp. 2 Chronicles 29:26; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 23:5; Ezra 3:10. “And Ezra the scribe before them,” viz., before the individuals enumerated from Nehemiah 12:32, immediately after the company of those who gave thanks, and before the princes, like Nehemiah, Nehemiah 12:38.

Nehemiah 12:37-42

After this insertion of the names of the persons who composed the procession, the description of the route it took is continued. From “upon the wall, towards the dung-gate (Nehemiah 12:31), it passed on” to the fountain-gate; and נגדּם , before them (i.e., going straight forwards; comp. Joshua 6:5, Joshua 6:20; Amos 4:3), they went up by the stairs of the city of David, the ascent of the wall, up over the house of David, even unto the water-gate eastward. These statements are not quite intelligible to us. The stairs of the city of David are undoubtedly “the stairs that lead down from the city of David” (Nehemiah 3:15). These lay on the eastern slope of Zion, above the fountain-gate and the Pool of Siloam. לחומה המּעלה might be literally translated “the ascent to the wall,” as by Bertheau, who takes the sense as follows: (The procession) went up upon the wall by the ascent formed by these steps at the northern part of the eastern side of Zion. According to this, the procession would have left the wall by the stairs at the eastern declivity of Zion, to go up upon the wall again by this ascent. There is, however, no reason for this leaving of the wall, and that which Bertheau adduces is connected with his erroneous transposition of the fountain-gate to the place of the present dung-gate. לחומה המּעלה seems to be the part of the wall which, according to Nehemiah 3:19, lay opposite the המּקצוע הנּשׁק עלת , a place on the eastern edge of Zion, where the wall was carried over an elevation of the ground, and where consequently was an ascent in the wall. Certainly this cannot be insisted upon, because the further statement דויד לבית מעל is obscure, the preposition ל מעל admitting of various interpretations, and the situation of the house of David being uncertain. Bertheau, indeed, says: “ ועד in the following words corresponds with מעל before דויד לבית : a wall over the house of David is not intended; and the meaning is rather, that after they were come as far as the wall, they then passed over the house of David, i.e., the place called the house of David, even to the water-gate.” But the separation of מעל from דויד לבית is decidedly incorrect, ל מעל being in the preceding and following passages always used in combination, and forming one idea: comp. Nehemiah 12:31 (twice) and Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. Hence it could scarcely be taken here in Nehemiah 12:37 in a different sense from that which it has in Nehemiah 12:31 and Nehemiah 12:38. Not less objectionable is the notion that the house of David is here put for a place called the house of David, on which a palace of David formerly stood, and where perhaps the remains of an ancient royal building might still have been in existence. By the house of David is meant, either the royal palace built (according to Thenius) by Solomon at the north-eastern corner of Zion, opposite the temple, or some other building of David, situate south of this palace, on the east side of Zion. The former view is more probable than the latter. We translate לבית ד מעל , past the house of David. For, though לחומה מעל must undoubtedly be so understood as to express that the procession went upon the wall (which must be conceived of as tolerably broad), yet למגדּל מעל , Nehemiah 12:38, can scarcely mean that the procession also went up over the tower which stood near the wall. In the case of the gates, too, ל מעל cannot mean over upon; for it is inconceivable that this solemn procession should have gone over the roof of the gates; and we conclude, on the contrary, that it passed beside the gates and towers. Whether the route taken by the procession from the house of David to the water-gate in the east were straight over the ridge of Ophel, which ran from about the horse-gate to the water-gate, or upon the wall round Ophel, cannot be determined, the description being incomplete. After the house of David, no further information as to its course is given; its halting-place, the water-gate, being alone mentioned.

The route taken by the second company is more particularly described. - Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. “And the second company of them that gave thanks, which went over against, and which I and the (other) half of the people followed, (went) upon the wall past the tower of the furnaces, as far as the broad wall; and past the gate of Ephraim, and past the gate of the old (wall), and past the fish-gate, and past the tower Hananeel and the tower Hammeah, even to the sheep-gate: and then took up its station at the prison-gate.” למואל (in the form with א only here; elsewhere מול , Deuteronomy 1:1, or מוּל ), over against, opposite, sc. the first procession, therefore towards the opposite side, i.e., to the left; the first having gone to the right, viz., from the valley-gate northwards upon the northern wall. וגו אחריה ואני (and I behind them) is a circumstantial clause, which we may take relatively. The order of the towers, the lengths of wall, and the gates, exactly answer to the description in Nehemiah 3:1-12, with these differences: - a. The description proceeds from the sheep-gate in the east to the valley-gate in the west; while the procession moved in the opposite direction, viz., from the valley-gate to the sheep-gate. b. In the description of the building of the wall, Neh 3, the gate of Ephraim is omitted (see rem. on Nehemiah 3:8). c. In the description, the prison-gate at which the procession halted is also unmentioned, undoubtedly for the same reason as that the gate of Ephraim is omitted, viz., that not having been destroyed, there was no need to rebuild it. המּטּרה שׁער is translated, gate of the prison or watch: its position is disputed; but it can scarcely be doubted that המּטּרה is the court of the prison mentioned Nehemiah 3:25 ( המּטּרה חצר ), by or near the king's house. Starting from the assumption that the two companies halted or took up positions opposite each other, Hupfeld (in his before-cited work, p. 321) transposes both the court of the prison and the king's house to the north of the temple area, where the citadel. בּירה , βᾶρις , was subsequently situated. But “this being forbidden,” as Arnold objects (in his before-cited work, p. 628), “by the order in the description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3:25, which brings us absolutely to the southern side,” Bertheau supposes that the two processions which would arrive at the same moment at the temple, - the one from the north-east, the other from the south-east, - here passed each other, and afterwards halted opposite each other in such wise, that the procession advancing from the south-west stood on the northern side, and that from the north-west at the southern side of the temple area. This notion, however, having not the slightest support from the text, nor any reason appearing why the one procession should pass the other, it must be regarded as a mere expedient. In Nehemiah 12:40 it is merely said, the two companies stood in the house of God; and not even that they stood opposite each other, the one on the north, the other on the south side of the temple. Thus they may have stood side by side, and together have praised the Lord. Hence we place the prison-gate also on the south-eastern corner of the temple area, and explain the name from the circumstance that a street ran from this gate over Ophel to the court of the prison near the king's house upon Zion, which, together with the gate to which it led, received its name from the court of the prison. Not far from the prison-gate lay the water-gate in the east, near which was an open space in the direction of the temple area (Nehemiah 8:1). On this open space the two companies met, and took the direction towards the temple, entering the temple area from this open space, that they might offer their thank-offerings before the altar of burnt-offering (Nehemiah 12:43). Besides, the remark upon the position of the two companies (Nehemiah 12:40) anticipates the course of events, the procession following the second company being first described in Nehemiah 12:40-42. At the end of Nehemiah 12:40 the statement of Nehemiah 12:38 - I and the half of the people behind - is again taken up in the words: I and the half of the rulers with me. The סגנים are, as in Nehemiah 12:32, the princes of the congregation, who, with Nehemiah, headed the procession that followed the company of those who gave thanks. Then followed (Nehemiah 12:41) seven priests with trumpets, whose names are given, answering to the sons of the priests with trumpets ( Nehemiah 12:36) in the first procession. These names are all met with elsewhere of other persons. These were succeeded, as in Nehemiah 12:36, by eight Levites - eight individuals, and not eight divisions (Bertheau). And the singers gave forth sound, i.e., of voices and instruments, - whether during the circuit or after the two companies had take their places at the temple, is doubtful. The president of the Levitical singers was Jezrahiah.

Nehemiah 12:43

The solemnity terminated with the offering of great sacrifices and a general festival of rejoicing. In the matter of sacrificing, the person of Nehemiah would necessarily recede; hence he relates the close of the proceedings objectively, and speaks in the third person, as he had done when speaking of the preparations for them, Nehemiah 12:27, etc., only using the first (Nehemiah 12:31, Nehemiah 12:38, Nehemiah 12:40) person when speaking of what was appointed by himself, or of his own position. The זבהים were chiefly thank-offerings which, terminating in feasting upon the sacrifices, - and these feasts in which the women and children participated, - contributed to the enhancement of the general joy, the joy which God had given them by the success He had accorded to their work of building their wall. For a description of their rejoicing, comp. 2 Chronicles 20:27; Ezra 6:22, and Nehemiah 3:13.

Verse 44

The joint efforts of Nehemiah and Ezra succeeded both in restoring the enactments of the law for the performance and maintenance of the public worship, and in carrying out the separation of the community from strangers, especially by the dissolution of unlawful marriages (Neh 12:44-13:3). When Nehemiah, however, returned to the king at Babylon, in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, and remained there some time, the abuses which had been abolished were again allowed by the people. During Nehemiah's absence, Eliashib the priest prepared a chamber in the fore-court of the temple, as a dwelling for his son-in-law Tobiah the Ammonite. The delivery of their dues to the Levites (the first-fruits and tenths) was omitted, and the Sabbath desecrated by field-work and by buying and selling in Jerusalem; Jews married Ashdodite, Ammonitish, and Moabitish wives; even a son of the high priest Joiada allying himself by marriage with Sanballat the Horonite. All these illegal acts were energetically opposed by Nehemiah at his return to Jerusalem, when he strove both to purify the congregation from foreigners, and to restore the appointments of the law with respect to divine worship (13:4-31).

The narration of these events and of the proceedings of Nehemiah in the last section of this book, is introduced by a brief summary (in Neh 12:44-13:3) of what was done for the ordering of divine worship, and for the separation of Israel from strangers; and this introduction is so annexed to what precedes, not only by the formula ההוּא בּיּום (Nehemiah 12:33 and Nehemiah 13:1), but also by its contents, that it might be regarded as a summary of what Nehemiah had effected during his first stay at Jerusalem. It is not till the connective מזּה ולפני , “and before this” (Nehemiah 13:4), with which the recital of what occurred during Nehemiah's absence from Jerusalem, in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, beings, that we perceive that this description of the restored legal appointments relates not only to the time before the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, but applies also to that of Nehemiah's second stay at Jerusalem, and bears only the appearance of an introduction, being in fact a brief summary of all that Nehemiah effected both before and after the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes. This is a form of statement which, is to be explained by the circumstance that Nehemiah did not compile this narrative of his operations till the evening of his days.

Nehemiah 12:44

The reformations in worship and in social life effected by Nehemiah. - Nehemiah 12:44-47. Appointments concerning divine worship. Nehemiah 12:44. And at that time were certain appointed over the chambers of store-places for the heave-offerings, the first-fruits, and the tenths, to gather into them, according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites. Though the definition of time ההוּא בּיּום corresponds with the ההוּא בּיּום of Nehemiah 12:43, it is nevertheless used in a more general sense, and does not refer, as in Nehemiah 12:43, to the day of the dedication of the wall, but only declares that what follows belongs chiefly to the time hitherto spoken of. יום means, not merely a day of twelve or twenty-four hours, but very frequently stands for the time generally speaking at which anything occurs, or certum quoddam temporis spatium ; and it is only from the context that we can perceive whether יום is used in its narrower or more extended meaning. Hence ההוּא בּיּום is often used in the historical and prophetical books, de die , or de tempore modo memorato , in contradistinction to הזּה היּום , the time present to the narrator; comp. 1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Samuel 30:25, and the discussion in Gesen. Thes. p. 369. That the expression refers in the present verse not to any particular day, but to the time in question generally, is obvious from the whole statement, Nehemiah 12:44-47. לאוצרות נשׁכות are not chambers for the treasures, i.e., treasure-chambers; but both here and Nehemiah 13:12, אוצרות signify places where stores are kept, magazines; hence: these are chambers for store-places for the heave-offerings, etc.; comp. Nehemiah 10:38-39. With respect to נשׁכות , see rem. on Nehemiah 3:30. הערים לשׂדי , according to the fields of the cities, according to the delivery of the tenth of the crop from the fields of the different cities. These contributions necessitated the appointment of individuals to have the care of the store-chambers; “for Judah rejoiced in the priests and the Levites who were ministering,” and therefore contributed willingly and abundantly “the portions of the law,” i.e., the portions prescribed in the law. The form מנאות is exchanged for מניות , Nehemiah 12:47 and Nehemiah 13:10. האמדים is a shorter expression for יהוה לפני האמדים , Deuteronomy 10:8: standing before the Lord, i.e., ministering.

Verses 45-47

And they cared for the care of their God, etc.; i.e., they observed all that was to be observed, both with respect to God and with respect to purification, i.e., they faithfully and punctually performed their office. On משׁמרת שׁמר , see rem. on Genesis 26:5 and Leviticus 8:35. “And (so also) the singers and doorkeepers,” i.e., they, too, observed the duties incumbent on them. This must be mentally supplied from the beginning of the verse. “According to the commandment of David and of Solomon his son;” comp. 2 Chronicles 8:14 and 1 Chronicles 24:26. ו must be inserted before שׁלמה , as in the lxx and Vulgate, after the analogy of 2 Chronicles 33:7 and 2 Chronicles 35:4; for an asyndeton would be here too harsh. As ו is here omitted, so does it also appear superfluously before אסף , Nehemiah 12:46, probably by a clerical error. The verse can be only understood as saying: “for in the days of David, Asaph was of old chief of the singers, and of the songs of praise, and of the thanksgiving unto God.” ו before Asaph is here out of place; for to take it as introducing a conclusion: in the days of David, therefore, was Asaph ... seems unnatural. The ו probably came into the text through a reminiscence of 2 Chronicles 29:30 and 2 Chronicles 35:15. The matter, however, of these passages is consistent with the naming of David and Asaph, while such a co-ordination is unsuitable in the present passage. The Masoretes have indeed attempted to make sense of the words by altering the singular ראשׁ into the plural ראשׁי ; but the Keri ראשׁי is nothing more than a worthless conjecture, arising partly from the unsuitableness of ו before אסף , and partly from the consideration that Henan and Ethan were, as well as Asaph, chiefs of bands of singers. Nehemiah, however, was not concerned in this passage about exactness of statement, - the mention of Asaph as chief of the singers being quite sufficient for the purpose of his remark, that from the times of David onward orders of singers had existed. - In Nehemiah 12:47 this subject is concluded by the general statement that all Israel, i.e., the whole community, in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, gave the portions prescribed in the law for the ministers of the sanctuary, singers, doorkeepers, Levites, and priests. מקדּישׁים , they were sanctifying, i.e., consecrabant . הקדּישׁ , to sanctify, said of the bringing of gifts and dues to the ministers of the sanctuary; comp. 1 Chronicles 26:27; Leviticus 27:14. On the matter itself, comp. Nehemiah 10:38. and Numbers 18:26-29.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Nehemiah 12". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/nehemiah-12.html. 1854-1889.
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