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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Nehemiah 12

Verses 1-26

ASPECTS OF THE NEW COMMUNITY

Nehemiah 11:1 to Nehemiah 13:3

Lists (11:1-12:26)

Here begins a set of miscellaneous materials, without close connection with what immediately precedes. As a matter of fact, the first of the materials, having to do with the settlement of the people in the land, with a proper proportion in Jerusalem, fits better to either 7:4 or 7:73a. Certainly this fist is somehow to be associated with the intention of Nehemiah to take a census of Jerusalem, for it is introduced by the purpose to provide one tenth of the population for "the holy city." The names that are given apparently include both those taken by lot and those who "willingly offered to live in Jerusalem."

Then there are appended other lists so that the collection now gives, first, the "chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem" (Nehemiah 11:3-24); second, the names of the "villages" and the areas in which the Jews lived (Nehemiah 11:25-36); and third, "the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel" together with a body of genealogical information concerning the priests and the Levites (Nehemiah 12:1-26).

The first list has resemblances to 1 Chronicles 9:2-17 although the two have somewhat different settings, which may account for the fact that there are differences of details. The "king" referred to in verses 23 and 24 is probably Artaxerxes, and verse 24 probably implies the presence of Pethahiah at the royal court as a kind of Judean ambassador. The list of priests and Levites in 12:1-11 is mainly parallel to 10:2-8 and less so to 12:12-21, the divergencies indicating that the sources used by the editor were not always precise, that he apparently incorporated his sources without much attempt at harmonization, and that Hebrew nomenclature, like chronology, was a matter which allowed considerable variation and latitude. If "Darius the Persian" is identified as Darius III, the concluding name of "Jaddua" is the high priest who was in office during the reign of Alexander the Great (333 B.C.). If, on the other hand, it is Darius II, we are pushed back to an earlier time. This would be the beginning of Jaddua’s office, or the reference may be to an otherwise unknown Jaddua.

Verses 27-43

The Dedication of the Wall (12:27-43)

The presence of both the third and the first person pronouns indicates that once again the historian had recourse to the original memoirs of Nehemiah, combining with them another account of the dedication of the newly restored walls of Jerusalem. It is likely that the event here recorded took place soon after the actual completion of the work. The description is of a careful and solemn dedication service and includes an assembly of the people from the surrounding districts, sacrifices of purification, a procession of two companies moving in opposite directions around the city using the broad top of the wall as a walkway, and stated occasions of praise and thanksgiving. In the account Nehemiah is placed in one company and Ezra either at the head of the other company or leading one of its groups. The ceremony is concluded in the Temple with sacrifices and "great joy." The last line of verse 43 is undoubtedly a reference to the loud sound of the ceremony but also reminds one of the prophetic promises concerning the restoration of Jerusalem and its benefits for all nations.

The Worship in the Temple (12:44-13:3)

This short section includes two matters. The first is the description of the service of the Levites and especially of the various measures for the popular support of Temple worship, "On that day" is not meant to identify this material with the immediately preceding day of dedication; rather it is a general expression for an indeterminate time. The rather strange term "according to the fields of the towns" may refer to the manner or the order of collecting the means of support. The mention of Nehemiah indicates that here the editor was not using the memoir of Nehemiah as his source. His purpose seems to have been to draw a picture of ideal worship in an ideal community.

This same ideal character carries over into the second part (Nehemiah 13:1-3), where the purity of the religious community is stressed ("the assembly of God" probably refers to the actual religious services). The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24, although the law which was "read from the book of Moses" must have been Deuteronomy 23:3.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/nehemiah-12.html.