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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Nehemiah 7

RELIGIOUS REFORMATION

Nehemiah 7:73 to Nehemiah 10:39

There are numerous ways by which the chronological problems raised by the following section are met. Chief among them is the proposal that all of chapter 8 deals with a continuation of Ezra’s reform and belongs there (in I Esdras it appears after the events of Ezra 9). Alternately it has been regarded as a historic account of an additional reform during the time that Nehemiah and Ezra were together in Jerusalem (see 8:9 where they are mentioned together).

Whatever be taken as the solution, it is plain that the memoir of Nehemiah has broken off here, that Ezra rather than Nehemiah is the main character, and that the editor responsible for the compilation of the Book of Nehemiah regarded it as an appropriate fact that the great act of completion of the walls should have been followed by a series of solemn and important religious observances.

Verses 1-4

Provisions for the City (7:1-4)

In keeping with his ability as leader, Nehemiah followed the work on the wall with the establishment of an orderly system of defense. This involved the appointment of Hanani his brother (Nehemiah 1:2) and Hananiah as rulers of the city. (It has been proposed that for "Hanani and Hananiah" we should understand rather "Hanani, who is Hananiah.") It also involved arranging for the proper care of the gates and a regular watch. The expression "while they are still standing guard" is a guess, for, as the margin indicates, the Hebrew here is uncertain. The method of securing guards is explained by the scarcity of houses in the open spaces of the once destroyed city.

Verses 5-73

Genealogical List (7:5-73)

The remark in verse 4 concerning the scarcity of homes leads naturally to the matter of population. Nehemiah’s intention to conduct a census led to the discovery of a list of the original company returning to Jerusalem. This list was appended to Nehemiah’s memoirs in place of the intended census. It follows in the main Ezra 2:1-70.

The Reading of the Law (7:73-8:12)

The account of the solemn assembly and Ezra’s reading of the Law needs little comment. Although it is marked by a somewhat repetitious style, wholly unlike the Nehemiah memoirs, it is not lacking in lively details. There are certain correspondences to the description of the similar situation during the time of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:29-33). "The book of the law of Moses" may be either the Pentateuch or, more probably, selected portions of it. The reading took place on the New Year or the Feast of the Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25). The length of time required is to be explained by the fact that, as verses 7-8 indicate, there were pauses for explanation.

Nehemiah, designated as "the governor" (see Ezra 2:63), joined with Ezra and the Levites in encouraging the people. The weeping of the multitude may be understood as mourning over the evil which the Law had revealed, or it may have been an emotional reaction to the occasion.

Although the chronology of the event traced here cannot be determined with precision, there can be no doubt that it represented a significant moment in the life of the nation and laid the foundation of the adherence to the Law which so strongly marked later Judaism.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 7". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/nehemiah-7.html.