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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 11

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-36

Nehemiah 11:1-36

1And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also [and the rest of the people] cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in [the] other cities. 2And the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

3Now [And] these are the chief of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem: but in the cities of Judah dwelt [and which dwelt in the cities of Judah] every one in his possession in their cities, to wit, Israel [i.e., the people], the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinim, and the children [sons] of Solomon’s servants. 4And at Jerusalem dwelt certain of the children [sons] of Judah, and of the children [sons] of Benjamin. Of the children [sons] of Judah; Athaiah, the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalaleel, 5of the children [sons] of Perez (i.e., Pharez): and Maaseiah, the son of Baruch, the son of Col-hozeh, the son of Hozaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni [Shelah’s family]. 6All the sons of Perez that dwelt at Jerusalem were four hundred three-score and eight valiant men.

7And these are the sons of Benjamin; Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jesaiah [i.e., Isaiah]. 8And after him Gabbai, Sallai, nine hundred 9twenty and eight. And Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer: And Judah the son of Senuah was second over the city [was over the second city]. 10Of the priests: 11Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin. Seraiah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, was the ruler of the house of God. 12And their brethren that did the work of the house were eight hundred twenty and two: and Adaiah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashur, the son of Malchiah, 13and his brethren, chief of the fathers, two hundred forty and two: and Amashai, the son of Azareel, the son of Ahasai, the son of Meshilliemoth, the son of Immer, 14and their brethren, mighty men of valour, a hundred twenty and eight, and their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of one of the great men [son of the mighty].

15Also [And] of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hashub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chief of the Levites had the oversight of [were over] the outward business of the house of 17God. And Mattaniah, the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer [perhaps, the chief of the prai e-song who gave thanks at prayer-service]: and Bakbukiah the second among his brethren, and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun.

18, 19All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred fourscore and four. Moreover [And] the porters, Akkub, Talmon, and their brethren that kept the gates, were a hundred seventy and two.

20And the residue of Israel, of the priests, and the Levites, were in all the cities of 21Judah, every one in his inheritance. But [And] the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa were over the Nethinim. 22The overseer also [and the overseer] of the Levites at Jerusalem was Uzzi, the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micha. [Some] Of the sons of Asaph, the singers 23were over the business of the house of God. For it [there] was the king’s commandment concerning them, that a certain portion should be for the singers [and a sure ordinance concerning the singers] due for every day [the thing of a day on 24its day]. And Pethahiah, the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah, the son of Judah, was at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people.

25And [As] for the villages with their fields, some of the children [sons] of Judah dwelt at Kirjath-arba and in the villages [daughters] thereof, and at Dibon, and in 26the villages [daughters] thereof, and at Jekabzeel and in the villages thereof, and 27at Jeshua, and at Moladah, and at Beth-phelet, and at Hazar-shual, and at Beer-sheba, and in the villages [daughters] thereof, 28and at Ziklag, and at Mekonah, and 29in the villages [daughters] thereof, and at En-rimmon, and at Zareah, and at Jarmuth, 30Zanoah, Adullam, and in their villages, at Lachish and the fields thereof, at Azekah, and in the villages [daughters] thereof. And they dwelt from Beer-sheba into the valley of Hinnom.

31The children also of Benjamin [and the sons of Benjamin] from Geba dwelt at Michmash [dwelt from Geba to Michmash] and Aija, and Bethel, and in 32their villages [daughters], and at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim. 33, 34, 35Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen.

36And of the Levites were divisions in Judah, and in Benjamin [divisions of Judah were to Benjamin].


1 Nehemiah 11:17. הַתְּחִלָּה instead of being an error for הַתְּהִלָּה, may be for בַּתְּחִלָּה, “chief at the beginning of prayer he gave thanks.”


The Places of Abode[1]

Nehemiah 11:1. The rest of the people also.And the rest of the people—that is, other than the rulers.

Nehemiah 11:2. That willingly offered themselvesi.e., those of the people, beside the tenth part chosen by lot, who also consented to dwell in Jerusalem as the place of greatest danger and need. (See Nehemiah 7:4.)

Nehemiah 11:3. The relative construction should be used with both clauses, thus: now these are the chiefs of the province who dwelt in Jerusalem, and those who dwelt in the cities of Judah (every one in his possession in their cities)—to wit, Israel, etc.Israeli.e., the people of Israel as contrasted with priests, Levites, etc.The children of Solomon’s servants.—See on Nehemiah 7:57.

Nehemiah 11:4. Athaiah was chief of the Bene-Pharets, or children of Perez (Pharez). See Genesis 38:29; 1 Chronicles 4:1. In 1 Chronicles 9:4 he is called Uthai, and his genealogy traced by a different line.

Nehemiah 11:5. Maaseiah was chief of the Shilonites or children of Shelah. His grandfather Colhozeh is probably the same as the father of Shallun in Nehemiah 3:15. He is called Asaiah in 1 Chronicles 9:5. Shiloni.—Heb.: hash-shiloni. Not a man’s name, but a family’s title, to wit, the children of Shelah, Judah’s son. See 1 Chronicles 9:5. These descendants of Shelah are counted with those of Pharez. Athaiah and Maaseiah were thus the chiefs of Judah. Jeuel of the sons of Zerah, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:6, is omitted here.

Nehemiah 11:6. This verse appears to be out of its place. It should precede Nehemiah 11:5.

Nehemiah 11:7. The family of Jesaiah in Benjamin, of which Sallu was chief, is not otherwise known. Sallu’s pedigree is differently reckoned in 1 Chronicles 9:7. The text in Chronicles is probably defective.

Nehemiah 11:8. Gabbai and Sallai are other Benjamite chiefs.

Nehemiah 11:9. Joel the son of Zichri was overseer (Heb.: pakid, ἐπισκοπος) over both the Judahites and Benjamites of the city. His office was possibly a police one. Judah the son of Senuahwas over the second city (not second over the city).—The second city was a well-known part of Jerusalem. It was there Huldah the prophetess lived in Josiah’s time. See 2 Kings 22:14, where the Eng. vers. has “college” for the Heb. mishneh. In Zephaniah 1:10 the Eng. vers. has “second.” It was probably the part of the city built up north of the temple. The parallel chapter in 1 Chron. (chap. 9), which seems to be very corrupt in its reading, appears to have “Joel, the son of Zichri,” in “Elah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Michri,” and to have “Judah, the son of Senuah,” in “Hodaviah, the son of Hasenuah,” the former a Benjamite, and the latter an ancestor of Sallu. That list also introduces as Benjamites “Ibneiah, the son of Jeroham,” and “Meshullam, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah.”

Joel and Judah were the two inspectors or overseers over the Judahites and Benjamites in the entire city.

Nehemiah 11:10-11. There is great confusion in this part of the record, and we are not helped much by 1 Chronicles 9:0. Both lists have been copied probably from a defective record. Jedaiah, Joiarib and Jachin were the heads of three of the twenty-four courses of priests in David’s time (1 Chronicles 24:7; 1 Chronicles 24:17). Seraiah was high-priest before the captivity (1 Chronicles 6:14). These names appear to be fragments of a record which in its fulness showed the heads of these families in Nehemiah’s time. The phrase “ruler of the house of God (negid beth ha-elohim) can belong to Ahitub or Seraiah. The Eng. vers. wrongly inserts “was.” It is a title of the high-priest. See 2 Chronicles 31:13. Also compare 1 Chronicles 9:11. Also see 1 Chronicles 12:27, where Jehoiada (negid of the Aaronites) seems to be the same as Ahitub the father of Zadok.

In Nehemiah 11:10 Jedaiah, the son of Joiarib, is doubtless wrong, and the form in 1 Chronicles 9:10 should be followed, to wit, Jedaiah and Jehoiarib. In Nehemiah 11:11 (as in 1 Chronicles 9:11) the words the son of Meraioth are out of place and should follow “Ahitub,” as Meraioth was grandfather (1 Chronicles 6:7) or great-grandfather (Ezra 7:3) of Ahitub. For this last discrepancy we may suppose the two sequences in the high-priesthood of “Amariah, Ahitub, Zadok” (one before Solomon, and the other after Solomon) are the occasion. One list has taken the latter, where Ahitub’s grandfather is Azariah, and the other has taken the former where Ahitub’s grandfather is Meraioth. [We use “father” and “grandfather” in the formal sense, denoting the proximity of the names in the records, not the actual relationship.]

Nehemiah 11:12. And their brethreni.e., the brethren or kinsfolk of the chiefs of the priests whose names are lost in the above record (as we have seen in the preceding note). Adaiah was chief of the children of Malchiah, the head of the fifth course in David’s day (1 Chronicles 24:9).

Nehemiah 11:13. Chief of the fathers.—This clause seems to be out of place, for we can hardly suppose that the Malchiah family were all chiefs. Adaiah had 242 in his kinsfolk, over whom he was chief, just as the representatives of the high-priest’s family and the families of Jedaiah, Joiarib and Jachin had 822 in their kinsfolk (Nehemiah 11:12). This phrase “chief of the fathers” belongs to all these head men of families, and was probably at the head of the list originally. It may have found its place here from the analogy of the phrase “mighty men of valour” in Nehemiah 11:14. See 2 Chronicles 26:12 for a collocation of the two phrases. Amashai (Maasiai in 1 Chronicles 9:12) was chief of the children of Immer, the head of the sixteenth course in David’s time. His pedigree in 1 Chronicles 9:0. is merely a corruption of this one.

Nehemiah 11:14. Their brethren.—Probably an error for “his brethren”—that is, Amashai’s. Their overseer was Zabdiel.—He was pakid (see on Nehemiah 11:9) of all the priests. He is called son of the mighty ones—a phrase that seems to denote a remarkable ancestry. The numbers here and in 1 Chronicles 9:13 differ by 568. Errors in numbers and in names are almost necessities in transcribing.

Nehemiah 11:15-17. This list of Levites omits the names of Heresh, Galal and Berechiah, given in 1 Chronicles 9:15-16; but contains the names of Shabbethai and Jozabad not mentioned there. In this list (Nehemiah 11:14) we have the son of Bunni (i.e., Bani, one of the families of Merari), where in 1 Chronicles 9:14 we find “of the sons of Merari.” Bakbukiah here is Bakbakkar there. Zabdi here is Zichri there. Abda here is Obadiah there. Of the Levitical chiefs, Shabbethai and Jozabad had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.—That is, attended to the secular department of service as directors therein (comp. 1 Chronicles 26:29). The principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer.—Literally “the chief of the beginning gave thanks to prayer.” Some would read tehillah instead of tehhillah, a most natural correction. We should then have “the chief of the praise-song [who] gave thanks (as introductory) to prayer.”

Nehemiah 11:18. These six (or nine) Levitical chiefs had a constituency of 284.

Nehemiah 11:19. Akkub, Talmon.—The list in 1 Chronicles 9:0 adds Shallum (as chief of all) and Ahiman, and makes the number 212 instead of 172. The account in 1 Chron. is much more extended on this matter of the porters, thus showing that this record (as is that also) is but a fragment of an older document. Both copies have been marred in the transcribing.

Nehemiah 11:20. This verse belongs between Nehemiah 11:24 and Nehemiah 11:25, after Jerusalem is disposed of.

Nehemiah 11:21. Nethinim—Ophel.—See on Nehemiah 3:26.

Nehemiah 11:22. The pakid (see on Nehemiah 11:9)all the Levites, including the Nethinim, was Uzzi. The last clause should read: The singers of the sons of Asaph (or some of the sons of Asaph, the singers,—see same construction in Nehemiah 11:25) were over the business of the house of God. This “business” is not the “outward business” of Nehemiah 11:16. If (with Keil) we disregard the Athnahh, we may consider Uzzi’s pedigree as going on in this last clause, thus: “the son of Micha, of the sons of Asaph the singers in the service of the house of God.” In this case the parallel with Nehemiah 11:17 would be striking. There may be an omission in that verse before Mattaniah, and this Uzzi may be the first of the three leading singers—Bakbukiah and Abda being the other two. But see next note.

Nehemiah 11:23. Read: for it was the king’s commandment concerning them and a sure ordinance for the singers for each day’s duty (lit. “the thing of a day on its day”). Uzzi was pakid of the Levites generally, but the Asaphites took turns in directing the Levitical work. This 23d verse—making the singers (in the plural) the main subject, seems to show that our E. V. is right in stopping Uzzi’s genealogy (in Nehemiah 11:22) at Micha, and then beginning a new passage. The Masorites took this view, as the Athnahh with Micha shows. There is probably some confusion between Nehemiah 11:22 and Nehemiah 11:15; Nehemiah 11:17, if we may judge from the names. Compare the passage in 1 Chronicles 9:0.

Nehemiah 11:24. Pethahiah of the Zerahites (or Zarhites) was at the hand of the king.—This does not mean that he was at Susa, but that he was the king’s special agent. Comp. 1 Chronicles 23:28, where the Levites are said to be at the hand of the sons of Aaron. Pethahiah’s office may have taken him often to Susa, and he would thus be the go-between between the king and Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 11:25. Kirjath-Arbai.e., Hebron (Joshua 14:15). The villages thereof.—Lit. the daughters thereof. The word is a different one from that at the beginning of the verse (hatzér). It is repeated after Dibon, but the other word returns after Jekabzeel. This use of daughters for dependent towns is common in the earlier books. Dibon.—Doubtless the Dimonah of Joshua 15:22. Jekabzeel.—The Kabzeel of Joshua 15:21.

Nehemiah 11:26. Jeshua. —Probably the Shema, of Joshua 15:26, the letters in Hebrew being easily mistaken in transcription. Moladah is El Milh. Beth-phelet.—The Beth-palet of Joshua 21:27.

Nehemiah 11:27. Hazar-shual—like all the above, except Hebron and Moladah, is unknown.

Beersheba is Bir es-Seba, twenty-five miles south-west of Hebron, and ten miles west of Moladah.

Nehemiah 11:28. Ziklag, conspicuous in David’s history (1 Samuel 30:0), is supposed to be Asluj, on the road from El Milh to Abdeh. Mekonah—possibly a mistake for Madmannah of Joshua 15:30. It only requires a mem dropped and a daleth changed to a kaph.

Nehemiah 11:29. En-rimmon is spoken of in Joshua 15:32 as two places. Keil supposes them two towns closely neighboring which finally grew into one. Zareah.Zoreah (Joshua 15:33) or Zorah (Judges 13:2) is Zurah, fourteen miles west of Jerusalem. Jarmuth Isaiah 16:0 miles south-west of Jerusalem, on the slope of the mountain country, and about eight miles from the Shephelah or Philistine plain. It Isaiah 15:0 miles from Hebron.

Nehemiah 11:30. Zanoah is Zanua, or, perhaps, Kh. Sanut. Adullam—identified by Ganneau with Sh. Mudhkur, on the east side of Wady Sur, near Socoh. Lachish—36 miles south-west of Jerusalem. Azekah is Deir el Aashek. From Beersheba unto the valley of Hinnom (or valley of the sons, or son, of Hinnom) is a distance of nearly 50 miles.

Nehemiah 11:31. Read: and the children of Benjamin dwelt from Geba to Michmash and Aija and Bethel and her villages.Geba is Jeba. Michmash is Mukhmas. Aija or Ai is probably Tell el Hajar, as Van de Velde thinks. Bethel is Beitin.

Nehemiah 11:32. Anathoth is Anata, Jeremiah’s birth-place. Nob is probably Neby Samwil, according to Lieut. Conder’s suggestion (Quarterly Statement of Pal. Expl. Fund. London, Jan. 1875). Ananiah is unknown.

Nehemiah 11:33. Hazor is not identified. Ramah is Er-Ram. Gittaim is unknown.

Nehemiah 11:34. Hadid is supposed to be near Lydda. Zeboim is not identified. Neballat is Beit Nebala, near Lydda.

Nehemiah 11:35. Lod is Lydda (Ludd). Ono is believed to be near Lydda, at Kefr Anna. (See Van de Velde.) The valley of craftsmeni.e., Charashim (see 1 Chronicles 4:14) was probably in the vicinity of Lydda.

Nehemiah 11:36. Read: And of the Levites divisions of Judah went to Benjamin. These Levites were transferred from former stations in Judahite towns to stations in Benjamite towns.


1. Jerusalem was peculiarly the post of labor and danger,—of labor, because the fortifications would require constant guarding, and of danger, because the enemies of the Jews would naturally concentrate their efforts against the holy city. A willing offering of any to dwell in Jerusalem was therefore a mark of self-denial for the sake of country and religion. The popular blessing fell upon such. Even those who did not so volunteer could not but admire this devotion, and join in the general admiration. Happy is the people, where there is such a cause for the public favor.

2. The additional population of Jerusalem included men of Judah, men of Benjamin, Levites, and Nethinim. There were, doubtless, remnants of the ten tribes with preserved pedigrees mingled with the returned Jews, as we find four centuries later Phanuel mentioned as of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36), but none of these seem to have been reckoned in the public genealogies. They had not come back with Zerubbabel, for it is not probable that many (if any) from the remnant of the ten tribes went into captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, unless we consider the coming to Jerusalem of “divers of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun” in Hezekiah’s day (2 Chronicles 30:11) was a coming for a permanent abode. But we may believe, that, after the return, stragglers from the remnant of the northern kingdom joined the Jews at Jerusalem, for that in the north a remnant preserved the truth against all the immigration of heathen nations is evident from the appearance of Galilee in the New Testament period, which could not be owing simply to the Maccabean influences, such as are described in 1Ma 5:21, seq.


Nehemiah 11:1-2. It might be very difficult for the poorer families of the congregation to find means of subsistence in Jerusalem, as there was no longer a royal court there, and a troop of higher officers, who could afford work and gain to the lower classes. They might find it much easier to get along in the country, where they could cultivate the ground. Nevertheless Nehemiah and the heads of the congregation had to insist upon it that as many as possible should settle again in Jerusalem. For this there were very urgent reasons. It was not the consideration alone that the congregation would only then be worthily represented to the neighboring people, and would only be in part secure, if it possessed a large, mighty, and nourishing chief city, to which, in times of danger, it could withdraw as to a trustworthy asylum. The main point was, that as many as possible of the congregation must live in direct proximity to the Temple and its service, that their connection with God could the better be furthered and fortified, and be promoted and consecrated, which was so desirable for it. There was the consideration that above all upon Zion and the mountain of the house of the Lord rested the promises of the prophets, and that especially from them the law and the word of the Lord should go forth. (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1.) The congregation should feel itself called upon, as much as lay in its power, to help in the fulfilment of such promises, also to further as much as possible, the honoring of the Lord there in Jerusalem. It had certainly in the prophetic word a warrant that the Lord would here protect and bless it. At least equally urgent calls has Christendom not to scatter itself hither and thither into all sorts of sects and communities, neither to be satisfied with the observance of religion in their houses, but to hold faithfully to the one church, which is founded on God’s word and provided with His promises, and instead of despising it on account of its insignificance, poverty, and needs, all the more to raise it by all self-consecration and gratitude, even if one should thereby suffer disadvantages, and even dangers, in worldly things, and should draw upon himself slights and persecution. “And let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” (Hebrews 10:23-25.) That in which a sect has appeared to be preferable in power of love and sanctity has proved itself generally, in great part to be mere empty appearance.

Nehemiah 11:3-19. It is very worthy of notice that in the numbering of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, not the priests but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin take the lead, and only then follow the priests and Levites; so much the more worthy of notice, because in the new congregation, following the captivity, according to the entire direction which its development took, and according to everything which was considered as of the greatest moment, the high-priests, and the priesthood in general, had a particularly high significance. It is as if the consciousness were indicated, that the priests and Levites, in spite of their distinction, which the Lord had apportioned to them in the affairs of Israel, had been nevertheless nothing at all, if they had not had a congregation near and around them, and if they had not succeeded in obtaining satisfactory fruit for their activity, namely, a genuine and true piety, which should substantially prove they were not there in vain. Would also that Christian priests, that is, preachers of the gospel, might preserve a lively consciousness that it is not enough for them to have fellowship with their brethren in office, that they are nothing, and can profit and signify nothing, it not some, if only a small congregation stand by them, in whom the seed which they sow, springs up, grows, and bears fruit. Starke: Nehemiah 11:3. In every time there are some pious and God-fearing people who separate themselves from the world, and seek the good of their souls rather than of their bodies.

Nehemiah 11:25-36. When one looks at the space which the Jewish congregation inhabited round Jerusalem, how very small was the territory occupied by the people of God, the only race which possessed a clear knowledge of the only true and holy God! A few miles, from three to six, north and south, east and west, comprised the entire district. Compared with our countries, yes, even with our provinces, this district appears to us almost as a vanishing nothing. And nevertheless what powers for the subjugation of entire humanity, for the transformation of all its relations, and for the subduing of all circumstances, has God the Lord been able to put in the people of this oasis, in the, at the same time insignificant, and in many respects miserable race, which cultivated the ground there or raised cattle! If any where surely here arises a testimony for Paul’s word, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:27.) A consoling promise also for Christendom in those times in which it appears as though it were being compressed on all sides, and when it is in truth losing position after position. Let it lose in length and breadth, in order afterwards to gain so much the more in height. Even the gates of hell cannot swallow up the church of the Lord.

Starke: Nehemiah 11:25. God collects to Himself a church from among many peoples by the word of the gospel, that the heavenly Jerusalem may be filled.


[1]This chapter is intimately connected with chapter Nehemiah 7:4, showing Nehemiah’s plan of increasing the population of the city. The genealogies and then the confession and covenant came in parenthetically—the former as part of the process in the plan, and the latter as chronologically happening while Nehemiah was maturing the plan.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Nehemiah 11". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/nehemiah-11.html. 1857-84.
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