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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 12

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary


Nehemiah Chapter 12

Nehemiah 12:1 "Now these [are] the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,"

Jeshua was the high priest in Zerubbabel’s time. Seraiah was the high priest murdered by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah and Ezra, here, were not the same as those who have books named for them. Nehemiah 12:2 "Amariah, Malluch, Hattush,"

Nehemiah 12:3 "Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,"

Nehemiah 12:4 "Iddo, Ginnetho, Abijah,"

We must take time, here, and recognize that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was descended from this Abijah. His wife, Elisabeth, was descended from Aaron. They were both descended from the priestly family of Aaron, in fact.

Nehemiah 12:5 "Miamin, Maadiah, Bilgah,"

Nehemiah 12:6 "Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah,"

Nehemiah 12:7 "Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These [were] the chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua."

All of the names listed were the names of the chief of each of the priestly families.

Nehemiah 12:8 "Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, [and] Mattaniah, [which was] over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren."

Nehemiah 12:9 "Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, [were] over against them in the watches."

We must continue to remember that Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel were the leaders of the three divisions of the Levitical tribe. The others, mentioned here, were heads of families of the Levites.

Nehemiah 12:10 "And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada,"

Nehemiah 12:11 "And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua."

Jeshua was the high priest of Zerubbabel’s time. Eliashab was mentioned as high priest, after Nehemiah reached Jerusalem. Joiada was in office 36 years. It was believed that Jonathan murdered his brother Jeshua, in the temple, so that he might be high priest. All of those listed above were high priests.

Nehemiah 12:12 "And in the days of Joiakim were priests, the chief of the fathers: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;"

This was the beginning of a list of the priestly families, starting with the high priest, Joiakim. Each of those mentioned, above, were the head of their priestly family.

Nehemiah 12:13 "Of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan;"

Nehemiah 12:14 "Of Melicu, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph;"

Nehemiah 12:15 "Of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai;"

Nehemiah 12:16 "Of Iddo, Zechariah; of 112 Ginnethon, Meshullam;"

Nehemiah 12:17 "Of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai;"

Nehemiah 12:18 "Of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan;"

Nehemiah 12:19 "And of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi;"

Nehemiah 12:20 "Of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber;"

Nehemiah 12:21 "Of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethaneel."

The families of Jedaiah and Joiarib did not put their mark to the covenant supposedly. They were, probably, listed toward the last for that reason. These were all the men who were the heads of priestly families.

Nehemiah 12:22 "The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, [were] recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian."

The only thing that I can make of this is, perhaps, they had the Levites recorded as the chief of the fathers, up until the time that Darius reigned.

Nehemiah 12:23 "The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, [were] written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib."

We know from our previous studies in Chronicles, that there were records kept of all of the heads of the families, and particularly of the civil and spiritual leaders. They thought it very important to keep an accurate genealogy of each family. The book of chronicles, mentioned above, wss a record book other than the Chronicles in the Bible. It was terribly important to keep that type of record of the Levitical families during the Old Testament to see who could be high priest or priest. We are not told exactly why the record keeping ceased in the time of Johanan. When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, He was the High Priest forever. The ministry before the time of Jesus’ visit to the earth was by family heritage. It was ministering the law. After Jesus was crucified, the ministry is of the Spirit. Anyone who has the Spirit of God dwelling within them can minister. In fact, everyone who is a believer should minister in some capacity.

Nehemiah 12:24 "And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise [and] to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward over against ward."

David had re-set the functions of the temple up, just before he died. David truly was a man after God’s own heart. Again, we see the beginning of the listing of the chief Levitical familes.

Nehemiah 12:25 "Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub, [were] porters keeping the ward at the thresholds of the gates."

Nehemiah 12:26 “These [were] in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe."

We see the keepers of the gates above. Perhaps, the keepers of the treasury door, as well. Nehemiah was a civil leader in the office of governor. Ezra, as priest and scribe, was a spiritual leader. 113

Nehemiah 12:27 "And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, [with] cymbals, psalteries, and with harps."

We do not know exactly when the dedication of the wall took place. Some scholars believe it was dedicated at the end of its completion. Others believe it was dedicated after Nehemiah went back to see the king of Persia. It really does not matter when it was done. Some people do not believe in dedicating things like a wall of a city. To those people who believe in God, everything they come in contact with should be dedicated to God. This dedication would be a festive occasion. There would be much singing, playing of instruments, praising God, and blowing of the victory trumpet. This was a time of thanking God for His protection. The wall was a deterrent. God is our protection, and He was theirs.

Nehemiah 12:28 "And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi;"

Nehemiah 12:29 "Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem."

We remember, from an earlier lesson, the little towns the people lived in around Jerusalem. The singers and musicians were all Levites. The towns, they had chosen to live in, would be fairly close to Jerusalem. They periodically had to come to Jerusalem to minister with their music and song.

Nehemiah 12:30 "And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall."

The purification of the priests and Levites was of a spiritual nature. The purification of gates and wall would be of a more physical nature.

Nehemiah 12:31 "Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great [companies of them that gave] thanks, [whereof one] went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:"

This was not just the chiefs of the Levites that climbed upon the wall, but the chiefs of the government, as well. The wall was a protection for the temple, but it was, also, a protection for people, as well. This was just saying, that people were spread across the wall.

Nehemiah 12:32 "And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah,"

The singers led a march of the princes. Hoshaiah was, probably, speaking of Hoshea.

Nehemiah 12:33 "And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam,"

In the procession, next came the priests Azariah, Ezra, and then Meshullam.

Nehemiah 12:34 "Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah,"

This was speaking of a group of people who were from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah next. Shemaiah and Jeremiah, again, were from priestly families. It appears, the priests and the people were mingled in together in this procession. Nehemiah 12:35 "And [certain] of the priests’ sons with trumpets; [namely], Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph:"

Nehemiah 12:36 "And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them."

These trumpets would be blown in victory by the priests’ sons. The musical instruments would be played, and the singers would sing praises. This procession across the wall was to be a victorious march. After this, would come another group of Levites led by Zechariah. Ezra would be acting as a scribe here.

Nehemiah 12:37 "And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward."

This was another group, who would mount another section of the wall from the stairs that went up the inside of the wall.

Nehemiah 12:38 "And the other [company of them that gave] thanks went over against [them], and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;"

Nehemiah 12:39 "And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate."

Nehemiah was with this group. They started at the same place the other group had started, and went in the opposite direction. Some of this was on the eastern wall.

Nehemiah 12:40 "So stood the two [companies of them that gave] thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me:"

A great deal of the wall was covered with all these people. It would have been a very strong wall to hold up the weight of that many people.

Nehemiah 12:41 "And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, [and] Hananiah, with trumpets;"

These were the priests that were blowing the trumpets.

Nehemiah 12:42 "And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah [their] overseer."

The first mentioned, here, were playing instruments and the singers were singing. This had to be a tremendous, victorious sound of praise rising up to God.

Nehemiah 12:43 "Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

It was a long-standing tradition to sacrifice at dedications. Nehemiah completed the dedication by the priests offering tremendous numbers of sacrifices. Everyone participated. This was a time of national joy and triumph. Another time the women had participated in a time of tremendous joy, had been just after the crossing of the Red Sea.

Nehemiah 12:44 "And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited."

Perhaps, we can safely assume that Nehemiah did some of the appointing. Some of these things were of a spiritual consequence, so we may assume the high priest appointed some of those men. We know the law had been read to all of the people, so there would be no excuse for not giving the portion that was their obligation to give. The priests and the Levites lived of these offerings. The priests and the Levites were not allowed to work aside from in the service of the LORD. They waited until the offerings were made to receive their portion.

Nehemiah 12:45 "And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, [and] of Solomon his son."

The singers and the porters were in the service of the LORD. They did not have other occupations. They lived of the daily portions that were allotted to them. They were purified, as were the priests, because they were in the service of the LORD. David and Solomon had instituted the musicians and the doorkeepers in the temple that Solomon built.

Nehemiah 12:46 "For in the days of David and Asaph of old [there were] chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God."

The book of Psalms is a book of songs to be sung in worship. Asaph was the head of the singers in the temple in Solomon’s temple. Many of the Psalms speak of being for Asaph. David felt that thanksgiving and praise in song was a vital part of worship. He was a singer and a musician himself. He wrote most of the Psalms, which are songs.

Nehemiah 12:47 "And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified [holy things] unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified [them] unto the children of Aaron."

This was explaining that the singers and musicians had a daily portion. The Levites received of the things offered on the altar. The high priest and the priests received of the offerings of the altar, also.

Nehemiah 12 Questions

1. Who was the high priest in Zerubbabel’s time?

2. Which high priest was murdered by Nebuchadnezzar?

3. Who was descended from Abijah?

4. Who was Elisabeth, mother of John, descended from?

5. Who were Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel?

6. When was Eliashab was high priest?

7. Who did Jonothan murder to become high priest?

8. Which of the priests did not put their mark on the covenant?

9. There were records kept of all the heads of families of the Hebrews, especially of whom?

10. Why did the genealogies become unimportant after Jesus?

11. Nehemiah was a _________ leader in the office of governor.

12. When were the two times people believe the wall was dedicated?

13. To all who believe in God, __________ should be dedicated.

14. The singers and musicians were all ____________.

15. Who were purified for the dedication of the wall?

16. Who were some of the people who would be on the wall?

17. Did the ordinary people get on the wall?

18. Who blew the trumpets?

19. What kind of songs would they sing?

20. Who led the second group to mount the wall?

21. Who was in the midst of them?

22. Name the priests that blew the trumpets.

23. Who was involved in all of the rejoicing that was going on?

24. Who did the appointing in Nehemiah 12:44?

25. Who got a daily portion?

26. When did much of the ministry of singing begin?

27. What are the Psalms?

Verses 1-21

Neh 12:1-21



(Note: in this chapter, we shall use the text of the RSV, which has returned to the order of verses in the KJV).

This chapter exhibits two separate parts: (1) certain lists of priests, High Priests and Levites (Nehemiah 12:1-16); and (2) the elaborate ceremonies of the dedication. Cook classified the lists thus: (1) the chief priestly and Levitical families who returned with Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:1-9); (2) the first six of the post-exilic High Priests from Jesuha to Jaddua (Nehemiah 12:19-11); (3) the actual heads of the priestly families in the times of the High Priest Joiakim (Nehemiah 12:12-21); and (4) the chief Levitical families of Nehemiah’s time (Nehemiah 12:22-26). Cook wrote that all of these lists were probably compiled by Nehemiah, except the second; he supposed that list might have been far later due to the mention of Jaddua, mentioned by Josephus as High Priest in the times of Alexander the Great (339 B.C.). This writer rejects that supposition altogether.


This is as good a place as any to dispose of the problem centered around the name Jaddua.

1. There might easily have been several High Priests named Jaddua. If there’s anything about all these Jewish names we have been studying that stands out above everything else, it is that the same names appear again, and again, generation after generation. "For example there were twenty-seven Zechariahs"! And even among the Twelve Apostles there were two Simons and two James. Nehemiah mentions a Jaddua here (Nehemiah 12:11; Nehemiah 12:22), apparently in his times; and Josephus mentions another one more than a century later. The critics will have to come up with something a lot better than this in order to late-date Nehemiah. We simply will not receive any such thing on the premise that only one High Priest was named Jaddua!

2. We believe that Josephus’ identification of Jaddua as the High Priest in the times of Alexander the Great is an error by Josephus. There’s not a scholar on earth who has not questioned Josephus’ reliability on many things.

3. It is altogether possible that Jaddua lived to be over a hundred years old and might have been high priest in the times of both Nehemiah and Alexander. Whitcomb stressed this, pointing out that one of the High Priests, "Jehoiada died at the age of 130 (2 Chronicles 24:15)." That possibility is supported by the fact that Jaddua died very soon after his meeting with Alexander the Great, indicating that he might indeed have been a very old man when that happened.

4. Then there is the very definite possibility that the word Jaddua here is an interpolation. It is this writer’s opinion that overwhelming odds favor this possibility. Williamson admitted that these lists are "defective," due to copyist’s errors, etc. We appreciate Hamrick, a very recent scholar, and his elaboration of this very point. "Jaddua in verse 22 (Nehemiah 12:22) may have been added by a subsequent editor. In the Hebrew, it reads, `and Johanan, and Jaddua’ (cf. KJV), as though the latter name had been inserted by a later hand."

All of these four options may be defended, and indeed have been defended, by able scholars; so one may take his choice. Until the critics effectively refute all four of these options, we shall stick to our conviction that the appearance of the name of Jaddua in this chapter is no adequate basis whatever for late-dating Nehemiah.

There isn’t anything that betrays the enthusiastic bias of critics in favor of late-dating Bible books any better that their ridiculous seizure of one single word in a defective list of names as their sole basis for denying the Word of God, which ascribes this Book to Nehemiah, and not to some mythical `chronicler’ living a hundred years later in the times of Alexander the Great. Such an action goes much further in discrediting the critics than it does toward late-dating Nehemiah.

Counting the list of the inhabitants of the province given in Nehemiah 11, the four we have here in Nehemiah 12 make five lists in all. "They are all connected with the genealogical register of the Israelite population of the whole province, taken by Nehemiah for the purpose of enlarging the population of Jerusalem."

We shall not discuss these lists in detail. It is sufficient to remember that they served their purpose as far as Nehemiah was concerned. The discrepancies, questions, problems and variations in all of these are insoluble at this period of time, twenty five centuries afterward.

One of the first problems regarding the two lists in Nehemiah 10 and Nehemiah 12 is that they do not coincide. "This difference is due to the time elapsed between the taking of the two lists; and also because, the names in Nehemiah 10 are not the names of orders nor houses, but the names of heads of families."

Nehemiah 12:1-11


"Now these are the priests and Levites who went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah. Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bigah, Shemiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Antok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua. And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah and Mattaniah, who with his brethren was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. And Bakbukiah and Unno their brethren stood opposite them in the service. And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim,Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.

Nehemiah 12:10 and Nehemiah 12:11 are a parenthesis thrown in at this point as an aid in the chronology. The names are those of the first six High Priests in the period after the exile.

Nehemiah 12:12-21


"And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; of Malluci, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, Moadiah, Piltai; of Bilgai, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; of Joiarib, Matteniah; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; of Hilkiah, Hashabai; of Jedaiah, Nethanel."

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:1-21. It will help to understand the apparent repetition of all these names to quote, in part, from Smith’s Bible Dictionary. "The book of Nehemiah, like the preceding one of Ezra, is clearly and certainly not all by the same hand. By far the most important portion, indeed, is the work of Nehemiah; but other portions are either extracts from various chronicles and registers or supplementary narratives and reflections, some apparently by Ezra." Much of the discussion of this chapter, therefore, should be regarded as information on the state of affairs at different times. I shall make comments on the merits of the several verses, not always trying to settle upon any specific date for the incidents that may be under consideration.

Verses 22-26

Neh 12:22-26

Nehemiah 12:22-26


"As for the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, there were recorded the heads of fathers’ houses; also the priests until the reign of Darius the Persian. The sons of Levi, heads of fathers’ houses, were written in the book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch corresponding to watch. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest the scribe."

"In the days of Joiakim" (Nehemiah 12:26). That entire list of six High Priests in Nehemiah 12:10-11, raises the question of why four were named in Nehemiah 12:22, whereas, here (Nehemiah 12:26), all of the names in this paragraph are identified as those who lived in the days of Joiakim. This makes it a certainty that the Darius the Persian mentioned here was none other than, "Darius Nothus, the second Persian king of that name." "This is proved by the Elephantine papyri." It appears that the best explanation of why four High Priests are named in Nehemiah 12:21 is that all four generations of them were living at the same time, which would mean that Jaddua was indeed quite a young child at the time. The text nowhere states that the names given were those of people living throughout the administrations of all four of those High Priests.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:22. Chief of the fathers is not an official title for these Levites. They had no extra classification under the law except that of having the execution of the law. But in the eyes of the nation in which they were living they were considered in the light of this phrase. That estimate was had of them down to the time of Darius the Persian. If the reader will consult the chart (see suggestions for chart at Ezra 3:8) he will see that this king was reigning from 521 to 484 B. c. This will give us a good view of the light in which the Levites were held by the secular governments.

Nehemiah 12:23. See comments at 1 Kings 14:19 for explanation of chronicles.

Nehemiah 12:24. This special song and praise service was instituted by David, and the account of it is in 1 Chronicles 25. Ward over against ward means they took their turns.

Nehemiah 12:25. The porters were stationed at the gates, whence the name of their occupation. But the special task of the porters named in this verse was to guard the treasures coming in through the gate. Thresholds is from a word meaning "a collection of offerings," according to Strong’s lexicon.

Nehemiah 12:26. This verse is a statement showing that the various kinds of works described in the preceding verses were performed for several years prior to the time of the writing. The reader is requested to consult again my comments in the latter part of the first paragraph in this chapter. The activities covered the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, the most outstanding men in this part of the narrative.

Verses 27-30

Neh 12:27-30

Nehemiah 12:27-30


"And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgiving, and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. And the sons of the singers gathered together from the circuit round Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall."

The purification ceremonies probably included the offering of sacrifices and the strict observance of all the prohibitions of the Mosaic law.

The time of this dedication was not long after the completion of the wall, as should have been expected. This writer was astounded that several scholars placed the dedication a decade or so after the wall was completed. Rawlinson made the dedication "thirteen years after the wall was finished." Cook wrote that, "The dedication was deferred for nearly twelve years." Such errors are due solely to the scholarly emphasis upon that misplaced name of the High Priest Jaddua in Nehemiah 12:22. Short got it right. "The dedication was only a few days after the completion of the wall."

Although our text does not give us the exact date of the dedication, the historical note in, "2 Maccabees 1:18 gives the date of the dedication as the twenty fifth of the ninth month (Kislew), only three months after the completion of the wall."

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:27. During the building of the wall most of the congregation were living in their own homes, including the Levites. When the dedication of the wall took place it was especially appropriate to have them present, in view of their official position in the nation. They were counted on to Join in the services with the music and singing.

Nehemiah 12:28. The special group of singers responded to the call from the surrounding territory. Netophatai was a district in Palestine and it had a number of villages. The singers in those burgs came to the dedication.

Nehemiah 12:29. House of Gilgal means the families in the neighborhood of Gilgal. That vicinity furnished some singers for the service, as did the families from the fields (country) around Geba and Asmaveth. The persons living in the territories named wished to be in readiness for the call to service. For that purpose they had built themselves villages (small dwellings) around Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 12:30. The priests were the Levites who descended from Aaron. There were too many of them to be needed in active service at any one time. When the turn of any of the eligible men came, they had to observe the ceremonies of the law as to uncleanness that might have come upon them during the time they had not been serving. While in the exercises of ceremonial cleansing they extended it to include the wall.

Verses 31-37

Neh 12:31-37

Nehemiah 12:31-37


"Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies which gave thanks and went in procession. One went to the right upon the wall to the Dung Gate; and after them went Hosahaiah and half of the princes of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; and his kinsmen, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with musical instruments of David the man of God; and Ezra the scribe went before them. At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east."

"Upon the wall ... upon the wall" (Nehemiah 12:31). Many of the older scholars thought that the grand processions, one moving clockwise, the other counter clockwise, circled the wall around the city, walking on the ground; but the text here flatly declares that they marched atop the wall. This is to be trusted as the way it happened. Excavations by Kathleen Kenyon in Jerusalem have indicated that, "Nehemiah’s wall was nine feet wide." As Hamrick noted, "That was ample room for a procession to move along the top of it."

These verses concern only half the procession; there were two, one led by Ezra the priest the scribe, and the other by the governor Nehemiah. Both began in the area between the Dung Gate and the Valley Gate, Ezra moving northward around the eastern wall of the city, and Nehemiah and his procession heading northward around the western wall, both processions coming together in the vicinity of the temple.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:31-37. One group was to climb up to the top of the wall and turn to the right. They were to be distributed along on the wall in the order named, and there they were to engage in praise service.

Verses 38-43

Neh 12:38-43

Nehemiah 12:38-43


"The other company of those who gave thanks went to the left, and I followed them with half of the people, upon the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Old Gate, and by the Fish Gate; and the Tower of Hananel, and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. So both companies of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half the officials with me; and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Minamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; and Maaseiah, Shemiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; and the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off."

Any way it may be considered, this is a very remarkable narrative. The whole celebration is outlined in such a manner that one may visualize it even today. There was indeed a great joy in Jerusalem.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:38-39. This group turned to the left and were spread along the wall as far as the prison gate, or guard gate.

Nehemiah 12:40-43. Nehemiah was in the last named group, and both groups halted and all joined in song and praise to God for the great mercies he had given the people.

Verses 44-47

Neh 12:44-47

Nehemiah 12:44-47


"On that day, men were appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first-fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and gatekeepers according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For as in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron."

"Men were appointed over the chambers for the stores ... the tithes ... to gather them" (Nehemiah 12:44). Bringing tithes into Jerusalem was no doubt an arduous and constant work; and it is no wonder the duty was neglected. Here we learn that men were appointed to collect them from outlying areas and to deliver them to the storehouses in the temple. This no doubt pleased the vast majority of the people.

Nehemiah, in this paragraph, used the third person; but that does not mean another author nor that mythical chronicler. "The solemnity was terminated with the offering of great sacrifices and a general festival of rejoicing. In all that sacrificing, Nehemiah, the governor, was naturally superceded as the man in charge by Ezra the priest; and therefore Nehemiah related the close of the proceedings objectively, using the third person, as he had done in describing the preparations (Nehemiah 12:27), only using the first person when speaking of what was appointed by himself or his position."[15] Biblical authors (and other ancient historians) very often used the third person in their writings; even Paul did so (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

This last paragraph emphasizes the widespread cooperation of the people with the priests and the Levites. Israel considered their national safety as dependent upon the faithful observance of all the religious ceremonies and ordinances by the priests and Levites. By stressing that fact that this was being done, "The author," according to Cook, "Is comparing the religious activity and strictness of Nehemiah’s time with that which had prevailed under Zerubbabel (described in Ezra 6:16-22), with the implication that the intermediate period had been a time of laxity."

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 12:44. The service mentioned in this verse has been referred to in previous passages, so nothing new is noted. It is well, however, to observe that some order and system had been arranged. That waited means the Levites who "stood by" to be in readiness when called upon to serve.

Nehemiah 12:45-46. Ward means duty or obligation; the singers and porters (janitors) both did theirs, which was according to the order that had been given by David.

Nehemiah 12:47. All Israel means the congregation in general. They were required to support the service of God with their contributions. That is what is meant by gave the portions. The period that was being especially considered by the writer was that in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah. A glance at the chart will show that to have comprised almost 100 years.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 12". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/nehemiah-12.html.
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