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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 11

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Nehemiah 11:0


The People Dwelling in JerusalemA Census ListPeople Who Lived in JerusalemNehemiah's Method of Repopulating Jerusalem
Nehemiah 11:1-2Nehemiah 11:1-2Nehemiah 11:1-3aNehemiah 11:1-3
Nehemiah 11:3-14Nehemiah 11:3-6
Nehemiah 11:3bThe Jewish Population at Jerusalem
Nehemiah 11:4-6Nehemiah 11:4a
Nehemiah 11:4-6
Nehemiah 11:7-9Nehemiah 11:7-9Nehemiah 11:7-8
Nehemiah 11:9
Nehemiah 11:10-14Nehemiah 11:10-14Nehemiah 11:10-14a
Nehemiah 11:14b
Nehemiah 11:15-18Nehemiah 11:15-18Nehemiah 11:15-18Nehemiah 11:15-18
Supplementary Notes
Nehemiah 11:19-21Nehemiah 11:19-21Nehemiah 11:19Nehemiah 11:19(Nehemiah 11:20 follows Nehemiah 11:24)
Nehemiah 11:20-21
Nehemiah 11:21-24
Nehemiah 11:22-24Nehemiah 11:22-24Nehemiah 11:22-23
Nehemiah 11:24
The People Dwelling Outside JerusalemThe People in Other Towns and CitiesThe Jewish Population Outside Jerusalem
Nehemiah 11:25-30Nehemiah 11:25-36Nehemiah 11:25-30Nehemiah 11:20, Nehemiah 11:25-30
Nehemiah 11:31-36Nehemiah 11:31-36Nehemiah 11:31-35
Nehemiah 11:36

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:1-2 1Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities. 2And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 11:1 “the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem” Since the terrible siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., no one wanted to live in the city. The leaders (the wealthy laymen, cf. Nehemiah 11:3) and the temple personnel were the only large groups that lived within the city's walls (cf. Nehemiah 11:3; Nehemiah 2:16-17). They were to be joined by 10% of the Jewish population of the surrounding towns plus any volunteers (cf. Nehemiah 11:2). This involved leaving established homes and farms. This same subject is first introduced in Nehemiah 7:4.

“cast lots” This VERB (BDB 656, KB 709, Hiphil PERFECT) means “casting lots (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:31; 1 Chronicles 25:8; 1 Chronicles 26:13-14; Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24). This had religious connotations (cf. Nehemiah 10:34; Numbers 26:55-56; Joshua 14:2; Proverbs 16:33; Proverbs 18:18). It was a way to know the will of YHWH, as was the Urim and Thummim (cf. Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21). The Urim was used exclusively by the High Priest, but “lots” were used to know YHWH's will by others (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 840-842).

“the holy city” This was a way of referring to the place where YHWH dwelt (cf. Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24).

Verses 3-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:3-6 3Now these are the heads of the provinces who lived in Jerusalem, but in the cities of Judah each lived on his own property in their citiesthe Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon's servants. 4Some of the sons of Judah and some of the sons of Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. From the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of the Shilonite. 6All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 able men.

Nehemiah 11:3 “Now these are the heads of the provinces who lived in Jerusalem” This list is quite similar to 1 Chronicles 9:0; about half of the names are the same. The exact relationship between these two lists as with other lists in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, is uncertain.

“each lived on his own property” The term “property” (BDB 28) usually meant “to grasp” or “to seize,” but in connection to tribal allotments it has the connotation of given by YHWH (both as a promise to Abraham, cf. Genesis 5:12-21 and by the Urim in Jos. 13-19).

“Israelites” This refers to Jewish laymen. This verse lists the different elements of Jewish society. The different kinds of temple personnel and lay persons are included.

“temple servants” This term (BDB 682) in post-exilic texts always has the ARTICLE and is PLURAL. It designs a temple labor force. The origin of the term may be “the given ones,” referring to those non-Israelites defeated in battle by King David and given to the temple to help the Levites (cf. Ezra 8:20); therefore, they are like “Solomon's servants” (cf. Ezra 2:58; Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 11:3).

Nehemiah 11:4 “sons of Judah. . .sons of Benjamin” The preponderance of returning Jews were from these two tribes because they made up the last tribal groups to be exiled. Simeon was also part of the tribe of Judah but had lost their tribal identity.

“Perez” See Genesis 38:29.

Nehemiah 11:5 “the son of the Shilonite” This designation is surprising in a list of names (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:5). There is no first name associated with this place (Shiloh, a city in Ephraim). It is possible that the consonants of “Shilonites” should refer to “Shelah,” one of Judah's sons in Genesis 38:5, Genesis 38:26, therefore, “Shelanite” (cf. Derek Kidner, Tyndale Commentary, p. 118), which is the way NEB and REB translate 1 Chronicles 9:5 and the form appears in Numbers 26:20.

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:7-9 7Now 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 Jeshaiah; 8and after him Gabbai and Sallai, 928. 9Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer, and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second in command of the city.

Nehemiah 11:8

NASB, NKJV, JPSOA”after him” NRSV, NJB“his brothers” TEV“close relatives” NET, NIV”his followers” REB”his kinsmen”

This Hebrew term (BDB 29) has a large usage. All of the above translations are a possibility. For me those that focus on kinship fit the context best. However, “brothers” involves a textual emendation.

Nehemiah 11:9 “their overseer” This term (BDB 824) means “commissioner, deputy, overseer. It is used in Nehemiah 11:22 for a leader of Levites. It is used of the king's officers in 2 Chronicles 24:11 and of the king's military officers in 2 Kings 25:19. This text does not specify exactly what kind of overseer.

“second in command of the city” This may imply that he was next to Nehemiah's brother, Hanani (cf. Nehemiah 7:2). It is possible that Judah was the overseer of Benjamin's labor force who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

The NIV translates this phrase “was over the Second District of the city.” The only other English translation that I have found that has this interpretation is James Moffatt, A New Translation of the Bible. It is also in the footnote of the NEB.

Verses 10-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:10-14 10From the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the leader of the house of God, 12and their kinsmen who performed the work of the temple, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, 13and his kinsmen, heads of fathers' households, 242; and Amashsai the son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14and their brothers, valiant warriors, 128. And their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of Haggedolim.

Nehemiah 11:11

NASB, NKJV“the leader of the house of God” NRSV“officer of the house of God” TEV“who was High Priest” NJB“the chief of the Temple of God”

The term (BDB 617) means “one in front.” It is used of political leaders, but also of religious leaders (cf. 2 Chronicles 31:12; 2 Chronicles 35:8; Jeremiah 20:1, also of High Priest, 1 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Chronicles 31:13 [different word in Nehemiah 11:10]; Nehemiah 11:11; Daniel 11:22).

Nehemiah 11:14

NASB, NRSV“valiant warriors” NKJV“mighty men of valor” TEV“outstanding soldiers” NJB“outstanding people” NET “capable men” REB”men of substance”

This term (BDB 298) can refer to

1. physical strength

2. military prowess (e.g., Joshua 1:14; Joshua 8:3; Joshua 10:7; Judges 6:12; Judges 11:1; 2 Chronicles 13:3; 2 Chronicles 14:8)

3. ability (cf. Nehemiah 11:6; Exodus 18:21, Exodus 18:25; 1 Chronicles 9:13)

4. wealth (1 Samuel 9:1; 2 Kings 15:20)

Because these men are priests either #1 or #3 fits the context best.

NASB, NRSV“the son of Haggedolim” NKJV“the son of one of the great men” TEV“a member of a leading family” NJB“men of substance”

The term (BDB 153, KB 177) means “great” and is used to describe many things and persons (NASB 1970 marginal note, p. 700, “the great ones”). The TEV translation carries the basic thought of the PLURAL form in this context.

Verses 15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:15-18 15Now from the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16and Shabbethai and Jozabad, from the leaders of the Levites, who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God; 17and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18All the Levites in the holy city were 284.

Nehemiah 11:16 “who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God” In the context of Nehemiah, one wonders if this refers to

1. normal temple activities, but done outside the precincts of the temple (e.g., raising sacrificial sheep)

2. the work done on the walls and gates of the city which were near the temple area

3. other administrative assignments (cf. 1 Chronicles 26:29)

The term has the connotation in this text of secular work.

Nehemiah 11:17 “Asaph. . .Jeduthun” These were two of the three groups of temple singers appointed by David (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1-4; 2 Chronicles 5:12).

NASB“who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer” NKJV“who was the leader who began the thanksgiving with prayer” NRSV“who was the leader to begin the thanksgiving in prayer” TEV“He led the Temple choir in singing the prayer of thanksgiving” NJB“who led the praises and intoned the thanksgiving associated with the prayer”

This Levite was somehow related to the liturgical aspect of prayer/praise. The Hebrew “the begin” is close to the Hebrew “the praise” (cf. LXX & Vulgate). The JPSOA combines the meaning by “he would lead off with praise” (The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1706).

Asaph was a leader of a Levitical family involved in temple music and praise (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1-2; 2 Chronicles 5:12).

“and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren” This seems to imply that this Levite was the assistant to Mattaniah (cf. TEV). This Hebrew term (BDB 1041) is often used to denote the second in charge/control/leadership (cf. 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 25:18; 1 Chronicles 5:12; 1 Chronicles 15:18; 2 Chronicles 31:12; Jeremiah 52:24).

“Abda the son of Shammua” 1 Chronicles 9:16 has Obadiah son of Shemaiah.

Nehemiah 11:18 Many of the Levites lived outside of the city of Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 11:3, Nehemiah 11:20), but 284 did live in the city.

Verses 19-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:19-21 19Also the gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brethren who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20The rest of Israel, of the priests and of the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, each on his own inheritance. 21But the temple servants were living in Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of the temple servants.

Nehemiah 11:19 “the gatekeepers” These were also ancient families who were appointed to this special task at the temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; 1 Chronicles 23:5; Ezra 2:42).

Nehemiah 11:20 “each on his own inheritance” Originally the tribe of Levi did not inherit land. The Lord Himself was their inheritance (cf. Numbers 18:20, Numbers 18:24; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:1-2; Joshua 13:14, Joshua 13:33). The Levites asked Joshua for houses in certain special cities called “Levitical cities” (cf. Joshua 21:0) along with a small part of the surrounding pasture land. In this way they could grow vegetable gardens or raise an animal.

Nehemiah 11:21 “the temple servants” See note at Ezra 2:43.

Verses 22-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:22-24 22Now the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, from the sons of Asaph, who were the singers for the service of the house of God. 23For there was a commandment from the king concerning them and a firm regulation for the song leaders day by day. 24Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was the king's representative in all matters concerning the people.

Nehemiah 11:22 There are so many lists of people in Ezra and Nehemiah. Often the names are common. The only way to try to tell them apart is to

1. check which group they are a part of (e.g., lay persons, priests, Levites, etc.)

2. check the tribe

3. check the order of the names

Here in Nehemiah 11:22 it is obvious that Uzzi is from the same family of Asaph mentioned in Nehemiah 11:17.

Nehemiah 11:23 “the king” This refers to David, not Artaxerxes I (cf. Nehemiah 12:24, Nehemiah 12:45-46). These temple personnel were appointed special tasks to perform in the temple on a regular basis, many of the tasks going back to David's day.

Nehemiah 11:24 “Pethahiah” This is the name of a priest in David's day who was involved in the twenty-four divisions (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:16).

There is another man by this same name mentioned in Nehemiah 11:24. The interpretive question is (1) do Nehemiah 11:23 and 24 go together and, thereby “the king” refers to David or (2) is the man a representative of Artaxerxes I, the Persian king during Ezra's and Nehemiah's day?

Verses 25-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 11:25-36 25Now as for the villages with their fields, some of the sons of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its towns, in Dibon and its towns, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26and in Jeshua, in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27and in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its towns, 28and in Ziklag, in Meconah and in its towns, 29and in En-rimmon, in Zorah and in Jarmuth, 30Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, Azekah and its towns. So they encamped from Beersheba as far as the valley of Hinnom. 31The sons of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash and Aija, at Bethel and its towns, 32at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35Lod and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36From the Levites, some divisions in Judah belonged to Benjamin.

Nehemiah 11:25-36 The list of cities in chapter 3 which relates those who worked on the city wall is different from this list. The only name that is the same is Zamoah. This is hard to explain for the lists are supposed to be a list of the surrounding cities with Jewish populations. The possibilities are (1) that these cities mark the extent of the boundaries of Judah and Benjamin, not the cities close to Jerusalem or (2) that these are cities in the pre-exilic land allocations of Judah (cf. Nehemiah 11:25-30) and Benjamin (cf. Nehemiah 11:31-36) in which the returnees settled.

Nehemiah 11:25 “Kiriath-arba” This is the ancient name for Hebron (cf. Genesis 23:2), which is 20 miles south of Jerusalem (cf. Joshua 14:15; Joshua 15:54; Joshua 20:7; Judges 1:10).

“and its towns” This is literally the Hebrew idiom “daughters.”

“Dibon” This is possibly the same as Dimonah. See Joshua 15:21-26.

“Jekabzeel” A village in southern Judah close to Edom. See Joshua 15:21.

Nehemiah 11:25, Nehemiah 11:28, Nehemiah 11:32, Nehemiah 11:34 “Jekabzeel. . .Meconah. . .Ananiah. . .Neballat” These are cities which appear only here in the Bible.

Nehemiah 11:26 “Moladah” See Joshua 15:26; Joshua 19:2; 1 Chronicles 4:28.

“Beth-pelet” This is a village in southern Judah. See Joshua 15:27.

Nehemiah 11:27 “Hazar-Shual, in Beersheba” Both are mentioned in Joshua 15:28.

Nehemiah 11:28 “Ziklag” See Joshua 15:31; Joshua 19:5; 1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Samuel 30:1, 1 Samuel 30:14, 1 Samuel 30:25.

Nehemiah 11:29 “En-rimmon” See Joshua 15:32.

“Zorah” See Joshua 15:33.

“Jarmuth” Like Lachish this was originally an Amorite city. See Joshua 10:3, Joshua 10:5, Joshua 10:23; Joshua 12:11; Joshua 15:35.

Nehemiah 11:30 “Zanoah, Adullam” Both are mentioned in Joshua 15:34-35.

“Lachish” This was a major walled city (e.g., Joshua 10:0; Joshua 12:3-16; 2 Chronicles 11:9; 2 Chronicles 22:9).

“Azekah” This is a city of Judah located on the coastal plain. See Joshua 15:35.

“Beersheba” This is about 32 miles south of Jerusalem. The current Persian land allocation for Judah did not extend that far north.

”the valley of Hinnom” One of the valleys in Jerusalem known as the location of the worship of the Phoenician fire god Molech. This valley was later used as the garbage dump for Jerusalem. Jesus uses it to describe Hell - Gehenna.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

Nehemiah 11:31 “Geba” This was a northern city of Benjamin. Its name means “height” or “hill.” See Joshua 18:24.

“Michmash and Aija” Both are mentioned in Isaiah 10:28. They were located near Bethel. Aija means “ruins” and may be a way of referring to Ai.

Nehemiah 11:32 “Anathoth” This was a Levitical city three miles north of Jerusalem (cf. Joshua 21:18). It was Jeremiah's hometown (cf. Jeremiah 1:1).

“Nob” Another Levitical city two miles north of Jerusalem (cf. 1 Samuel 21:1; 1 Samuel 22:9, 1 Samuel 22:11, 1 Samuel 22:19; Isaiah 10:32).

Nehemiah 11:33 “Hazor” Often these village names, like the people, are hard to identify because there are several by the same name. Hazor is a good example.

1. a major Canaanite walled city in the north of Palestine (cf. Joshua 11:0; Joshua 12:19; Joshua 19:36)

2. a small city in the south of Judah (cf. Joshua 15:23; 1 Kings 9:15)

3. another city in southern Judah (Hazor-Hadattah, cf. Joshua 15:25)

4. a small post-exilic city north of Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 11:35)

5. this term even refers to countries or chiefdoms east of Arabia (cf. Jeremiah 49:28, Jeremiah 49:30, Jeremiah 49:33)

As an added point, people are hard to identify because

1. in this period Levites and priests often used the names of ancestors

2. in this period the Jewish families named their children after their grandfathers

“Ramah” This is a city of Benjamin five miles north of Jerusalem. See Joshua 18:25; Judges 4:5; Judges 19:13; Ezra 2:26.

“Gittaim” The name means “two wine presses” and was northwest of Jerusalem. See 2 Samuel 4:3.

Nehemiah 11:34, Nehemiah 11:35 “Hadid. . .Lod and Ono” See Ezra 2:33 and Nehemiah 7:37.

Nehemiah 11:35 “the valley of craftsmen” The ancient guilds lived close together (cf. 1 Chronicles 4:14).

Nehemiah 11:36 As Nehemiah 11:25-30 describe the restored land of Judah in this Persian period, so Nehemiah 11:31-35 describe the extent of the land of Benjamin. The Levites lived in all areas of the restored land (cf. TEV).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Nehemiah 11". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/nehemiah-11.html. 2021.
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