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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Nehemiah 12:0


The Priests and LevitesAn AppendixList of Priests and LevitesPriests and Levites Who Returned Under Zerubbabel and Joshua
Nehemiah 12:1-7Nehemiah 12:1-7Nehemiah 12:1Nehemiah 12:1
Nehemiah 12:2-7Nehemiah 12:2-7
Nehemiah 12:8-9Nehemiah 12:8-11Nehemiah 12:8Nehemiah 12:8-9
Nehemiah 12:9
Descendants of the High Priest JoshuaGenealogical List of High Priests
Nehemiah 12:10-11Nehemiah 12:10-11Nehemiah 12:10-11
Heads of the Priestly ClansPriests and Levites In the Time of the High Priest Joiakim
Nehemiah 12:12-21Nehemiah 12:12-21Nehemiah 12:21Nehemiah 12:12-21
Record of the Priestly and Levite Families
Nehemiah 12:22-26Nehemiah 12:22-26Nehemiah 12:22Nehemiah 12:22
Nehemiah 12:23Nehemiah 12:23
Assignment of Duties in the Temple
Nehemiah 12:24Nehemiah 12:24-25
Nehemiah 12:25
Nehemiah 12:26Nehemiah 12:26
Nehemiah Dedicates the WallThe Dedication of the WallsNehemiah Dedicates the City WallThe Dedication of the Walls of Jerusalem
Nehemiah 12:27-30Nehemiah 12:27-30Nehemiah 12:27-30Nehemiah 12:27-30
Nehemiah 12:31-37Nehemiah 12:31-37Nehemiah 12:31aNehemiah 12:31-37
Nehemiah 12:31-37
Nehemiah 12:38-43Nehemiah 12:38-43Nehemiah 12:38-40aNehemiah 12:38-39
Nehemiah 12:40-43
Nehemiah 12:40-42
Nehemiah 12:43
Temple ResponsibilitiesArrangements for Temple RevenuesProviding for Worship in the TempleA Golden Age
Nehemiah 12:44-47Nehemiah 12:44-47Nehemiah 12:44-47Nehemiah 12:44-3

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.


A. The purpose of the lists in this chapter (and for that matter the whole book) is difficult to grasp.

1. Nehemiah 12:1-11 refers to those who initially returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua.

2. Nehemiah 12:12-26 refers to a later group:

a. priests in Joiakim's (cf. Nehemiah 12:10) day

b. Levites in Eleashib's (cf. Nehemiah 12:10) day

3. Nehemiah 12:26 implies that the list in Nehemiah 12:22-26 were contemporaries with Ezra and Nehemiah.

4. Nehemiah 10:2-8 refers to Nehemiah's day (cf. Derek Kidner, Tyndale Commentary Series, p. 122).

B. In comparing all of these other lists in Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, it seems that often priests identify themselves by a prominent ancestor instead of their personal name. The twenty-four divisions of King David (cf. Nehemiah 12:1 Chr. 23-24) become a guiding paradigm.

An additional problem is that the priestly families used the same names over and over again.

C. The problem of trying to put a date or historical setting to these names is clearly seen in that Mattaniah and Bakbakiah were Levitical leaders of antiphonal choirs in Zerubbabel's day (cf. Nehemiah 12:8-9) and Nehemiah's day (cf. Nehemiah 11:17).

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:1-7 1Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6Shemaiah and Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah. These were the heads of the priests and their kinsmen in the days of Jeshua.

Nehemiah 12:1 “Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel” The main return of exiled Israelites under Cyrus' decree occurred in 538 B.C. Documenting one's ancestry was very important for the returning exiles to verify their tribal lineage. This list is similar to, but has some differences in comparison with Ezra 2:36-39 and Nehemiah 7:39-47. The exact reasons for the differences are uncertain.

“Ezra” This is not Ezra, the priest/scribe (cf. Ezra 7:0; Ezra 10:0; Nehemiah 8:0; Nehemiah 12:13, Nehemiah 12:26, Nehemiah 12:33, Nehemiah 12:26).

Nehemiah 12:4 “Ginnethoi” The priest's name appears as Ginnethon in Nehemiah 10:6; Nehemiah 12:16 (and the Vulgate).

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:8-11 8The Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah who was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving, he and his brothers. 9Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brothers, stood opposite them in their service divisions. 10Jeshua became the father of Joiakim, and Joiakim became the father of Eliashib, and Eliashib became the father of Joiada, 11and Joiada became the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan became the father of Jaddua.

Nehemiah 12:8-9 This list expands the list in Ezra 2:40-42 of Levites who returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua.

Nehemiah 12:8 “Mattaniah who was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving” This was a common name among Levitical musicians. It is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:15; 2 Chronicles 20:14; Nehemiah 11:17, Nehemiah 11:22; Nehemiah 12:8, Nehemiah 12:25, Nehemiah 12:35.

Nehemiah 12:9 “Unni” The MT has (Kethiu-written) Unno, but has a note that it should be read (Qere - read) as Unni.

“stood opposite them in their service divisions” This may refer to liturgical or antiphonal singing aspects of worship (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:6).

Because of Nehemiah 12:24 and the term “opposite” (BDB 617), which means “in front of,” it may simply refer to the Levites being divided into twenty-four groupings to share the load of ministry (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:6).

Nehemiah 12:10-11 This is a 1ist of the High Priest's family, which may run into the Greek Period. Josephus (Antiq. 11.7.8) says Judda was high priest in 322 B.C.

Nehemiah 12:10 “Jeshua. . .Joiakim. . .Eliashib” Jeshua was the descendant of the last high priest when Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C. (cf. Ezra 3:2). Eliashib was the chief priest when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in 445 B.C. (cf. Nehemiah 3:1).

Verses 12-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:12-21 12Now in the days of Joiakim, the priests, the heads of fathers' households were: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.

Nehemiah 12:14 “Malluchi” In Nehemiah 12:2 the name is spelled Malluch.

“Shebaniah” Many assume he is the same as Shecaniah of Nehemiah 12:3.

Nehemiah 12:15 “Meraioth” Many assume he is the same as Meremoth of Nehemiah 12:3.

“Helkai” Many assume he is the Hilkiah of Nehemiah 12:6.

Nehemiah 12:16 “Zechariah” This is the post-exilic prophet (519 B.C., cf. Zechariah 1:1) linked with Haggai, Zerubbabel, and Joshua.

Nehemiah 12:20 “Sallai” Many assume he is the same as Sallu of Nehemiah 12:7.

Verses 22-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:22-26 22As for the Levites, the heads of fathers' households were registered in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan and Jaddua; so were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23The sons of Levi, the heads of fathers' households, were registered in the Book of the Chronicles up to the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. 24The heads of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers opposite them, to praise and give thanks, as prescribed by David the man of God, division corresponding to division. 25Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers keeping watch at the storehouses of the gates. 26These served 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 and scribe.

Nehemiah 12:22 “Darius” This either refers to the reign of Darius II (423-404 B.C., i.e., Josephus is inaccurate so Derek Kidner, Tyndale Commentary, pp. 143-146) or to the reign of Darius III (336-331 B.C., if Josephus' identifications are correct). Apparently, Jewish scribes had added to the genealogies unto their day

Nehemiah 12:23 “the book of the Chronicles” This does not refer to the biblical book of I & 2 Chr., but to the temple records which Ezra and Nehemiah draw from freely.

Nehemiah 12:24 “the son of Kadmiel” This is preferable to KJV “Binnui.”

“as prescribed by David” See 1 Chronicles 23:6.

“the man of God” This is a title used of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6). It was used of the prophets. In Hebrew theology one must be a prophet to write Scripture. Moses is called a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:0. David was considered to be the author of numerous Psalms; therefore, he too must be a prophet, a man of God (ish Elohim).

Nehemiah 12:25 “the storehouses of the gates” There were storehouses in the temple in several locations.

1. small rooms off of the central building

2. small rooms at the gates

Nehemiah 12:26 “in the days of Nehemiah. . .Ezra” Those who assume that Ezra 7:7 is inaccurate and place Ezra after Nehemiah usually change or delete this verse and Nehemiah 12:36 and 38. This debate grows out of three theories concerning Ezra 7:7, “seventh year of King Artaxerxes.” The traditional view has been to date this in 457 B.C. in the reign of Artaxerxes I. A second theory has been to suppose a scribal error, which should have been “twenty-seventh year of King Artaxerxes.” The third theory supposes it to refer to Artaxerxes II which would be 398 B.C. I like the first!

Verses 27-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:27-30 27Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites, 29from Beth-gilgal and from their fields in Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30The priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people, the gates and the wall.

Nehemiah 12:27-43 This section deals with the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem, which relates back to chapter 7. The FIRST PERSON SINGULAR PRONOUN “I” appears again (cf. Nehemiah 12:31), as it last did in Nehemiah 7:5.

Nehemiah 12:27 “cymbals, harps and lyres” These were also used in Solomon's dedication of the temple (cf. 2 Chronicles 5:13). These returnees tried to mimic Solomon's rituals, procedures, and actions.

Nehemiah 12:28 “Netophathites” This was a city near Bethlehem (cf. Ezra 2:22; Ezra 2:26).

Nehemiah 12:29 “Beth-gilgal” Beth means “house” or “place.” Gilgal means “wheel” or “circle.” There are two possibilities:

1. the first camp site of Joshua in the Promised Land (cf. Joshua 4:5, Joshua 4:10), near Jericho

2. a place twelve miles north of Shechem (cf. 2 Kings 2:1; 2 Kings 4:38) associated with Elijah and Elisha.

“Geba” This means “height” or “hill.” It was a Levitical city of Benjamin (cf. Joshua 21:17; 1 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 6:60; 1 Chronicles 8:6; 2 Chronicles 16:6; Nehemiah 11:31; Nehemiah 12:29; Isaiah 10:29; Zechariah 14:10).

Nehemiah 12:30 “purified” This VERB (BDB 372, KB 369, used twice, the first Hithpael IMPERFECT and the second Peel IMPERFECT) means “cleanse” or “purify.” The Peel form denotes cleansing:

1. the altar of incense, Leviticus 16:19

2. the temple, 2 Chronicles 29:15, 2 Chronicles 29:16, 2 Chronicles 29:18; Nehemiah 13:6

3. Judah and Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 34:3, 2 Chronicles 34:5, 2 Chronicles 34:8

4. of Jerusalem, Nehemiah 12:30

5. the priesthood, Nehemiah 13:30

6. the altar Ezekiel 43:26

Often the cleansing was by blood or water.

Verses 31-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:31-37 31Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate. 32Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah followed them, 33with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, 35 some of the sons of the priests with trumpets; and Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph, 36and his kinsmen, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them. 37At the Fountain Gate they went directly up the steps of the city of David by the stairway of the wall above the house of David to the Water Gate on the east.

Nehemiah 12:31-43 This is the official dedication of the walls. How soon it followed their construction is uncertain. It was a religious occasion much like Joshua's covenant renewal at Shechem. It is unusual to dedicate a wall in the OT, but in reality it offered protection for the holy city and its holy temple.

Nehemiah 12:31 “two great choirs” These two processionals started on the top of the western wall about in the middle (south of the temple). This was exactly where Nehemiah had started his nighttime reconnoitering (cf. Nehemiah 2:13-16). Ezra led one group (Nehemiah 12:36) south, counter clockwise, while Nehemiah followed with the other one north, clockwise (cf. Nehemiah 12:38). They met on the eastern wall level with the temple (the Gate of the Guard, Nehemiah 12:39).

For specific locations see notes at Nehemiah 3:0.

Verses 38-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:38-43 38The second choir proceeded to the left, while I followed them with half of the people on the wall, above the Tower of Furnaces, to the Broad Wall, 39and above the Gate of Ephraim, by the Old Gate, by the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped at the Gate of the Guard. 40Then the two choirs took their stand in the house of God. So did I and half of the officials with me; 41and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah, with the trumpets; 42and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam and Ezer. And the singers sang, with Jezrahiah their leader, 43and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.

Verses 44-47

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Nehemiah 12:44-47 44On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. 45For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Song of Solomon 4:0; Song of Solomon 4:06For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. 47So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron.

Nehemiah 12:44-47 This seems to be a parenthesis giving further information and not part of Nehemiah's first person account.

Nehemiah 12:45 “in accordance with the command of David and Solomon” See 1 Chr. 23-26 and 2 Chronicles 8:14.

Nehemiah 12:47 The order of tithes is seen in Numbers 18:21-32 (cf. Nehemiah 10:38).


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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How are the lists here and 1 Chronicles 9:0 related?

2. Why are the lists of the cities in Nehemiah 11:25-36 and 3:lff different?

3. How are the lists of Nehemiah 12:0 and 7 related?

4. Were Ezra and Nehemiah contemporaries?

5. How were the priests supported?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Nehemiah 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/nehemiah-12.html. 2021.
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