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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Nehemiah 7

 

 

Verses 1-73

APPOINTMENTS MADE IN THE CITY

(vv. 1-3)

The wall of separation having been built and the doors hung in the gates, then appointments consistent with this separation were made (v. 1). Gatekeepers are first mentioned, a seriously responsible occupation, for they must receive in all who should be in and keep out all who should be out. They should therefore be able to discern between those who made deceitful claims and those who were true. ln the Church of God today we surely need such gatekeepers, but the Church has no authority to appoint them. Rather, since the Spirit of God dwells in the Church, He will exercise godly men to willingly do their necessary work without the need of appointment. They have the Word of God to guide them in this, for the Spirit of God always works by means of that Word.

Singers were also appointed in Jerusalem, those who by singing expressed praise to the God of Israel. Surely in the Church of God praise should be prominent, and even more overflowing than in Judaism, for we praise the Lord as the One who has accomplished a full redemption for us by means of the sufferings of the cross, and has been raised in glory to the right hand of God. Do we need appointments in order to offer such praise? Certainly not. The Spirit of God draws forth the praise and thanksgiving of our hearts in voluntary worship.

As well as gatekeepers and singers being appointed, Levites were appointed to their particular work. They were of the tribe of Levi, servants to occupy themselves with the service of the temple. They are typical of of those today who are given service to do by the Lord. Thus special gifts are given by the Spirit of God. These too are not put in their place by appointment in the Church of God, but rather are given gifts which will be recognized without any appointment where the work of the Spirit of God is submitted to. Though not appointed, some labor much, others not so much. But though Nehemiah was governor of Judah, he appointed Hanani, his brother, and with him Hananiah to have charge of the city of Jerusalem (v. 2). The wording here seems rather unclear as to which is referred to as "a faithful man" who "feared God more than many." Perhaps Hananiah is meant, since we read of him also in chapter 1:2, but Nehemiah addressed both of them in verse 3. He gives the instructions that the gates were not to be opened until the sun was well up, and then even while guards were present the doors were to remain shut and barred, except, no doubt, when they must be opened for those who were allowed to go in and out. Thus, instructions came from the governor (a type of Christ) and were to be carried out by Hanani and Hananiah, typical of a two-fold work of the Spirit of God in regard to admission or refusal, for the grace of God is shown in admission, but firm government of God in refusal. The Spirit of God ministers both of these.

THE RECORD OF THE FIRST RETURNED CAPTIVES

(vv. 4-73)

Verse 4 tells us that "the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt." Before this the Lord had reproved the people for saying, "The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built" (Haggai 1:2), and he asked them, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? (v. 4). At that time the people neglected the house of God and concentrated on their own houses, Now the reverse was true. How sadly unbalanced we so easily become! Surely we should have true concern for the truth of the house of God, but in doing so, should we neglect our own house? Well does Paul remind Timothy that "if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). How tragic was the condition of things in Judah at the time Isaiah wrote, "You number the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses you broke down to fortify the wall" (Isaiah 22:10). Do we do anything similar? Because we want to fortify the wall of separation from the world, do we sacrifice the proper welfare of our own families for this cause? Can we be surprised that the enemy reproaches us for such inconsistency?

At this time God put into Nehemiah's heart the desire to gather the nobles, rulers and the people with the object of registering the people by genealogy (v. 5). This was consistent with the desire that the houses should be built, for it emphasizes the fact that every individual believer is precious to God, therefore all should have houses, a sphere of family responsibility that emphasizes unity in diversity.

Nehemiah then found a register of those who had come to Judah in the first group, before either Ezra or he had returned. This list is given in verses 6 to 63. There were some, however, who claimed to be priests whose names were not found in the register (v. 64). Since these claims were questionable, they were excluded from the priesthood as being defiled. Could this possibly be reversed? There was only one possibility that the governor suggested, that is, if a priest who had the urim and thummim were to be present (v. 65). This was unlikely, because the urim and thummim are never recorded as having been used after Abiathar the priest used the ephod to enquire of God for David (1 Samuel 23:9-12). The urim and thummim (meaning "lights and perfections") were the 12 precious stones placed in the ephod. They indicate the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel and were used to inquire of God, for God answers all questions concerning Israel from the viewpoint of recognizing all Israel.

But there have been tragic divisions and separations in Israel, and the urim and thummim will never be regained until Christ, God's anointed priest stands up to reunite all the tribes of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation. Similarly, in the Church today, priestly discernment in many cases is lacking, and we are shut up to waiting upon God to show His own will in His own time. If a person's title is clear there is no question. In questionable cases, we can only bow to the Word of God which says, "The Lord knows those who are His" (2 Timothy 2:19). If we have no proof that one is a believer, we cannot accept him as such. If he claims to be a believer, yet associates with those who hold evil doctrine, then his case is certainly questionable, for the rest of the above verse says, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

The total number of those who had returned from the captivity was 42,360 (v. 66), besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337. Their singers are mentioned too, and also animals, horses, mules, camels and donkeys (vv. 67-69). This number included all those in the various cities of Judah as well as Jerusalem (v. 73).

It is good to read that some of the heads of the fathers' houses contributed to the work of the Lord (v. 70). The governor (though Nehemiah does not say, "I") gave 1000 gold drachmas and 2,200 silver minas. This was no small amount! The rest of the people gave 20,000 gold drachmas, 2,200 silver minas and 67 priestly garments. Nehemiah, instead of "receiving" as he had a right to do, was a liberal giver. Of course, such is true of the Lord Jesus, whose giving is beyond our computation.

The work of rebuilding the temple and the wall being completed, then we are told that the people were settled in their respective cities. Since their special needs had been met, now it was time to live lives consistent with the blessing God had given. This settling was completed in the seventh month.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Nehemiah 7:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/nehemiah-7.html. 1897-1910.

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Friday, May 24th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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