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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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("given".) Nehemiah 11:21; Ezra 2:43; Ezra 7:24; Ezra 8:17; Ezra 8:20; 1 Chronicles 9:2. Servants of the temple (Josephus uses of them the name given to the slaves attached to the Greek temples, hiero douloi , Ant. 11:5, section 1). So the Levites were "given" (nethunim ) unto Jehovah instead of the firstborn, and by Jehovah "given" to Aaron (see Numbers 3:9; Numbers 8:16-19). (See LEVITES.) Nethinim occurs only in the later books: Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. To the Levites 320 of the Midianite captives were given, and 32 to the priests ( Numbers 31:40; Numbers 31:42; Numbers 31:47). To these slaves doubtless the Levites and priests assigned the more laborious work of the tabernacle service. The Gibeonites similarly, having obtained by craft a covenant from Joshua (Joshua 9:9; Joshua 9:27), "because of the name" and "fame of Jehovah, Israel's God," were made "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and altar."

The Nethinim were their successors; a larger number of servants of the sanctuary being needed when David was reorganizing the worship, he and the princes "appointed" (Hebrew, "gave") Nethinim for the service of the Levites (Ezra 8:20), probably from the prisoners taken in war, upon their embracing the worship of Jehovah. The foreign or Canaanite names confirm this view: "Mehunim, Nephusim, and the children of Sisera" (Ezra 2:43-54). So "Solomon's servants" (Ezra 2:55; Nehemiah 7:60), those "left of the Amorites, Hittites ... upon whom he levied a tribute of bond service" (1 Kings 9:20). The rabbis represent them as having no right of intermarriage with Israelites (Gemara Babyl., Jebam. ii. 4, Kiddusch. iv. 1, Carpsov. App. Crit. de Neth.); below the children of "mixed marriages" (mamzerim ), but above proselytes fresh from paganism and emancipated slaves.

But when the Levites were slow in coming forward at the return from Babylon, 341 only under Zerubbabel as contrasted with 4,289 priests (Ezra 2:36-58) and none under Ezra until especially called (Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:17; Ezra 8:20), the Nethinim became more conspicuous, 392 under Zerubbabel, 220 under Ezra, "all expressed by name," registered after the Levites (1 Chronicles 9:2) and admitted to join the covenant (Nehemiah 10:28, compare Deuteronomy 29:11). (See LEVITES.) Exempted from taxation by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:24). Ophel and the Levite cities were their dwelling place, and they had their own rulers (Ezra 2:70; Nehemiah 11:21). Josephus (B.J. ii. 17, section 6) mentions "a feast of carrying wood", xylophoria , in which all the people brought wood for the sacrifices of the year, probably relieving the Nethinim; its beginning may be traced in Nehemiah 10:34.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Nethinim'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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