Nehemiah 7

 

 

                            COMPLETION OF THE WORK,

                                                    AND

    ARRANGEMENTS FOR GUARDING THE GATES (vs. 1-5).

 

The wall and gate towers being completed, nothing remained but to hang the

doors in the gateways, and to arrange for the guard of the gates and the general

security of the fortress. Nehemiah speaks here of his having set up the doors

(v. 1); but it appears from ch. 3. that the actual work of so doing was

entrusted, like the repairs of the wall, to the various working parties.

Eliashib, with his brethren the priests, set up the doors of the sheep gate

(ch. 3:1); the sons of Hassenaah those of the fish gate (ibid. v. 3), etc.

Nehemiah had only the general superintendence, and saw that all

was properly executed. But the entire work being at length accomplished,

it devolved upon him to make the necessary arrangements for the security

of what had now become a first-rate fortress. Accordingly, he seems

himself to have assigned the guard of the gates to certain bodies of Levites

(v. 1), as being experienced in the business of keeping watch; after which

he committed the task of appointing other guards to his brother Hanani,

and to a certain Hananiah, already the commandant of the Birah, or temple

tower (v. 2). They devised a system by which the adult male inhabitants

were made to partition the watch of the wall among themselves, each on

the part which was nearest to his own house (v. 3). At the same time, it

was ordered, for greater precaution, that all the gates should be closed at

night, and none of them opened “until the sun was hot (ibid.), i.e. until

some hours after sunrise. The city was thus made as secure as the

circumstances admitted; but in the course of the arrangements it became

clear, at any rate to Nehemiah, that the population of the city was too

scanty for its size (v. 4), and that some steps ought to be taken to

augment the number of inhabitants. As a first step, a necessary preliminary

before he could lay any definite proposal before the “rulers,” the governor

thought it necessary to make a census of the entire people (v. 5). It

seems to have been in the course of his preparations for this purpose that

he “found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first.”

The list in vs. 7-69 has been regarded as the result of his own census; but

reasons have been already given against this view in the comment upon

Ezra; and it would seem to be most probable that we have the actual result

of Nehemiah’s census, so far as he thought fit to give it to us, in ch.11:3-36.

 

1 “Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the

doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were

appointed,”  The porters and the singers and the Levites. The porters and

the singers were themselves Levites, but are often distinguished from their

brethren, who had no such special office (vs. 43-45, 73; 10:28, etc.; see

Ezra 2:40-42, 70; 7:24; 10:23-24).  Nehemiah’s choice of Levites to guard

the gates of Jerusalem may seem strange; but we must remember:

 

1. That the priests and Levites formed nearly one half the population of

Jerusalem (ch.11:6-19 compared with I Chronicles 9:9-22).

 

2. That the office of guarding the temple gates had always been discharged

by Levites (Ibid. vs. 17-22; ch. 26:12-19).

 

2 “That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the

palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and

feared God above many.”  Hanani and Hananiah. This appointment of

two municipal officers to have charge of Jerusalem recalls the mention of

two “rulers” in ch.3:9, 12, each of whom had authority-over half the district

dependent on Jerusalem, and amounts to an “undesigned coincidence.”

The ruler of the palace. Rather, “the commandant of the fort,” i.e. the

officer in charge of the temple fortress (see above, ch.2:8).

 

 

Uncommon Excellence (v. 2)

 

“He was a faithful man, and feared God above many.” Nehemiah records

this of Hananiah as his reason for giving him, with Hanani, his own brother,

charge over Jerusalem.” Perhaps he felt it necessary, on some account not

specified, thus to justify the selection.

 

  • THE CHARACTER HERE DESCRIBED.

 

Ø   Its elements.

 

o       Faithfulness. uprightness, integrity, strictness in performing

promises, truthfulness.

o       Unusual piety. These two are closely related to each other. He who

greatly fears God will be eminently faithful both to GOD and man.

The piety which does not produce uprightness is good for nothing.

On the other hand, uprightness towards man, if allowed its proper

development, will lead to uprightness towards God, and so to piety

in all its branches. Where this is not the case (of which the instances

are innumerable) the quality of the uprightness is questionable. It can

hardly include a love of righteousness for its own sake. Rather is its

basis the desire to stand well with men; and as it regards not God,

it has no claim upon Him.

 

Ø   How it is produced. As all piety and goodness are due to THE GRACE

OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, unusual measures of them are to be ascribed to

greater abundance of His sacred influences. But it is the human history

of eminently godly men to which we now refer. To what, humanly

speaking, may marked superiority in godliness and goodness be traced?

Amongst their causes may be mentioned:

 

o       The careful teaching, the excellent example, and holy influence of

devotedly Christian parents. The noblest men of the Church have

generally sprung from homes of which piety was the pervading spirit;

often from very pious mothers. Let parents who profess godliness

think of this. The Church looks to them to train for her Nehemiahs

and Hananiahs.

o       Early religious decision. Those who begin to serve God late in life

      are little likely to attain to special excellence.

o       Diligent spiritual self-culture. In;

§         reading,

§         meditation,

§         prayer,

§         watchfulness, and

§         the practice of all good.

o       Early consecration to some special service.

o       Overwhelming sense of gratitude for conversion and forgiveness

      after many years of godless living.

 

Ø   When such a character is especially interesting. When, as here, seen in

men of high worldly position and command, much occupied with

secular affairs, and thrown much into the society of men of another spirit.

 

  • THE EFFECTS WHICH SUCH A CHARACTER SHOULD PRODUCE.

 

Ø   Admiration.

Ø   Praise to God.

Ø   Confidence.  (Which should be shown, as by Nehemiah, in placing those

     who possess it in responsible positions. It is well when such men can be

     found for important posts, and are placed in them by those with whom

     the appointment lies, instead of unworthy motives leading to the selection

     of less desirable men.

Ø      Imitation. To have such men within our sphere of observation increases

our responsibility. We ought to be as they are. They show us what is

attainable.

Ø      Commemoration. In some cases, at least. That their example may

stimulate and encourage many to whom it would be otherwise unknown.

 

3 “And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened

until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the

doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of

Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against

his house.”  Let not the gates be opened until the sun be hot. The gates

of towns in the East are usually opened at sunrise; but this cannot be the

intention here. Some extra precaution is signified — not, however, so

much as Dathe supposes, who renders ante tempus meridianum, “before

noon;” but rather something intermediate between this and the ordinary

practice.

 

4 “Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein,

and the houses were not builded.”  The city was large. Literally, “broad every

way.” The houses were not builded. Much of the city consisted of open spaces,

in which no houses had been as yet built.

 

Provision for Safety and Numerical Increase (vs. 1-40

 

The wall being completed and the gates set in their places, Nehemiah takes

measures for the regular defense of the city, and for increasing its population.

 

  • THE GUARDING OF THE CITY GATES he assigns to the gatekeepers

of the temple, the singers, and the other Levites; “that of the

walls,” to the general inhabitants in turn, some to keep watch at certain

appointed posts, others before their own houses; not only perhaps to be

ready to rouse the city and rush to the walls or gates in case of attack from

without, but to act as police against thieves or disorderly persons within.

Over the whole he placed his brother Hanani, and Hananiah, who, as

commander of the citadel, had had experience in managing similar matters.

Of the latter he records, in explanation of his choice, that he was a faithful

man who feared God more than many.

 

  • THE INCREASE OF THE POPULATION OF THE CITY was a matter of

pressing importance; for the ample space within the walls was very sparsely

occupied with houses, and thinly inhabited. Before resolving, however, on

the steps to be taken, it occurred to Nehemiah (and he regarded the

suggestion as from God) to call a general assembly, that he might make a

census of the population, as a basis for further measures. The result does

not appear until ch. 11.

 

  • Lessons:

 

Ø   The strength and worth of a community lies in its living members. Walls

are useless without men to defend them; a city feeble, though spacious,

whose inhabitants are few. So a religious community may extend itself over

a wide space, and erect numerous and costly places of worship, without

adding to its real strength. Increase of converts should, therefore, be the

chief aim of those who seek its good.

 

Ø   All the members of a community should be willing and ready to exert

themselves for the common good. Each according to his capacity and

opportunity. Nor in times of pressure should any refuse to act because the

duties assigned him do not belong to his ordinary functions. These porters,

singers, and Levites undertook for the protection of Jerusalem duties quite

outside their respective offices. It was not a time to stand upon their

dignity or rights. For some reason they could best be spared for the work,

and they did it.

 

Ø   Organisation, including rule and subordination, is essential to the welfare

of a community.

 

Ø   It is a happy thing when men eminently God-fearing can be found for

offices of trust and authority. In secular life such men are invaluable.

In the Church essential.

 

 

Moral Guardianship (vs. 1-4)

 

  • THE THINGS IN THE CHURCH WHICH NEED TO BE

GUARDED. “Charge over Jerusalem (v. 2).

 

Ø      The doctrines of the Church.

Ø      The members of the Church.

Ø      The temporal interests of the Church.

Ø      The work of the Church.

Ø      The reputation of the Church.

Ø      The civil privileges of the Church.

Ø      The discipline of the Church.  This defense is needed because infidelity,

slander, bigotry, and laxity threaten to lay waste the Church.

 

  • THE MEN WHO SHOULD BE THE GUARDIANS OF THE

CHURCH. “For he was a faithful man, and feared God above many” (v.2).

 

Ø      They must be duly appointed. “And the porters and the singers and the

Levites were appointed.” “That I gave” (v. 2).

Ø      They must be truly sympathetic. The men who had helped to rebuild the

city would be the most likely to defend it.

Ø      They must be wisely cautious. “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened

until the sun be hot” (v. 3).

Ø      They must be sufficiently numerous. “And appoint watches of the

inhabitants of Jerusalem (v. 3).

Ø      They must be eminently pious. “And feared God above many” (v. 2).

Ø      There is a sense in which all good men ought to be guardians of the

Church.

 

  • THE WAY IN WHICH THE CHURCH MAY BEST BE GUARDED.

 

Ø      By having regard to the Church in times of special danger. “Let not the

gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot” (v. 3). The Church

stands in need of watchful care during the night of error and sin; then its

gates must not be opened.

Ø      By having regard to the Church at points where it is most liable to

attack. “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened.”

Ø      By having regard to mutual cooperation amongst the watchers.

Ø      By putting our trust in God to supply the necessary lack and

imperfection of human vigilance.

 

5 “And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and

the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by

genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which

came up at the first, and found written therein,”

And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, etc.

As Nehemiah contemplated the vast empty spaces within the

city walls, and considered with himself how they might best be peopled, the

thought came to him — and he hailed it as a Divine inspiration — that by

taking a census of the people he might pave the way for some transfer of

the inhabitants of the country districts into the capital, which would at any

rate strengthen the latter, and lessen the desolate appearance of its streets

and squares, which had so pained him. The census would show what

proportion the country and town populations bore to each other, and

would point out which were the places in the country districts that could

best afford to lose a portion of their inhabitants. A census, therefore was

resolved upon, and, according to ordinary Jewish usage (Numbers

1:17-47; I Chronicles 21:5-6; Ezra 2:3-62), it was genealogical.

The tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi were numbered separately

(ch.11:4-19); and in the tribe of Judah the children of Pharez

were reckoned apart from those of Zerah (I Chronicles 9:4, 6). No

doubt the genealogical principle was acted upon throughout, but further

evidence upon the point is wanting. It would seem to have been in the

course of his preparations for this census, perhaps in searching for

precedents, that Nehemiah found the “register of the genealogy of them

which came up at the first,” which is the subject of the next section.

 

 

Israel within the Walls (vs. 1-5; also Ezra 2)

 

In less than two months, notwithstanding the undisguised hostility of the

Samaritans, and the covert disloyalty of some of the inhabitants, the sacred

city was surrounded with a wall of protection; and with supreme

satisfaction and profound thankfulness the gates were closed and the doors

were shut. Jerusalem was secure. But Nehemiah was not the man to settle

down into passive complacency. The accomplishment of one duty meant

the undertaking of another. His conduct suggests:

 

  • THE NEED OF THE HUMAN (AND SPIRITUAL) ELEMENT TO

GIVE WORTH TO THE MATERIAL (vs. 1-3). It was well indeed to

have the wall, but that was worthless without men to guard it. Immediately

the circle was complete and the “doors were set up,” the three classes of

porters, singers, and Levites were appointed (v. 1). Charge of the city

was given to two capable and trustworthy men (v.2), and directions were

given that the gates should not be opened till long after sunrise, “till the

sun was hot,” and not until the watches were all on guard, every man in his

place (v. 3). Behind the stone wall were to be the living men, quick of eye,

strong of arm, bold of heart. Not a little reliance on the bulwark they had

raised, but much more on the steadfastness and alertness of the patriots

within them. It is well, indeed, to have the “new and beautiful” sanctuary,

the well-appointed’ schools and classrooms; but these will avail us nothing

if within them there be not:

Ø      minds alight with redeeming truth,

Ø      hearts aglow with holy love,

Ø      souls aflame with fervent zeal.

 

  • THE DESIRABLENESS OF DOING RIGHT THINGS

RELIGIOUSLY (vs. 1, 5). With the porters were associated “the singers

and the Levites” (v. 1). It is probable that the opening and shutting of

the temple gates was made with song.  If with song, certainly with sacred

song. Thus the manual labor of opening and shutting the city gates was

associated with men of a sacred office, and WITH WORDS AND

SOUNDS OF DEVOTION.  We read also (ve. 5) how “God put it into

the heart” of Nehemiah to gather the people, and take a census. This thought,

which in another and less godly man would have been complacently referred

to his own sagacity, is ascribed by him to Divine instigation. As servants of

God, it is not only needful to do the right things, but to do them in a religious

spirit. The secular is to be most intimately associated with the sacred.

(Mr. Spurgeon said that the sole purpose of religion is “TO SANCTIFY THE

SECULAR” – CY – 2015)  Things done with ordinary prudence, in daily

occupation, are to be done as UNTO CHRIST!   “Whether we eat or drink,

or whatever we do”  (I Corinthinas 10:31), plant or build, buy or sell, read or

write, work or play, — we must do all, realizing that the power to do them is

from Him, and endeavoring to please Him in all things — rightly because

religiously.

 

  • THE PLACE OF SPECIAL PIETY (v. 2). “I gave... Hananiah...

            charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above

            many.” The best place for those who are eminently godly men is not the

            cloister or chamber, but the more influential posts in the kingdom. They

            who most honor God in their heart honor Him most and serve him best

            when they occupy busy and important spheres. Piety, wisely employed, and

            powerful, in the chamber of commerce or in the House of Commons, is at

            least as pleasing to God as piety in the house of prayer; but to be at its best

            at either it should be found sometimes at both.

 

  • THE SPACIOUSNESS OF THE CITY OF GOD (v. 4). “The city

            was large and great: but the people were few.”

 

Ø      There is ample room within the Church of Christ for the multitudes

                        outside. Many are within its walls, but “yet there is room  (Luke

                        14:22); we must go out and “compel them to come in” (Ibid. v. 23);

                        with a persuasiveness that will not be denied.

 

Ø      There is building to be done within the Church. “The houses were not

                        builded.” There is much room for edification within its walls.

 

 

THE REGISTER OF THOSE WHO RETURNED UNDER ZERUBBABEL,

WITH THE NUMBER OF THEIR SLAVES, BEASTS, AND OBLATIONS 

                                                (vs. 6-73).

 

It is no doubt a curious circumstance that this list should occur twice, with no

important differences, in the two Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Perhaps it was

not in the original Ezra, that writer not having had the good fortune to “find” the

document; but Nehemiah having “found” it and inserted it here, in

connection with its discovery, a later arranger (Malachi?) removed it to the

early part of Ezra, because it belonged to that portion of the Jewish history

chronologically. The double record enables us to make out a more perfect

catalogue than we could have obtained from either separately, since there

are corruptions in each which may be corrected by means of the other. See

the comment which follows.

 

6 “These are the children of the province, that went up out of the

captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom

Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came

again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city;

7 Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah,

Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

The number, I say, of the men of the people of Israel was this;

Jeshua, Nehemiah, etc. To the eleven names given by Ezra,

Nehemiah adds one, Nahamani,” the sixth. He gives the others in the same

order as Ezra, but spells some of the names differently — e.g. Azariah

for Seraiah,” “RaamiahforReelaiah,” “MisperethforMizpar,” and

Nehumfor Rehum.”

8 “The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.

9 The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.

10 The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.

11 The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab,

two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen.

12  The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.

13 The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five.

14 The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.

15 The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight.”

Binnui. Ezra has “Bani,” which receives confirmation from ch.10:14 and

I Esdras 5:12.

16 “The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight.

17 The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two.

18 The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven.

19 The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven.

20 The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five.

21 The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.”  The children of Ater.

Up to this Nehemiah observes the same order as Ezra; but the remaining personal

names (three) are placed differently.

22 “The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight.

23 The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four.

24 The children of Hariph, an hundred and twelve.”  The children of Hariph.

Ezra has “Jorah” instead of Hariph (Ezra 2:18); but “Hariph is confirmed by

ch.10:19.

25 “The children of Gibeon, ninety and five.”  The children of Gibeon. For

Gibeon Ezra has “Gibbar” — a name otherwise unknown to us. Gibeon

should probably be read in both places.

26 “The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight.

27 The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.

28 The men of Bethazmaveth, forty and two.

29 The men of Kirjathjearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred

forty and three.

30 The men of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one.

31 The men of Michmas, an hundred and twenty and two.

32 The men of Bethel and Ai, an hundred twenty and three.

33 The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two.”  The men of the other Nebo.

No Nebo has as yet been mentioned, which makes it unlikely that the text is

correct here. Apparently the word translated “the other” (acher) has been

accidentally repeated from the next verse. Ezra has “the men of Nebo” simply.

34 “The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.

35 The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.

36 The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five.

37 The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one.

38 The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty.”

39 “The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine

hundred seventy and three.

40 The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.

41 The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.

42 The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.”  Vs. 39-42 exactly

reproduces Ezra 2:36-39.

43 “The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the

children of Hodevah, seventy and four.”  The children of Jeshua,

 of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah may be corrected from Ezra 2:40

and 3:9. It should be Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodevah.”

This ancestor of Joshua and Kadmiel appears under the three forms of Hodevah,

Hodaviah (Ibid.), and Judah (Ibid. ch.3:9).

44 “The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred forty and eight.

45 The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the

children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita,

the children of Shobai, an hundred thirty and eight.”

46 “The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the

children of Tabbaoth,”  The Nethinims. The list which follows is very close

to that of Ezra (ch.2:43-54). A few names are differently spelt, and one of

Ezra’s names (Akkub — ch.2:45) is omitted.

47 The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon,

48 The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai,

49 The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar,

50 The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda,

51 The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah,

52 The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim,

53 The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,

54 The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,

55 The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah,

56 The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.”

57 “The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the

children of Sophereth, the children of Perida,

58  The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,

59 The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of

Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon.

60 All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were

three hundred ninety and two.

61 And these were they which went up also from Telmelah,

Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not shew

their father’s house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel.

62 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of

Nekoda, six hundred forty and two.”  The children of Solomon’s servants.

This section and the section which follows (vs. 63-65) are nearly identical in

Ezra and Nehemiah. A few names only are slightly different.

 

63 “And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz,

the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of

Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name.

64These sought their register among those that were reckoned by

genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted,

put from the priesthood.

65 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the

most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and

Thummim.”

66 “The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three

hundred and threescore,”  It makes against the view of Bishop Patrick and

others, who regard Ezra’s list as made at Babylon, some time before the final

departure, and Nehemiah’s as made at Jerusalem, after the arrival of the exiles,

that the sum total is in each case the same (see Ezra 2:64). Bishop Kennicott’s

theory, that the three lists — that of Ezra, that of Nehemiah, and that in the

first of Esdras — had all one original, and that the existing differences proceed

entirely from mistakes of the copyists, is the only tenable one. It is especially

remarkable that the differences in the numbers of the three lists consist

chiefly in a single unit, a single ten, or a single hundred — or in a five;

less often in two units, or two tens, or two hundreds, or in a six —

differences probably arising from the obliteration of one or two signs in a

notation resembling the Roman or the Egyptian, where there are special signs

for a thousand, a hundred, ten, five, and the unit, complex numbers being

expressed by repetition of these, as 3438 in Latin inscriptions by

MMMCCCCXXXVIII.  Any fading of a sign in such a notation as this causes

a copyist to diminish the amount by one, five, ten, a hundred, a thousand, etc.

A fading of two sigmas may produce a diminution of two thousand, two

hundred, twenty, two; or again of eleven hundred, one hundred and ten,

one hundred andfive, fifteen, eleven, six, and the like.

67 “Beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there

were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had

two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women.

Two hundred and forty-five singing men and singing

women. Ezra says 200; but this must be a round number. I Esdras

confirms Nehemiah.

68 “Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two

hundred forty and five:

69 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven

hundred and twenty asses.”  The numbers of the animals are identical in

Ezra and Nehemiah. The apocryphal Esdras has an enormous and most

improbable augmentation of the number of the horses (7036 for 736).

 

 

 

                        An Honorable Register (vs. 5-69)

 

Account of those who had returned to the Holy Land under Zerubbabel,

Jeshua, and other leaders; found by Nehemiah when seeking guidance in

making a general census of the people. In reading this record, the following

observations suggest themselves:

 

  • THE COMPARATIVE FEWNESS AND GENERAL POVERTY OF

            THE RETURNING PEOPLE. The majority of their brethren preferred

            their position among the heathen to the honor and peril of aiding to reestablish

            their nation in their own land. The temptation to this course was

            greatest in the case of men of substance, and most of them appear to have

            yielded to it. We are reminded that of professing Christians a large number,

            perhaps the majority, do not really accept the invitation pressed continually

            upon them to undertake the journey to heaven, and that still the rich find it

            hard to enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

  • Although few and poor, THE RETURNING PEOPLE INCLUDED

            ALL THE ELEMENTS NEEDFUL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A

            REGULARLY ORGANISED JEWISH STATE. They were not a mere

            rabble. There was the civil governor, Zerubbabel; the high priest, Jeshua; a

            considerable number of ordinary priests; there were Levites and other

            temple servants, even singers; besides the body of the people.

 

  • THEIR FAITH, ZEAL, AND COURAGE ARE TO BE NOTED

            AND ADMIRED. All left some sort of settled home to which they were

            accustomed; some, businesses more or less lucrative; a few, the positions

            which wealth or talent affords. They encountered certain, though untried,

            privations, struggles, and dangers, the end of which to each one was very

            uncertain. But they were men, “whose spirit God had raised, to go up to

            build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:5). They

            believed the prophets, and anticipated a glorious future for their nation.

            They loved their God, their nation, and their country, though to the last

            most of them were strangers. The priests particularly distinguished

            themselves, as is shown by the number of them who returned, as compared

            with that of the people. They surpassed the Levites, who, both under

            Zerubbabel and Ezra, showed backwardness. Yet this class had formerly

            been more zealous than the priests (II Chronicles 29:34). The leaders

            are especially worthy of commendation. Their sacrifice must have been

            greater, and the cares and responsibilities they undertook were much

            heavier. Numbers followed at subsequent periods, after the first difficulties

            had been overcome and a settlement effected; but they could not attain to

            the honor of those who led the way.

 

  • The failure of some who accompanied the expedition to prove

            themselves by genealogy Israelites, of others to prove themselves priests,

            suggests THAT GOD’S TRUE ISRAEL AND PRIESTHOOD REQUIRE

            NO GENEALOGY. They belong to a higher order of things, not regulated

            after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless

            life (Hebrews 7:16). God’s spiritual Israel become such by faith; each

            one belonging to it is “born not of blood, but of God” (John 1:13). And

            while it is a blessed thing to have a pious ancestry, those who have it not

            are admitted as freely and fully into all the privileges of citizenship, ON

            THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF CHRIST  as those who have it. One of these

            privileges is that of being “priests unto God.” Nor is special ministry in the

            Church inherited; it is the privilege of those who are fitted for it, and called

            to it by the Holy Ghost, who distributes His gifts “to every man severally as

            He will  (I Corinthians 12:11).

 

  • THE LACK IN THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED COMMUNITY OF

            SOME PRIVILEGES ENJOYED BY THEIR FOREFATHERS is seen in

            the absence of “a priest with Urim and Thummim.” The time was eagerly

            expected when this and other like advantages would be restored, but in

            vain. For a while the gift of prophecy lingered, and then passed away. The

            losses were deplored, but proved to be gains. The guidance withdrawn

            belonged to the period of childhood. God s people were more and more to

            be prepared for the time of moral manhood, when they would realize the

            guidance and help of God in the exercise of their own spirits in connection

            with the written word remaining as a permanent legacy from the past. One

            more outburst of the miraculous, the grandest and most fruitful of all, and

            then the Spirit of God would abide with the Church as never before, its

            permanent Teacher and Guide through the at length completed word; but

            the miraculous would cease. We long at times for the return of “signs from

            heaven,” but “it is expedient” for us that we should be without them.

 

  • The variations in the several copies of this document suggest that

            happily THERE ARE, AND CAN BE, NO MISTAKES IN GOD’S

            REGISTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL ISRAEL. Finally, the perusal of this

            and similar lists may well lead us to exclaim with good Matthew Henry,

            “Blessed be God that our faith and hope are not built upon the niceties of

            names and numbers, genealogy and chronology, but on the great things of

            the law and gospel.”

 

70 “And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The

Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty

basons, five hundred and thirty priests’ garments.”

The Tirshatha gave. This is additional to the information

contained in Ezra, who does not separate Zerubbabel’s offering from that

of the other heads of families (Ezra 2:69). The account of the

oblations is altogether more exact in Nehemiah than in the earlier historian.

For the value of the contributions made, see the comment on Ezra (1.s.c.).

71 “And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the

work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two

hundred pound of silver.

72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand

drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore

and seven priests’ garments.

73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and

some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their

cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel

were in their cities.”  And all Israel dwelt in their cities. The document

found by Nehemiah (v. 5) probably ended with these words (compare

Ezra 2:70); and ch. 7. should here terminate, as it does in the Septuagint.

Having completed the account of what happened in the sixth month,

Elul (ch. 6:15), and transcribed the register which he had the good fortune to

discover at that date, Nehemiah proceeds to relate events belonging to the

seventh month.

 

 

                                    A Good Collection (vs. 70-73)

 

The conclusion of the document found by Nehemiah, being chiefly an

account of the gifts of the returned people towards the cost of rebuilding

the temple and restoring its services.

 

  • THE OBJECT OF THE COLLECTION. The restoration of the temple

            and its services lay very near their hearts. It was the chief object of their

            return to Palestine (Ezra 1:5), and would be regarded by them, and

            justly, as the surest foundation, under God, of their unity and prosperity —

            of their welfare at once as individuals, families, and a state. Equally

            concerned should we be for the erection of churches and the maintenance

            of public worship, and for like reasons.

 

  • THE LIBERALITY DISPLAYED. Very considerable, if we bear in

            mind their general poverty, the recentness of their return, and the many

            demands upon their resources which their re-settlement in the land would

            make.

 

  • THE UNION OF ALL CLASSES IN CONTRIBUTING TO THE

            COLLECTION, They were well led by the Tirshatha, Zerubbabel, who

            was well followed by “some of the chief of the fathers.” The rest of the

            people contributed according to their means. It seems, however, from the

            words “some,” etc., that, as usual, there were some that did not contribute;

            yet these may have been among the loudest to express their pleasure that

            so good a collection had been made. With this exception, we have here a

            model collection.

 

Ø      It was well started. Much depends on this. The many take their ideas of

                        what is needful and fitting from their leaders, and are fired by their

                        ardor, or chilled by their coldness.

Ø      All classes contributed. The rich as well as the poor, the poor as well as

                        the rich. Neither can be spared, neither should be passed over. Not the

                        rich, for a few of them can easily give as much as all the rest, and for

                        their own sake they need to be generous in their gifts (I Timothy 6:17-19).

                        Not the poor, for to give to God’s cause is a privilege which they should

                        delight to share, and the aggregate of their smaller gifts may equal or

                        exceed that of the larger contributions of the wealthy.

Ø      All contributed voluntarily (see Ezra 2:68 — “freely”).

Ø      All appear to have contributed liberally.

 

  • THEIR SUBSEQUENT SETTLEMENT IN THEIR RESPECTIVE

            CITIES. Which they could effect with a good conscience and cheerful

            hope of God’s blessing, after having first shown their zealous care for the

            establishment of His worship.

 

 

 

                        The True Method of Prosperity (vs. 6-73)

 

Here are the three great aims of God’s people distinguished. The walls of

the city are built. The place of habitation is prepared. The doors are fixed.

Then the true citizens of Zion will see to it; God will put it in their hearts.

 

  • TO PROVIDE FOR THE SAFETY OF THE CITY. There must always

      be the possibility of attack from without. Watch the walls and the gates.

 

Ø      The leading men of the Church should be faithful, and fearers of God

                        above many. It is a terrible danger when prominent men are not

                        examples of piety. Those who have a great charge SHOULD BE

                        ABOVE SUSPICION!

 

Ø      The gates must be specially watched, and their shutting and opening

                        special matter of anxious care. When Churches are indifferent as to the

                        admission of members they are doing incalculable harm to the cause of

                        their religion. Wide and unwatched gates mean:

o       an unsafe city,

o       an approaching ruin.

 

Ø      Let every one take part in the guardianship of Jerusalem. “Every one

                        over against his own house.” There are eminent men who occupy

                        prominent posts, but the humblest believer has his part in the work of

                        defending truth and guarding the spiritual prosperity of Zion. It was

                        a good regulation which Nehemiah made: “Let not the gates be opened

                        till the sun be hot.” Do nothing in the dark. See the men who ask for

                        admission in the clear daylight; know who they are, and what they mean.

                        It is the multitudinousness of the Church which endangers it. If there be

                        no light at the gates there will soon be enemies within the walls, traitors

                        in the camp, and the safety of the Church will be undermined.

 

  • Those who seek the welfare of Zion will desire INCREASE OF

            NUMBERS. The large city and the great walls are no honor to God

            without many people therein. “The houses not built” represent the lack of

            individual and family life. It is the living souls that are the city’s glory.

 

  • THE TRUE METHOD OF ESTABLISHING THE PROSPERITY OF

            JERUSALEM IS TO LOOK WELL TO THE PURITY OF ITS

            INHABITANTS.   God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to search for the

            genealogy, to distinguish the true Israel from the false.

 

Ø      The variety of office and degrees of honor quite consistent with unity

                        of origin and community of spirit. It is better to have a place in the

                        genealogy of God’s people than to be high in this world’s rank.

 

Ø      The preservation of the record was a help to subsequent generations to

                        maintain the cause of Zion, and to tread in the footsteps of the fathers.

 

Ø      The position of absolute, uncompromising purity and faithfulness to God

                        is the only ground upon which discipline can be maintained. In the case of

                        the priests, if the register could not be found “they were, as polluted, put

                        from the priesthood.”

 

Ø      The mere external purity of ritual is insufficient; the great requisite is

                        direct relationship with God. In all difficult cases the Urim and Thummim

                        of immediate revelation must be sought. What is the mind of God? How

                        little would the Church have erred if it had followed this rule: to suffer no

                        caprice, no departure from principle, no compromise, but DEPEND

                        UPON THE WORD OF GOD!

 

 

 

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