|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:1-36 The distribution of the people. - In all ages, men have preferred their own ease and advantage to the public good. Even the professors of religion too commonly seek their own, and not the things of Christ. Few have had such attachment to holy things and holy places, as to renounce pleasure for their sake. Yet surely, our souls should delight to dwell where holy persons and opportunities of spiritual improvement most abound. If we have not this love to the city of our God, and to every thing that assists our communion with the Saviour, how shall we be willing to depart hence; to be absent from the body, that we may be present with the Lord? To the carnal-minded, the perfect holiness of the New Jerusalem would be still harder to bear than the holiness of God's church on earth. Let us seek first the favour of God, and his glory; let us study to be patient, contented, and useful in our several stations, and wait, with cheerful hope, for admission into the holy city of God.
Verse 1. - The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the residence of all the nobles from the first (see Nehemiah 2:16); no increase could be made in this element of the population. Nehemiah had to look lower, and to obtain his new settlers from the ranks of the "people." The people ... cast lots. No doubt under direction. The Jews had frequent recourse to the lot for the determining of doubtful matters, believing, as they did, that "the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord (Proverbs 16:33). Divine sanction had been given, in the course of the Jewish history, to the use of the lot for the selection of persons (Joshua 7:16-18 1 Samuel 10:19-21), for the distribution of lands (Numbers 26:25, 26), and for the determination of the order in which different bodies should execute an office (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:8). In the democratic states of Greece it was used widely to determine between candidates for an office. One in ten. Ewald supposes that this was to be the proportion between the population of Jerusalem and the whole population of the country, and ascribes the fixing of the proportion to Zerubbabel ('History of Israel,' vol. 5. p. 159). But there is no statement to this effect in either Ezra or Nehemiah, and the brief narrative of this verse seems to imply the addition of a tenth part of the country population to the previous population of Jerusalem, rather than the establishment of any definite proportion between the two. Nine parts. Literally, "nine hands," as in Genesis 43:34; Genesis 47:24.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem,.... Where it was proper they should, being the metropolis of the nation, both for the performance of their offices, and to protect and defend it, as well as to set an example to the people, and encourage them to dwell there also:
the rest of the people also cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city; so called, because of the temple and the worship of God in it; and so it is called by Julian the emperor (g); and some (h) have thought that the Cadytis of Herodotus (i) is the same with Jerusalem, which had its name from "holy", and is now called by the Turks "cuds", that is, "holy" (k): now, though it was the chief city, and the place of public worship, yet the people were not forward of settling in it, partly because of the rage of the enemy, which this city was the butt of, and partly because it was more to their worldly advantage to dwell in the country, and where they could have better supplies; they consulted their own ease, safety, and profit; wherefore this method was taken to oblige some to dwell in it, by taking one out of ten by lot, that there might be a sufficient number to rebuild the houses of it, repopulate and defend it:
and nine parts to dwell in other cities; to which they belonged, or where they pleased, any where in the land of Israel.
(g) Ephesians 25. p. 154. (h) Prideaux's Connection, par. 1. p. 56, 57. (i) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 159. & Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 5. (k) Sandys's Travels, l. 5. p. 121. Ed. 5.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ne 11:1, 2. The Rulers, Voluntary Men, and Every Tenth Man Chosen by Lot, Dwell at Jerusalem.
1. the rulers … dwelt at Jerusalem—That city being the metropolis of the country, it was right and proper that the seat of government should be there. But the exigency of the times required that special measures should be taken to insure the residence of an adequate population for the custody of the buildings and the defense of the city. From the annoyances of restless and malignant enemies, who tried every means to demolish the rising fortifications, there was some danger attending a settlement in Jerusalem. Hence the greater part of the returned exiles, in order to earn as well as secure the rewards of their duty, preferred to remain in the country or the provincial towns. To remedy this state of things, it was resolved to select every tenth man of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin by lot, to become a permanent inhabitant of the capital. The necessity of such an expedient commended it to the general approval. It was the more readily submitted to because the lot was resorted to on all the most critical conjunctures of the Jewish history, and regarded by the people as a divine decision (Pr 18:18). This awakened strongly the national spirit; and patriotic volunteers came forward readily to meet the wishes of the authorities, a service which, implying great self-denial as well as courage, was reckoned in the circumstances of so much importance as entitled them to the public gratitude. No wonder that the conduct of these volunteers drew forth the tribute of public admiration; for they sacrificed their personal safety and comfort for the interests of the community because Jerusalem was at that time a place against which the enemies of the Jews were directing a thousand plots. Therefore, residence in it at such a juncture was attended with expense and various annoyances from which a country life was entirely free.
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