Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Part II. RELIGIOUS REFORM
Ch. Nehemiah 7:73 b–8:12.
The Public Reading of the Law.
The Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The National Confession, preliminary to the Covenant.
Ch. Nehemiah 10:1-29.
The Sealing of the Covenant.
Certain Obligations of the Covenant.
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,Ch. Nehemiah 7:1-5. Nehemiah’s dispositions for the protection of the City
1. the doors] We saw in Nehemiah 6:1 that this alone remained to be done to complete the walls. Those who were responsible for the doors are mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 3:13-15. Nehemiah’s completion of the great work is celebrated by the son of Sirach, ‘And among the elect was Neemias whose renown is great, who raised up for us the walls that were fallen, and set up the gates and the bars, and raised up our ruins again’ (Sir 49:13).
the porters and the singers and the Levites] The ‘porters’ were a guild whose ordinary duty it was to guard the entrances and defences of the Temple. In the unsettled state of affairs, when he was in constant expectation of attacks from without, and was conscious of intrigues going on within the walls, Nehemiah entrusted the protection of the whole city to this body of trained ‘police,’ and augmented their force by other available trained bands, i.e. the musicians and the main body of Levites, who assisted the priests in the Temple services. The mention of ‘the Levites’ generally after that of the two special classes is noticeable, but in some measure they were regarded in Nehemiah’s time as distinct, cf. Nehemiah 12:47, Nehemiah 13:5-10. They were already a disciplined and organised set of men. The great majority could apparently be relied on to support the policy of Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah put the keeping of the walls into their hand, with the duty of superintending the watch, and of organising a system of sentinel-work among the citizens themselves (Nehemiah 7:3). The fact that Nehemiah thus trusted these Levites, and Temple servants, indicates that they sympathised with him in his scheme of a religious constitution for the Jews, which would completely exclude the Samaritan and the foreigner.
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.2. my brother Hanani] cf. Nehemiah 1:2.
Hananiah the ruler of the palace] R.V. Hananiah the governor of the castle. On the castle or ‘Bira’ see Nehemiah 2:8. The ‘governor of the castle’ would be an official of great importance, being probably in command of troops for the purpose of keeping order in the city. ‘He’ refers to Hananiah. Possibly Nehemiah’s appointment of two officers to the command of the city corresponds with the mention of the two men in Nehemiah 3:9; Nehemiah 3:12, who were ‘rulers of half the district of Jerusalem.’
a faithful man, and feared God] cf. Exodus 18:21, ‘able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain.’ The Hebrew is noticeable; not absolutely ‘a man of truth,’ but ‘such as only a man of truth is.’
above many] i.e. more than most. LXX. παρὰ πολλούς. Vulg. ‘plus cæteris.’ The phrase which only occurs here in the O.T. has a very lifelike ring.
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.3. I said unto them] The reading of the C’thib, ‘He said,’ is clearly wrong. The K’ri is supported by the LXX. and Vulg. ‘Them,’ Hanani and Hananiah.
until the sun be hot] Vulg. ‘Usque ad calorem solis,’ i.e. until the sun was high in the heavens; cf. 1 Samuel 11:9, ‘By the time the sun is hot.’ The customary practice was to open the gates at sunrise. By this regulation the enemy would be effectually prevented from obtaining any advantage by an entry into the city before the inhabitants were stirring. The LXX. (ἔως ἄμα τῷ ἡλίῳ) did not understand the sentence. Rashi also explains ‘until mid-day,’ erroneously. The shutting of the gates was a sign of suspicion: cf. the opposite description of security in Isaiah 60:11.
stand by] R.V. stand on guard. The meaning apparently is that the gates were to be shut while the regular watch was still on guard. The A.V. ‘stand by’ refers to Hanani and Hananiah, as if the gates were always to be shut in the presence of the governors. But it would have been an impossibility for the two officers to have been present at the fastening of each gate. The emphasis rests on the word ‘while.’ The guard of Levites are to be at their post, while the doors were being secured.
shut … bar] LXX. κλείσθωσαν … σφηνούσθωσαν, Vulg. ‘clausæ … oppilatæ.’ The versions give the general sense. The word rendered ‘shut’ occurs only here in the O.T. in the mood employed in this verse. The word rendered ‘bar’ means literally ‘to seize.’ Hence Rashi explains, ‘let them take hold of the doors in order to shut them;’ and other interpretations have been ‘take hold in order to see whether they were fastened,’ and ‘take hold of the keys.’ But the marginal rendering of the R.V. 1 Kings 6:10, ‘he fastened the house,’ will illustrate its usage in the present verse.
appoint watches &c.] It does not appear whether Hanani and Hananiah are the subject or the Levite guards. The verb in the original is in the Infin. Abs. (cf. Nehemiah 6:9) and expresses the command in general terms (LXX. στῆσον, Vulg. ‘posui’). The citizens themselves were to be organised for the defence of the place. Every man was to belong to a particular guardhouse, and take his turn in sentinel duty; and every man also was to be responsible for the protection of his own dwelling.
Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.4. large and great] R.V. wide and large. The phrase rendered ‘wide’ (cf. Genesis 34:21; Jdg 18:10) denotes extension on every side; its literal rendering would be ‘wide on both hands.’
the people were few] The inhabitants of Jerusalem were in Nehemiah’s time very few in comparison with what they had been before the captivity, see Nehemiah 11:1-2. The number of Jews that had returned with Zerubbabel had been 42360 (Ezra 2:64; Nehemiah 7:66). With Ezra there had come rather more than 1500 (Ezra 8:1-20). Others had come from time to time. But of the whole number of 50,000 or so, a very large proportion were settled in the country and towns in the neighbourhood, as appears from Nehemiah 7:73, Nehemiah 11:25-36, Nehemiah 12:27-29.
the houses were not builded] An expression that cannot be understood literally. The meaning is, there were large open spaces within the walls unoccupied.
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,5. my God put into mine heart] R.V. my heart. For this expression see note on Nehemiah 2:12.
nobles … rulers (R.V. marg. deputies) … people] cf. Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:14; Nehemiah 4:19.
that they might be reckoned by genealogy] LXX. εἰς συνοδίας, Vulg. ‘ut recenserem eos.’ Nehemiah’s census seems to be referred to in Nehemiah 11:1-3, from which passage we gather that the census was a preliminary to measures for replenishing the population of Jerusalem.
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;6. came again to] R.V. returned unto. Ezra 2:1 has ‘carried away unto Babylon’; the words ‘unto Babylon’ have probably been accidentally omitted in transcription.
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;7. Azariah] = Seraiah in Ezra.
Raamiah] = Reelaiah in Ezra.
Nahamani] Not in Ezra.
Mispereth] = Mizpar in Ezra.
Nehum] = Rehum in Ezra.
I say, … was this] R.V. omits.
The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.
The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.
The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.
The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen.
The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five.
The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.
The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight.15. Binnui] = Bani in Ezra: cf. Nehemiah 10:14; 1Es 5:12.
The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight.
The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two.
The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven.
The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven.
The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five.
The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.21–23. Ater … Hashum … Bezai … Hariph] In Ezra the order is Ater, Bezai, Jorah (= Hariph), Hashum. For Hariph see Nehemiah 10:19.
The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight.
The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four.
The children of Hariph, an hundred and twelve.
The children of Gibeon, ninety and five.25. Gibeon] = Gibbar (probably a mistake) in Ezra.
The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight.26. the men of Beth-lehem and Netophah] = ‘the children of Beth-lehem … the men of Netophah’ in Ezra.
The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.
The men of Bethazmaveth, forty and two.
The men of Kirjathjearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three.
The men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one.30. Geba] Some copies of the A.V. have ‘Gaba’; but ‘Geba’ stands in the 1611 edition.
The men of Michmas, an hundred and twenty and two.
The men of Bethel and Ai, an hundred twenty and three.
The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two.33. The men of the other Nebo] = ‘the children of Nebo’ in Ezra. Perhaps the word ‘other’ has come in accidentally from Nehemiah 7:34. Our list omits ‘the children of Magbish 156,’ which in Ezra comes between ‘Nebo’ and ‘Elam.’
The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.
The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five.
The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one.
The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty.
The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three.
The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.
The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.
The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.
The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four.43. and of the children of Hodevah] R.V. of the children of Hodevah. Marg. ‘Another reading is Hodeiah.’ See on Ezra 2:40; Ezra 3:9.
The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred forty and eight.
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.
The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the children of Tabbaoth,46. The Nethinims] R.V. The Nethinim.
Hashupha] R.V. Hasupha.
The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon,
The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai,
The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar,
The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda,
The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah,
The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim,52. Nephishesim] R.V. Nephusheshim. Marg. ‘Another reading is Nephishesim’. See Ezra 2:50.
The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,
The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,
The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah,55. Tamah] R.V. Temah.
The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.
The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida,
The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,
The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon.59. Pochereth Zebaim] R.V. Pochereth-hazzebaim. ‘Of Zebaim’ appears in some copies of the A.V.; but ‘of’ is not in the 1611 edition.
All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two.
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.61. also] R.V. omits.
Tel-haresha] R.V. Tel-harsha.
fathers’ house] R.V. fathers’ houses.
The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two.
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.63. Habaiah] R.V. Hobaiah.
Koz] R.V. Hakkoz.
one of the daughters] R.V. a wife of the daughters.
These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.64. were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood] R.V. were they deemed polluted and put, &c. Marg. Heb. they were polluted from, &c.
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.65. the Tirshatha] R.V. marg. Or, governor.
a priest] Literally ‘the priest.’ ‘With Urim and Thummim.’ LXX. ὁ ἱερεὺς φωτίσων. Vulg. ‘sacerdos doctus et eruditus.’
The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,
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.67. two hundred forty and five] So 1Es 5:41, Ezra 2:65 ‘two hundred.’
Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five:68. This verse does not appear in some of the oldest Hebrew MSS., and is not reckoned in the computation of 685 verses assigned to these books in the Massoretic note at its close. The omission, however, is not supported by the parallel passages in Ezra and 1 Esdr., nor by the LXX. and Vulg. If therefore it be an interpolation from Ezra 2:66, it must have been inserted at a very early date. The alternative is most probable that the omission is the result of an oversight on the part of a copyist, whose eye passed from the ‘five’ at the end of Nehemiah 7:67 to that at the end of Nehemiah 7:68.
Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses.
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.70. And some of the chief of the fathers] R.V. And some from among the heads of fathers’ houses. So in Nehemiah 7:71.
The Tirshatha] The contributions are here described in greater detail than in Ezra.
the treasure] R.V. the treasury.
drams] R.V. darics. So in Nehemiah 7:71-72.
five hundred and thirty priests’ garments] See note on Ezra 2:69 for the conjecture ‘five hundred pound of silver and thirty priests’ garments.’
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.71. to the treasure] R.V. into the treasury.
pound] R.V. marg. ‘Heb. maneh’.
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.
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.73. some] R.V. some. The Heb. gives the partitive idea. (LXX. οἱ ἀπὸ τοῦ λαοῦ. Vulg. ‘reliquum vulgus.’)
Nethinims] R.V. Nethinim.
Nehemiah 7:73 b–8:12. The Reading of the Law
This verse begins a new section in the work. The style alters. The use of the first pers. sing. is resumed in Nehemiah 12:31. The Compiler has recourse to other material for this narrative. The thread of Nehemiah’s Memoir, which was broken off at Nehemiah 7:5, is therefore not resumed.
and when the seventh month came] R.V. And when the seventh month was come. The R.V. gives the right division of the verse. The second clause introduces a new section. Very similar words occur in Ezra 3:1 after the register of names. The close of the ‘register’ perhaps contained suitable words with which to resume the narrative in both passages. But possibly the Compiler consciously repeats himself and borrows from Ezra 3:1, ‘the seventh month.’ The mention of this date raises the question of the chronology of the following episodes.
The year is not stated. It is not therefore possible to say with certainty that the events described in chap. 8. followed immediately upon the completion of the wall. But, although not stated, this is what is clearly suggested by the compiler of the work. The mention of the 25th of the 6th month (Nehemiah 6:15) is followed by the narrative of the 1st of the 7th month (Nehemiah 7:73; Nehemiah 8:2). As no other year is mentioned, presumably the events are those which occurred in the same year.
The objection which has been raised against this simple view is chiefly based upon the difficulty caused by the strangely sudden reappearance of Ezra. The fact that in 1Es 9:37 ff. the events here described follow immediately upon the expulsion of ‘the strange women’ (Ezra 9) has been by some scholars understood to supply the right order of time. The public reading of the law and the sacred covenant would then have to be placed in the year 457, and ‘the seventh month’ in the second year after Ezra’s arrival. An apparent confirmation of this view is given by Josephus. But the chronology of Josephus in this period is very untrustworthy. Undoubtedly following 1 Esdras, which does not mention Nehemiah, he places Ezra’s activity in the generation before that of Nehemiah, and Ezra’s death before Nehemiah’s arrival at Jerusalem. His treatment of their lives seems to be based on the supposition that they were not contemporaries (see Josephus, Antiquities, xi. 5); in § 1, Ezra appears as a contemporary of Joiakim the High-priest, in § 5 his death is mentioned as occurring at the same time as that of Joiakim the High-priest, who was succeeded by Eliashib. It seems fatal to this view that, in order to maintain it, it is necessary to strike out, as later glosses, the mention of Nehemiah’s name in Nehemiah 8:9, Nehemiah 10:1.