Nehemiah 11:1
And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.
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(1, 2) The history reverts to Nehemiah 7:5; lots are cast for the transfer of one-tenth of the people to the capital.

(1) And the rulers.—The narrative joins on to Nehemiah 7:4. The festival month had prevented the immediate carrying out of the governor’s purpose.

The rest of the people.—The rulers being already in the capital, Nehemiah ordered that one man in ten should be chosen by lot to transfer his family.

Jerusalem the holy city.—Remembering the “separation that had taken place (Nehemiah 9), and the recent covenant (Nehemiah 10), we see the solemnity of this epithet, now first used, and repeated in Nehemiah 11:18. “Then shall Jerusalem be holy, and no strangers shall pass through her any more (Joel 3:17). But the New Testament brings another comment on the phrase.

(2) The people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves.—We are not told that any compensation was made to them; and these words seem to indicate that the chosen ones freely submitted, their patriotism being applauded by all.—Jerusalem was the post of danger, and in any case it was a hardship to leave their country possessions (Nehemiah 11:3).

Nehemiah 11:1. The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem — Where their very office, in some sort, obliged them to dwell; and where, it seems, Nehemiah had desired the principal men of the nation, by way of example, to fix their habitations. The rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem — That the building of the city might be completed, and the honour and safety of it better provided for. The bulk of the Jews, it appears, rather chose to live in the country than at Jerusalem. One reason of which might be, that they were generally shepherds, and lovers of agriculture, and therefore the country was more suited to their genius and manner of life than the city. Add to this, that their enemies were now so enraged to see the walls built again, and so restless in their designs to keep Jerusalem from rising to its former splendour, that many were terrified from coming to dwell there, thinking themselves more safe in the country, where their enemies had no pretence to disturb them. In order, therefore, to compel a certain proportion of them to remove to the city, the expedient of casting lots is resorted to. Though the casting of lots be certainly forbidden, where the thing is done out of a spirit of superstition, or with a design to tempt God; yet on some occasions it is enjoined by God himself, and the most holy persons, both in the Old and New Testaments, have practised it in particular cases. The wise man acknowledges the usefulness of this custom when he tells us that the lot causeth contention to cease, and parteth between the mighty, Proverbs 18:18; and therefore it was no bad policy, as things now stood, to take this method of division; since the lot, which all allowed was under the divine direction, falling upon such a person rather than another, would be a great means, no doubt, to make him remove more contentedly into the city.

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.To bring one of ten - Artificial enlargements of capitals by forcible transfers of population to them, were not unusual in ancient times. About 500 B.C., Syracuse became a great city in this way. Tradition ascribed the greatness of Rome, in part, to this cause. CHAPTER 11

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.The rulers and the tenth man chosen by lot dwell at Jerusalem, Nehemiah 11:1,2. A catalogue of their names, numbers, and families, Nehemiah 11:3-19. The residue of the people dwell in other cities, Nehemiah 11:20-36.

The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem, which their very office in some sort obliged them to do. To bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem; that the buildings of the city might be completed, and the honour and safety of it better provided for.

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.

And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, {a} to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.

(a) Because their enemies dwelt round about them, they provided that it might be replenished with men, and used this policy because there were few who offered themselves willingly.

1. And] The copula has no connexion with the preceding chapter, and probably marks the compilatory character of the passage.

rulers] R.V. princes.

dwelt at (R.V. in) Jerusalem] It has been suggested that this clause refers only to ‘the princes,’ who, before Nehemiah took the matter in hand, had resided in the country: in deference to his wishes or yielding to his entreaties these princes now dwelt in Jerusalem. But the difficulty remained how to secure the presence in greater numbers of those who, from lack of means or by reason of trade and occupation, could not so easily change their quarters. This explanation which treats the word ‘dwelt’ as equivalent to ‘came to dwell,’ derives considerable support from the word ‘also’ in the following clause.

Others find the explanation of the verse in the contrast between ‘the princes of the people’ and ‘the rest of the people.’ The former naturally had dwellings in Jerusalem; they lived there because concerned in the government of the community and able to afford a dwelling in the city. The latter, however, for the most part the middle and lower classes, lived in the country; and they, being no less eager than their superiors in rank for the defence of the Holy City, determined to recruit its numbers by a contingent of ten per cent.

cast lots] Cf. on Nehemiah 10:34.

the holy city] Jerusalem is so-called also in Nehemiah 11:18. The occurrence of this title in Scripture may be illustrated by Isaiah 48:2, ‘For they call themselves of the holy city,’ Isaiah 52:1, ‘O Jerusalem, the holy city,’ cf. Daniel 9:24; Joel 3:17. In the N.T. it occurs in Matthew 4:5; Matthew 27:53; cf. Revelation 11:2; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10; Revelation 22:19.

nine parts to dwell in other cities] R.V. nine parts in the other cities.

‘In the cities,’ as the Hebrew has it, must denote the towns and villages of the country occupied by the Jewish community; cf. Nehemiah 11:20.


Ch. Nehemiah 11:1 to Nehemiah 12:26.


Ch. Nehemiah 12:27-43.

  Dedication of the City Walls.

Nehemiah 12:44-47.

  Levitical Organization.

Ch. Nehemiah 13:1-3.

  Relations with Heathen.

Nehemiah 11:1 to Nehemiah 12:26. Extracts from Registers and Public Lists

1, 2. Measures taken to increase the number of dwellers in Jerusalem.

This passage seems to take up the thread which had been dropped at Nehemiah 7:4. Nehemiah had been rendered anxious by the fewness of the inhabitants in proportion to the size of the area of the city. The census which he undertook reminded him of the old register which had come to his notice (Nehemiah 7:6-73); the memoirs of Nehemiah were then interrupted by a description of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Solemn Covenant (8–10). The Compiler returning to the subject of the paucity of dwellers in Jerusalem, briefly describes the method adopted of increasing their number, probably epitomizing the account which Nehemiah’s own Memoirs contained.

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. Nehemiah 11:1Nehemiah 11:1 and Nehemiah 11:2 narrate the carrying out of Nehemiah's resolution, Nehemiah 7:4, to make Jerusalem more populous, and follow Nehemiah 7:5 as to matter, but the end of Nehemiah 10 as to time. For while Nehemiah, after the completion of the wall, was occupied with the thought of bringing into the thinly populated capital a larger number of inhabitants, and had for this purpose convoked a public assembly, that a list of the whole Israelite population of the towns of Benjamin and Judah might be taken in hand, the seventh month of the year arrived, in which all the people assembled at Jerusalem to perform those acts of worship and solemnities (described Nehemiah 8-10) in which this month abounded. Hence it was not till after the termination of these services that Nehemiah was able to carry out the measures he had resolved on. For there can be no doubt that Nehemiah 11:1 and Nehemiah 11:2 of the present chapter narrate the execution of these measures. The statement that one in ten of all the people was appointed by lot to dwell in Jerusalem, and the remaining nine in other cities, and that the people blessed the men who showed themselves willing to dwell at Jerusalem, can have no other meaning than, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were increased in this proportion, and that this was consequently the measure which God had, according to Nehemiah 7:5, put it into Nehemiah's heart to take. The statement taken by itself is indeed very brief, and its connection with Nehemiah 7:5 not very evident. But the brevity and abruptness do not justify Bertheau's view, that these two verses are not the composition of Nehemiah himself, but only an extract from a larger context, in which this circumstance was fully explained. For Nehemiah's style not unfrequently exhibits a certain abruptness; comp. e.g., the commencements of chs. 5 and 6, or the information Nehemiah 13:6, which are no less abrupt, and which yet no one has conceived to be mere extracts from some other document. Besides, as the connection between Nehemiah 7:5 and Nehemiah 11:1 is interrupted by the relation of the events of the seventh month, so, too, is the account of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 4:17; Nehemiah 6:15., and Nehemiah 7:1, interrupted by the insertion of occurrences which took place during its progress. The first sentence, Nehemiah 11:1, "And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem," cannot be so closely connected with the next, "and the rest of the people cast lots," etc., as to place the rulers in direct contrast to the rest of the people, but must be understood by its retrospect to Nehemiah 7:4, which gives the following contrast: The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem, but few of the people dwelt there; to this is joined the next sentence: and the rest of the people cast lots. The "rest of the people" does not mean the assembled people with the exception of the rulers, but the people with the exception of the few who dwelt at Jerusalem. These cast lots to bring (להביא) one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem. The predicate, the holy city, occurs here and Nehemiah 11:18 for the first time. Jerusalem is so called, on the ground of the prophecies, Joel 3:17 and Isaiah 48:2, because the sanctuary of God, the temple, was there. בּערים means, in the other cities of Judah and Benjamin. המּתנדּבים, those who showed themselves willing to dwell in Jerusalem, is taken by most expositors in contrast to those who were bound to do this in consequence of the decision of the lot; and it is then further supposed that some first went to Jerusalem of their free choice, and that the lot was then cast with respect to the rest. There are not, however, sufficient grounds for this conclusion, nor yet for the assumption that the decision of the lot was regarded as a constraint. The disposal of the lot was accepted as a divine decision, with which all had, whether willingly or unwillingly, to comply. All who willingly acquiesced in this decision might be designated as מתנדּבים; and these departed to Jerusalem accompanied by the blessings of the people. Individuals are not so much meant, as chiefly fathers of families, who went with their wives and children.
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