Nehemiah 11:24
And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people.
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(24) Of the children of Zerah.—This makes the absence of Zerah in the beginning of the chapter very remarkable, and suggests some accidental omission.

At the king’s hand.—Pethahiah was the king’s agent in all the country matters of the “province.”

Nehemiah 11:24. Pethahiah was at the king’s hand — Or on the king’s part, to determine civil causes and controversies between man and man by the laws of that kingdom; between the king and people, as in matters of tribute or grievances.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.It is difficult to say what office Pethahiah filled. So far as we know, the only regular officers under the Persian system of government were the satrap, the subsatrap, the permanent royal secretary, the commandant, and the occasional commissary. 24. Pethahiah … was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people—This person was entrusted with judicial power, either for the interest, or by the appointment, of the Persian monarch, and his duty consisted either in adjusting cases of civil dispute, or in regulating fiscal concerns. At the king’s hand, or, on the kings part, to determine civil causes and controversies between man and man by the laws of that kingdom, which peradventure he understood better than Nehemiah, and therefore was appointed for this work, but still under Nehemiah. Or, according to the king’s appointment, as the hand is used, as Numbers 4:49, and elsewhere.

In all matters concerning the people; either in civil differences between them, or in things between the king and people; as in matters of tribute, or grievances, &c., wherein this man possibly was chief justiciary under Nehemiah. And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah, the son of Judah,.... The twin brother of Pharez, Genesis 38:30 was

at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people; to speak for them to the king, as Jarchi; when they had a favour to ask of him, a petition to present to him, he delivered it for them, and by him the king returned the answer.

And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, {h} was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people.

(h) Was chief about the king for all high affairs.

24. Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel (R.V. Meshezabel) … Zerah] On ‘Zerah the son of Judah’ see note on Nehemiah 11:4-6.

at the king’s hand] What this exactly meant we are left to conjecture. Pethahiah was in some sort of way an official representative of Jewish interests in connexion with the Persian court. The suggestion (of Reuss) that he resided at Jerusalem, and was the official recipient of the provincial tribute might derive support from the mention of ‘the house of the king’ in Nehemiah 3:25. But it is hard to see how any Jewish official of the Persian court, if he resided in Jerusalem, could be said to be ‘at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people’ in any sense which would not much rather be applicable to Nehemiah himself. Indeed, if this official was a resident in Jerusalem, it is not easy to believe that the time of Nehemiah’s governorship can be referred to.

If he was the Jewish representative at Susa it constitutes an isolated reference in this chapter to a person dwelling outside the borders of Judea.

In spite of this objection it seems more probable that ‘at the king’s hand’ denotes personal residence at the Persian court.

The mention of the fact is parenthetically added in connexion with the royal mandate favourable to the Levites and the singers; and is not therefore, strictly speaking, relevant to the list. The phrase ‘at the hand of’ seems to denote personal attendance, cf. Nehemiah 13:13 ‘next to them,’ 1 Chronicles 18:17 ‘And the sons of David were chief about (lit. ‘at the hand of,’ Vulg. ‘ad manum’) the king,’ 1 Chronicles 23:28 ‘their office was to wait on (lit. ‘at the hand of,’ LXX. ἐπὶ χεῖρα, Vulg. ‘sub manu’) the sons of Aaron.’ In our verse the LXX. renders πρὸς χεῖρα, the Vulg. ‘in manu.’Verse 24. - Pethahiah... of the children of Zerah. We have here an indication of the imperfection of the preceding catalogue, which has mentioned no descendants of Zerah among the Jews dwelling in Jerusalem, but made them all sons of Perez (ver. 6). As already observed, a verse equivalent to 1 Chronicles 6:9 must have fallen out between vers. 6 and 7 of this chapter. The exact office borne by Pethahiah cannot be determined; but he evidently held a confidential position, which made him an intermediary for certain purposes between the Persian king and the Jewish people. Perhaps he received and forwarded petitions and complaints. Of Levites, Shemaiah, a descendant of Bunni, with the members of his house; Shabbethai and Jozabad, "of the heads of the Levites over the outward business of the house of God," i.e., two heads of the Levites who had the care of the outward business of the temple, probably charged with the preservation of the building and furniture, and the office of seeing that all things necessary for the temple worship were duly delivered. The names Shabbethai and Jozabad have already occurred, Nehemiah 8:7, as those of two Levites, and are here also personal names of heads of Levites, as the addition הלויּם מראשׁי informs us. As the office of these two is stated, so also is that of those next following in Nehemiah 11:17; whence it appears that Shemaiah, of whom no such particular is given, was head of the Levites charged with attending on the priests at the sacrificial worship (the האלהים בּית מלאכת, Nehemiah 11:22). The three named in Nehemiah 11:17, Mattaniah an Asaphite, Bakbukiah, and Abda a Jeduthunite, are the chiefs of the three Levitical orders of singers. Mattaniah is called התּחלּה ראשׁ, head of the beginning, which gives no meaning; and should probably, as in the lxx and Vulgate, be read התּהלּה ראשׁ: head of the songs of praise, - he praised for who praised, i.e., sounded the Hodu for prayer; comp. 1 Chronicles 16:5, where Asaph is called the chief of the band of singers. He is followed by Bakbukiah as second, that is, leader of the second band (מאחיו משׁנה like משׁנהוּ, 1 Chronicles 16:5); and Abda the Jeduthunite, as leader of the third. All the Levites in the holy city, i.e., all who dwelt in Jerusalem, amounted to two hundred and eighty-four individuals or fathers of families. The number refers only to the three classes named Nehemiah 11:15-17. For the gatekeepers are separately numbered in Nehemiah 11:19 as one hundred and seventy-two, of the families of Akkub and Talmon.
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