Nehemiah 12:1
Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,
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(1-9) The priests and Levites of the First Return.

(1) Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra.—The first is the family name, represented by Jeshua. Of the two others we know nothing more than this record gives.

Nehemiah 12:1. Now these are the priests — The chief of the priests; the heads of those twenty-four courses which David appointed by divine direction, 1 Chronicles 24. And whereas there were twenty-four, and here but twenty- two, and Nehemiah 12:12, &c., only twenty, the reason of this difference may be because two of the twenty-four courses were extinct in Babylon, and two of the persons here named, (verse, 2-5,) Hattush and Maadiah, may be omitted in the account of the posterity of these, (Nehemiah 12:12, &c.,) because they had no posterity. Ezra — Either this was another Ezra, or, if it were the same mentioned Ezra 7., he lived to a great age; which may well be supposed, considering his great sobriety, and his great piety, to which God promised long life, and withal the special providence of God continuing him so long in such a season, wherein the church of God did greatly need his help and counsel.

12:1-26 It is a debt we owe to faithful ministers, to remember our guides, who have spoken to us the word of God. It is good to know what our godly predecessors were, that we may learn what we should be.The priests - The number of the names here given, which is 22, is probably to be connected with that of the Davidic "courses," which was 24 1 Chronicles 24:7-18. Eight names are identical with those of the heads in David's time. On comparing the present list with that of the families who sealed to Nehemiah's covenant Nehemiah 10:2-8, we shall find that the first sixteen recur in that document nearly in the same order; but that the last six are absent from it. It would seem that as these six declined to seal to Nehemiah's covenant, they were placed below the rest here in a sort of supplementary list. Note especially the "and" which connects the second part of the lists with the earlier part, both in Nehemiah 12:6 and in Nehemiah 12:19. CHAPTER 12

Ne 12:1-9. Priests and Levites Who Came Up with Zerubbabel.

1. these are the priests—according to Ne 12:7, "the chief of the priests," the heads of the twenty-four courses into which the priesthood was divided (1Ch 24:1-20). Only four of the courses returned from the captivity (Ne 7:39-42; Ezr 2:36-39). But these were divided by Zerubbabel, or Jeshua, into the original number of twenty-four. Twenty-two only are enumerated here, and no more than twenty in Ne 12:12-21. The discrepancy is due to the extremely probable circumstance that two of the twenty-four courses had become extinct in Babylon; for none belonging to them are reported as having returned (Ne 12:2-5). Hattush and Maadiah may be omitted in the account of those persons' families (Ne 12:12), for these had no sons.

Shealtiel—or Salathiel.

Ezra—This was most likely a different person from the pious and patriotic leader. If he were the same person, he would now have reached a very patriarchal age—and this longevity would doubtless be due to his eminent piety and temperance, which are greatly conducive to the prolongation of life, but, above all, to the special blessing of God, who had preserved and strengthened him for the accomplishment of the important work he was called upon to undertake in that critical period of the Church's history.The priests, Nehemiah 12:1-7, and Levites which came up with Zerubbabel, Nehemiah 12:8,9. The succession of high priests, Nehemiah 12:10-21. Certain chief Levites, Nehemiah 12:22-26. The manner of dedicating the wall, Nehemiah 12:27-43. The offices of priests and Levites, Nehemiah 12:44; of singers and porters, Nehemiah 12:45-47.

The priests, i.e. the chief of the priests, as they are called here, Nehemiah 12:7, to wit, the heads of those twenty-four courses which David appointed by Divine direction, 1 Chronicles 24. And whereas there are twenty-four, and here but twenty-two, and Nehemiah 12:12, &c. only twenty, the reason of this difference may possibly be this, because two of the twenty-four courses were extinct in Babylon, or at least none of them was then returned; and two of the persons here named, Nehemiah 12:2,5, to wit, Hattush and Mandish, may be omitted in the account of the posterity of these persons, Nehemiah 12:12, &c., because they had no posterity. Possibly these were not the same courses which David had appointed, but others which Zerubbabel and Joshua had constituted in imitation of that order as far as they could.

Ezra: either this was another Ezra, or if it were the same mentioned Ezra 7, he lived to a great age; which may well be supposed, considering his great sobriety, and abstinence from those evil practices which shorten men’s lives, and his great piety, to which God promised long life, and withal the special providence of God confirming him so long in such a season wherein the church of God did greatly need his help and counsel.

Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua,.... Who went up from the captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem with them; the one was the prince, the other the high priest, the same with Joshua the high priest, Zechariah 3:1, the names of the priests are given in this and the six following verses:

Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra; not Jeremiah the prophet, who cannot be thought to live so long as through the captivity; but Ezra may be Ezra the priest and scribe, who might come up with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, and return to Babylon again, and from thence come again as he did, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, Ezra 7:1, though this by some (m) is not thought very probable.

(m) Vid. Rainold de Lib. Apocryph. praelect. 153. p. 402, &c.

Now these are the priests and the Levites that {a} went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

(a) From Babylon to Jerusalem.

1. Now these … Jeshua] Cf. Ezra 2:1.

For the list beginning with Seraiah, see the parallel list of names in Nehemiah 10:3-9 and Nehemiah 12:12-21. The Ezra mentioned in this verse and Nehemiah 12:13 must not be confounded with ‘the Scribe:’ he appears in Nehemiah 10:3 as Azariah.

The following table gives a comparison of the three lists:

Nehemiah 10:3-9.

  Nehemiah 12:1-7.

  Nehemiah 12:12-21.

(1)  Seraiah



(2)  Azariah



(3)  Jeremiah



(4)  Pashhur



(5)  Amariah



(6)  Malchijah



(7)  Hattush



(8)  Shebaniah



(9)  Malluch



(10)  Harim



(11)  Meremoth



(12)  Obadiah



(13)  Daniel



(14)  Ginnethon



(15)  Baruch



(16)  Meshullam



(17)  Abijah

  and Joiarib


(18)  Mijamin



(19)  Maaziah



(20)  Bilgai



(21)  Shemaiah






We have, therefore, 22 priestly houses recorded, and there can be little doubt that the number 24 had been restored, but that two of the names have dropped out either in the course of transcription or in consequence of the defectiveness of the original lists. Of the four priestly houses who are mentioned in the lists of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 as having gone up out of the captivity with Zerubbabel, i.e. Jedaiah, Immer, Pashhur, Harim, we find here the names of (22) Jedaiah and (8) Rehum = Harim. Immer may possibly be concealed in the name of (4) Amariah. Pashhur has dropped out entirely. The opinion of some is that the similarity of names in these lists is accidental, and that the three lists give us the names of individuals living at three different periods, Nehemiah 12:1-7 in the days of Zerubbabel, Nehemiah 10:1-8 in the days of Eliashib, Nehemiah 12:12-21 in the days of Joiakim, which happen very often to resemble one another. But the improbability of this needs no demonstration.

Verse 1. - Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel. See the comment on Ezra 3:2. Jeshua. The high priest of Zerubbabel's time. Seraiah. Compare Nehemiah 11:11 with the comment on that place. The original Seraiah was the high priest murdered by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18-21). Jeremiah and Ezra, who gave name to the second and third course, must not be regarded as the prophet or the scribe so named, but as persons of whom nothing more is known to us. Nehemiah 12:1Nehemiah 12:1 contains the title of the first list, Nehemiah 12:1-9. "These are the priests and Levites who went up with Zerubbabel ... and Joshua;" comp. Ezra 2:1-2. Then follow, Nehemiah 12:1, the names of the priests, with the subscription: "These are the heads of the priests and of their brethren, in the days of Joshua." ואחיהם still depends on ראשׁי. The brethren of the priests are the Levites, as being their fellow-tribesmen and assistants. Two-and-twenty names of such heads are enumerated, and these reappear, with but slight variations attributable to clerical errors, as names of priestly houses in Nehemiah 12:12-21, where they are given in conjunction with the names of those priests who, in the days of Joiakim, either represented these houses, or occupied as heads the first position in them. The greater number, viz., 15, of these have already been mentioned as among those who, together with Nehemiah, sealed as heads of their respective houses the agreement to observe the law, Nehemiah 10. Hence the present chapter appears to be the most appropriate place for comparing with each other the several statements given in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, concerning the divisions or orders of priests in the period immediately following the return from the captivity, and for discussing the question how the heads and houses of priests enumerated in Nehemiah 10 and 12 stand related on the one hand to the list of the priestly races who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua, and on the other to the twenty-four orders of priests instituted by David. For the purpose of giving an intelligible answer to this question, we first place in juxtaposition the three lists given in Nehemiah, chs. 10 and 12.

Nehemiah 10:3-9 Nehemiah 12:1-7 Nehemiah 12:12-21 Priests who sealed the Covenant Priests who were Heads of their Houses Priestly Houses and their respective Heads 1. Seraiah 1. Seraiah* SeraiahMeraiah 2. Azariah 2. Jeremiah* Jeremiah Hananiah 3. Jeremiah 3. Ezra* Ezra Meshullam 4. Pashur 4. Amariah* Amariah Jehohanan 5. Amariah 5. Malluch* Meluchi Jonathan 6. Malchijah 6. Hattush* 7. Hattush 7. Shecaniah* Shebaniah Joseph 8. Shebaniah 8. Rehum* Harim Adna 9. Malluch 9. Meremoth* Meraioth Helkai 10. Harim 10. Iddo Idiah Zecariah 11. Meremoth 11. Ginnethon* Ginnethon Meshullam 12. Obadiah 12. Abijah* Abijah Zichri 13. Daniel 13. Miamin* Miniamin 14. Ginnethon 14. Maadiah* Moadiah Piltai 15. Baruch 15. Bilgah* Bilgah Shammua 16. Meshullam 16. Shemaiah* Shemaiah Jehonathan 17. Abijah 17. Joiarib Joiarib Mathnai 18. Mijamin 18. Jedaiah Jedaiah Uzzi 19. Maaziah 19. Sallu Sallai Kallai 20. Bilgai 20. Amok Amok Eber 21. Shemaiah 21. Hilkiah Hilkiah Hashabiah 22. Jedaiah 22. Jedaiah Nethaneel When, in the first place, we compare the two series in Nehemiah 12, we find the name of the head of the house of Minjamin, and the names both of the house and the head, Hattush, between Meluchi and Shebaniah, omitted. In other respects the two lists agree both in the order and number of the names, with the exception of unimportant variations in the names, as מלוּכי (Chethiv, Nehemiah 12:14) for מלּוּך (Nehemiah 12:2); שׁכניה (Nehemiah 12:3) for שׁבניה (Nehemiah 12:14, Nehemiah 10:6); רחם (Nehemiah 12:3), a transposition of חרם (Nehemiah 12:15, Nehemiah 10:6); מריות (Nehemiah 12:15) instead of מרמות (Nehemiah 12:3, Nehemiah 10:6); עדיא (Chethiv, Nehemiah 12:16) instead of עדּוא (Nehemiah 12:4); מיּמין (Nehemiah 12:5) for מנימין (Nehemiah 12:17); מועדיה (Nehemiah 12:17) for מעדיה (Nehemiah 12:4), or, according to a different pronunciation, מעזיה (Nehemiah 10:9); סלּי (Nehemiah 12:20) for סלּוּ (Nehemiah 12:7). - If we next compare the two lists in Nehemiah 12 with that in Nehemiah 10, we find that of the twenty-two names given (Nehemiah 12), the fifteen marked thus * occur also in Nehemiah 10; עזריה, Nehemiah 10:4, being evidently a clerical error, or another form of עזרא, Nehemiah 12:2, Nehemiah 12:13. Of the names enumerated in Nehemiah 10, Pashur, Malchiah, Obadiah, Daniel, Baruch, and Meshullam are wanting in Nehemiah 12, and are replaced by Iddo and the six last: Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. The name of Eliashib the high priest being also absent, Bertheau seeks to explain this difference by supposing that a portion of the priests refused their signatures because they did not concur in the strict measures of Ezra and Nehemiah. This conjecture would be conceivable, if we found in Nehemiah 10 that only thirteen orders or heads of priests had signed instead of twenty-two. Since, however, instead of the seven missing names, six others signed the covenant, this cannot be the reason for the difference between the names in the two documents (Nehemiah 10, 12), which is probably to be found in the time that elapsed between the making of these lists. The date of the list, Nehemiah 12:1-7, is that of Zerubbabel and Joshua (b.c. 536); that of the other in Nehemiah 12, the times of the high priest Joiakim the son of Joshua, i.e., at the earliest, the latter part of the reign of Darius Hystaspis, perhaps even the reign of Xerxes.

How, then, are the two lists in Nehemiah 12 and that in Nehemiah 10, agreeing as they do in names, related to the list of the priests who, according to Ezra 2:36-39 and Nehemiah 7:39-42, returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua? The traditional view, founded on the statements of the Talmud,

(Note: In Hieros. Taanith, f. 68a; Tosafta Taanith, c. 11, in Babyl. Erachin, f. 12b. The last statement is, according to Herzfeld, Gesch. i. p. 393, as follows: "Four divisions of priests returned from captivity, viz., Jedaiah, Charim, Paschur, and Immer. These the prophets of the returned captives again divided into twenty-four; whereupon their names were written upon tickets and put in an urn, from which Jedaiah drew five, and each of the other three before-named divisions as many: it was then ordained by those prophets, that even if the division Joiarib (probably the first division before the captivity) should return, Jedaiah should nevertheless retain his position, and Joiarib should be טפל לו (associated with him, belonging to him)." Comp. Bertheau on Neh. p. 230, and Oehler in Herzog's Realencycl. xii. p. 185, who, though refusing this tradition the value of independent historical testimony, still give it more weight than it deserves.)

is, that the four divisions given in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7, "the sons of Jedaiah, the sons of Immer, the sons of Pashur and Harim," were the priests of the four (Davidic) orders of Jedaiah, Immer, Malchijah, and Harim (the second, sixteenth, fifth, and third orders of 1 Chronicles 24). For the sake of restoring, according to the ancient institution, a greater number of priestly orders, the twenty-two orders enumerated in Nehemiah 12 were formed from these four divisions; and the full number of twenty-four was not immediately completed, only because, according to Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63., three families of priests who could not find their registers returned, as well as those before named, and room was therefore left for their insertion in the twenty-four orders: the first of these three families, viz., Habaiah, being probably identical with the eighth class, Abia; the second, Hakkoz, with the seventh class of the same name. See Oehler's before-cited work. p. 184f. But this view is decidedly erroneous, and the error lies in the identification of the four races of Ezra 2:36, on account of the similarity of the names Jedaiah, Immer, and Harim, with those of the second, sixteenth, and third classes of the Davidic division, - thus regarding priestly races as Davidic priestly classes, through mere similarity of name, without reflecting that even the number 4487, given in Ezra 2:36., is incompatible with this assumption. For if these four races were only four orders of priests, each order must have numbered about 1120 males, and the twenty-four orders of the priesthood before the captivity would have yielded the colossal sum of from 24,000 to 26,000 priests. It is true that we have no statement of the numbers of the priesthood; but if the numbering of the Levites in David's times gave the amount of 38,000 males, the priests of that time could at the most have been 3800, and each of the twenty-four orders would have included in all 150 persons, or at most seventy-five priests of the proper age for officiating. Now, if this number had doubled in the interval of time extending to the close of the captivity, the 4487 who returned with Zerubbabel would have formed more than half of the whole number of priests then living, and not merely the amount of four classes. Hence we cannot but regard Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, and Harim, of Ezra 2:36, as names not of priestly orders, but of great priestly races, and explain the occurrence of three of these names as those of certain of the orders of priests formed by David, by the consideration, that the Davidic orders were names after heads of priestly families of the days of David, and that several of these heads, according to the custom of bestowing upon sons, grandsons, etc., the names of renowned ancestors, bore the names of the founders and heads of the greater races and houses. The classification of the priests in Ezra 2:36. is genealogical, i.e., it follows not the division into orders made by David for the service of the temple, but the genealogical ramification into races and houses. The sons of Jedaiah, Immer, etc., are not the priests belonging to the official orders of Jedaiah, Immer, etc., but the priestly races descended from Jedaiah, etc. The four races (mentioned Ezra 2:36, etc.), each of which averaged upwards of 1000 men, were, as appears from Nehemiah 12:1-7 and Nehemiah 12:12, divided into twenty-two houses. From this number of houses, it was easy to restore the old division into twenty-four official orders. That it was not, however, considered necessary to make this artificial restoration of the twenty-four classes immediately, is seen from the circumstances that both under Joiakim, i.e., a generation after Zerubbabel's return (Nehemiah 12:12-21), only twenty-two houses are enumerated, and under Nehemiah, i.e., after Ezra's return (in Nehemiah 10), only twenty-one heads of priestly houses sealed the document. Whether, and how the full number of twenty-four was completed, cannot, for want of information, be determined. The statement of Joseph. Ant. vii. 14. 7, that David's division into orders continues to this day, affords no sufficient testimony to the fact.

According, then, to what has been said, the difference between the names in the two lists of Nehemiah 10 and 12 is to be explained simply by the fact, that the names of those who sealed the covenant, Nehemiah 10, are names neither of orders nor houses, but of heads of houses living in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Of these names, a portion coincides indeed with the names of the orders and houses, while the rest are different. The coincidence or sameness of the names does not, however, prove that the individuals belonged to the house whose name they bore. On the contrary, it appears from Nehemiah 12:13 and Nehemiah 12:16, that of two Meshullams, one was the head of the house of Ezra, the other of the house of Ginnethon; and hence, in Nehemiah 10, Amariah may have belonged to the house of Malluch, Hattush to the house of Shebaniah, Malluch to the house of Meremoth, etc. In this manner, both the variation and coincidence of the names in Nehemiah 10 and 12 may be easily explained; the only remaining difficulty being, that in Nehemiah 10 only twenty-one, not twenty-two, heads of houses are said to have sealed. This discrepancy seems, indeed, to have arisen from the omission of a name in transcription. For the other possible explanation, viz., that in the interval between Joiakim and Nehemiah, the contemporary of Eliashib, one house had died out, is very far-fetched.

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