The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
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,Nehemiah 7
[Measures were taken (1-4) for the security of the city, now made a complete fortress. The comparative thinness of the population taxed the governor's resources, and the result appears at a later stage.]
1. Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors [comp. Nehemiah 6:1], and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed [placed in charge, probably over the walls. Bishop Ellicott's Commentary says: This was an extraordinary provision, to be explained by the fact that these organised bodies formed a large portion of the inhabitants. The Levites had usually guarded only the Temple].
2. That I gave my brother Hanani [who probably had returned from Susa (see Nehemiah 1:2)], and Hananiah the ruler of the palace [commander of the fortress], charge over Jerusalem: for he [Hananiah] was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
3. And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot [an unusual precaution. The ordinary practice in the East is to open town gates at sunrise]; 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.
4. Now the city was large and great [Hi. broad on both sides]: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
5. ¶ 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,...
[It is argued by some that the entire catalogue which follows (7-73) is not the register of them "which came up at the first," but of the Jewish people in Nehemiah's time; that it stands in Nehemiah in its right place; and that it has been improperly transferred to Ezra 2. The genealogical reckoning of the people, as the first step towards increasing the population of the metropolis,, is determined on, not without express divine suggestion; the allusion to this inspiration from God is, as in chap. Ezra 2:12, very emphatic]
63. ¶ 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 [see 2Samuel 17:27; 2Samuel 19:31-39] to wife, and was called after their name.
64. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted [Heb. they were polluted from the priesthood], put from the priesthood.
65. And the Tirshatha [or, governor] said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things [i.e. have their share of the offerings, on which the priests subsisted (see Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 2:10; Leviticus 22:4, Leviticus 22:10)], till there stood up a priest with Urim [Exodus 28:30] and Thummim.
66. ¶ The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,
67. 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.
68. Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five:
69. Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses.
70. ¶ And some [Heb. part] 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.
71. 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.
72. 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.
73. So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims [sacred slaves "given" to the Levites to assist them in their work], and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
Almighty God, do thou open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law. The law of the Lord is perfect, enlightening the eyes, and guiding the simple, and comforting the soul, and making heaven on earth. O that we knew thy law, and hearkened unto thy precepts, and made thy statutes our song in the house of our pilgrimage! We would now pray thee for the spirit of truth—the fearless, noble, upright spirit—that we may daily make inquest for truth, and inquire the way to the palaces of wisdom, and discover the dwelling-place of understanding. We would seek for wisdom as men seek for silver and dig for gold; we would go after understanding until we find it. We have seen somewhat of the value of wisdom: the fear of the Lord is the beginning thereof, the continuance thereof, and the end thereof. May we fear God with a whole heart; may we know the highest fear, the reverence of love; may we see so clearly the holiness of God that we may tremble before it, and then see so vividly the mercy of God that we may take heart again and venture to pray.
Here we are in the battle, here we are thrown into relationships we can neither understand nor control; here we are the subjects and sometimes the victims of cruel or startling surprises, but in God's eternity, we shall find the key, the light, the explanation, and shall say, Thou hast done all things well. The lion was one of our teachers, the wolf was set in our path to keep us right: if thou didst bite us with the gnawing tooth of hunger, it was that we might cry out for the living bread; and if thou didst enclose us in the wilderness too large for a home, too bleak for summer, it was that we might feel our hearts going out towards our Father, and his house, and all the sanctuary of his presence. Thou hast done all things well. The death was right, and the birth, and the glad wedding, and the stress and fury and torment of unexpected conflict: thou hast done all things well. We had planned life otherwise; it was to be a wedding feast from beginning to end; we were to live within the sound of music; we were to know nought of darkness or frown or trouble: but thou hast done all things well. We would not now part with the little grave or with the tomb where old age lies, consecrating the earth with another touch of sanctity; we would not be without the wound, the scar, the brand, the stigma, all these we now see are part of thy gift, and a method of thine in the instruction of the world: thou hast done all things well.
We bless thee for thy book: it is all books in one; there is nothing outside of it that can claim the name of truth and beauty, loveliness and purity, that is not to be found within its golden circle. May we search it, inquire into it, make it our familiar friend and counsellor. Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates therein day and night; he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water; to him there shall be no drought, to him there shall be no sere leaf; he shall bear fruit, and always shall be beautiful because of God's benediction. The ungodly are not so; they have no book; they are the victims of their own passions and fancies; they are driven away like chaff before the wind. Establish us in truth. Thy word is truth: Son of God, expound it to us; Holy Spirit take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us. O thou who didst walk with sad-hearted men to Emmaus, join us on our pilgrimages, and beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, expound unto us the things concerning thyself; and we shall know the speaker by the glowing love that burns in our hearts. Amen.