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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Nehemiah 12

Verses 1-26

B. The Residents of the Land 11:1-12:26

When the exiles returned to the Promised Land, living in Jerusalem was not an attractive prospect because the city lay in ruins. However, with the rebuilding of the temple and the walls, the capital became a more desirable place to live. Nehemiah as governor saw the wisdom of populating Jerusalem with pureblooded Jews and set about to encourage the people to live within the city walls. Most of this section of the book (Nehemiah 11:3 to Nehemiah 12:26) is a parenthetical interjection into the chronological progression of the narrative.

Verses 1-26

3. The priests and Levites 12:1-26

The priests and Levites were the most important people who returned from exile because they reestablished worship in the land. Nehemiah 12:1-7 give the names of 22 leaders among them who had returned in 537 B.C. with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:7-19). The writer also mentioned eight Levites by name (Nehemiah 12:8-9; cf. Ezra 2:40-42).

The genealogy of the high priest was especially important. Five succeeding descendants of Jeshua appear in the text (Nehemiah 12:10-11). [Note: On the complex problem of the identification of these high priests, see Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," pp. 580-83.] This list continues the one in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 that ends with the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.

The text also lists heads of 21 priestly families in the generation that followed Jeshua’s (Nehemiah 12:12-21). The names of the heads of the nine Levitical families that Nehemiah referred to in Nehemiah 12:22 appear in Nehemiah 12:24-26. The four high priests he mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22 evidently registered these names. Darius the Persian (Nehemiah 12:22) is probably Darius II (423-404 B.C.). [Note: Whitcomb, p. 443.] The "Book of the Chronicles" (Nehemiah 12:23) is not the canonical Book of Chronicles but another record of names. [Note: Vos, p. 129.]

Verses 27-30

1. Preparations for the dedication 12:27-30

Nehemiah enlisted Levites from all over Judah to guarantee that the dedication service would be properly grand. The people separated from uncleanness as they anticipated the sacrifices and worship that would take place.

Verses 27-47

C. The Dedication of the Wall 12:27-47

This portion of the book resumes the historical narrative in chronological order from Nehemiah 11:2 where it stopped. Probably the dedication took place soon after the covenant renewal ceremonies (chs. 8-10).

Verses 31-47

2. The dedication ceremonies 12:31-47

One large choir mounted the city wall and walked around it counterclockwise, evidently beginning at the Valley Gate (Nehemiah 12:31-37). Another choir mounted it, probably at the same place, and proceeded in a clockwise direction (Nehemiah 12:38-39). Both groups appear to have sung as they walked (Nehemiah 12:42). They met at the temple (Nehemiah 12:40-42). There the priests offered many sacrifices and the people rejoiced greatly (Nehemiah 12:43). This was the same wall that Tobiah had earlier claimed would be so weak that even a fox walking on it would break it down (Nehemiah 4:3)!

"The final consummation of Nehemiah’s work had been reached. The city was protected by a wall and could resist any attempt of the neighboring nations to attack it. This was one of the main reasons for the joy. The other was that the people had demonstrated that they could perform a major task as a unit, and this proved to be a great stimulus to their morale." [Note: Fensham, pp. 257-58.]

Nehemiah also reestablished the temple service as David had organized it (Nehemiah 12:44-47). He did for the second temple what David had done for the first temple.

This was the greatest day in the history of the restoration community. Israel was now back in the land more securely and scripturally than it had been since the first exiles had returned. Nehemiah had succeeded in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, reestablishing the Mosaic Law as Israel’s authority, and reorganizing the temple ministry in harmony with God’s will.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Nehemiah 12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/nehemiah-12.html. 2012.