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Nehemiah - Chapter 11
People of Jerusalem, Verses 1-19
Nehemiah 11 is the sequel to chapter 7. When the wall of Jerusalem was finished Nehemiah began to take note of its sparsity of settlement and lack of restored dwellings (Nehemiah 7:4). To remedy this he seems to have hit upon the plan put into action here in chapter 11. The initial step is recorded in chapter 7, where the genealogical lists are consulted, evidently to ascertain the proportion of each repatriated family to the total population. Verse 1 of chapter 11 states that the leaders of Judah lived inside Jerusalem, but implies they were the only ones. The intent was to remove one in ten of all the people in the outlying towns and cities into Jerusalem. They would cast lots to determine who should be moved. However there were some who volunteered to move their residence into Jerusalem, and they received the blessing of the rest of the people. Evidently they all saw the need of repopulating the city, but most did not wish to move.
There follows through verse 19 the enumeration of the families who already were resident in Jerusalem at the time. They are divided by tribal families, or in the case of, the Levites, temple duties. They are called heads of the provinces, or of the particular area of service, or tribal division. These lived on their own property inside Jerusalem, and are divided into Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants (or Nethinim), and Solomon’s servants (or descendants of his servants).
Those who traced their lineage back to the patriarch Judah are first named (verses 4-6). These are also called the sons of Perez, who was the leading son of Judah and ancestor of David. They numbered four hundred sixty-eight. The sons of Benjamin are listed in verses 6-7 and numbered nine hundred twenty-eight (Jerusalem had been in the allotment of the tribe of Benjamin, which may account for the larger number of Benjamites already living there). A man named Joel was overseer of the "Israelites," and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second in command. It is not clear to which tribe they belonged.
The priests are sub-divided into three groups (verses 10-14). Of those who ministered in the temple there were eight hundred twenty-two. Other priestly leaders were two hundred forty-two, and there were one hundred twenty-eight called valiant warriors. The Levites are enumerated in verses 15-19 and include those in charge of the outside work of the temple and the leaders of the singing. They numbered two hundred eighty-four. The porters (or gatekeepers) were numbered separately, one hundred seventy-two. All of the people living in Jerusalem before the relocation of the tenth chosen by lot, as enumerated here, came to three thousand and forty-four.
People Outside Jerusalem, Verses 20-36
The record continues to state that the remainder of the people, of every group were living throughout the cities of Judah in their inheritances. Then it gives an exception, the Nethinim who lived in the Ophel. The Nethinim ("-im" is the Hebrew plural, the English "s" on the word is superfluous) were the temple servants. These people were descendants of many centuries of captives taken by the Israelites and dedicated to temple service. The Gibeonites are a notable example (Joshua 9:23; Joshua 9:27). The Ophel was also known as the city of David, and occupied the southeastern sector of Jerusalem.
Verses 22-24 tell of regulations concerning the singers in the temple service. One of the Asaphites, the family which had been leaders in music and singing in temple services from the time of David, was the overseer of the Levites who lived in Jerusalem and served in the temple. The Persian king had given special commandment concerning the singers concerning their support. He had given a strict commandment that they were to be provided for, and one of the chief men of Judah was given the responsibility as the king’s representative to see that they got what was commanded.
Verses 25-30 list eighteen cities and areas outside Jerusalem in which descendants of the tribe of Judah settled on their return from Babylon. Most of these had satellite villages tributary to them, counting the fields in between as part of them also. A number of these are known from earlier times, before the exile. Kirjath7arba is better known as Hebron, its Israelite name. Beer-sheba was the southernmost city of Israel. The expression, "From Dan to Beer-sheba," meant from one end of Israel to the other. Ziklag was the city awarded David by the Philistines when he fled from Saul and sought refuge among them.
Adullam was the site of the famous cave where David hid from Saul and also where he made his defensive base against the Philistines on an occasion. Lachish was one of the largest and strongest cities of Judah outside Jerusalem and one of the last to hold out against both the Assyrian and Babylonian invaders. Others are prominently mentioned in the Old Testament but have no special event to remember them by.
Verses 31-36 list the cities and environs peopled by the Benjamites. These number sixteen. Of these Michmash is the site of the famous pass where Jonathan and his armorbearer defeated a force of Philistines single-handedly. Aija is the same as Ai, the place where Joshua and Israel suffered a humiliating defeat during the conquest because they did not seek the counsel of the Lord. Bethel was a very famous place in the history of Israel. It was the center of calf worship in the northern kingdom after the death of Solomon. Anathoth was a priest city very near Jerusalem, the home of the prophet Jeremiah. Nob, another priest city was the site of Saul’s slaughter of the priests because the high priest had befriended the fugitive David. Ramah was the birthplace and residence of the prophet Samuel. In addition the Levites were awarded places in Judah and Benjamin.
Learn from this chapter that 1) Volunteers in the Lord’s work receive the special blessing; 2) the residence of God’s people in their own communities was common in Bible times; 3) the Lord’s special servants are due extra consideration; 4) those who returned from the captivity scattered all over the former kingdom of Judah.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Nehemiah 11". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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