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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Nehemiah 7

Verse 1

Introduction

After the opposition in the previous chapter, this chapter is a relief. We see people here who, instead of hindering the building of the wall, willingly help to complete the building of the wall.

The wall is finished, but the vigilance must not slacken. It is about “having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). When the greatest effort has been made, the greatest danger is that things will still go wrong. Joshua also experienced this after the destruction of Jericho (John 7:2-Deuteronomy :). The power of the enemy is then underestimated.

Doors, Gatekeepers, Singers and Levites

Doors

The wall is ready, but the work isn’t. Carelessness is a trap Nehemiah doesn’t walk into. He does not underestimate the power of the enemy. However, his knowledge of the enemy does not lead him to close the wall hermetically. He places doors in it, openings through which one can enter and leave the city. The city of God is a city characterized by freedom. This does not mean that freedom knows no borders. Real freedom is always enjoyed only if one knows and respects the borders that go with it.

Gatekeepers

The fact that there are doors doesn’t mean that just anyone can walk in and out. Pretending that no evil can enter the city is ignoring the existence of evil. Carelessness is not proof of piety, but of stupidity. That’s why Nehemiah appoints gatekeepers in the first place. Their task is to ensure that only those people who belong there enter the city.

In a spiritual sense, gatekeepers represent believers who have a special task in the church to see to it that only those people are received as members of the church who actually are and behave as such. They will enter into conversation with unknown persons who visit the local church. In this way they will be able to ‘taste’ what motivates those persons to come.

In the New Testament church ‘gatekeepers’ are not appointed. We recognize them in brothers who want to carry out this task for the Lord and who have received the ability to do so from Him. We find a “profile” in 1 Timothy 3 (1 Timothy 3:1-Judges :). There they speak of ‘overseers’, which means the same category as ‘elders’. We also see this in Acts 20 where there is talk of ‘elders’ (Acts 20:17), while the same group of persons further on is addressed with ‘overseers’ (Acts 20:28; cf. Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7).

Singers

Then Nehemiah appoints singers. Singers give the Lord what is due to Him. The spirit of praise is the spirit of power. A church that rejoices is one where God can work freely and which will become a channel of blessing for others.

What is limited to a special group in Israel, in Christendom basically applies to every Christian (Ephesians 5:19-Proverbs :; Colossians 3:16). There is no such thing in Scripture as a worship leader as a separate person or a worship team as a separate group within the whole of the local church. The Lord Jesus leads worship (Hebrews 2:12).

The singers praise Him for His goodness and honor Him for Who He is (1 Chronicles 9:33). This is the wonderful task that can be performed in the church by all the redeemed. It is the work of heaven (Revelation 5:8-2 Chronicles :), which may start already on earth (Luke 24:52-2 Thessalonians :; 1 Corinthians 14:26). In practical terms, believers can encourage one another to actually do that task. The singers are called after the gatekeepers, for if they are not vigilant, sin easily enters and worship is lost.

Levites

Then we see a third group, the Levites. Their task is to help the priests to sacrifice and teach the law to the people. They are service providers. Again, in Israel this is a special group, in the church it is every believer. Each has the responsibility with his or her specific gift to serve the other. There must be room for this in the church (Proverbs 18:16). If one’s ministry does not get that space, it may be because of the condition of the church or the performance of a Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-2 Samuel :). It may also be due to the fact that a person presumes a gift (Proverbs 25:14).

Every service among believers should be aimed at performing our priestly service more and more as God intended. Increasing knowledge and understanding of His thoughts about the Lord Jesus will have the effect that we will increase in our worship. We will do this more often and with more insight.

Verse 2

Task for Hanani and Hananiah

Nehemiah knows only too well that now that the wall is finished, the enemy is not eliminated. The enemy will always look for new methods to get into the city and destroy it. Here Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, is mentioned again. We also have met him in the beginning of this book (Nehemiah 1:2). Possibly Nehemiah has other brothers, but he has a special bond with this one. It is a great thing to have as brothers not only the same parents, but also the same goal: to serve God and the Lord Jesus. There are more brothers in the Bible who have been used together by the Lord. Just think of Moses and Aaron, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, John and James.

Hanani, together with others, has told about the situation in and around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3). This will not only have been a factual report, but above all an emotional one. In it he showed his faithfulness and love for the land and city of God. That love is also shown by the fact that he went back to Jerusalem with Nehemiah. He devoted himself to the restoration of the wall. Now it is so far that the wall has been restored. Then his brother gives him the care of opening the gates of Jerusalem at the right time. He who bears suffering can also bear the care.

Nehemiah did not appoint his brother because he is his brother. That would have been wrong. It would have meant, as it were, the honey in the meat offering, which is forbidden (Leviticus 2:11). Nevertheless, kinship should not be an obstacle if there are clearly spiritual qualities present.

Hanani does not have to carry out the task alone. He may do this together with Hananiah. Some particularly beautiful characteristics of Hananiah are mentioned (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-Judges :). As “commander of the fortress” he stands above others. However, he does not abuse this important position in favor of himself. He does not stand above other people only because of his position. The Spirit also mentions of this man that he is “a faithful man” and that he “feared God more than many”. In Hananiah we find a rare combination of a high position and high moral qualities. This man lives, as it were, in the light of Christ’s judgment seat. What will become public there will be no different from what can already be witnessed of him now.

Working with such a man should be seen as a special favor of God. That favor is Hananiah’s. Paul also rejoices over a collaborator like Timothy (Philippians 2:19-Ecclesiastes :; cf. Exodus 18:21).

Verse 3

Instructions for Hanani and Hananiah

Nehemiah does not leave it to the imagination of Hanani and Hananiah when they have to open the gates. The gates should not be opened “until the sun is hot”, i.e. only when it is full day. Every trace of darkness must have disappeared and everything must be placed brightly in the light before anyone can be allowed into the city of God.

This is an important clue for accepting someone who wants to be part of a local church and express this by participating in the Supper. We live in a time of confusion and ambiguity about many things in the Bible as a result of the erosion of the Biblical truths. Before someone can be accepted to be part of the local church, it has to be clear that someone complies with the biblical principles for this. Those principles are:

1. A person must be a believer who has the assurance of the forgiveness of his or her sins and is thus sealed with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:1-Numbers :; Ephesians 1:13). Such a person is a member of the body of Christ and only members of the body of Christ can express its unity.

2. Not everything has been said with the preceding point. God’s Word gives reasons why a believer is excluded from taking part in the Lord’s Supper celebrated at the Lord’s Table. This is the case when a person allows sin into his life and does not condemn it. That sin may consist of a sinful walk of life (1 Corinthians 5:1). That sin can also consist of a wrong doctrine regarding the Lord Jesus and His work (2 John 1:9; Galatians 5:7-2 Samuel :).

3. There is one more thing that is important. Even if a person does not allow the sins just mentioned in his own life, he can still find himself in a fellowship of believers where those sins are allowed. If no discipline is exercised over sin in the fellowship to which this believer belongs, God sees that fellowship as a whole that has been affected by the leaven (2 John 1:10-1 Kings :). The command “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:13) is not listened to. In that situation, the precept applies: “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2 Timothy 2:19).

If the whole is affected by the leaven, it is impossible for a believer to keep himself clean from it. All those who are there the Lord considers as connected with the unjudged sin and therefore unfit to celebrate the Supper at His Table. No form of sin can be connected with the Name of the Lord.

Divine care must be given to the new birth of someone who wishes to take part in the Supper. This also applies to the doctrine and associations that such a person has. If this care is lacking, the pure and holy nature of a congregation of believers gathered together in the Name of the Lord Jesus will soon be over. The separation from the evil of the (Christian) world will not be maintained if people are given free access and no care is given. Hence the need for the service of the gatekeeper. This does not mean that they have to act as inquisitors. It is about fellowship. It cannot be experienced with confidence and in unity if there is no examination.

It is necessary to be perfectly clear about one’s acceptance of the Bible as the infallible Word of God and about the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, the incarnate Word. The Lord will certainly give the desired clarity by means of a conversation that is held in openness, mutual trust and in dependence on Him.

It is important that “each” is “at his post”. Each member of the people has his or her own task. It must also be carried out in the place designated for it (2 Corinthians 10:13-Ezra :). Those who are charged with a special care for what goes in and out of the city of God, an image of the local church, should focus on that and not on other things. For these other things the Lord has called others.

Guarding the wall belongs to the task of everyone who lives in the city of God. The guards are ordinary members of the people. Vigilance is required for every member of God’s people, not only for those who have special care for the flock. All together they are responsible for the safety of the city. Security is best ensured when each person occupies his or her post in connection with his or her own home. There the first concern is that there will be no intruders. Whoever keeps evil out of his house, keeps it out of the city. The whole city is what the inhabitants together make of it.

The condition of the local church is simply the condition of all who are part of it. If no discipline is enforced in the families, it will not be enforced in the church either.

Verse 4

A Large City With Few People

After the wall Nehemiah took care of the people. After all, a wall is of no use if there are no people within it to protect. Considering the size of the wall, many people can live in it. The city is large and spacious. Yet few people live there and there is also a great scarcity of houses.

A local church should be “large and spacious”, it should accommodate all those who belong to God’s people. It is possible that in practice only few people actually want to ‘live’ there. A church is limited and small when sectarianism is found, when people are excluded who want to live there and meet the conditions to do so.

The city must be inhabited by families in houses. Every family who wants to live in the city is allowed to build their own house there, their own way of living with God, and experience what He gives. The different ways of living and experiencing will not conflict with each other, but complement each other. They will not conflict with each other if each family adheres to the standards that apply to life in the city of God. God has laid down those norms in His Word.

Verses 5-7

The Genealogy

Nehemiah observes the lack of inhabitants. In Nehemiah 11, which follows Nehemiah 7:4 of this chapter, we will see that there will come more inhabitants. Before that happens, some other things will happen. It starts with a register of the Jews who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah before the building of the temple. Next comes the Word of God. It is read out and works in those who hear (Nehemiah 8-9). The result is a renewed devotion to God (Nehemiah 10). The result is that a number of Israelites voluntarily move into the city of God (Nehemiah 11).

The registration in the genealogy is not an invention of Nehemiah. God has put it into his heart. He speaks about “my God” because he has a personal and close relationship with Him. He knows God and knows what God wants, he understands His voice and knows His purpose.

The nobles, the officials, have the responsibility to give an accurate picture of the generation or the family for which they are responsible. They are expected to be able to indicate who belongs to which generation and where they live. In this way, their size and strength can become clear.

Nehemiah 7:6-Baruch : are almost word for word a repetition of Ezra 2:1-Tobit :. Through this enumeration, Nehemiah connects his work with that of the remnant that previously returned under Zerubbabel, about eighty years ago. He identifies himself with the work of the Spirit of God in that earlier period.

Many will already have died, but their works follow them, they are honored. They have begun the work. That made it possible for Nehemiah to finish it. So it is with much work that is permitted to be done for the Lord (John 4:37-Zechariah :).

To be able to live in the city one must be able to prove one’s genealogy. Through this register Nehemiah also finds out who used to live in Jerusalem. He can therefore encourage them to live there again. Such people may have forgotten their connection with Jerusalem through their stay in Babylon. Or maybe they don’t feel like living so close to God anymore. A little further away, more in touch with the people around you, is not as oppressive as being so close to God.

The register mentions different groups:

Verses 39-42

Priests

Verse 43

Levites

Verse 44

Singers

Verse 45

Gatekeepers

Verses 46-56

Temple Servants

Verses 57-60

Sons of Solomon’s Servants

Verses 61-65

Those Who Cannot Prove Their Ancestry

Here persons are mentioned who cannot prove that their family and offspring belong to Israel (Nehemiah 7:64). Mixing with the nations is the cause of them losing the certainty of their nationality. In the same way, dealing with the world today can cause believers to become insecure about their salvation. Maybe they still say it themselves, but for others there is no evidence of it anymore, because they have identified so much with the world. The result is also that few are interested in taking their place among the children of God who gather around Christ as their center.

‘Gatekeepers’ have a responsibility to ask for proof that people are what they say they are. If there is uncertainty about salvation, either that one doubts it or that others doubt it because of their relationship with the world, they must be considered “unclean [and excluded] from the priesthood” (Nehemiah 7:64). “They should not eat from the most holy things” (Nehemiah 7:65). For us this means that such persons cannot participate in the Supper.

All uncertainty comes to an end when the Lord Jesus comes. In Him the light – “Urim” means “lights” – and the perfection – “Thummim” means “perfection” – of God are present (Nehemiah 7:65).

Verses 66-69

Returning People and Animals

Verses 70-72

Contributions to the Work

Verse 73

Residents of the Cities – the Seventh Month

The seventh month has come. In that month three feasts are to be held. The first day of that month is, according to the precept, the day on which the Feast of the trumpet is to be held (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1). The day itself is a day of rest. Thus, the feasts of the seventh month begin with a day of rest, a day of reflection. That is always the start of something new. The starting signal is given by the trumpet, which is an image of the Word of God. When God’s Word is heard and entered into hearts and consciences, it humbles them, ceases their own efforts, and comes to rest.

With Israel, the month always begins with a new moon. On the fifteenth of the month, the beginning of the Feast of Booths, it is full moon. On that day, the moon, which receives its light from the sun, reflects the light of the sun. On the first day, nothing of this can be seen. This indicates in picture that the testimony of Israel is darkened. At the same time, it is also the turning point to the time when the moon begins to shine again.

From a spiritual point of view it will be a full moon for Israel when the church is raptured. The light that it will pass on again comes from God. God will deliver His people from their enemies (Psalms 81:4). It does not seem that Israel held the Feast of the trumpet at the beginning of this seventh month.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Nehemiah 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/nehemiah-7.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.