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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 10

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

Verse 1

The Names Of The Leaders Of Families Who Sealed The Sure Agreement (Nehemiah 10:1-27 ).

Nehemiah 10:1

‘Now those who sealed were:’

Literally ‘on the seal were --.’ The names are now given of the family heads who sealed the agreement. As we would expect the name of the Governor came first.

Nehemiah 10:1 b

The Governor (Nehemiah 10:1 b).

Nehemiah 10:1

‘ Nehemiah the governor (tirshatha), the son of Hacaliah,’

Nehemiah is named as the Tirshatha, a Persian title used of him elsewhere in this book (Nehemiah 8:9). It is used, probably of Sheshbazzar, in Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70 and in Ezra 2:63. Unusually for the list, where patronyms are not given, his father’s name is given, but that was probably because he used the name with pride, and saw it as a matter of honour. It is the name by which he was identified when the book was introduced. It denoted his high status (Nehemiah 1:1).

Nehemiah 10:1

‘And Zidkijah.’ This may have been the name of Nehemiah’s Scribe, or of his Deputy Governor. Compare Ezra 4:17; Ezra 4:23; Ezra 6:13 where the chancellor’s scribe is referred to along with the chancellor. Alternately he could be the first of the priestly families, but this would go contrary to the parallel lists.

Verses 1-39

The Reading And Explaining To The People Of The Law Of Moses And A Review Of Their Past History, Leads To Them Establishing A Renewal Of Their Covenant With God (Nehemiah 8:1 to Nehemiah 10:39 ).

Regardless of sources of which we cannot be sure, there can be no doubt that this whole section emphasises covenant renewal. The wall being built, this led on to a special renewing of the covenant.

· It commences with the reading aloud and explaining of the Law, which has a deep effect on the people and results in a new obedience to the Law (chapter 8).

· This is followed by a review of Israel’s past history before God, as they pray to Him acknowledging His covenant faithfulness (chapter 9).

· We then have the signing of a covenant by the leaders of the people, which is explained in detailed terms chapter 10, and is based on the teaching of the Law, as the people through their leaders solemnly confirm the covenant.

All these were an essential part of covenant renewal, emphasising that the people knew exactly the grounds on which they were responding to the covenant. It was on the basis of God’s renewed Law; it was based on prayerful consideration of what God had done for them throughout history in faithfulness to His covenant; and it made demands on them in accordance with that Law.

Verses 2-8

The Priestly Families (Nehemiah 10:2-8 ).

Following the governor were named the priestly families, who would clearly be important in anything involving an agreement with God. It was they who represented Israel before God.

One problem we have in comparing these names with those used elsewhere is firstly that some of those who sealed the agreement may well have been using the family name, and secondly that at that time names were passed down in families by custom from grandfather to grandson. We can compare how the names given to the priestly houses in the time of Zerubbabel and Joshua over fifty years previously (Nehemiah 12:1-7) included names such as Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra (Azariah), Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah (Shebaniah), Rehum ( Harim), Meremoth, Ginnethol (Ginnethon), Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah (Maaziah), Bilgah (Bilgai), and Shemaiah. It will be noted that these are paralleled below. Hattush and Harim were also the names of priestly families which arrived with Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7:41-42; Ezra 2:38-39). But as some of those below would have sealed in the family name this is not as surprising as it might at first appear. Indeed, they may well have taken the family name on becoming head of the family. Others may have followed the custom at the time of being named after their grandfathers. Compare how the names reoccur in the list of fathers in the generation after the return (Nehemiah 12:12-21). The fact that Ezra is missing from the list is explained in terms of the fact that he was a son of Seraiah (Ezra 7:1), the latter sealing on behalf of the family. Unique to the list here are Passhur, Malchijah (see Nehemiah 3:11; Nehemiah 3:14; Nehemiah 3:31), Obadiah, Daniel, Baruch and Meshullam (see Nehemiah 3:4; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 3:30). But Daniel (of the sons of Ithamar) was a leading priest in Ezra’s expedition (Ezra 8:2)

The names of the priestly families are now given:

Nehemiah 10:2

‘Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 10:3 ‘Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah,’ 10:4 ‘Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,’ 105 ‘Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,’ 10:6 ‘Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,’ 10:7 ‘Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,’ 10:8a Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah;’

Nehemiah 10:8

‘These were the priests.’

It is unusual in these lists to find the explanation for those listed following their names. Elsewhere it is prior to the giving of their names (Nehemiah 7:39; Nehemiah 12:1; Nehemiah 12:12). But this may well have been done deliberately here because the writer wants to see them as sharing equal authority with the governor and his scribe, in view of the nature of the document. It is an agreement with God through His representatives. And indeed was probably prepared by the priests as the religious experts. To have headed them with ‘these were the priests’ would have relegated them rather to rank with those who followed, and separated them off from Nehemiah’s authority and from their prime part in the agreement. We can also compare how Jeshua, the High Priest, is named with others alongside Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7:7).

Verses 9-13

The Names Of The Leading Levites Who Sealed The Agreement (Nehemiah 10:9-13 ).

Nehemiah 10:9

‘And the Levites:’

Next come the names of the leading Levites. But they were much more involved with the people than the priests (as chapter 9 has made clear). Thus their heading comes prior to their names.

Nehemiah 10:9

‘Namely, Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel;’

The three chief Levites are named first. Compare for these names Nehemiah 8:7, where these three also come first, and Nehemiah 12:8 which makes clear that they are family names (for that three came with Zerubbabel).

They are then followed by ‘their brothers’.

Nehemiah 10:10

‘And their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,’ 10:11 ‘Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,’ 10:12 ‘Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,’ 10:13 ‘Hodiah, Bani, Beninu.’

Note how six of these are named among the Levites involved in the expounding of the Law in chapter Nehemiah 8:7, namely Jeshua, Bani (Binnui), Sherebiah, Hodiah (Hodijah), Kelita, Hanan (Hanin). Furthermore a Sherebiah was a prominent Levite member of Ezra’s expedition (Ezra 8:18). The repetition of names such as Shebaniah and Hodiah is an indication of how common such names were, especially among the Levites.

Verses 14-27

The Chiefs Of The People (Nehemiah 10:14-27 ).

Nehemiah 10:14

‘The chiefs of the people:’

Nehemiah 10:14

‘ Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,’ 10:15 ‘Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,’ 10:16 ‘Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,’ 10:17 ‘Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,’ 10:18 ‘Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,’ 10:19 ‘Hariph, Anathoth, Nobai,’ 10:20 ‘Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,’ 10:21 ‘Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,’ 10:22 ‘Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,’ 10:23 ‘Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,’ 10:24 ‘Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,’ 10:25 ‘Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,’ 10:26 ‘And Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,’ 10:27 ‘Malluch, Harim, Baanah.’

Of these names thirteen are found in the list of clans of returnees with Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel in chapter 7 (Ezra 2:0). These names therefore include the leaders of those clans. The remainder would be leaders of sub-clans into which the unmentioned clans of returnees were divided, or clans which had arrived subsequently, or leading city elders.

Verses 28-29

The Remainder Of The People, Both Male And Female, The Priests, The Levites, The Temple Servants, New Converts To Yahwism, And The Children At An Age Of Understanding, All Enter Into The Solemn Agreement (Nehemiah 10:28-29 a).

So serious was the intent that the whole of the people solemnly subscribed to the agreement under oath.

Nehemiah 10:28-29

‘And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one who had knowledge, and understanding, they clove to their brothers, their nobles,’

The list of those who subscribed is comprehensive. It included the remainder of the adult males, of the priest, of the Levites, of the gate-keepers, of the singers, of the Nethinim (the Temple servants), and of all who since they had returned to the land had united with them in the pure worship of YHWH in accordance with His Law from among the peoples of the lands (compare Ezra 6:21), together with their wives, sons and daughters, including all of an age to understand. No one was omitted. They stood firm with their leaders in the agreement.

Verses 29-39

The Details of The Agreement (Nehemiah 10:29-39 ).

Throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah certain particular contemporary issues stand out. These include the taking of idolatrous foreign wives (Nehemiah 13:23-27; Ezra 9-10), the failure to strictly observe the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22), and the exaction of debt from the poor (Nehemiah 5:1-13). In the prophecy of Malachi (roughly contemporary) the bringing in of the tithes is also emphasised (Malachi 3:7-12). Added to these was a requirement to maintain the cult (which was also of great concern to the Persian kings who wanted the gods on their side). That is why these were the main things which were dealt with here, although in the context of the whole Law.

Nehemiah 10:29

‘And they entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of YHWH our Lord, and his ordinances and his statutes,’

By entering into a solemn agreement with YHWH they knew that they were bringing themselves under the curses of Deuteronomy 27-28, which were a curse on all who did not ‘confirm the words of the Law to do them’ (Deuteronomy 27:26). That was the negative side. On the positive side they swore by an oath that they would walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and that they would observe and do all the commandments, ordinances and statutes of YHWH their Lord. These were precisely what their fathers had been guilty of not doing (Nehemiah 9:16; Nehemiah 9:29; Nehemiah 9:34). As what follows makes clear, they saw as central to the statutes and ordinances those which related to the maintenance of their worship. The reading of the Law had seemingly brought home to them how neglectful they had been. We too should remember that whatever we get ‘involved in’, the worship of God must always remain central.

For ‘observing and doing’ compare Deuteronomy 5:1, which related to the ten commandments, and Deuteronomy 5:32; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 6:24-25; Deuteronomy 8:1, etc. which related to all God’s commands. For ‘walking in God’s Law’ compare Exodus 16:4; and for the equivalent ‘walking in God’s ways’ see Exodus 16:20; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 30:16; Joshua 22:5; Judges 2:22. Thus they were swearing on oath that they would do away with the sins of the past.

Nehemiah 10:30

‘And that we would not give our daughters to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons,’

This command originally related to the Canaanites and their like in the land. See Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4; Ezra 9:1-2; Ezra 9:12. The stated point was that the Canaanites and their like would drag them down into idolatry. Here it is being more widely applied to all the inhabitants of the land who were not true worshippers of YHWH, and this would include many syncretistic Jews. The ‘peoples of the land’ were all those who did not conform to the pure worship of YHWH. And the point was that they too would drag them down into idolatry. It was not a question of race, for men of most races could quickly become Israelites by submitting to YHWH (Exodus 12:48). It was a question of involvement in idolatry and false religious principles.

Compare how the same principle was applied to the people of Benjamin when they sinned grievously (Judges 21:7; Judges 21:18). Apart from the last example, the point in all the above verses was that, being involved in idolatry, the idolatrous wives and husbands would drag their husbands and wives down with them, as Ezra emphasises in Ezra 9:1-2 (and as had happened to Solomon long before). This is a good example of the way in which the Law was being modified to suit the circumstances while still following the principles of the Law. It was no longer restricted to the Canaanites etc. It had been widened to refer to all ‘the peoples of the land’ who indulged in syncretism and idolatry.

We should recognise that there was a great temptation to become involved with the peoples of the land, for they were often wealthy and influential. But to become involved with them was to become involved with idolatry. In the same way Christians are warned, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Nehemiah 10:31

‘And if the peoples of the land bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy of them on the sabbath, or on a holy day.’

Since Exodus 16:0 onwards doing any servile work on the Sabbath day had been forbidden (apart from what was essential for the wellbeing of their cattle and herds). It was an essential element in the redemption covenant, i.e. in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:9-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15), and it was an idea that was constantly repeated (e.g. Leviticus 23:3 and often). It applied equally to certain festal sabbaths (e.g. Leviticus 23:7), and it applied to ‘strangers’ in their midst, who were also to benefit by it (Exodus 23:12). Amos 8:5 makes clear that it was seen to include trading on the Sabbath. It was to be a day of rest and delight in the Lord (see Isaiah 58:13-14). But it was so easy to say, ‘we are not working by buying from foreigners, and they are not bound by the Sabbath laws’. This would, however, have been untrue. Lading an ass with purchased goods was undoubtedly ‘work’, and servants would regularly be involved in it.

Thus they promised that when the peoples of the land came with their goods to trade on the Sabbath day, they would not trade with them, or buy from them. For to do so would be to take their minds off delighting in the Lord, and would involve some of their number in servile work (loading up and unloading what was bought). It is clear later that this kind of abstinence from work had been neglected in this case, along with other examples such as pressing wine, gathering crops and loading up asses (Nehemiah 13:22). Thus the promise here, in respect of what might have been a doubtful situation to some (was buying work?) was resolved in a way which included observance of the Sabbath in every respect.

Nehemiah 10:31

‘And that we would forego the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.’

As we saw in chapter 5 lending on interest and exacting debt had become a real problem among the poorest members of the Jewish community. But there the problem had been resolved by Nehemiah’s prompt action. Here then recourse is taken to the old laws on relieving poverty. Crops and fruit would not be gathered in the seventh year, but would be left so that the poor could gather them (Exodus 23:10-11). And all outstanding debt would be cancelled (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Nor were loans to be made in such a way as to have the year of release in mind (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). They were to be willing to suffer loss because they themselves had been redeemed from bondage. It is clear that these laws had been neglected. Now they were to be reapplied.

Nehemiah 10:32

‘Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God,’

The interesting phrase ‘ we made ordinances’ is an acknowledgement of the fact that what they determined on here was an extension of the Law, although based on that Law. This was a man made ordinance (‘WE made’). Yet it followed godly examples. There is nothing in the Law about a yearly Temple Tax. However, there are precedents for the idea, in tithes themselves, and in the half shekel tax payable when there was a census (Exodus 30:11-16; Exodus 38:25-26), which would be used to enhance Tabernacle funds. But there may well have been a yearly census at the great feasts, in the times when those took place. These could be seen as supporting the idea of regular payments to the Temple. But in the end it was an act of benevolence and gratitude on the part of a people, many of whom were poor and would find a third of a shekel a large amount to have to pay. It was a sign of the depth of feeling that this revival had brought about. The cult must be effectively maintained in a way that honoured YHWH at all costs.

Indeed it is an indication of the depths of the poverty of the people as a whole that the tithes would later prove insufficient for what were quite clearly a small number of Levites, leaving them to have to neglect their office and fend for themselves (Nehemiah 13:10). For they were dependent on the tithes. Even though it be granted that the problem there was that the tithes had not been handed over to the level that they should have been, it is difficult to believe that in so short a time after the oath sworn here the whole of Israel/Judah should have ceased to pay any tithes at all, so that in view of the small number of Levites there should still have been sufficient to maintain them, unless dire poverty had also considerably reduced the amount of tithes given. Note in this regard Israel’s own view that they were an ‘afflicted’ people (Nehemiah 10:32; Nehemiah 1:3), and the fact that even when they genuinely renewed their tithes, they were still not seen as sufficient to meet the needs of the Temple, hence the tax. In theory, given the small number of Levites, the tithes should have been overabundant. But whilst the Persian kings may have been relatively benevolent, their taxes were heavy, and most of the returnees were probably struggling to survive (as chapter 5 has revealed).

In their recent past much of the cost of the cult had often been met by the ‘generosity’ of the Persian kings (Ezra 6:9-10; Ezra 7:21-24). But this was spasmodic and not permanent. Thus the people were now providing for the permanent support of the cult.

Nehemiah 10:33

‘For the showbread, and for the continual meal-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering, for the sabbaths, for the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.’

The Law never specifically says how these central offerings for the whole of Israel were to be provided. Possibly it was by means of the census contribution. But the showbread had to be supplied weekly, the daily offerings twice daily, and there were many offerings ‘for all Israel’ at the different feasts. To say nothing of the sin offerings which were to make atonement for the whole of Israel. Personal offerings and sacrifices would be the responsibility of the individual, but nothing is said about who would provide the offerings for the whole of Israel. Now they were to be provided for by this ‘Temple tax’.

Nehemiah 10:34

‘And we cast lots, the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood-offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of YHWH our God, as it is written in the Law,’

Another example of something which was for the benefit of all, but the responsibility of none, was the provision of wood to keep the sacrificial fires burning (Leviticus 6:12-13). Now this was to be provided for by those chosen by lot to have the privilege. All were involved. Priests, Levites and people. This was to be a permanent responsibility for those concerned, no doubt arranged by family. Each would in turn bring the wood-offering to keep the sacrificial fires burning, and it was itself seen as an offering. It is probable that we must assume that this had been a real problem in the past, otherwise it would not have required specific legislation.

Verses 35-39

Regulation In Respect Of Various Offerings (Nehemiah 10:35-39 ).

We do not know how far these offerings had been neglected. There is no reason for arguing that they had hitherto been unknown. Even granted that the Law had not been read out, some memory of them would have survived. But when they were living in Babylonia and elsewhere they would not have been observed, and the details may well have been forgotten by most. The priests, however, would undoubtedly have had a good knowledge of them (some who had served in the first Temple were still alive when the second Temple was built). Thus if there was a problem it was one of neglect or not paying heed to the priests, not one of total ignorance. But clearly the reading aloud of the Law had brought a number of things as reflected here, home to the listeners, and they now determined to be meticulous in meeting God’s requirements.

Nehemiah 10:35

‘And to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all manner of trees, year by year, to the house of YHWH,’

They swore also that they would bring the first-fruit offerings which would benefit the priests (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; compare Deuteronomy 26:1-11, which, however, may have been once for all). Once again it may well be that these had been neglected, partly through ignorance, and partly though negligence.

In Exodus the firstfruits are stated to be ‘the firstfruits of your ground’, but that necessarily includes fruit grown on trees which are rooted in the ground, in a similar way to that in which ‘the tithe of the land’ was to include ‘the fruit of the tree’ (Leviticus 27:30). Indeed Numbers 18:13 speaks of ‘whatever is first ripe in the land’. Here in Nehemiah all is made clear by speaking of ‘the first-fruits of all fruit of all manner of trees’. Trees were, however, a special case as their fruit in the first three years of their existence was not to be eaten, and all the fruit of the fourth year was YHWH’s (Leviticus 19:23-25).

The term ‘house of YHWH’ was regularly used of both the Tabernacle (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 23:18; Joshua 6:24; Jdg 19:18 ; 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15; 2 Samuel 12:20) and the Temple.

Nehemiah 10:36

‘Also the first-born of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God,’

The law of the redemption of firstborn sons was also to be catered for. These had to be ‘redeemed’ by a replacement sacrifice (Exodus 13:12-13; Exodus 34:19-20). The responsibilities for service in the Tabernacle had originally been theirs, but it been taken over by the Levites (Numbers 3:12-13). But their redemption was necessary as a reminder of how they firstborn had been spared in Egypt. It would appear that in the course of this they were to be presented before the priests in the house of God. The firstborn of the ‘clean’ cattle, herds and flocks would themselves be offered as sacrifices. In the case of unclean animals, such as asses, they had either to be redeemed by offering a replacement sacrifice, or their necks had to be broken (being unclean they could not be offered to YHWH). These firstlings were to be brought to the Temple as ‘the house of our God’. Their flesh (but not their fat) was to be available, firstly for the benefit of the priests as with other offerings (Numbers 18:11-13), and secondly as something to be partaken in by all at a sacred feast when there was an abundance (Deuteronomy 12:17-19). Between Numbers 18:0 and Deuteronomy the situation had changed. Instead of struggling in the wilderness, with a long period of such struggling ahead, with tithes being limited, they were enjoying better pasturage and the fruitfulness of the promised land lay ahead. Thus it was recognised that there would be an abundance of tithes.

Some see ‘cattle, beast’ here as signifying unclean animals which had to be redeemed in the same way as the firstborn sons (compare Numbers 18:15). But in Numbers the word ‘unclean’ is included in order to distinguish between beast and beast. The argument is that that is why it says ‘as it is written in the Law’ (per Leviticus 13:13). But it is unlikely that firstborn asses were presented before the priests, especially if their necks had been broken. Here the idea is of the presentation at the house of God of that which is hallowed by God.

Nehemiah 10:37

‘And that we should bring the first-fruits (or ‘the best’) of our dough (or ‘ground flour’), and our heave-offerings (of wheat and barley), and the fruit of all types of trees, the new wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God,’

We are not sure here of the significance and or meaning of one or two of the technical terms. ‘Firstfruits’ is not the same word as that previously used for firstfruits and means ‘prime’. It could therefore refer to the ‘first’ or it could signify the ‘best, choicest’. The word translated ‘dough’ possibly means ‘ground flour’. In Numbers 15:19 a heave-offering is mentioned which is composed of the first/best of the dough (ground flour). It may be then that here we are to translate as ‘the best of our ground flour, even our heave-offerings’ (of wheat and barley). In Ezekiel 44:30 that is for the priests, and resulted in a special blessing. The tithe of the tithes, which was for the priests, was also seen as a heave-offering (Numbers 18:24-26). They were called ‘heave-offerings because they were ‘waved’ or ‘heaved’ before YHWH. For ‘the first/best of the oil and wine’ see Numbers 18:12. These were to be brought ‘to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God’ as was the tithe of tithes (Nehemiah 10:38).

The overall point behind all this is that God’s servants are to be given the very best (of ‘necessities’), because thereby we are giving it to God.

Nehemiah 10:37

‘And the tithes of our ground to the Levites; for they, the Levites, take the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.’

In contrast the tithes were to be brought, not to the house of God, but to the Levites, ‘in all the cities of our tillage’, who would store them in their storehouses. These were to consist of one tenth of all produce, grain, fruit, wine and oil, and of all animals (Leviticus 27:30-32). Only one tenth of that tenth was brought to the priests (Nehemiah 10:38; Numbers 18:26). It is true that part of the tithe to the Levites, every third year, was to be for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). But given that the priests at this time considerably outnumbered the Levites (very few Levites had returned. In Nehemiah 7:39-45 there were 360 Levites who returned initially, compared with 4,289 priests, and few returned with Ezra - Ezra 8:15-19) it is quite clear that these proportions of nine tenths to the Levites and one tenth to the priests must have been determined long before, in a time when the situation was very different. In Numbers 3:0 there were 22,000 Levites (Numbers 3:39), and few priests (Numbers 3:2). The tithes were in fact the means of sustenance for the Levites as they served God in the Tabernacle/Temple (Numbers 18:21; Numbers 18:24). YHWH was their inheritance.

Nehemiah 10:38

‘And the priest the son of Aaron will be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes, and the Levites will bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure-house.’

The provision of a priest to oversee the Levites in their work was a wise precaution. It would ensure that the Levites were not ‘overzealous’ in their collection of tithe (they were collecting it for God). It would guard against possible misuse of the tithe. And it would act as a guarantee that the priests’ share was correctly allocated. It was a wise precaution rather than an indication that the Levites were not trustworthy, for it would counter any suspicions that might be aroused.

Then, once the tithes were gathered, one tenth of what was gathered (the tithe of the tithe) was to be brought up to Jerusalem, ‘to the house of our God’, and there it was to be placed in ‘the treasure house’, the place provided in the Temple for storing valuable things (which would include the hides of sacrifices which belonged to the priests, and the Temple vessels). This one tenth was for the use of the priests.

Nehemiah 10:39

‘For the children of Israel and the children of Levi will bring the heave-offering of the grain, of the new wine, and of the oil, to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and the priests who minister, and the porters, and the singers; and we will not forsake the house of our God.’

The final summing up oath is now given. They swear that the house of God will not be neglected. Both the children of Israel and the children of Levi (the Levites), will combine in bringing the heave offering of grain, wine and oil to the chambers in the Temple where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests who minister and the singers and the gatekeepers are. They will by no means forsake the house of their God. The mention of the singers and gatekeepers may suggest that they would be sharing in the priest’s portion. This was a suitable note on which to end the agreement, confirming that, in all that they had promised, God and His house were central.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Nehemiah 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/nehemiah-10.html. 2013.
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