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COMPLETION OF THE WORK, AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR GUARDING THE GATES (Nehemiah 7:1-5). The wall and gate-towers being completed, nothing remained but to hang the doors in the gateways, and to arrange for the guard of the gates and the general security of the fortress. Nehemiah speaks here of his having set up the doors (verse 1); but it appears from Nehemiah 3:1-32. that the actual work of so doing was intrusted, like the repairs of the wall, to the various working parties. Eliashib, with his brethren the priests, set up the doors of the sheep gate (Nehemiah 3:1); the sons of Hassenaah those of the fish gate (ibid. Nehemiah 3:3), etc. Nehemiah had only the general superintendence, and saw that all was properly executed. But the entire work being at length accomplished, it devolved upon him to make the necessary arrangements for the security of what had now become a first-rate fortress. Accordingly, he seems himself to have assigned the guard of the gates to certain bodies of Levites (verse 1), as being experienced in the business of keeping watch; after which he committed the task of appointing other guards to his brother Hanani, and to a certain Hananiah, already the commandant of the Birah, or temple tower (verse 2). They devised a system by which the adult male inhabitants were made to partition the watch of the wall among themselves, each on the part which was nearest to his own house (verse 3). At the same time, it was ordered, for greater precaution, that all the gates should be closed at night, and none of them opened "until the sun was hot" (ibid.), i.e. until some hours after sunrise. The city was thus made as secure as the circumstances admitted; but in the course of the arrangements it became clear, at any rate to Nehemiah, that the population of the city was too scanty for its size (verse 4), and that some steps ought to be taken to augment the number of inhabitants. As a first step, a necessary preliminary before he could lay any definite proposal before the "rulers," the governor thought it necessary to make a census of the entire people (verse 5). It seems to have been in the course of his preparations for this purpose that he "found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first." The list in verses 7-69 has been regarded as the result of his own census; but reasons have been already given against this view in the comment upon Ezra; and it would seem to be most probable that we have the actual result of Nehemiah's census, so far as he thought fit to give it to us, in Nehemiah 11:3-36.
The porters and the singers and the Levites. The porters and the singers were themselves Levites, but are often distinguished from their brethren, who had no such special office (see Ezra 2:40-42, Ezra 2:70; Ezra 7:24; Ezra 10:23, Ezra 10:24; Nehemiah 7:43-45, Nehemiah 7:73; Nehemiah 10:28, etc.). Nehemiah's choice of Levites to guard the gates of Jerusalem may seem strange; but we must remember—
1. That the priests and Levites formed nearly one half the population of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:6-19 compared with 1 Chronicles 9:9-22).
2. That the office of guarding the temple gates had always been discharged by Levites (1 Chronicles 9:17-22; 1 Chronicles 26:12-19).
Hanani and Hananiah. This appointment of two municipal officers to have charge of Jerusalem recalls the mention of two "rulers" in Nehemiah 3:9, Nehemiah 3:12, each of whom had authority-over half the district dependent on Jerusalem, and amounts to an "undesigned coincidence." The ruler of the palace. Rather, "the commandant of the fort," i.e. the officer in charge of the temple fortress (see above, Nehemiah 2:8).
Let not the gates be opened until the sun be hot. The gates of towns in the East are usually opened at sunrise; but this cannot be the intention here. Some extra precaution is signified—not, however, so much as Dathe supposes, who renders ante tempus meridianum, "before noon;" but rather something intermediate between this and the ordinary practice.
The city was large. Literally, "broad every way." The houses were not builded. Much of the city consisted of open spaces, in which no houses had been as yet built.
And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, etc. As Nehemiah contemplated the vast empty spaces within the city walls, and considered with himself how they might best be peopled, the thought came to him—and he hailed it as a Divine inspiration—that by taking a census of the people he might pave the way for some transfer of the inhabitants of the country districts into the capital, which would at any rate strengthen the latter, and lessen the desolate appearance of its streets and squares, which had so pained him. The census would show what proportion the country and town populations bore to each other, and would point out which were the places in the country districts that could best afford to lose a portion of their inhabitants. A census, therefore was resolved upon, and, according to ordinary Jewish usage (Numbers 1:17-47; 1 Chronicles 21:5, 1 Chronicles 21:6; Ezra 2:3-62), it was genealogical. The tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi were numbered separately (Nehemiah 11:4-19); and in the tribe of Judah the children of Pharez were reckoned apart from those of Zerah (1 Chronicles 9:4, 1 Chronicles 9:6). No doubt the genealogical principle was acted upon throughout, but further evidence upon the point is wanting. It would seem to have been in the course of his preparations for this census, perhaps in searching for precedents, that Nehemiah found the "register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first," which is the subject of the next section.
Provision for safety and numerical increase.
The wall being completed and the gates set in their places, Nehemiah takes measures for the regular defence of the city, and for increasing its population.
I. THE GUARDING OF THE CITY-GATES he assigns to the gate-keepers of the temple, the singers, and the other Levites; "that of the walls," to the general inhabitants in turn, some to keep watch at certain appointed posts, others before their own houses; not only perhaps to be ready to rouse the city and rush to the walls or gates in case of attack from without, but to act as police against thieves or disorderly persons within. Over the whole he placed his brother Hanani, and Hananiah, who, as commander of the citadel, had had experience in managing similar matters. Of the latter he records, in explanation of his choice, that he was a faithful man who feared God more than many.
II. THE INCREASE OF THE POPULATION Of the city was a matter of pressing importance; for the ample space within the walls was very sparsely occupied with houses, and thinly inhabited. Before resolving, however, on the steps to be taken, it occurred to Nehemiah (and he regarded the suggestion as from God) to call a general assembly, that he might make a census of the population, as a basis for further measures. The result does not appear until Nehemiah 11:1-36.
1. The strength and worth of a community lies in its living members. Walls are useless without men to defend them; a city feeble, though spacious, whose inhabitants are few. So a religious community may extend itself over a wide space, and erect numerous and costly places of worship, without adding to its real strength. Increase of converts should, therefore, be the chief aim of those who seek its good.
2. All the members of a community should be willing and ready to exert themselves for the common good. Each according to his capacity and opportunity. Nor in times of pressure should any refuse to act because the duties assigned him do not belong to his ordinary functions. These porters, singers, and Levites undertook for the protection of Jerusalem duties quite outside their respective offices. It was not a time to stand upon their dignity or rights. For some reason they could best be spared for the work, and they did it.
3. Organisation, including rule and subordination, is essential to the welfare of a community.
4. It is a happy thing when men eminently God-fearing can be found for offices of trust and authority. In secular life such men are invaluable. In the Church essential.
"He was a faithful man, and feared God above many." Nehemiah records this of Hananiah as his reason for giving him, with Hanani, his own brother, "charge over Jerusalem." Perhaps he felt it necessary, on some account not specified, thus to justify the selection.
I. THE CHARACTER HERE DESCRIBED.
1. Its elements.
(1) Faithfulness. Uprightness, integrity, strictness in performing promises, truthfulness.
(2) Unusual piety. These two are closely related to each other. He who greatly fears God will be eminently faithful both to God and man. The piety which does not produce uprightness is good for nothing. On the other hand, uprightness towards man, if allowed its proper development, will lead to uprightness towards God, and so to piety in all its branches. Where this is not the case (of which the instances are innumerable) the quality of the uprightness is questionable. It can hardly include a love of righteousness for its own sake. Rather is its basis the desire to stand well with men; and as it regards not God, it has no claim upon him.
2. How it is produced. As all piety and goodness are due to the grace of the Holy Spirit, unusual measures of them are to be ascribed to greater abundance of his sacred influences. But it is the human history of eminently godly men to which we now refer. To what, humanly speaking, may marked superiority in godliness and goodness be traced? Amongst their causes may be mentioned—
(1) The careful teaching, the excellent example, and holy influence of devotedly Christian parents. The noblest men of the Church have generally sprung from homes of which piety was the pervading spirit; often from very pious mothers. Let parents who profess godliness think of this. The Church looks to them to train for her Nehemiahs and Hananiahs.
(2) Early religious decision. Those who begin to serve God late in life are little likely to attain to special excellence.
(3) Diligent spiritual self-culture. In reading, meditation, prayer, watchfulness, the practice of all good.
(4) Early consecration to some special service.
(5) Overwhelming sense of gratitude for conversion and forgiveness after many years of godless living.
3. When such a character is especially interesting. When, as here, seen in men of high worldly position and command, much occupied with secular affairs, and thrown much into the society of men of another spirit.
II. THE EFFECTS WHICH SUCH A CHARACTER SHOULD PRODUCE.
2. Praise to God.
Which should be shown, as by Nehemiah, in placing those who possess it in responsible positions. It is well when such men can be found for important posts, and are placed in them by those with whom the appointment lies, instead of unworthy motives leading to the selection of less desirable men.
4. Imitation. To have such men within our sphere of observation increases our responsibility. We ought to be as they are. They show us what is attainable.
5. Commemoration. In some cases, at least. That their example may stimulate and encourage many to whom it would be otherwise unknown.
HOMILIES BY J.S. EXELL
I. THE THINGS IN THE CHURCH WHICH NEED TO BE GUARDED. "Charge over Jerusalem" (Nehemiah 7:2).
1. The doctrines of the Church.
2. The members of the Church.
3. The temporal interests of the Church.
4. The work of the Church.
5. The reputation of the Church.
6. The civil privileges of the Church.
7. The discipline of the Church.
This defence is needed because infidelity, slander, bigotry, and laxity threaten to lay waste the Church.
II. THE MEN WHO SHOULD BE THE GUARDIANS OF THE CHURCH. "For he was a faithful man, and feared God above many" (Nehemiah 7:2).
1. They must be duly appointed. "And the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed." "That I gave" (Nehemiah 7:2).
2. They must be truly sympathetic. The men who had helped to rebuild the city would be the most likely to defend it.
3. They must be wisely cautious. "Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot" (Nehemiah 7:3).
4. They must be sufficiently numerous. "And appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Nehemiah 7:3).
5. They must he eminently pious. "And feared God above many" (Nehemiah 7:2).
6. There is a sense in which all good men ought to be guardians of the Church.
III. THE WAY IN WHICH THE CHURCH MAY BEST BE GUARDED.
1. By having regard to the Church in times of special danger. "Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot" (Nehemiah 7:3). The Church stands in need of watchful care during the night of error and sin; then its gates must not be opened.
2. By having regard to the Church at points where it is most liable to attack. "Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened."
3. By having regard to mutual co-operation amongst the watchers.
4. By putting our trust in God to supply the necessary lack and imperfection of human vigilance.—E.
HOMILIES BY W. CALRKSON
Nehemiah 7:1-5 (for rest see Ezra 2:1-70.)
Israel within the walls.
In less than two months, notwithstanding the undisguised hostility of the Samaritans, and the covert disloyalty of some of the inhabitants, the sacred city was surrounded with a wall of protection; and with supreme satisfaction and profound thankfulness the gates were closed and the doors were shut. Jerusalem was secure. But Nehemiah was not the man to settle down into passive complacency. The accomplishment of one duty meant the undertaking of another. His conduct suggests—
I. THE NEED OF THE HUMAN (AND SPIRITUAL) ELEMENT TO GIVE WORTH TO THE MATERIAL (verses 1, 2, 3). It was well indeed to have the wall, but that was worthless without men to guard it. Immediately the circle was complete and the "doors were set up," the three classes of porters, singers, and Levites were appointed (verse 1). Charge of the city was given to two capable and trustworthy men (verse.
2.), and directions were given that the gates should not be opened till long after sunrise, "till the sun was hot," and not until the watches were all on guard, every man in his place (verse 3). Behind the stone wall were to be the living men, quick of eye, strong of arm, bold of heart. Not a little reliance on the bulwark they had raised, but much more on the steadfastness and alertness of the patriots within them. It is well, indeed, to have the "new and beautiful" sanctuary, the well-appointed' schools and classrooms; but these will avail us nothing if within them there be not
(1) minds alight with redeeming truth,
(2) hearts aglow with holy love,
(3) souls aflame with fervent zeal.
II. THE DESIRABLENESS OF DOING RIGHT THINGS RELIGIOUSLY (verses 1, 5). With the porters were associated "the singers and the Levites" (verse 1). "It is probable that the opening and shutting of the temple gates was made with song." If with song, certainly with sacred song. Thus the manual labour of opening and shutting the city gates was associated with men of a sacred office, and with words and sounds of devotion. We read also (verse 5) how "God put it into the heart" of Nehemiah to gather the people, and take a census. This thought, which in another and less godly man would have been complacently referred to his own sagacity, is ascribed by him to Divine instigation. As servants of God, it is not only needful to do the right things, but to do them in a religious spirit. The secular is to be most intimately associated with the sacred. Things done with ordinary prudence, in daily occupation, are to be done as unto Christ. "Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do,"—plant or build, buy or sell, read or write, work or play,—we must do all, realising that the power to do them is from him, and endeavouring to please him in all things—rightly because religiously.
III. THE PLACE OF SPECIAL PIETY (verse 2). "I gave... Hananiah... charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many." The best place for those who are eminently godly men is not the cloister or chamber, but the more influential posts in the kingdom. They who most honour God in their heart honour him most and serve him best when they occupy busy and important spheres. Piety, wisely employed, and powerful, in the chamber of commerce or in the House of Commons, is at least as pleasing to God as piety in the house of prayer; but to be at its best at either it should be found sometimes at both.
IV. THE SPACIOUSNESS OF THE CITY OF GOD (verse 4). "The city was large and great: but the people were few."
1. There is ample room within the Church of Christ for the multitudes outside. Many are within its walls, but "yet there is room;" we must go out and "compel them to come in," with a persuasiveness that will not be denied.
2.There is building to be done within the Church. "The houses were not builded." There is much room for edification within its walls.—C.
THE REGISTER OF THOSE WHO RETURNED UNDER ZERUBBABEL, WITH THE NUMBER OF THEIR SLAVES, BEASTS, AND OBLATIONS (Nehemiah 7:6-73). It is no doubt a curious circumstance that this list should occur twice, with no important differences, in the two Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Perhaps it was not in the original Ezra, that writer not having had the good fortune to "find" the document; but Nehemiah having "found" it and inserted it here, in connection with its discovery, a later arranger (Malachi?) removed it to the early part of Ezra, because it belonged to that portion of the Jewish history chronologically. The double record enables us to make out a more perfect catalogue than we could have obtained from either separately,-since there are corruptions in each which may be corrected by means of the other. See the comment which follows.
Jeshua, Nehemiah, etc. To the eleven names given by Ezra, Nehemiah adds one, "Nahamani," the sixth. He gives the others in the same order as Ezra, but spells some of the names differently—e.g. "Azariah" for "Seraiah," "Raamiah" for "Reelaiah," "Mispereth" for "Mizpar," and "Nehum" for "Rehum."
Binnui. Ezra has "Bani," which receives confirmation from Nehemiah 10:14 and 1 Esdras 5:12.
The children of Ater. Up to this Nehemiah observes the same order as Ezra; but the remaining personal names (three) are placed differently.
The children of Hariph. Ezra has "Jorah" instead of Hariph (Ezra 2:18); but "Hariph" is confirmed by Nehemiah 10:19.
The children of Gibeon. For "Gibeon" Ezra has "Gibbar"—a name otherwise unknown to us. "Gibeon" should probably be read in both places.
The men of the other Nebo. To Nebo has as yet been mentioned, which makes it unlikely that the text is correct here. Apparently the word translated "the other" (acher) has been accidentally repeated from the next verse. Ezra has "the men of Nebo" simply.
This section exactly reproduces Ezra 2:36-39.
The children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah may be corrected from Ezra 2:40 and Ezra 3:9. It should be "Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodevah." This ancestor of Joshua and Kadmiel appears under the three forms of Hodevah, Hodaviah (Ezra 2:40), and Judah (Ezra 3:9).
The Nethinims. The list which follows is very close to that of Ezra (Neh 2:1-20 :43-54). A few names are differently spelt, and one of Ezra's names (Akkub—Neh 2:1-20 :45) is omitted.
The children of Solomon's servants. This section and the section which follows (Nehemiah 7:63-65) are nearly identical in Ezra and Nehemiah. A few names only are slightly different.
The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore. It makes against the view of Bishop Patrick and others, who regard Ezra's list as made at Babylon, some time before the final departure, and Nehemiah's as made at Jerusalem, after the arrival of the exiles, that the sum total is in each case the same (see Ezra 2:64). Bishop Kennicott's theory, that the three lists—that of Ezra, that of Nehemiah, and that in the first of Esdras—had all one original, and that the existing differences proceed entirely from mistakes of the copyists, is the only tenable one. It is especially remarkable that the differences in the numbers of the three lists consist chiefly in a single unit, a single ten, or a single hundred—or in a five; less often in two units, or two tens, or two hundreds, or in a six—differences probably arising from the obliteration of one or two signs in a notation resembling the Roman or the Egyptian, where there are special signs for a thousand, a hundred, ten, five, and the unit, complex numbers being expressed by repetition of these, as 3438 in Latin inscriptions by MMMCCCCXXXVIII. Any fading of a sign in such a notation as this causes a copyist to diminish the amount by one, five, ten, a hundred, a thousand, etc. A fading of two sigmas may produce a diminution of two thousand, two hundred, twenty, two; or again of eleven hundred, one hundred and ten, one hundred and five, fifteen, eleven, six, and the like.
Two hundred and forty-five singing men and singing women. Ezra says 200; but this must be a round number. 1 Esdras confirms Nehemiah (Neh 5:1-19 :42).
Nehemiah 7:68, Nehemiah 7:69
The numbers of the animals are identical in Ezra and Nehemiah. The apocryphal Esdras has an enormous and most improbable augmentation of the number of the horses.
The Tirshatha gave. This is additional to the information contained in Ezra, who does not separate Zerubbabel's offering from that of the other heads of families (Neh 2:1-20 :69). The account of the oblations is altogether more exact in Nehemiah than in the earlier historian. For the value of the contributions made, see the comment on Ezra (1.s.c.).
And all Israel dwelt in their cities. The document found by Nehemiah (verse 5) probably ended with these words (romp. Ezra 2:70); and Nehemiah 7:1-73. should here terminate, as it does in the Septuagint. Having completed the account of what happened in the sixth month, Elul (Nehemiah 6:15), and transcribed the register which he had the good fortune to discover at that date, Nehemiah proceeds to relate events belonging to the seventh month.
An honourable register.
Account of those who had returned to the Holy Land under Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and other leaders; found by Nehemiah when seeking guidance in making a general census of the people. In reading this record, the following observations suggest themselves:—
I. THE COMPARATIVE FEWNESS AND GENERAL POVERTY OF THE RETURNING PEOPLE. The majority of their brethren preferred their position among the heathen to the honour and peril of aiding to re-establish their nation in their own land. The temptation to this course was greatest in the case of men of substance, and most of them appear to have yielded to it. We are reminded that of professing Christians a large number, perhaps the majority, do not really accept the invitation pressed continually upon them to undertake the journey to heaven, and that still the rich find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven.
II. Although few and poor, THE RETURNING PEOPLE INCLUDED ALL THE ELEMENTS NEEDFUL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A REGULARLY ORGANISED JEWISH STATE. They were not a mere rabble. There was the civil governor, Zerubbabel; the high priest, Jeshua; a considerable number of ordinary priests; there were Levites and other temple servants, even singers; besides the body of the people.
III. THEIR FAITH, ZEAL, AND COURAGE ARE TO BE NOTED AND ADMIRED. All left some sort of settled home to which they were accustomed; some, businesses more or less lucrative; a few, the positions which wealth or talent affords. They encountered certain, though untried, privations, struggles, and dangers, the end of which to each one was very uncertain. But they were men, whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:5). They believed the prophets, and anticipated a glorious future for their nation. They loved their God, their nation, and their country, though to the last most of them were strangers. The priests particularly distinguished themselves, as is shown by the number of them who returned, as compared with that of the people. They surpassed the Levites, who, both under Zerubbabel and Ezra, showed backwardness. Yet this class had formerly been more zealous than the priests (2 Chronicles 29:34). The leaders are especially worthy of commendation. Their sacrifice must have been greater, and the cares and responsibilities they undertook were much heavier. Numbers followed at subsequent periods, after the first difficulties had been overcome and a settlement effected; but they could not attain to the honour of those who led the way.
IV. The failure of some who accompanied the expedition to prove themselves by genealogy Israelites, of others to prove themselves priests, suggests THAT GOD'S TRUE ISRAEL AND PRIESTHOOD REQUIRE NO GENEALOGY. They belong to a higher order of things, not regulated "after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16). God's spiritual Israel become such by faith; each one belonging to it is "born not of blood, but of God" (John 1:13). And while it is a blessed thing to have a pious ancestry, those who have it not are admitted as freely and fully into all the privileges of citizenship, on their acceptance of Christ, as those who have it. One of these privileges is that of being "priests unto God." Nor is special ministry in the Church inherited; it is the privilege of those who are fitted for it, and called to it by the Holy Ghost, who distributes his gifts "to every man severally as he will" (1 Corinthians 12:11).
V. THE LACK IN THE NEWLY-ESTABLISHED COMMUNITY OF SOME PRIVILEGES ENJOYED BY THEIR FOREFATHERS is seen in the absence of "a priest with Urim and Thummim." The time was eagerly expected when this and other like advantages would be restored, but in vain. For a while the gift of prophecy lingered, and then passed away. The losses were deplored, but proved to be gains. The guidance withdrawn belonged to the period of childhood. God s people were more and more to be prepared for the time of moral manhood, when they would realise the guidance and help of God in the exercise of their own spirits in connection with the written word remaining as a permanent legacy from the past. One more outburst of the miraculous, the grandest and most fruitful of all, and then the Spirit of God would abide with the Church as never before, its permanent Teacher and Guide through the at length completed word; but the miraculous would cease. We long at times for the return of "signs from heaven," but "it is expedient" for us that we should be without them.
VI. The variations in the several copies of this document suggest that happily THERE ARE, AND CAN BE, NO MISTAKES IN GOD'S REGISTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL ISRAEL. Finally, the perusal of this and similar lists may well lead us to exclaim with good Matthew Henry, "Blessed be God that our faith and hope are not built upon the niceties of names and numbers, genealogy and chronology, but on the great things of the law and gospel."
A good collection.
The conclusion of the document found by Nehemiah, being chiefly an account of the gifts of the returned people towards the cost of rebuilding the temple and restoring its services.
I. THE OBJECT OF THE COLLECTION. The restoration of the temple and its services lay very near their hearts. It was the chief object of their return to Palestine (Ezra 1:5), and would be regarded by them, and justly, as the surest foundation, under God, of their unity and prosperity—of their welfare at once as individuals, families, and a state. Equally concerned should we be for the erection of churches and the maintenance of public worship, and for like reasons.
II. THE LIBERALITY DISPLAYED. Very considerable, if we bear in mind their general poverty, the recentness of their return, and the many demands upon their resources which their re-settlement in the land would make.
III. THE UNION OF ALL CLASSES IN CONTRIBUTING TO THE COLLECTION, They were well led by the Tirshatha, Zerubbabel, who was well followed by "some of the chief of the fathers." The rest of the people contributed according to their means. It seems, however, from the words "some," etc; that, as usual, there were some that did not contribute; yet these may have been among the loudest to express their pleasure that so good a collection had been made. With this exception, we have here a model collection.
1. It was well started. Much depends on this. The many take their ideas of what is needful and fitting from their leaders, and are fired by their ardour, or chilled by their coldness.
2. All classes contributed. The rich as well as the poor, the poor as well as the rich. Neither can be spared, neither should be passed over. Not the rich, for a few of them can easily give as much as all the rest, and for their own sake they need to be generous in their gifts (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Not the poor, for to give to God's cause is a privilege which they should delight to share, and the aggregate of their smaller gifts may equal or exceed that of the larger contributions of the wealthy.
3. All contributed voluntarily (see Ezra 2:68—"freely").
4. All appear to have contributed liberally.
IV. THEIR SUBSEQUENT SETTLEMENT IN THEIR RESPECTIVE CITIES. Which they could effect with a good conscience and cheerful hope of God's blessing, after having first shown their zealous care for the establishment of his worship.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The true method of prosperity.
Here are the three great aims of God's people distinguished. The walls of the city are built. The place of habitation is prepared. The doors are fixed. Then the true citizens of Zion will see to it; God will put it in their hearts.
I. TO PROVIDE FOR THE SAFETY Of the city. There must always be the possibility of attack from without. Watch the walls and the gates.
1. The leading men of the Church should be faithful, and fearers of God above many. It is a terrible danger when prominent men are not examples of piety. Those who have a great charge should be above suspicion.
2. The gates must be specially watched, and their shutting and opening special matter of anxious care. When Churches are indifferent as to the admission of members they are doing incalculable harm to the cause of their religion. Wide and unwatched gates mean an unsafe city, an approaching ruin.
3. Let every one take part in the guardianship of Jerusalem. "Every one over against his own house." There are eminent men who occupy prominent posts, but the humblest believer has his part in the work of defending truth and guarding the spiritual prosperity of Zion. It was a good regulation which Nehemiah made: "Let not the gates be opened till the sun be hot." Do nothing in the dark. See the men who ask for admission in the clear daylight; know who they are, and what they mean. It is the multitudinousness of the Church which endangers it. If there be no light at the gates there will soon be enemies within the walls, traitors in the camp, and the safety of the Church will be undermined.
II. Those who seek the welfare of Zion will desire INCREASE OF NUMBERS. The large city and the great walls are no honour to God without many people therein. "The houses not built" represent the lack of individual and family life. It is the living souls that are the city's glory.
III. The TRUE METHOD OF ESTABLISHING THE PROSPERITY OF JERUSALEM IS TO LOOK WELL TO THE PURITY of its inhabitants. God put it into Nehemiah's heart to search for the genealogy, to distinguish the true Israel from the false.
1. The variety of office and degrees of honour quite consistent with unity of origin and community of spirit. It is better to have a place in the genealogy of God's people than to be high in this world's rank.
2. The preservation of the record was a help to subsequent generations to maintain the cause of Zion, and to tread in the footsteps of. the fathers.
3. The position of absolute, uncompromising purity and faithfulness to God is the only ground upon which discipline can be maintained. In the case of the priests, if the register could not be found "they were, as polluted, put from the priesthood."
4. The mere external purity of ritual is insufficient; the great requisite is direct intercourse with God. In all difficult cases the Urim and Thummim of immediate revelation must be sought. What is the mind of God? How little would the Church have erred if it had followed this rule: to suffer no caprice, no departure from principle, no compromise, but depend upon the word of God.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Nehemiah 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany