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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter is made up of two portions:
(a) lists of the leading priests and Levites at different periods Nehemiah 12:1-26:
(b) the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem Nehemiah 12:27-47.
This latter passage is certainly from the pen of Nehemiah, and was written probably about 433 B.C. The lists included in (a) are four:
(1) the chief priestly and Levitical families which returned to Jerusalem Nehemiah 12:1-9;
(2) the succession of the high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua Nehemiah 12:10-11;
(3) the actual heads of the priestly families in the time of the high priest Joiakim Nehemiah 12:12-21;
(4) the chief Levitical families at the same period Nehemiah 12:24-26.
Of these lists, List 1, List 3, and List 4, may have been drawn up in the time of Nehemiah, but List 2, in its present form, must be much later. See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah.
1Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,
The priests - The number of the names here given, which is 22, is probably to be connected with that of the Davidic "courses," which was 24 1 Chronicles 24:7-18. Eight names are identical with those of the heads in David's time. On comparing the present list with that of the families who sealed to Nehemiah's covenant Nehemiah 10:2-8, we shall find that the first sixteen recur in that document nearly in the same order; but that the last six are absent from it. It would seem that as these six declined to seal to Nehemiah's covenant, they were placed below the rest here in a sort of supplementary list. Note especially the "and" which connects the second part of the lists with the earlier part, both in Nehemiah 12:6 and in Nehemiah 12:19.
2Amariah, Malluch, Hattush,
3Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,
4Iddo, Ginnetho, Abijah,
5Miamin, Maadiah, Bilgah,
6Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah,
7Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua.
8Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren.
Of the Levitical houses here mentioned, three only returned at first, those of Jeshua, Kadmiel, and Judah or Hodevah Nehemiah 7:43. The others must have returned subsequently.
9Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, were over against them in the watches.
10And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada,
The six generations of high priests covered a little more than two centuries (538-333 B.C.), or a little under thirty-five years to a generation. Jaddua was the high priest who (according to Josephus) had an interview with Alexander shortly after the battle of Issus.
11And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua.
12And in the days of Joiakim were priests, the chief of the fathers: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;
13Of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan;
14Of Melicu, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph;
15Of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai;
16Of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam;
17Of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai;
18Of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan;
19And of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi;
20Of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber;
21Of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethaneel.
22The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian.
These verses interrupt the account of the church officers in the time of Joiakim, resumed in Nehemiah 12:24. They appear to be an addition to the original text, made about the time of Alexander the Great, when the Books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah would seem to have first taken their existing shape. The same writer who introduced these verses, probably also added Nehemiah 12:11 to the original text.
Darius the Persian - Probably Darius Codomannus (336-331 B.C.), the antagonist of Alexander the Great. See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah.
This passage shows that the practice of keeping a record of public events in state archives was continued after the return from the captivity, at least to the time of Johanan, the son, i. e., "the grandson," of Eliasbib.
23The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, were written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.
24And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward over against ward.
Jeshua the son of Kadmiel - If the reading be sound, this Jeshua must have been the head of the Levitical family of Kadmiel in the time of Joiakim; but (compare Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 9:4), some read "Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel," etc.
Ward over against ward - i. e., "alternately," one part of the choir corresponding the other.
25Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub, were porters keeping the ward at the thresholds of the gates.
In 1 Chronicles 9:17, 1 Chronicles 9:24, 1 Chronicles 9:26, four families of porters only are mentioned; six are implied here, in Nehemiah 7:45, and in Ezra 2:42. From 1 Chronicles 26:14-19 it appears that the temple had four chief gates, fronting the cardinal points, and two minor ones, "toward Asuppim," and "at Parbar."
26These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe.
27And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.
The dedication of the wall - The ceremony had been deferred for the space of nearly 12 years Nehemiah 13:6. Perhaps Nehemiah required an express permission from the Persian king before he could venture on a solemnity which might have been liable to misrepresentation.
Out of all their places - i. e., out of the various cities of Judah and Benjamin in which they dwelt Nehemiah 11:36.
28And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi;
The plain country round about Jerusalem - Perhaps the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, which enclose Jerusalem on three sides, are intended.
The villages of Netophathi - Rather, as in 1 Chronicles 9:16. Netophah lay near Bethlehem 1 Chronicles 2:54, and is perhaps represented by the modern Antubeh.
29Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem.
The house of Gilgal - Or, "Beth-Gilgal" - probably the Gilgal north of Jerusalem (now "Jiljilia).
30And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.
31Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:
I brought up - Note the resumption of the first person, which has been laid aside since Nehemiah 7:5, and which is confirmed now to the end of the book. It is generally allowed that we have here once more a memoir by Nehemiah himself.
The two "companies" or choirs, having ascended the wall on its western face, near the modern Jaffa Gate, stood looking eastward toward the city and temple; then the southern choir, being on the right, commenced the circuit of the southern wall, while the choir upon the left proceeded round the northern wall Nehemiah 12:38-39, until both met on the eastern wall, between the water and the prison gates.
32And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah,
33And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam,
34Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah,
"Judah and Benjamin" are the lay people of those two tribes.
35And certain of the priests' sons with trumpets; namely, Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph:
36And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them.
37And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward.
Above the house of David - This choir or procession went above (or beyond) the old palace of David, following the line described in Nehemiah 3:16-26, on their way to the eastern wall.
38And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;
39And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate.
40So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me:
41And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets;
42And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer.
43Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
44And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.
Judah rejoiced - Judah's satisfaction with the priests and Levites took the shape of increased offerings, more ample tithes, and the like, from where the appointment of treasuries and treasurers became necessary.
45And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son.
The ward of the purification - The observances with respect to purification. Compare 1 Chronicles 23:28.
46For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.
47And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.
The intention is to compare the religious activity and strictness of Nehemiah's time with that which had prevailed under Zerubbabel, as described by Ezra Ezr 6:16, Ezra 6:22. It is implied that the intermediate period had been a time of laxity.
They sanctified holy things ... - i. e, "the people paid their tithes regularly to the Levites, and the Levites paid the tithe of the tithes to the priests."