COMMENTARY ON NEHEMIAH
“ 10:1 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests. 9 And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 And their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodijah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chief of the people; Parosh, Pahathmoab, Elam, Zatthu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hizkijah, Azzur, 18 Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabeel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub, 24 Hallohesh, Pileha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 And Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah. 28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding. ” (Neh 10:1-28)
Nehemiah lists those who put their names to the covenant, and stood solidly behind it. This was an blessed historical point that marked a new beginning – a period of renewal and restoration. The names in our text are a sort of honorable mention – an example of people recognized by God. Seen correctly, it is like a sampling of “the book of life.” Although they associated their names with the covenant, God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put their names in Scripture – and that is a significant thing.
NEHEMIAH, THE PRIESTS, AND THE LEVITES
“ 9:36 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests. 9 And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 And their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodijah, Bani, Beninu.”
NEHEMIAH. Here, Nehemiah is called “the Tirshatha.” Other translations read “the Governor.” The term “Tirshatha” was the title of a Persian Deputy or Governor. There are four other mentions of this word: Ezra 2:63; Neh 7:65,70; 8:9. Ezra probably refers to Zerubbabel, who was the Governor at the time the Temple was rebuilt. The other references are to Nehemiah himself, who is specifically said to be “the Tirshatha” at the time covered by this book (8:9; 10:1). He is also called “the governor” in 12:26. The former term (Tirshatha) emphasizes his Persian appointment. The later underscores his civil responsibilities. This was an office into which Nehemiah was placed by Artaxerses, in the twentieth year of his reign. Nehemiah occupied this office for twelve years (Neh 5:14). Thus, by Divine providence, Nehemiah was equipped for his work, finding favor with both God and man (Prov 3:4; Lk 2:52), or, as was said of Jacob, he had “power with God and with men” (Gen 32:28).
Nehemiah is called “the son of Hachaliah” (1:1; 10:1) to distinguish him from the “Nehemiah” of Zerubbabel’s time (Ezra 2:2). In the capacity of duly appointed leader, Nehemiah puts his seal and signature to the covenant, being the first to do so.
AND ZIDKIJAH. Other versions say “Zedekiah.” The KJV uses the transliterated name, transferring the letters to English. The others translate the word. The meaning of this man’s name is “Jehovah is righteous.” This is the only place in the Bible this precise name is mentioned. Some have concluded it is the same person as “Zadok,” who was Nehemiah’s personal scribe (Neh 13:13), and a priest as well. Although this is mere conjecture, this man does appear to be very prominent because of his immediate association with Nehemiah (“Nehemiah and Zedkijah”). It is possible that he drew up the covenant that is now being signed by a host of people. He is the first in the listing of the priests, who represented the spiritual life of the people.
THE PRIESTS. In addition to Zidkijah, twenty one other priests are mentioned by name. They are called “THE priests.”It is interesting that the names of Ezra the priest (8:2) and Eliashib the high priest (3:1) are omitted in the listing. The listed names, however, are not merely individuals, but the heads of priestly houses. We conclude this because fifteen of the twenty-one name are in Nehemiah 12:2-7 as “chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua.”
The first name after Zidkijah is “Seraiah,” who is no doubt the same man mentioned in the eleventh chapter, where he is identified as “the ruler of the house of God” (11:11). This could also account for the absence of Eliashib the high priest, who is later said to have been unfaithful, preparing a chamber in the house of the Lord for wicked Tobiah (13:7). The thing to see in this listing is the discretion used in the selection of those who signed it. It was a serious document, and was not signed as though it was a mere petition.
THE LEVITES. The Levites signing the covenant consisted of Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, and their fourteen brothers – seventeen in all. Of these names, Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, and Sherebiah are mentioned later in the book as “Levites” who were “over the thanksgiving” (12:8).
Levites are distinguished from the priests. It is true that all priests were Levites (Deut 18:1; 21:5; 31:9). However, all Levites were not priests. Technically, these were assistants to the priests, who were charged with more immediate duties of making sacrifices, washings, judgments, the likes. The “Levites” were in charge of setting up, caring for, and carrying the tabernacle (Num 1:50-51; 3:6-9; 4:1-33). They could not, however, touch any part of the tabernacle until the priests had covered it (Num 4:5-15).
THEIR BRETHREN. These their brethren in ministry, not their flesh-and-blood brethren, and were fourteen in number. All of them were of the tribe of Levi, and were engaged in the ministry of the house of God, but appear to be in a subordinate position. Other versions refer to them as “their associates” NIV/NRSV Thus, everyone associated with the service of God, in particular the Temple service, put their names to the covenant.
THE RULERS OF THE PEOPLE
“ 14 The chief of the people; Parosh, Pahathmoab, Elam, Zatthu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hizkijah, Azzur, 18 Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabeel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub, 24 Hallohesh, Pileha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 And Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.”
A list of names like this can easily be ignored, or treated as though it was of little consequence. However, this is to be seen as a Divine commendation of these people. Consider your interest in this list if your own name had been included, or a member of your family. Indeed, the men in this list are members of your family – the “household” of which you are now “fellowcitizens” in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:19).
CHIEF OF THE PEOPLE. These are the “leaders of the people,” NKJV/NASB/NIV and are forty-four in number. Twenty-nine of these men are mentioned elsewhere in Nehemiah. Parosh (3:25; 7:8), Pahathmoab (3:11; 7:11), Elam (12:42), Bani (3:17;8:7), Bunni (10:15; 11;15), Azgad (7:17), Bebai (7:16), Bigvai (7:7,19), Adin (7:20), Ater (7:21,45), Hodijah (10:10,13), Hashum (7:22; 8:4), Bezai (7:23), Hariph (7:24), Anathoth (7:27; 11:32) Meshullam (3:4-6,30; 6:18; 8:4; 11:7; 11; 12:13,16,25,33), Meshezabeel (3:4; 1124), Zadok (3:4,29; 11:11; 13:13), Jaddua (12:11,22), Hanan (7:49; 8:7; 13:13), Anaiah (8:4), Hananiah (3:8,30; 7:2; 12:12,41), Hashub (3:11,23; 11:15), Rehum (3:17; 12:3), Maaseiah (3:23; 8:4,7; 11:5,7; 12:4142), Hanan (7:49; 8:7)13:13), Malluch (12:2), Harim (3:11; 12:15), Baanah (7:7).
Fifteen of them are not mentioned anywhere else: Zatthu, Adonijah, Hizkijah, Azzur, Nebai, Magpiash, Hezir, Pelatiah, Hoshea, Hallohesh, Pileha, Shobek, Hashabriah, Ahijah, Anah.
We do not know how many people were represented by these leaders. The number returning with Zerubbabel around ninety years earlier was 42,360. If we assume the births and deaths were approximately the same, that would make each leader responsible for around 962 people. This is by no means intended to be a precise figure. Rather, it provides a perspective of the type of people mentioned. Those who tend to think small should stretch their minds in this regard. Also remember, these men were leaders in troublous times.
SOMETHING TO LEARN. There are many lessons to learn from this listing.
■ First, those are “chief of the people,” or leaders, are duly noted by the Lord. We are charged with remembering the ones who “have the rule” over us, both in Christ’s body (Heb 13:7), and in civil matters (1 Tim 2:2). It is refreshing to recall they are also considered by God Himself. The Holy Spirit has given honor to these men by including their names in His Word.
■ Second, all rulers are not the same. Some of these men are mentioned frequently, and some are never mentioned anywhere else. I like to think of this in two ways. First, being a leader is itself a distinguishing thing. However, as in every facet of the Kingdom, individuals can excel above their peers. Abel, Jacob, and Joseph can excel as brothers. Moses can surpass others in the matter of faithfulness. David can excel as a shepherd, warrior, and king. Debra, Miriam, and Phebe can stand out among women. Timothy can shine as a young man. Paul can rise to heights as an Apostle. Luke can excel as a physician.
■ Third, a person can be noted for something significant. There are some people in God’s Word who are noted for a specific thing. Ponder wicked men noted for specific sins they committed: Cain, the men of Sodom, Pharaoh, the people at Babel, Judas, and Diotrephes. What of people concerning which only one thing is said – and that is a good thing: Jabez (1 Chron 4:9-10), Quartus (Rom 16:23), Joseph of Arimathaea (John 19:38), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:12), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), and Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16). In our text, rulers are mentioned that put their names on a covenant made before God. That deed alone makes them significant.
■ Fourth, nothing done for or unto the Lord is overlooked by Him. In this world, there may very well be people who fail to see what is done out of a sensitive conscience toward God, but He will never overlook it. Thus it is written, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10). His recollection is so precise and all encompassing that Jesus said, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mat 10:42).
EVERYONE WITH KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING
“ 28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding.”
THE REST OF THE PEOPLE. These were the people who did not actually sign the covenant. Those signing the covenant include Nehemian, 22 priests, 17 Levites, and 44 leaders – 84 in all. They not only signed for themselves, but for all they represented. We will find there will be perfect accord among the rest of the people in this matter, with no dissenters. All will enter heartily into the covenant, as will be attested later.
THOSE DEVOTED TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD. Everyone dedicated to the service of the Lord stands solidly behind the covenant, making themselves a part of it. These people were directly involved with the Temple service. When you consider the fractured state of the church, this is a remarkable thing.
Priests. These men officiated in the Temple, performing the tasks related to representing the people to God, and God to the people. Speaking of these men, the Spirit testifies, “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God” (Heb 9:6).
Levites. These were the assistants to the priests, who were charged with all servile duties related to the Temple functions. These were “over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it” (Num 1:50).
Porters. These are the “gatekeepers,” NKJV and were responsible for guarding the various entrances into the Temple. In David’s day, there were 4,000 “porters” (1 Chron 23:5). These were divided into various groups, and were assigned their post by lot (1 Chron 26:1-19). Their’s was more a military position, protecting the temple.
Singers. These were servants who remained in “chambers” the house of God. They were exempt from other duties, and were employed in their work “day and night” (1 Chron 9:33). David first appointed these servants “to be singers with instruments of music” (1 Chron 15:16). We are told this was done “according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets” (2 Chron 29:25). These singers were of “the sons of Asaph” (2 Chron 35:15).
Nethinims. These were servants devoted to the menial work of the sanctuary. While the Levites were servants of the priests, the Nethinims were servants of the Levites. As it is written, David also appointed these “for the service of the Levites.” In the time of David, there were 220 of them (Ezra 8:20).
THE SEPARATED ONES. These included those who had separated themselves from the “people of the lands,” or heathen nations. They are the people mentioned in 9:2; “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers.” All alliances with the wicked were broken, from marriage to business. However, this group it may also include proselytes who had turned from their heathen manners in favor of the God of the Jews.
UNTO THE LAW OF GOD. That is, they separated from the heathen “for the sake of the Law of God,” NIV or “to adhere to the Law of God.” NRSV They knew that in order to serve God, a separation from defiling influences is essential (2 Cor 6:17).
WHOLE FAMILIES. The formal gathering and covenant included the entire family, and was not for the men alone. The men did not represent absent families, but stood with “their wives, their sons, and their daughters.” When Ezra first read the Law to the people, the men, women, and children stood to hear (8:2). After hearing the Word, all of them had responded with “Amen, Amen,” lifted up their hands, bowing their heads and worshiping the Lord (8:3). Now they stand together, agreeing with the covenant.
EVERYONE WITH KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING. This refers to everyone capable of understanding. This knowledge and understanding did not require an in-depth comprehension of everything articulated in the covenant. It does mean they had a grasp of the need and seriousness of the covenant, and had been given to see the wrongness of the way in which they had been going. Young Samuel is described as “the child” who “grew on, and was in favor both with the LORD and with man” (1 Sam 2:26). Jesus had profound understanding at the age of twelve – not because He was Divine, but because He had “increased in wisdom,” and “in favor with God” (Luke2:52). Thus EVERYONE from the youngest to the oldest have together agreed to this covenant.