This verse is a continuation of Nehemiah 7:4. The intervening chapters have informed us of the religious condition of the people. Surprisingly, it turns out that people are not eager to go and live in Jerusalem, even though the wall has been completed. The cities in the countryside are more popular. Jerusalem is the ‘undesirable’ city, or rather the ‘abandoned’ one. The city is spacious enough, but the number of inhabitants is small (Neh 7:44Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses were not built.). This will be different in the future (Isa 49:14-2114But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
15“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
16“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms [of My hands];
Your walls are continually before Me.
17“Your builders hurry;
Your destroyers and devastators
Will depart from you.
18“Lift up your eyes and look around;
All of them gather together, they come to you.
As I live,” declares the LORD,
“You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride.
19“For your waste and desolate places and your destroyed land—
Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you will be far away.
20“The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears,
‘The place is too cramped for me;
Make room for me that I may live [here].’
21“Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have been bereaved of my children
And am barren, an exile and a wanderer?
And who has reared these?
Behold, I was left alone;
From where did these come?’”
; Zec 8:44Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age.).
In 1 Chronicles 9 there is also a list of those who have repopulated Jerusalem (1Chr 9:2-212Now the first who lived in their possessions in their cities [were] Israel, the priests, the Levites and the temple servants.3Some of the sons of Judah, of the sons of Benjamin and of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem:4Uthai the son of Ammihud, the son of Omri, the son of Imri, the son of Bani, from the sons of Perez the son of Judah.5From the Shilonites [were] Asaiah the firstborn and his sons.6From the sons of Zerah [were] Jeuel and their relatives, 690 [of them].7From the sons of Benjamin [were] Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, the son of Hassenuah,8and Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, and Elah the son of Uzzi, the son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephatiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah;9and their relatives according to their generations, 956. All these [were] heads of fathers’ [households] according to their fathers’ houses.10From the priests [were] Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin,11and Azariah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the chief officer of the house of God;12and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, and Maasai the son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer;13and their relatives, heads of their fathers’ households, 1,760 very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.14Of the Levites [were] Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari;15and Bakbakkar, Heresh and Galal and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zichri, the son of Asaph,16and Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, the son of Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites.17Now the gatekeepers [were] Shallum and Akkub and Talmon and Ahiman and their relatives (Shallum the chief18[being stationed] until now at the king’s gate to the east). These [were] the gatekeepers for the camp of the sons of Levi.19Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his relatives of his father’s house, the Korahites, [were] over the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent; and their fathers had been over the camp of the LORD, keepers of the entrance.20Phinehas the son of Eleazar was ruler over them previously, [and] the LORD was with him.21Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper of the entrance of the tent of meeting.). Many of the names mentioned there can be found here. Their names are joyfully mentioned by God (Psa 112:6b6For he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be remembered forever.
The leaders of the people go voluntarily. They feel responsible for good government and good defense of the city of God. Do we want to be as close to the Lord as possible? The place where the sanctuary stands and where God dwells is attractive only for faith, not for the flesh.
Jerusalem is called “the holy city” here (verse 1818All the Levites in the holy city [were] 284.; Isa 48:22“For they call themselves after the holy city
And lean on the God of Israel;
The LORD of hosts is His name.
; 52:11Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Will no longer come into you.
; Dan 9:2424“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy [place].; Mt 4:55Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,; 27:5353and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.; Rev 11:22Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.), because God has chosen this city as His city and the temple as His dwelling place is there. This is the reason for the God-fearing to want to live there. To live in that city, so close to God, requires looking carefully at the walk. Also, those who live there are special objects of the enemy’s attacks.
These two aspects may be the cause of the lack of enthusiasm to live there. What is forgotten is that just as Jerusalem is particularly hated and threatened by its enemies, it is also protected with special care by its God and made a “safe dwelling place” (Isa 33:2020Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an undisturbed habitation,
A tent which will not be folded;
Its stakes will never be pulled up,
Nor any of its cords be torn apart.
; Psa 46:5-65God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
Not wanting to live in that city, but preferring to live in the country, can also have to do with considerations of a business nature. More ‘profit’ can be made outside Jerusalem. The application for us is to seek our own interests, to think of the earthly things, rather than to seek and think of the interests and things of the Lord Jesus (Phil 2:2121For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.).
For those who allow themselves to be guided not by faith but by sight, the city has lost its attractiveness. The cloud of glory is no longer there, there is no ruler from the house of Judah, but a foreigner reigns there, the city is deserted and most of the houses are in ruins. Because of the sins of the people all glory is gone. But faith keeps it in remembrance (Hag 2:44But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the LORD of hosts.) and cherishes the sure hope of its return, never to leave again.
What determines spiritually the place where we want to live? Do we want to be where there are many people and much action is found or among the two or three who come together in the Name of the Lord Jesus?
In order to recruit residents for Jerusalem, they are going to “tithe” themselves, just as they used to tithe their goods (Neh 10:37-3837We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns.38The priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.). This is done by lot, of which they know that its guidance is done by the LORD (Pro 16:3333The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.). This will prevent quarrel, for in this way the LORD Himself makes clear who will dwell there. In this way the LORD also takes the tithes for Himself. Those ‘tithes’ represent before God the whole people.
Those who will voluntarily dwell there reap the appreciation of their fellow people, as if it were a great undertaking, a great achievement, to do so. Those who do it, leave everything behind, give it up. But the choice for the holy city, the city of God, is a blessed one, for the choice that is made is also God’s choice. He has chosen that city to live there. The city is still in ruins. It can only be attractive if it is looked at with the eyes of God and with the eye of faith that sees the future glory of that city.
Moses also once set up a tent for the LORD where he goes, while the people watch him, but do not go with him (Exo 33:7-117Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp.8And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent.9Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses.10When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent.11Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.). Only those who seek the LORD go to that tent where the glory of the LORD rests. There are not many of them. All who remain in their own tent do bow down at the sight of the pillar of cloud, but only Moses and Joshua enjoy fellowship with the LORD in that tent.
Sometimes there is respect for those who go their way in faith and therefore often in solitude, while there is no faith to go the same way. One holds on to visible, tangible things in the opinion that they offer more hold. They do know God, but are a bit anxious to entrust themselves to Him excluding everything else. If others can do that, take your hat off. But going that way themselves, no way.