Nehemiah
Introduction 1-2 Those Who Lived in the Jerusalem 3-24 Those Who Went to Live in Jerusalem 25-36 Residents of Other Villages and Cities
Introduction

The wall and the gates were not erected to give the few who live within the wall the exclusive right to the house of God. That would mean sectarianism. It is not the intention to forbid those who live outside the wall access to the house of God. Then the wall would serve for their own glory, they would exclude many of the people of God and deny the rights of the LORD.

This is what the people in Ezekiel 11 are doing (Eze 11:1515“Son of man, your brothers, your relatives, your fellow exiles and the whole house of Israel, all of them, [are those] to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the LORD; this land has been given us as a possession.’). There we see that as a result the glory of the LORD disappears from the house (Eze 11:2323The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.). They lose what they claim. God does not connect His glory with spiritual pride and human posturing. But we also see there that the LORD is a sanctuary for those who are excluded (Eze 11:1616Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.”‘).

The wall is not built to separate those who live in Jerusalem from the other members of God’s people, but to maintain the holiness of God’s house. The wall is necessary because without separation it is impossible to maintain the holiness of God’s house. But we must also see clearly the danger that the truth of separation can be abused to form a ‘better’ group that excludes many who belong to the people of God. In this way the rights of God are denied and, finally, the very truth of the house of God that would be maintained through true seclusion is lost.


Those Who Lived in the Jerusalem

1Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths [remained] in the [other] cities. 2And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

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.


Those Who Went to Live in Jerusalem

3Now these are the heads of the provinces who lived in Jerusalem, but in the cities of Judah each lived on his own property in their cities—the Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4Some of the sons of Judah and some of the sons of Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. From the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of the Shilonite. 6All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 able men. 7Now these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah; 8and after him Gabbai [and] Sallai, 928. 9Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer, and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second in command of the city. 10From the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the leader of the house of God, 12and their kinsmen who performed the work of the temple, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, 13and his kinsmen, heads of fathers’ [households], 242; and Amashsai the son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14and their brothers, valiant warriors, 128. And their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of Haggedolim. 15Now from the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16and Shabbethai and Jozabad, from the leaders of the Levites, who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God; 17and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18All the Levites in the holy city [were] 284. 19Also the gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brethren who kept watch at the gates, [were] 172. 20The rest of Israel, of the priests [and] of the Levites, [were] in all the cities of Judah, each on his own inheritance. 21But the temple servants were living in Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of the temple servants. 22Now the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, from the sons of Asaph, who were the singers for the service of the house of God. 23For [there was] a commandment from the king concerning them and a firm regulation for the song leaders day by day. 24Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was the king’s representative in all matters concerning the people.

Those who settle in the city are remembered by God. Psalm 87 shows what God thinks of Jerusalem. That should be enough. Most of the names are forgotten by us as soon as we have read them. But for God this list is valuable, as are the other lists of names in these books of after exile. Before the judgment seat of Christ, their names will be mentioned again. Then these volunteers of heart will notice how good their choice was to accept the loss in this world in order to be able to take better care of the city of God’s choice.

Some details in this section:

The work outside the house of God – verse 1616and Shabbethai and Jozabad, from the leaders of the Levites, who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God;

Those “who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God” are engaged in things that are not done directly in the house of God, but which are necessary for the orderly progress of the activities in the house of God. The activities that take place in the house of God are directly related to approaching God to honor Him. There are also activities that do not have that direct purpose, but that contribute to that purpose.

Perhaps we can apply this to “serve the tables” – that is, administering and distributing collected money from the believers – in addition to devoting “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-42So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.3Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”). Believers who are supported by this will honor God in His house. One can also think of sexton service. A sexton ensures that the outer circumstances are such that the service is possible.

It can also relate to the spiritual repair of defects on the outside of the house of God. We can think of the behavior of believers in the world who need correction. It is a blessing if such believers are reminded of this. In a sense this can be understood as a “work outside the house of God”. In the same way, evangelization takes place in the world, outside the church, but is connected with it.

Beginning the thanksgiving at prayer – verse 1717and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun.

Prayer begins with praise. If we want to make our needs known to God – and He invites us sincerely to do so – it is important that we first thank Him for all the benefits He has already given us.

Living in the cities – verse 2020The rest of Israel, of the priests [and] of the Levites, [were] in all the cities of Judah, each on his own inheritance.

Living in the cities is not of a lesser order, but of a different order, than living in Jerusalem. Everything has its place under the rule of God. Motives come to light, but God can direct everything so that it corresponds to His purpose. All those who do not dwell in Jerusalem go to their own inheritance.

Concern for the singers – verse 2323For [there was] a commandment from the king concerning them and a firm regulation for the song leaders day by day.

The pagan authority, the king of Persia, is even mentioned in connection with the house of God. Those who are to be maintained by the people who give the tithes are now dependent on the rulers. Probably the people have failed in bringing the tithes, or the people are too few in number, so that few tithes are brought. God has made the pagan ruler’s heart favorable, in order to provide for the possible negligence of his people.

This concerns the care of the singers who may have been forgotten by the people, but not by God. He cares for them through the head of the nations. If the whole people forget the singers, God knows other ways to achieve that the singers can do their work.

The temple service is not only a sacrificial service, but also a singing service. Because of the sacrifice it is possible to sing. Only those who know the sacrifice and live from the sacrifice can sing. Accompanying the worship service by means of hymns of praise and spiritual songs is the privilege of every member of God’s people today. If there is little praise, because the people of God do not give substance to it, there are always other reasons to sing praise to God.

The king’s representative – verse 2424Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was the king’s representative in all matters concerning the people.

Pethahiah, from the lineage of Judah, is a royal agent who brings the Jewish affairs before the king of Persia and informs the Jews about the king’s wishes and orders. In this he is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the Advocate for His own with the Father and the Apostle on behalf of God with His own.


Residents of Other Villages and Cities

25Now as for the villages with their fields, some of the sons of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its towns, in Dibon and its towns, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26and in Jeshua, in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27and in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its towns, 28and in Ziklag, in Meconah and in its towns, 29and in En-rimmon, in Zorah and in Jarmuth, 30Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, Azekah and its towns. So they encamped from Beersheba as far as the valley of Hinnom. 31The sons of Benjamin also [lived] from Geba [onward], at Michmash and Aija, at Bethel and its towns, 32at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35Lod and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36From the Levites, [some] divisions in Judah belonged to Benjamin.

What at first sight does not seem to us to be of much importance will be examined with special interest by the Jews in the last days. It is an equally faithful service for some to cultivate the land and live in the restored villages and thus preserve the land for God, as it is for others to live in the city of God. God values everything according to the intentions of the heart, which will become apparent in the coming day.


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