Nehemiah 7 (NRSV)
Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed,
The singers and the Levites were there to lead the people in worship. We do well to remember that the walls were not rebuilt so the people of Jerusalem could look at nice walls. They were rebuilt so they could worship God with greater glory and freedom than ever before.
Psalm 68:24-26 (ESV)
Your procession is seen, O God,
the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them virgins playing tambourines:
“Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
2I gave my brother Hanani charge over Jerusalem, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel—for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.
Nehemiah’s brother was the one who first told him about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:2). His initiative and concern made him well qualified to govern.
3And I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot; while the gatekeepers are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their watch posts, and others before their own houses.” 4The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few and no houses had been built.
Security had to be high since the people were few, so the gates of the city were opened late and closed early.
Lists of the Returned Exiles
5Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who were the first to come back, and I found the following written in it:
This genealogical record is nearly identical to the list found in Ezra 2. Perhaps Nehemiah found Ezra’s list? Anyway, unless you are looking for an unusual name for a child or a pet, you can read the next verses quickly!
6These are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried into exile; they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.
The number of the Israelite people: 8the descendants of Parosh, two thousand one hundred seventy-two. 9Of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy-two. 10Of Arah, six hundred fifty-two. 11Of Pahath-moab, namely the descendants of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred eighteen. 12Of Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 13Of Zattu, eight hundred forty-five. 14Of Zaccai, seven hundred sixty. 15Of Binnui, six hundred forty-eight. 16Of Bebai, six hundred twenty-eight. 17Of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty-two. 18Of Adonikam, six hundred sixty-seven. 19Of Bigvai, two thousand sixty-seven. 20Of Adin, six hundred fifty-five. 21Of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, ninety-eight. 22Of Hashum, three hundred twenty-eight. 23Of Bezai, three hundred twenty-four. 24Of Hariph, one hundred twelve. 25Of Gibeon, ninety-five. 26The people of Bethlehem and Netophah, one hundred eighty-eight. 27Of Anathoth, one hundred twenty-eight. 28Of Beth-azmaveth, forty-two. 29Of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty-three. 30Of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty-one. 31Of Michmas, one hundred twenty-two. 32Of Bethel and Ai, one hundred twenty-three. 33Of the other Nebo, fifty-two. 34The descendants of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 35Of Harim, three hundred twenty. 36Of Jericho, three hundred forty-five. 37Of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty-one. 38Of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred thirty.
39The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy-three. 40Of Immer, one thousand fifty-two. 41Of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred forty-seven. 42Of Harim, one thousand seventeen.
43The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the descendants of Hodevah, seventy-four.
44The singers: the descendants of Asaph, one hundred forty-eight.
45The gatekeepers: the descendants of Shallum, of Ater, of Talmon, of Akkub, of Hatita, of Shobai, one hundred thirty-eight.
46The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, of Hasupha, of Tabbaoth, 47of Keros, of Sia, of Padon, 48of Lebana, of Hagaba, of Shalmai, 49of Hanan, of Giddel, of Gahar, 50of Reaiah, of Rezin, of Nekoda, 51of Gazzam, of Uzza, of Paseah, 52of Besai, of Meunim, of Nephushesim, 53of Bakbuk, of Hakupha, of Harhur, 54of Bazlith, of Mehida, of Harsha, 55of Barkos, of Sisera, of Temah, 56of Neziah, of Hatipha.
57The descendants of Solomon’s servants: of Sotai, of Sophereth, of Perida, 58of Jaala, of Darkon, of Giddel, 59of Shephatiah, of Hattil, of Pochereth-hazzebaim, of Amon.
60All the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants were three hundred ninety-two.
61The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their ancestral houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 62the descendants of Delaiah, of Tobiah, of Nekoda, six hundred forty-two. 63Also, of the priests: the descendants of Hobaiah, of Hakkoz, of Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; 65the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until a priest with Urim and Thummim should come.
Only through genealogies could a person prove he was a descendant of Abraham and thus a true Jew, or a descendant of Aaron and thus able to be a priest. In cases where there were questions, a priest could use the Urim and Thummim (a means of learning God’s will) and determine the answer.
66The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred sixty (42,360), 67besides their male and female slaves, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty-seven; and they had two hundred forty-five singers, male and female. 68They had seven hundred thirty-six horses, two hundred forty-five mules, 69four hundred thirty-five camels, and six thousand seven hundred twenty donkeys.
70Now some of the heads of ancestral houses contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand darics of gold, fifty basins, and five hundred thirty priestly robes. 71And some of the heads of ancestral houses gave into the building fund twenty thousand darics of gold and two thousand two hundred minas of silver. 72And what the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand darics of gold, two thousand minas of silver, and sixty-seven priestly robes.
73So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel settled in their towns.
This list was important because each of these people were important to God, in that they did what so few of their fellow Jews did –- they took the trouble to return back to the promised land after they had already set down roots for seventy years in the Babylonian empire.
These are people who had a pioneer spirit; they were willing to endure hardship and discomfort, because they had a call from God that was more important than their own comfort. Life was easier in Babylon, but it was better in Jerusalem!
In this list several things were important.
- Who the people were was important (specific names were mentioned).
- What families they came from was important (many family heads are named).
- Their gifts to support the work were important (they are specifically listed towards the end of the chapter).
This list flows beautifully after the completion of the work, because it reminds us that the work was really all about these people.
Jerusalem, My Happy Home
Hallelujah, we are on our way
Hallelujah, we are on our way to God
From Egypt lately come
Where death and darkness reign
To seek our new our better home
Where we our rest shall gain
There sin and sorrow cease
And every conflict’s o’er
There we shall dwell in endless peace
And never hunger more
We soon shall join the throng
Their pleasures we shall share
And sing the everlasting song
With all the ransomed there
There in celestial strains
Enraptured myriads sing
There love in every bosom reigns
For God Himself is King
Jerusalem, our happy home
Would God I were in Thee
Would God my woes were at an end
Thy joy that I might see
HERE is an old gospel song. “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord” was written by Mary M. Brown, a single school teacher in New England who died in 1918. She was well-loved for her dedication to her pupils and her community. A member of the Baptist church, she belonged to the Ladies’ Aid Society and the Mission Circle. Like all these persons listed above, she bloomed where the Lord planted her!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.