The leaders of the people (Neh 10:14-10:27)

“The leaders of the people were Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.”

Unlike the 2 other groups, like the priests and Levites that are mentioned often in this book, 25% of these named leaders only appear here rather than elsewhere in this book, Adonijah, Azzur, Nebai, Magpiash, Hezir, Pelatiah, Hoshea, Pilha, Shobek, Hashabnah, Ahiah, and Anan. However, the other 30 of the 44 are common names mentioned often in this book, since they are ancestral leaders.

The Levites who sign the agreement with Nehemiah (Neh 10:9-10:13)

“The Levites were Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel, and their associates Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Bani, and Beninu.”

Most of these 16 Levite names have appeared earlier in his book. Hodiah is mentioned twice. Only Rehob and Beninu are not mentioned elsewhere in this book. All the other Levites are mentioned from 2 – 5 times in this book.


The prayer of the Levites (Neh 9:5-9:5)

“Then the Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said.

‘Stand up!

Bless Yahweh your God,

From everlasting to everlasting!

Blessed be your glorious name

That is exalted above all blessing and praise.’”

This is somewhat reminiscent of Psalm 78. These are the 8 Levites just mentioned in the preceding paragraph. However Bunni has become Hodiah and Chenani has become Pethahiah. They wanted the people to stand up and bless God because he is everlasting and glorious. Therefore Yahweh should be exalted above all blessings and praises.

 

The penitential worship of Yahweh (Neh 9:1-9:4)

“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth upon their heads. Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. They stood up in their place. They read from the book of the law of Yahweh their God for a fourth part of the day. For another fourth, they made confession and worshiped Yahweh their God. Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites. They cried with a loud voice to Yahweh their God.”

The traditional penitential posture was fasting and sackcloth, which was the cheap cloth that things were bundled in. This seems to have been separated from Yom Kippur, but nevertheless much like it. They separated themselves from all foreigners. Then they stood and confessed their own sins as well as the evils of their ancestors. A quarter of the day they were confessing sins and then a quarter of the day they were reading or listening to a reading from the book of the law of Yahweh. 8 of them stood on the Levite steps and cried out to Yahweh. 3 of them were the people who helped explain the law in the preceding chapter, Jeshua, Bani, and Sherebiah. In fact, Bani is mentioned twice, while the others are from the ancestral Levite families that returned. Chenani is only one mentioned here and nowhere else.

Reading from the book of Moses (Neh 8:4-8:8)

“The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had made for this purpose. Beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand. Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam stood on his left hand. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people. He was above all the people. When he opened it all the people stood up. Ezra blessed Yahweh, the great God! All the people answered. ‘Amen, Amen!’ They lifted up their hands. Then they bowed their heads as they worshiped Yahweh with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform or tower so that they could hear and see him. This was similar to the special bronze platform of King Solomon in 2 Chronicles, chapter 6.   He had 6 people on his right side and 7 on his left side. Of the 6 on the right side Maaseiah will be also one of those instructing the people. All the others just appear here although there are numerous other biblical people with the same names. On the left side, Pedaiah, Malchijah, and Meshullam had helped with the wall. Hashum and Zechariah were from important returning families, while very little is known about Mishael and Hashbaddanah. He opened the book, probably the Book of Deuteronomy, but it is not clear. Everyone stood up as he opened the book, much like Roman Catholics stand for the reading of the Gospel of Jesus. There was the great ‘Amen’ at the end of Ezra’s blessing of Yahweh. They lifted up their hands to pray and then bowed their heads to the ground, much like the Muslim prayer position. There was another group who helped the people to understand the law. They seem to be important Levite family members, especially Jeshua, Bani, Azariah, and Hanan. Only Jamin appears here and nowhere else, while Akkub was a gatekeeper. They gave an interpretation of the law so that the people could understand it. Some commentators indicate that this might have been a translation into Aramaic, since the book was written in Hebrew. However, it could have been a commentary also.

 

The list of the guilty Israelites by family (Ezra 10:25-10:44)

“The descendents of Parosh were Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. The descendents of Elam were Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. The descendents of Zattu were Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. The descendents of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. The descendents of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. The descendents of Pahath-moab were Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. The descendents of Harim were Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. The descendents of Hashum were Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. The descendents of Bani were Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu. The descendents of Binnui were Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. The descendents of Nebo were Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. All these had married foreign women. They sent them away with their children.”

This list reads like the list of people who came with Ezra with the heads of the families. There were 11 different families with 83 people sending their wives away. 7 of these families came with Ezra from Babylon. Only 4 families did not come with him, Harim, Hashum, Binnui, and Nebo. The Bani family is listed twice. Some of these names more than once, while other names only appear here and nowhere else in biblical literature. This means that 109 people were listed as haven given up their foreign wives. In fact, it does not seem like a lot of people if this list includes everyone. This list is interesting in that these people will become known as sinners. The assumption is that they were dead at the time of this writing. Why should we remember their names? They sacrificed their families for Yahweh by divorcing their wives and sending away their children.

Those who came with Ezra (Ezra 8:1-8:14)

“These are the family heads. This is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of King Artaxerxes. There was the descendent of Phinehas, Gershom. There was the descendent of Ithamar, Daniel. There was the descendent of David, Hattush. There were the descendents of Shecaniah. There were the descendents of Parosh, Zechariah with one hundred fifty registered men. There were the descendents of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah with two hundred men. There were the descendents of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel with three hundred men. There were the descendents of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan with fifty men. There were the descendents of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah with seventy men. There were the descendents of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael with eighty men. There were the descendents of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel with two hundred eighteen men. There were the descendents of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah with one hundred sixty men. There were the descendents of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai with twenty-eight men. There were the descendents of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan with one hundred ten men. There were the descendents of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah with sixty men. There were the descendents of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur with seventy men.”

Once again, we have the use of the singular personal pronoun “with me.” This no longer is a story about someone else but a personal eye witness account. It is the story of Ezra himself, or someone pretending to be him. These are the people who were with him, about 1,500 men. If you count women and children then this would be about 5,000, about a 10% the size of the group that set out under King Cyrus in 537 BCE, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. A number of these families seem to have only 1 person since there is no number given unlike the others with specific numbers. Thus the descendents of Phinehas, Ithamar, David, and Shecaniah have either one or no one listed. Phinehas and Ithamar were the son and grandson of Aaron. This Shecaniah is virtually unknown since a lot of biblical people had that name. Most of these people were the descendents of those who had come to Jerusalem in chapter 2 of this book 80 years earlier. Thus the descendents of Parosh only had 150 men instead of 2,172 men 80 years earlier. The descendents of Pahath-moab are only 200 instead of 2,800. The descendents of Zattu were 300 instead of 945. The descendents of Adin were 50 instead of 445. The descendents of Elam were 70 instead of 1,294. The descendents of Shephatiah were 80 instead of 372. The descendents of Bani were 160 instead of 642. The descendents of Bebai were 28 instead of 623. The descendents of Azgad were 110 instead of 1,222. The descendents of Adonikam were 60 instead of 666. The descendents of Bigvai were 70 instead of 2,256. There was no mention of the descendents of Arah, Zaccai, Ater, Bezai, Hashum, or Jorah that were in chapter 2. The only new group here was Joab with 218 men.