The Levites in the days of Eliashib (Neh 12:22-12:26)

“As for the Levites, in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, they were recorded as the heads of the ancestral houses. These were the priests until the reign of Darius the Persian. The Levites, heads of ancestral houses, were recorded in the Book of the Annals until the days of Johanan son of Eliashib. The leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua son of Kadmiel, with their associates over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of King David the man of God, section opposite to section. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. These were in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of the governor Nehemiah and the priest Ezra, the scribe.”

This is now a more up to date list of the priests around the time of Nehemiah. However, the list goes to King Darius II who died around 405 BCE. Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem around 446 BCE. It is possible that he lived until the reign of King Darius, but he clearly was a favorite of King Artaxerxes I. We know the names of the heads of the Levitical ancestral houses until the time of Johanan because they were recorded in a book at the Temple. This must have been like the lost books of the Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel.   The leaders were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and another Jeshua. They gave praise in antiphonal singing as they were opposite each other. The gatekeepers were Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub, who also had control over the storehouses at the Temple. All of these people were in charge during the time of the high priest Joiakim and also during the time that Governor Nehemiah and the priest scribe Ezra were in charge. It is interesting to note that it is no longer is “I” but the 3rd person who is telling this story about Nehemiah and his times.

 

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Living in the towns (Neh 7:73-7:73)

“So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, settled in their towns. When the seventh month came, the people of Israel were in their towns.”

Once again, this is very close to Ezra, chapter 2. The difference here is that it took 7 month for all the people to settle into their towns. The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and some of the people settled into their towns. Nehemiah calls this group all Israel. In fact, it was only Judah and Benjamin.

The list of Levites returning (Neh 7:43-7:45)

“The Levites who were the descendents of Jeshua, namely descendents of Kadmiel, the descendents of Hodevah, were seventy-four. The singers, who were the descendents of Asaph, were one hundred forty-eight. The gatekeepers, who were the descendents of Shallum, the descendents of Ater, the descendents of Talmon, the descendents of Akkub, the descendents of Hatita, the descendents of Shobai, were one hundred thirty-eight.”

There were only 3 groups of Levites, the people of Jeshua, the people of Kadmiel, and the people of Hodevah, or Hodaviah as in Ezra, with a total of 74, the same as in Ezra, chapter 2. The singers of the Asaph group had 148 rather than the 128 people in Ezra. The gatekeepers have a major role with 6 different groups. Shallum, Talmon, and Akkub and their families had been gatekeepers since the time of King David. On the other hand, the descendents of Ater, Hatita, and Shobai only appear at this time after the exile. Nevertheless, they only had a total of 138 and not 139 people as in Ezra. Somebody got lost.

The list of the guilty Levites (Ezra 10:23-10:24)

“Among the Levites, there were Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah, which is Kelita, Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. Among the singers there was only Eliashib. However, among the gatekeepers, there were Shallum, Telem, and Uri.”

Among the Levites, it was a smaller number who had married the foreign wives. There were only 6 Levites, 1 singer, and 3 gate keepers, for a total of 10, which were 6 less than the priests.

 

 

The travels of Ezra from Babylonia to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:6-7:10)

“This Ezra went up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that Yahweh the God of Israel had given. The king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of Yahweh his God was upon him. Some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants also went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. They came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. On the first day of the first month the journey up from Babylon was begun. On the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem. The gracious hand of his God was upon him. Ezra had set his heart to study the law of Yahweh, to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Ezra had been born in Babylon. It is precisely this scribe Ezra who will initiate the title or group of people called “scribes.” These were the writers, copiers, and interpreters of the Hebrew Scriptures about the Law of Moses, and Yahweh. At the same time, he was like a prophet since the hand of Yahweh was upon him.   Some priests and Levites, singers and gatekeepers, as well as Temple servants went with him. There is no specific number given, since it seems like a small group, not like the large group some 80 years earlier. They were leaving in the 7th year of King Artaxerxes, about 458 BCE. Their trip took about 5 months. God was with them so that nothing untold happened. Ezra wanted to study the Law of Yahweh, follow it, and teach it.

The Temple sacrifices (2 Chr 8:12-8:16)

“Then King Solomon offered up burnt offerings to Yahweh on the altar of Yahweh that he had built in front of the vestibule, as the duty of each day required. He offered sacrifices according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbath, the new moons, and the three annual festivals that is the festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks, and the festival of booths. According to the ordinance of his father King David, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service. He appointed the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry alongside the priests as the duty of each day required. He also appointed the gatekeepers in their divisions for the several gates. This King David the man of God had commanded. They did not turn away from what the king had commanded the priests and Levites regarding anything at all, or regarding the treasuries. Thus all the work of King Solomon was accomplished from the day the foundation of the house of the Yahweh was laid until the house of Yahweh was finished completely.”

This section is an elaboration of 1 Kings, chapter 9, unlike some of the previous summaries. In 1 Kings, King Solomon offered sacrifices 3 times a year with no indication of when these offerings took place. In 1 Kings, he, not a priest or Levite, offered up the sacrifices as the king took on a priestly role as well as a political role. Here, however, it is a daily sacrifice, but in the vestibule since the priests would offer the sacrifice. Here there is an elaboration of the 3 major feast days, the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks, and the feast of the booths. He had to follow all the instructions of King David about the division of ministries among the priests and Levites. There was an attempt to show the unity of King David and King Solomon.

The census of the Levites (1 Chr 23:2-23:6)

“King David assembled all the leaders of Israel together with the priests and the Levites. The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were counted. The total was thirty-eight thousand. ‘Twenty-four thousand of these,’ David said, ‘shall have charge of the work in the house of Yahweh.  Six thousand shall be officers and judges. Four thousand shall be gatekeepers. Four thousand shall offer praises to Yahweh with the instruments that I have made for praise. David organized them into three divisions, corresponding to the sons of Levi, Gershom, Kohath, and Merari.”

What seems strange here is that counting the Levites is not a bad thing when there was such chagrin in chapter 21 about the Davidic census that was Satan inspired. There were 38,000 Levite men over the age of 30. 24,000 were assigned to the house of Yahweh, the Temple. That small Temple would be teeming with Levites. 6,000 of the Levites would be officers and judges, which seems high but reasonable. 4,000 gatekeepers seems a little excessive. 4,000 Levites offering praise is high but not as bad as some of the other categories. King David once again used the 3 older categories of Levites, (1) Gershonites, (2) Kohathites, and (3) Merarites, the 3 sons that formed the Levi clans as in chapter 6 of this book.