The celebration at the gates (Neh 12:31-12:37)

“Then I brought up the leaders of Judah onto the wall. I appointed two great companies which gave thanks. They went in procession. One went to the right upon the wall to the Dung Gate. After them went Hoshaiah and half of the princes of Judah. There was Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the young priests with trumpets. There was Zechariah son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph. His kindred were Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of King David, the man of God. The scribe Ezra went in front of them. At the Fountain Gate, in front of them, they went straight up by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.”

Once again, we come back to the 1st person singular, “I”, after all that went before in the 3rd person singular. Nehemiah divided the people into 2 groups. One group walked the wall on the southeast side from the Dung Gate at the south side to the Fountain Gate and then to the Water Gate. At the Fountain Gate they walked the stairs into the city of David. This group was led by the scribe Ezra. This is the only mention of Hoshaiah, who must have been some kind of leader. While Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah are mentioned elsewhere, there were also the young priests who were the sons of famous priests with their trumpets. Some of the kindred only appear here, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, and Maai, while the others are more familiar like Shemaiah, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. They played the instruments of King David, lyre, harps, and cymbals.

 

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.

 

The priests in the days of the high priest Joiakim (Neh 12:12-12:21)

“In the days of Joiakim, the priests, and the heads of the ancestral houses of the Seraiah family was Meraiah. For the Jeremiah family it was Hananiah. For the Ezra family it was Meshullam. For the Amariah family it was Jehohanan. For the Malluchi family it was Jonathan. For the Shebaniah family it was Joseph. For the Harim family it was Adna. For the Meraioth family it was Helkai. For the Iddo family it was Zechariah. For the Ginnethon family it was Meshullam. For the Abijah family it was Zichri. For the family of Miniamin it was unknown. For the Moadiah family it was Piltai. For the Bilgah family it was Shammua. For the Shemaiah family it was Jehonathan. For the Joiarib family it was Mattenai. For the Jedaiah family it was Uzzi. For the Sallai family it was Kallai. For the Amok family it was Eber. For the Hilkiah family it was Hashabiah. For the Jedaiah family it was Nethanel.”

Joiakim was the son of Jeshua and the high priest before Eliashib, sometime around 500 BCE. There are 3 families are not mentioned elsewhere, the Meraioth family, the missing Miniamin family leader, and the Joiarib family compared to the list of signers in chapter 10. Otherwise all these families have been mentioned before in this work. Family names were very important.


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 priests who sign the agreement with Nehemiah (Neh 10:1-10:8)

“Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These are the priests.”

Obviously leading this signing of the covenant document is Nehemiah himself. Although he lists these people as priests, he himself was not a priest. He was the governor. Most of these 22 priests appear elsewhere in this book. This Zedekiah is difficult to locate since he obviously was not the last king of Judah, but he does appear elsewhere in this book. Daniel is not from the book of Daniel, but there is no mention of his name in this book. Maaziah and Bilgai only appear here. Meshullam appears over 13 times in this book, while the other 17 are mentioned anywhere from 2 – 5 times in this book.

 

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 role of Tobiah (Neh 6:17-6:19)

“Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah. Tobiah sent letters to them. Many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah son of Arah. His son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence. They reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.”

Tobiah seems to be the main intimidator in this section. Technically, they were still under the power of Samaria since Judah was not an independent province. They were part of the Province Beyond the River. Tobiah had a special relationship to the noble Jews of Jerusalem because of his marriage. Tobiah had married the daughter of the Jewish priest Shecaniah. His son had married the daughter of Meshullam who was one of the main builders of the wall. Thus there was a friendly relationship here. However, Nehemiah was not intimidated by Tobiah, even though some in Jerusalem looked favorably on him.