The priests with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:1-12:7)

“These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua. They were Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and of their associates in the days of Jeshua.”

Now suddenly we are back to the list of those who came with Zerubbabel some 90 years earlier. This is like an appendix to this document. It refers to Ezra, chapter 2. There are 22 priests listed here. Of the 22, only 2 were listed in Ezra, chapter 2, Seraiah and Rehum. Jedaiah is listed twice. Clearly Zerubbabel and Jeshua were the leaders. 11 off these same people, Seraiah, Jeremiah, Amariah, Hattush, Malluch, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Abijah, Mijamin, and Shemaiah, signed the agreement with Nehemiah in chapter 10 of this book. However this took place about 90-100 years after the original group, which would make it difficult for these same people to sign the document, after having returned 90 years earlier. Ezra is mentioned with this group but he did not return until about 10 years before Nehemiah.   Iddo was with Ezra so that he would not have been with the original group. Shecaniah and Meremoth were builders of the wall so that they could not have come with the original group, almost a century earlier. This is the only mention of Maadiah, Bilgah, and Amok so they are real possibilities. Jedaiah was the son of Joiarib, so that he could not have come with the original group, but Joiarib might have. Sallu was the son of Meshullam so that he could not have been there 100 years earlier. Seraiah was the son of Hilkiah, so that he could have been with the original group. Thus, not more than 4 or 5 of the named priests could have come back with Zerubbabel, unless the ones at the time of Nehemiah had the same name as the ones who came nearly a century earlier.

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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.

Repair of the old wall (Neh 3:16-3:19)

“After him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired from a point opposite the graves of David, as far as the artificial pool and the house of the warriors. After him the Levites made repairs. There was Rehum son of Bani. Next to him was Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, who made repairs for his district. After him their kin made repairs. There was Binnui son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. Next to him was Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, who repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the Angle.”

The old wall was inside the northern new wall. This is a different Nehemiah. This one was the half ruler of Beth-zur, which was on the main road south about 20 miles from Jerusalem. The work continued along the east wall outside the graveyard of the kings of Judah, the artificial pool and the army barracks. Then the various Levites worked on this wall. Rehum was a descendent of those who had come back with the early group, 80 years earlier. Both the leaders of Keilah, Hashabiah and Binnui, with their relatives, also helped with the repairs. Keilah was about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Then we have another ruler of Mizpah, Ezer, who was helping with the repairs. Remember that the other ruler of Mizpah, Shallum was at the Fountain Gate. Both these towns of Keilah and Mizpah were well represented in the repair work.

The cessation of the construction of the wall in Jerusalem (Ezra 4:23-4:23)

“Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and the scribe Shimshai and their associates, they hurried to the Jews at Jerusalem. By force and power they made them cease building the wall.”

In all this exchange there was never a mention of the temple. It was all about the fortifications of the city of Jerusalem, the wall. Once the people at Samaria found out what the king said, they went to Jerusalem and told them to stop building the wall.


The response of King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:17-4:22)

“King Artaxerxes sent an answer. ‘To Rehum, the royal deputy, and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. Now the letter that you sent to us has been read in translation before me. So I made a decree. Someone searched and discovered that this city has risen against kings from long ago. Rebellion and sedition have been made in it. Jerusalem had mighty kings who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore issue an order that these people be made to cease. This city shall not be rebuilt, until I make a decree. Moreover, take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?’”

The king had an answer. He had the letter read to him in translation. He had someone check the annals or records. Sure enough, there was a mighty king of Jerusalem who ruled beyond the river. This might have been a reference to King David or King Solomon. Therefore he told them to issue an order to make them stop building the wall. Nothing should be built without his decree. He warned them not to be slack in this matter.

Accusations of the Samaritans to King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:7-4:10)

“In the days of King Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel with the rest of their associates wrote to King Artaxerxes of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. Rehum the royal deputy commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows. The address was, Rehum the royal deputy, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the envoys, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the people of Susa, that is, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River.”

This next section was in Aramaic, not Hebrew. King Artaxerxes ruled from 464-423 BCE. There does not seem to be any dispute about his name. Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel may have been Persian officials in Samaria. They sent a letter to King Artaxerxes in Aramaic. This letter was written by Shimshai the scribe under the direction of the Persian deputy commander Rehum in Samaria to the king in Persia. This was an official letter from the local government in Samaria to the king. This was in the Province Beyond the River, which actually means west of the Euphrates River, not the Jordan River. So this was an important place. Apparently it was King Osnappar who had established this rule in Samaria at the time of the Babylonian captivity. This probably refers to King Assurbanipal who ruled from 668-630 BCE.

The leaders of the exiles (Ezra 2:1-2:2)

“Now these were the people of the province who came from those captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.”

These people were captured by King Nebuchadnezzar around 582 BCE. This return is around 537 BCE so that some of these people may have still been living. Although the prophet Jeremiah had predicted 70 years, that might include the years of the first attack. These exiles supposedly returned to their own towns. According to 2 Kings, the poor people had stayed there. These exiles were lead by Zerubbabel. There is a dispute about whether he is the same person named earlier Sheshbazzar. More likely, they were 2 different people. He might have been the governor later under King Darius. Jeshua was the head of the priests, even though he was born in Babylon. This Nehemiah is not the Nehemiah mentioned in the book with this name. There were 10 other people with the name of Seraiah. This is the only mention of Reelaiah, Bilshan, and Mispar. Mordecai played a major role in the Book of Esther, so that it is hard to believe that this is the same person. The family of Bigvai will sign a covenant. Rehum may have been some kind of lieutenant governor. It is hard to tell the role of Baanah.