The Levites (Neh 11:15-11:18)

“Of the Levites was Shemaiah son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni. Shabbethai and Jozabad were the leaders of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God. Mattaniah son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, was the leader to begin the thanksgiving hymns in prayer. Bakbukiah was the second among his associates. Abda son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun, was there also. All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred eighty-four.”

The Levites were lead by Shemaiah. Shabbethai and Jozabad were in charge of the outside work around the house of God. Mattaniah, a descendent of Asaph, was the leader of the singing of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Abda had secondary roles. The total number of Levites who were living in Jerusalem was 284.

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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 agreement and the dispute (Ezra 10:12-10:15)

“Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice. ‘It is so. We must do as you have said. But the people are many. It is the time of heavy rain. We cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two days. Many of us have transgressed in this matter. Let our officials represent the whole assembly. Let all in our towns who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times. Let them come with the elders and judges of every town, until the fierce wrath of our God over this account be averted from us.’ Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah opposed this. Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.”

At first, they all agreed that Ezra was right. However, second thoughts began to creep in, buyer’ remorse. It was the rainy season. There are a lot of us. This might take time. More and more excuses began to emerge. In fact, a couple of people, at least 2 are mentioned, objected to this whole process. It is unclear whether they did not like the process or the whole idea of getting rid of foreign wives. A few other people had the name of Jonathan, but this is the only mention of him here, while Jahzeiah only appears here.   Meshullam came up with Ezra and also assisted in the taking of names. Shabbethai shows up later in Nehemiah.