“The rest of Israel, and the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah. All of them were in their own inheritance. But the temple servants lived on Ophel. Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants. The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the descendents of Asaph, the singers, in charge of the work of the house of God. There was a command from the king concerning them. A settled provision for the singers was required every day. Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, of the descendents of Zerah, son of Judah, was at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people.”
The rest of the people lived in their own towns with their own inheritance. It is hard to figure out their inheritance since they returned from captivity with what they had. Did they get back their family inheritance? The Temple servants lived on the Ophel hill. Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them. The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi. He was a descended from Asaph, the singer, so he was in charge of the singers. The singers were to be provided for each day. It says the king commanded this, but the king was in Persia. There was no king in Jerusalem. Perhaps Nehemiah and Ezra were acting in the name of the king, but it is not clear. Another descendent of Judah from the Zerah line was Pethahiah who someone was the king’s hand in all this. It is not clear what his connection to the King of Persia was.
“Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem. Nine tenths remained in the other towns. The people blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. These are the leaders of the province who lived in Jerusalem. But in the towns of Judah every one lived on his property in their towns. This included the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.”
Obviously not all the people could live in Jerusalem. The most important officials lived in Jerusalem. They cast lots so that 1 out of 10 people in Judah could live in Jerusalem. This would make Jerusalem the power town in Judah. However, 90% lived in the rest of Judah. Some people were happy that a number of people were willing to live in Jerusalem instead of their own land. The leaders of the provinces lived in Jerusalem along with the priests, the Levites, the Temple servants and the descendents of Solomon’s servants. Otherwise, everyone lived on their own property in Judah.
“The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, and the temple servants joined with the leaders. All the people who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, joined with their kin and their nobles. They entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses, the servant of God. They were to observe and do all the commandments of Yahweh our Lord, his ordinances, and his statutes.”
While the leaders had signed and sealed the document, the other priests and Levites, as well as the gatekeepers, singers, and temple servants agreed to the same thing. They would observe the commandments of Yahweh given to Moses, the great servant of God. In fact, all the people who separated themselves from the peoples of the land, with their whole family were to make an oath to walk in God’s Law. They would obey the ordinances and statutes of Yahweh. Thus we have a new community organized around the Law of Moses, Yahweh’s law.
“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.
“Above the Horse Gate the priests made repairs, each one opposite his own house. After them Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs. After him Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam son of Berechiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate. They went on to the upper room of corner. Between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.”
They turned to the east wall, east of the Temple and the Palace of King Solomon. On that side was the East Gate and the Horse Gate. The priests continued to make repairs beside their own houses so that they must have lived near the wall. Shemaiah was the keeper of the East Gate, so he made the repairs there. The goldsmiths and the Temple servants also repaired this east wall. Finally the merchants and goldsmiths finished up the east wall as they came to the corner upper room. They finished with the Sheep Gate that had started all this construction that began with the high priest Eliashib.
“After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, made repairs. After them Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them Azariah son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his own house. After him Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the Angle and to the corner. Palal son of Uzai repaired opposite the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah son of Parosh and the temple servants living on Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.”
The wall continued east to the temple. The Ophel was on the east hill of Jerusalem, the higher ground south of the temple. The unnamed priests from the surrounding area helped from the high priest’s house east. Then a number of people began to repair the wall near their own houses. That seemed simple enough. Even those living near the Ophel repaired the area around the Water Gate. Apparently these were the Temple servants who lived near the Temple and the Ophel. Finally the people of Tekoa were helpful also as earlier in this chapter.
“I, King Artaxerxes decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever the priest Ezra, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred cors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and unlimited salt. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven, or wrath will come upon the realm of the king and his heirs. We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.”
The king of Persia also says that the Israelites under Ezra can raid the treasury of the Province Beyond the River with its headquarters in Samaria. However, there is a limit to how much silver, wheat, wine, and oil they may have, but salt is unlimited. If they do not let things be done for the house of the God of heavens, wrath may come upon the king and his descendents. He also said that the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and servants were to be tax exempt. They did not have pay any tribute, custom or toll. This Persian king is quite generous and favorable to Ezra and his people.