The porters and the singers and the Levites. The porters and the singers were themselves Levites, but are often distinguished from their brethren, who had no such special office (see Ezr_2:40-42, Ezr_2:70; Ezr_7:24; Ezr_10:23, Ezr_10:24; Neh_7:43-45, Neh_7:73; Neh_10:28, etc.). Nehemiah’s choice of Levites to guard the gates of Jerusalem may seem strange; but we must remember—
1. That the priests and Levites formed nearly one half the population of Jerusalem (Neh_11:6-19 compared with 1Ch_9:9-22).
2. That the office of guarding the temple gates had always been discharged by Levites (1Ch_9:17-22; 1Ch_26:12-19).
Ch. Neh_7:1-5. Nehemiah’s dispositions for the protection of the City
1. the doors] We saw in Neh_6:1 that this alone remained to be done to complete the walls. Those who were responsible for the doors are mentioned in Neh_3:1; Neh_3:3; Neh_3:6; Neh_3:13-15. Nehemiah’s completion of the great work is celebrated by the son of Sirach, ‘And among the elect was Neemias whose renown is great, who raised up for us the walls that were fallen, and set up the gates and the bars, and raised up our ruins again’ (Sir_49:13).
the porters and the singers and the Levites] The ‘porters’ were a guild whose ordinary duty it was to guard the entrances and defences of the Temple. In the unsettled state of affairs, when he was in constant expectation of attacks from without, and was conscious of intrigues going on within the walls, Nehemiah entrusted the protection of the whole city to this body of trained ‘police,’ and augmented their force by other available trained bands, i.e. the musicians and the main body of Levites, who assisted the priests in the Temple services. The mention of ‘the Levites’ generally after that of the two special classes is noticeable, but in some measure they were regarded in Nehemiah’s time as distinct, cf. Neh_12:47, Neh_13:5-10. They were already a disciplined and organised set of men. The great majority could apparently be relied on to support the policy of Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah put the keeping of the walls into their hand, with the duty of superintending the watch, and of organising a system of sentinel-work among the citizens themselves (Neh_7:3). The fact that Nehemiah thus trusted these Levites, and Temple servants, indicates that they sympathised with him in his scheme of a religious constitution for the Jews, which would completely exclude the Samaritan and the foreigner.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
I gave my brother … charge over Jerusalem. If, as is commonly supposed, Nehemiah was now contemplating a return to Shushan, according to his promise, it was natural that he should wish to entrust the custody of Jerusalem and the management of its civic affairs to men in whose ability, experience, and fidelity he could confide. Hanani, a near relative (Neh_1:2), was one, and with him was associated as colleague Hananiah, “the ruler of the palace” –
i.e., the marshal or chamberlain of the viceregal court which Nehemiah had maintained in Jerusalem. The high religious principle, as well as the patriotic spirit of those two men, recommended them as preeminently qualified for being invested with an official trust of such special importance.
Feared God above many. The piety of Hananiah is especially mentioned as the ground of his eminent fidelity in the discharge of all his duties, and, consequently, the reason of the confidence which Nehemiah reposed in him, for he was fully persuaded that Hananiah’s fear of God would preserve him from those temptations to treachery and unfaithfulness which he was likely to encounter on the governor’s departure from Jerusalem.
my brother Hanani] cf. Neh_1:2.
Hananiah the ruler of the palace] R.V. Hananiah the governor of the castle. On the castle or ‘Bira’ see Neh_2:8. The ‘governor of the castle’ would be an official of great importance, being probably in command of troops for the purpose of keeping order in the city. ‘He’ refers to Hananiah. Possibly Nehemiah’s appointment of two officers to the command of the city corresponds with the mention of the two men in Neh_3:9; Neh_3:12, who were ‘rulers of half the district of Jerusalem.’
a faithful man, and feared God] cf. Exo_18:21, ‘able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain.’ The Hebrew is noticeable; not absolutely ‘a man of truth,’ but ‘such as only a man of truth is.’
above many] i.e. more than most. LXX. παρὰ πολλούς. Vulg. ‘plus cζteris.’ The phrase which only occurs here in the O.T. has a very lifelike ring.
I said unto them] The reading of the C’thib, ‘He said,’ is clearly wrong. The K’ri is supported by the LXX. and Vulg. ‘Them,’ Hanani and Hananiah.
until the sun be hot] Vulg. ‘Usque ad calorem solis,’ i.e. until the sun was high in the heavens; cf. 1Sa_11:9, ‘By the time the sun is hot.’ The customary practice was to open the gates at sunrise. By this regulation the enemy would be effectually prevented from obtaining any advantage by an entry into the city before the inhabitants were stirring. The LXX. (ἔως ἄμα τῷ ἡλίῳ) did not understand the sentence. Rashi also explains ‘until mid-day,’ erroneously. The shutting of the gates was a sign of suspicion: cf. the opposite description of security in Isa_60:11.
stand by] R.V. stand on guard. The meaning apparently is that the gates were to be shut while the regular watch was still on guard. The A.V. ‘stand by’ refers to Hanani and Hananiah, as if the gates were always to be shut in the presence of the governors. But it would have been an impossibility for the two officers to have been present at the fastening of each gate. The emphasis rests on the word ‘while.’ The guard of Levites are to be at their post, while the doors were being secured.
shut … bar] LXX. κλείσθωσαν … σφηνούσθωσαν, Vulg. ‘clausζ … oppilatζ.’ The versions give the general sense. The word rendered ‘shut’ occurs only here in the O.T. in the mood employed in this verse. The word rendered ‘bar’ means literally ‘to seize.’ Hence Rashi explains, ‘let them take hold of the doors in order to shut them;’ and other interpretations have been ‘take hold in order to see whether they were fastened,’ and ‘take hold of the keys.’ But the marginal rendering of the R.V. 1Ki_6:10, ‘he fastened the house,’ will illustrate its usage in the present verse.
appoint watches &c.] It does not appear whether Hanani and Hananiah are the subject or the Levite guards. The verb in the original is in the Infin. Abs. (cf. Neh_6:9) and expresses the command in general terms (LXX. στῆσον, Vulg. ‘posui’). The citizens themselves were to be organised for the defence of the place. Every man was to belong to a particular guardhouse, and take his turn in sentinel duty; and every man also was to be responsible for the protection of his own dwelling.
large and great] R.V. wide and large. The phrase rendered ‘wide’ (cf. Gen_34:21; Jdg_18:10) denotes extension on every side; its literal rendering would be ‘wide on both hands.’
the people were few] The inhabitants of Jerusalem were in Nehemiah’s time very few in comparison with what they had been before the captivity, see Neh_11:1-2. The number of Jews that had returned with Zerubbabel had been 42360 (Ezr_2:64; Neh_7:66). With Ezra there had come rather more than 1500 (Ezr_8:1-20). Others had come from time to time. But of the whole number of 50,000 or so, a very large proportion were settled in the country and towns in the neighbourhood, as appears from Neh_7:73, Neh_11:25-36, Neh_12:27-29.
the houses were not builded] An expression that cannot be understood literally. The meaning is, there were large open spaces within the walls unoccupied.
And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, etc. As Nehemiah contemplated the vast empty spaces within the city walls, and considered with himself how they might best be peopled, the thought came to him—and he hailed it as a Divine inspiration—that by taking a census of the people he might pave the way for some transfer of the inhabitants of the country districts into the capital, which would at any rate strengthen the latter, and lessen the desolate appearance of its streets and squares, which had so pained him. The census would show what proportion the country and town populations bore to each other, and would point out which were the places in the country districts that could best afford to lose a portion of their inhabitants. A census, therefore was resolved upon, and, according to ordinary Jewish usage (Num_1:17-47; 1Ch_21:5, 1Ch_21:6; Ezr_2:3-62), it was genealogical. The tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi were numbered separately (Neh_11:4-19); and in the tribe of Judah the children of Pharez were reckoned apart from those of Zerah (1Ch_9:4, 1Ch_9:6). No doubt the genealogical principle was acted upon throughout, but further evidence upon the point is wanting. It would seem to have been in the course of his preparations for this census, perhaps in searching for precedents, that Nehemiah found the “register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first,” which is the subject of the next section.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein,
My God put into mine heart to gather together … The arrangement about to be described, though dictated by mere common prudence, is, in accordance with the pious feeling of Nehemiah, ascribed not to his own prudence of reflection, but to the grace of God prompting and directing him. He resolved to prepare a register of the returned exiles, containing an exact record of the family and ancestral abode of every individual, and while thus directing his attention, discovered a register of the first detachment who had come under the care of Zerubbabel. It is transcribed in the following verses, and is the same as that in Ezr_2:1-70, though it differs in some few particulars; but the discrepancy is sufficiently accounted for from the different circumstances in which the two registers were taken-that of Ezra having been made up at Babylon, while that of Nehemiah was drawn out in Judea, after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The lapse of so many years might well be expected to make a difference appear in the catalogue, through death or other causes; thus Machish (Ezr_2:30) is omitted: perhaps, though entered into the register as intending to accompany the returning, he and his family changed their minds and remained in Babylon.
Other circumstances led to a difference between this register and that of Ezra-in particular, one person being, according to Jewish custom, called by different names. Thus, Hariph (Neh_7:24) is the same as Jorah (Ezr_2:18); Sia (Neh_7:47) the same as Siaha (Ezr_2:44), etc. On the subject of the variation of the names, and the difference as to numbers in this and the parallel passage of Ezra, see ‘Dissertation’ of Kennicott, vol. 2:, p. 508, which gives a minute comparison of texts as well as a very full and satisfactory explanation of all obscurities.
As to the difference of numbers, that is just what might have been expected: many who had resolved to take As to the difference of numbers, that is just what might have been expected: many who had resolved to take advantage of Cyrus’ edict, and intimated their purpose to Ezra, drew back, and continued where they were; while on the other hand, great numbers, when the caravan was starting, unexpectedly joined their ranks and came to Jerusalem. Besides other purposes to which this genealogy of the nobles, rulers, and people was subservient, one leading object contemplated by it was to ascertain with accuracy the parties to whom the duty legally belonged of ministering at the altar and conducting the various services of the temple; and for guiding to exact information in this important point of inquiry, the possession of the old register of Zerubbabel was invaluable.