Nehemiah (Ch 7-8)

The Targum is an indispensable source of understanding the Bible. Started by Ezra for those returning Jews from Babylon and for these returnees they could only understand the Sacred Text in Aramaic; hence the Targum is as if Ezra is speaking to them in ancient times from the Sacred Text.

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements,” Ezra 7:10. This process gave birth to the Targum; hence it is as if Ezra is speaking to them in ancient times and to us today from the Sacred Text.

Nehemiah 7

1 Now it came to pass, when the wall was built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed, — now it came to pass when the wall was built and I had set up the doors; which was not done when Sanballat sent his first letter, but now was, Nehemiah 6:1,

— and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed; not to attend the doors of the gates of the wall but to return to their service in the temple who had been employed in one thing or another, while the wall and gates were building and repairing; see Nehemiah 3:17.

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. — that I gave my brother Hanani; who first brought him the melancholy account of the state of Jerusalem, Nehemiah 1:2,

— and Hananiah the ruler of the palace; the king’s palace, in which the viceroy of the king of Persia dwelt, and now Nehemiah; to these two men he gave charge over Jerusalem; committed it to their care during his absence, who may be supposed now to return to Persia, as he had promised, Nehemiah 2:6,

And I said unto them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors and bar them. And appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be opposite his house.” — and I said unto them, let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; or until the heat of the day, or near noon; and shone out clearly that if any enemies were near or lying in wait they might be discovered and the inhabitants also up and ready to defend themselves:

Now the city was large and great, but the people were few therein, and the houses were not built. — now the city was large and great; the circumference of it, all within the wall; for that was built on its old foundation, and enclosed as much ground as ever it did: 

— but the people were few therein; in comparison of the largeness of the place; for though there were 42,360 that came up at first with Zerubbabel and many more with Ezra yet a great number chose to settle in the towns and cities in the country; Jerusalem being in such a desolate condition: and the houses were not builded; some were but they were but few, many of them still lay in ruins.

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 those who came up at the first, and found written therein: — and God put into Nehemiah’s heart; every good motion in him and whatever he thought of that was conducive to the good and welfare of Jerusalem, he always ascribed it to God;

— to gather together the nobles and the rulers and the people that they might be reckoned by genealogy; that their number might be known and of what families they were and in what cities they formerly dwelt; and this was not only of use for the present purpose of Nehemiah, but was of service hereafter to show the pedigree of families and that it might be clearly known from whence the Messiah sprung:

these are the children of the province who went up out of the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city, — these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity; who were of the province of Judea as it was now reduced and came up out of the captivity of Babylon through the edict of Cyrus; see Ezra 2:1, where the same preface is given to the list of names as here; 

who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number, I say, of the men of the people of Israel was this: — Jeshua, Nehemiah, etc; to the eleven names given by Ezra, Nehemiah adds one, “Nahamani,” the sixth. He gives the others in the same order as Ezra, but spells some of the names differently – e.g. “Azariah” for “Seraiah,” “Raamiah” for “Reelaiah,” “Mispereth” for “Mizpar,” and “Nehum” for “Rehum.”

the children of Parosh, two thousand a hundred seventy and two;

the children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two;

10 the children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two;

11 the children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen;

12 the children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four;

13 the children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five;

14 the children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore;

15 the children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight;

16 the children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight;

17 the children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two;

18 the children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven;

19 the children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven;

20 the children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five;

21 the children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight;

22 the children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight;

23 the children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four;

24 the children of Hariph, a hundred and twelve;

25 the children of Gibeon, ninety and five;

26 the men of Bethlehem and Netophah, a hundred fourscore and eight;

27 the men of Anathoth, a hundred twenty and eight;

28 the men of Bethazmaveth, forty and two;

29 the men of Kirjathjearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three;

30 the men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one;

31 the men of Michmas, a hundred and twenty and two;

32 the men of Bethel and Ai, a hundred twenty and three;

33 the men of the other Nebo, fifty and two;

34 the children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four;

35 the children of Harim, three hundred and twenty;

36 the children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five;

37 the children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one;

38 the children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty.

39 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three; — the priests; it appears that only four of the courses of the priests returned from the captivity; and that the course of Abia (Lu 1:5) is not in the list. But it must be noticed that these four courses were afterwards divided into twenty-four, which retained the names of the original courses which David appointed.

40 the children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two;

41 the children of Pashhur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven;

42 the children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.

43 The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel and of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four.

44 The singers: the children of Asaph, a hundred forty and eight.

45 The gatekeepers: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, a hundred thirty and eight.

46 The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth,

47 the children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon,

48 the children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai,

49 the children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar,

50 the children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda,

51 the children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Paseah,

52 the children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim,

53 the children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,

54 the children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,

55 the children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah,

56 the children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.

57 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida, — the children of Solomon’s servants; this section and the section which follows (verses 63-65) are nearly identical in Ezra and Nehemiah. A few names only are slightly different.

58 the children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,

59 the children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon.

60 All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon’s servants were three hundred ninety and two.

61 And these were the ones who went up also from Telmelah, Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not show their father’s house nor their seed, whether they were of Israel.

62 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. — Q. is this Tobiah different from one of the enemies of the Jews together with Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant the Ammonite Nehemiah 2:10?

63 And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, who took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite for a wife, and was called after their name.

64 These sought their register among those who were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were as polluted, put from the priesthood. — were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood R.V. were they deemed polluted and put, Heb. they were polluted from;

ERV These people searched for their family histories, but they could not find them. They could not prove that their ancestors were priests, so they could not serve as priests. Their names were not included in the list of priests.

— Q1. Is the list polluated from the Samaritans? Were these names polluted or edited by Tobiah who had penatrated the Temple and altered the register? (for more see Tobiah in the Temple at the end)

— Q2. Did Tobiah entered his own posterity in verse 62 above as “the children of Tobiah?”

65 And the governor said unto them that they should not eat of the most holy things until there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.

66 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, — the whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore. It makes against the view that Ezra’s list was made in Babylon, some time before the final departure, and Nehemiah’s as made at Jerusalem, after the arrival of the exiles, that the sum total is in each case the same (see Ezra 2:64). 

67 besides their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven; and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women.

68 Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five;

69 their camels, four hundred thirty and five; six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses.

70 And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The governor gave to the treasury a thousand drams of gold, fifty basins, five hundred and thirty priests’ garments.

71 And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand drams of gold and two thousand and two hundred pounds of silver.

72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pounds of silver, and threescore and seven priests’ garments.

73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the gatekeepers, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinim, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.

Nehemiah 8

1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the Water Gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. — and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe; the same who is called Ezra the priest, and scribe of the law of God, and said to be a ready one, Ezra 7:6, who came to Jerusalem thirteen years before this time; but very probably returned to Babylon again, and was lately come from thence:

— to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel; to observe what was commanded in it, and which he had ordered to be read, particularly every seventh year, at the feast of tabernacles, Deuteronomy 31:10 which was now drawing near, though this was not the precise time of reading it; hence some have thought this year was the sabbatical year; see Nehemiah 5:11.

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. — and Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation; having a perfect copy of it, which the people knew, and therefore desired him to bring it; he brought it either out of his own case or chest, or out of the temple where it was laid up;

— upon the first day of the seventh month; as the seventh was the most important month in a religious sense, so the first day, the Feast of Trumpets, was the most important new moon (Leviticus 23:24).

And he read therein before the street that was before the Water Gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the Book of the Law. — and he read therein; some passages in it, here and there, from early morning) till mid-day; therefore for about six hours daily;

— from Hebrew to Aramaic; which it was necessary the people should have understanding and knowledge of; for it can hardly be thought be began and read on just in the order in which it was: this he did, “And the ears of all the people were directed to the law,” that is, the people listened attentively;

— Ezra had others standing by to relieve him: the reading was also interrupted by exposition (verses 7 to 8). Hence this progress gave rise to the Targum translation.

And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah and Shema and Anaiah, and Urijah and Hilkiah and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah and Mishael and Malchijah, and Hashum and Hashbadana, Zechariah and Meshullam. — Pulpit of wood; literally, a tower of wood; to raise him higher than the people; that he might be better seen and heard by them all. Thirteen persons (perhaps representing thirteen tribes), however, were on what is afterwards called a platform, or stair, by his side.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people), and when he opened it all the people stood up. — and Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people); so plainly seen by them and what he did and the more easily heard for which purpose the pulpit was made for him to stand in:

— and, when he opened it, all the people stood up; that they might the better hear the law read as well as in honour and reverence of it; the Jews say (T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 21.1) that from the times of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel, they learned the law only standing; but after his death a disease came into the world, and they learned it sitting; and now it is a canon with them, that it is not necessary to stand at the reading of the law.

And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” while lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. — it is the custom with the Jews in their synagogues for the reader after he has opened the book and looked out the place he reads, to say this blessing, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hath chosen us out of all people, and hath given us his law; blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast given us the law; and all the people answer, Amen;”

— and all the people answered, Amen, Amen: repeating the word, to declare their hearty assent to what Ezra had expressed; the Jews have many rules concerning pronouncing the “Amen”, that it must not be too quick, curt, and short, nor with too high a voice:

— with lifting up their hands; a prayer gesture; and they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground; expressing hereby the awful sense they had of the Divine Being, and their profound adoration of him.

Also Jeshua and Bani and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law; and the people stood in their place. — the Levites caused the people to understand the law;

— as well the words, which, being Hebrew, needed to be translated into the Chaldee or Aramic language, now the common language of the returnees; who, together with their religion had also in a great part lost their Hebrews; as also the meaning of them: they expounded the mind and will of God in what they read, and applied it to the people’s present condition.

— some think that Ezra read the law in pure Hebrew, while the Levites who assisted him translated it sentence by sentence into Chaldee, the vernacular dialect which the exiles spoke in Babylon. Others maintain that the duty of these Levites consisted in explaining to the people, many of whom had become very ignorant, what Ezra had read.

So they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and gave the sense and caused them to understand the reading. — distinctly; ‘or with an interpretation’. On the word see note on Ezra 4:18. The rendering sometimes based on the supposition that the Jews had returned from Babylon speaking Chaldee or Aramaic and that in consequence the Hebrew of ‘the Law’ had to be ‘interpreted’ in the sense of ‘translated.’ This would have been necessary in Ezra’s time.

And Nehemiah, who is the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said unto all the people, “This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. — said unto all the people, this day is holy unto the Lord your God; being both the new moon and the feast of blowing of trumpets:

— mourn not, nor weep; which was unsuitable to a festival, and especially such an one as this, in which trumpets were to be blown, and gladness to be shown, Numbers 10:10

— for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law; perceiving they had not kept it, but had broke it in many instances, and so liable to the wrath and judgment of God in case of disobedience.

10 Then he said unto them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” — notwithstanding the painful remembrances of their national sins which the reading of the law awakened, the people were exhorted to cherish the feelings of joy and thankfulness associated with a sacred festival;

— by sending portions of it to their poorer brethren (Deu 16:11, 14; Es 9:19), they would also enable them to participate in the public rejoicings.

11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.” — so the Levites stilled all the people, made them quiet and easy, being backed by the governor: saying, hold your peace; refrain from weeping and mourning:

— for the day is holy; a festival, set apart for joy and gladness: neither be ye grieved; inwardly; as they were not to show any signs of sorrow outwardly, so they were not to cherish grief inwardly.

12 And all the people went their way to eat and to drink and to send portions and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

13 And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. — and on the second day were gathered together; the second day of the month and of the new year, the day after the feast of blowing of trumpets, and after the law had been read and explained:

— unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law; some things in it, which, upon reading the day before, they observed had some difficulty in them, and which they did not clearly understand before; and therefore Ezra, a scribe in the law, for better information might be deemed better able to teach the people; which was highly commendable in them.

14 And they found written in the law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month; — that the children of Israel should dwell in booths, in the feast of the seventh month: and this already past the second day of the same month; therefore the time was drawing near for keeping it; for it was to begin the fifteenth.

15 and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches and pine branches and myrtle branches, and palm branches and branches of thick trees to make booths, as it is written.” — and they found written in the law that the Lord had commanded Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month;

— and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying: “Go forth to the mount, and fetch olive branches, etc. to make booths, as it is written.”

16 So the people went forth, and brought them and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the Water Gate and in the street of the Gate of Ephraim. — so the people went forth, and brought them; went out of Jerusalem to the mountains adjacent, and fetched in branches of the said trees, one or another:

— and made themselves booths, everyone upon the roof of his house; which were flat, Deuteronomy 22:8, and they might be made anywhere, so be it they were open to the air: and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God; the common people in the courtyards belonging to their houses, and the priests and Levites in the courts of the temple, the yards or open places adjoining to them:

— and in the street of the watergate; which led to that, and seems to have been a very large street, in which many booths might be built, Nehemiah 3:26; and in the street of the gate of Ephraim; which led to the gate through which the road lay to the tribe of Ephraim, see II Kings 14:13, none were erected without the walls of the city, for fear of the enemy.

17 And all the congregation of those who had come again out of the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. — and all the congregation of them that were come again out of captivity made booths; these came to Jerusalem, and made them booths there;

— and sat under the booths; there they dwelt during the seven days of it, in commemoration of their ancestors dwelling in booths in the wilderness, see Leviticus 23:42

— for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so; Joshua observed it, when be had brought and settled the people of Israel in the land of Canaan; and it had been observed since, before this time, as appears from 1 Kings 8:2 Ezra 3:4; but not so, with such exactness,

— with such zeal and affection, with such a regard to the law of God, as to read it every day of the feast, as in the next verse, and with such joy and gladness; wherefore there is no reason to suspect a corruption in the text, as some learned men may say, who supposes that Joshua is put for Josiah:

— and there was very great gladness; that they were restored unto and settled in their land, had the book of the law and the knowledge of it and were directed and enabled to observe it.

18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner. — also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God; that is, Ezra; this was done by him every day during the feast, whereas only the first and last days were the holy convocations on which it seems to have been read:

— and they kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner; prescribed in Leviticus 23:39.


Tobiah in the Temple – Nehemiah 13:4-9

4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah. 

5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where previously they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense and the vessels and the tithes of the corn, the new wine and the oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and the singers and the gatekeepers, and the offerings of the priests. 

6 But in all this time I was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I came unto the king, and after certain days I obtained leave from the king. 

7 And I came to Jerusalem and learned of the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 

8 And it grieved me sore; therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.

9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers; and thither I brought back the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

There are four things mentioned in particular that show the backsliding of the people: the presence Tobiah in the courts of the Temple; the failure to provide adequately for the Levites; the desecration of the Sabbath; and the return to mixed marriages.

When Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem he saw something that must have both grieved and angered him. He found that the priest Eliashib had entered into an agreement with one of the men who had been at the forefront of the opposition to the wall rebuilding.

Not only was Tobiah personally a proven enemy of the people of God, he was an Ammonite, a part of the ‘mixed multitude’ put out of the temple years before. In chapter 6 Tobiah was exerting his influence from without, and maintaining contact with some of the nobles within by letter. But now he was right inside! It is not at all surprising that Nehemiah was upset!

(a) The temple rooms that Tobiah was occupying were supposed to be used for the storage of tithes and offerings for the priests and for the service of God’s sanctuary. It was unthinkable that rooms set apart for a holy purpose should be used by a pagan opponent of the work of God.

(b) Eliashib had failed as the spiritual leader of the people and had neglected to maintain the purity of the house of God. He had not recognised the danger of having an alliance with such a man. Possibly Eliashib thought the regulations for ‘separation’ and ‘no mixing’ were far too strict and uncharitable, but we ignore God’s commands at our peril!

Nehemiah was not just grieved but determined to take radical measures to solve the problem: He threw Tobiah and all his possessions out of the temple; He restored the temple rooms to their proper function. No doubt some would see his action as being harsh but like the Lord Jesus when he cleansed the temple Nehemiah had the wisdom not to confuse ‘love’ with ‘being nice’!

~ by Joel Huan on May 28, 2022.

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