Labor and Conflict: Exposition on Nehemiah

Nehemiah 7  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Chapter 7
There are two things in this chapter; first, the government of Jerusalem, the city of God, together with provision for continual vigilance against the practices of the enemy (vv. 1-4); second, the reckoning of the people by genealogy (vv. 5-73).
We learn from verse 1 that the doors had now been set up "upon the gates" (see chap. 6:1), and that everything in connection with the wall had therefore been finished (chap. 6:15). Following upon this, "the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed"—a most interesting notice thus briefly indicated. The porters, it is almost needless to say, were the doorkeepers, on whom devolved the responsibility of admitting only such as had a lawful claim to enter the city, and of keeping out all who could not show the necessary qualifications to be inside; in a word, they had authority over the opening and the shutting of the doors. They held a most important post, even as do also the doorkeepers of the present day. For while it is true, and must ever be insisted on, that every believer—every member of the body of Christ—has his place, for example, at the Lord's supper, the "doorkeepers" of the assembly have the responsibility of asking for the production of the evidence that they are what they claim to be. (See Acts 9:26, 2726And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26‑27) Pet. 3:15.) Laxity or neglect in this respect has been productive of the most serious consequences in many an assembly, amounting in some cases to the destruction of all testimony for Christ, and leading to the positive dishonor of His blessed name. It is a matter therefore of the utmost consequence that only faithful and trusted men should do the work of "doorkeepers," especially in a day of common profession, when all alike claim to be Christians.
There were also "singers." Their employment may be gathered from another place. "These are they," we read, "whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order." 1 Chron. 6:31, 3231And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after that the ark had rest. 32And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order. (1 Chronicles 6:31‑32). The psalmist alludes to these when he says, "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee." Psalm 84:44Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah. (Psalm 84:4). Such was the occupation of the singers—praising the Lord "day and night" (1 Chron. 9:3333And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night. (1 Chronicles 9:33)); a shadow of the perpetual employment of the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 54And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. (Revelation 5:4)); a blessed service (if service it may be called) which it is the privilege of the Church to anticipate on earth while waiting for the return of our blessed Lord. (See Luke 24:52, 5352And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:52‑53).) Last, there were Levites. Of their work it is said, "Their brethren also the Levites were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God." 1 Chron. 6:4848Their brethren also the Levites were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God. (1 Chronicles 6:48). The gates and doors having been set up, and porters set in their appointed places, the Lord's portion is first thought of in the singers; and then come the Levites to perform the necessary service in connection with His house. The very order of the mention of these three classes is thus instructive and shows, at the same time, how jealous Nehemiah was of the Lord's claims upon His people, and how carefully he sought in his devotedness to the Lord's service to acknowledge His supremacy and to yield to Him the honor due to His name.
These things having been arranged, he says: "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." v. 2. It is not clear from the words themselves whether this description applies to Hanani or Hananiah; but we judge it is to the former, for it will be remembered that it was this same Hanani who was used, with others, to bring the intelligence of the state of the remnant and of Jerusalem, which became, in the hands of God, the means of Nehemiah's mission (chap. 1). Understanding it so, nothing could more distinctly show Nehemiah's singleness of eye in his Master's service. Hanani was his brother, but he appointed him to this post not because he was his brother or a man of influence, but because "he was a faithful man, and feared God above many." In such ways, as well as by the divine directions furnished through the Apostle Paul, the Lord teaches us what should characterize those who take the lead among His people, and especially those who occupy places of prominency or care in government. It is not enough that they are men of gift, or position, or influence; but they should be faithful—faithful to God and to His truth—and they should be distinguished by fearing not men but God, acting as in His sight and upholding the authority of His Word.
Nehemiah himself gave instructions for the exercise of vigilance and care over the city. First, the gates were not to be opened until the sun was hot. As long as darkness reigned, or any semblance of it, the gates were to be shut against "the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6), for the night is ever the time of their greatest activity. As a contrast, we read of the heavenly Jerusalem, that "The gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there" (Rev. 21:2525And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. (Revelation 21:25)); that is, they shall stand perpetually open, because evil and the powers of evil will have forever passed away. Then, "while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them." The porters were not to leave their posts or delegate their duties to others, but they themselves, standing by, were to see that the doors were both shut and barred. Many a house has been rifled because the shut door has not been barred, and many a soul has permitted the enemy to gain an entrance because its several "doors" have not been made secure. It was not enough therefore, since the enemy was in question, that the doors of the gates of Jerusalem should be shut; they must also be barred if the enemy was to be kept outside. We learn from this the imperative necessity of guarding the doors, whether of the soul or of the assembly. In the last place, they were to "appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house." Two things of the greatest
moment are here indicated. The first is that not a single inhabitant of Jerusalem was exempted from the responsibility of exercising watchfulness over the interests of the city. Every one was to be in his watch. The watch was to be duly ordered, and all were to serve in their turn. Second, every one was to maintain the watch over against his own house; that is, to sum up the two things, all were concerned in keeping watch over the whole city, but the safety of the city was ensured if each kept watch over against his own house. This is evident, for if the head of every household kept the enemy—evil—out of his house, Jerusalem would be preserved in separation to God. The whole city was necessarily what its several inhabitants made it. Would that this truth were apprehended in the Church of God! The assembly, like Jerusalem, is composed of individuals, of many heads of houses, whatever the intimate bond of union subsisting between the members of the body of Christ; and its state, its public state (if this term is permissible), is simply the state of all. If therefore discipline for God is not maintained in the home, neither can it be in the Church. Laxity in the one sphere produces laxity in the other. Worldliness in the one place will be worldliness also in the other. Hence the Apostle writes, for example, that a bishop must be "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" 1 Tim. 3:4, 54One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:4‑5). It would indeed savor of the boldest presumption for one whose own house was in disorder to arrogate to himself a place of rule in the assembly, and it would at the same time introduce the very evils of which his household was the theater. If, on the other hand, the injunction of Nehemiah be attended to—each keeping watch and ward over his own house—the assembly would be the display of order, security, and holiness to the glory of God.
Next follows a note concerning the city itself. "Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded." This is undoubtedly a testimony of failure. The work of God for that day was building the walls of the city, and this, as we have seen, had been accomplished through the faith and perseverance of Nehemiah, in spite of difficulties of every kind. The truth of God would therefore now be bound up with the maintenance of the wall, and the first three verses reveal to us the provision made for that end. But Nehemiah now informs us that though the city was large and great, the people were few therein. Now the testimony for any given day gathers—indeed, true testimony always gathers—to Him from whom it proceeds as its center. Very few then had been gathered to that which went forth through Nehemiah. The trumpet had been blown for the calling of the assembly (Numb. 10), and through grace some had responded to its summons; but the mass of the people, as at the commencement of Haggai's ministry, were absorbed in their own things rather than the things of Jehovah. (See Phil. 2:2121For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (Philippians 2:21).) Moreover, "the houses were not builded" of those that were gathered. This first responsibility had been neglected, and would be therefore a perpetual source of mischief. When the children of the captivity first returned, they began to build their own houses to the neglect of the Lord's house; and now when the time had come to build their own houses they neglected this. Such is man and such are the people of God, for when walking as men they are never in communion with the Lord's mind. They that are in the flesh, and the principle applies to the Christian if he is governed by the flesh, cannot please God. If any inquire how in the present day their houses are to be builded, Eph. 5:2222Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22) and 6:1-9; Col. 3:1818Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18) and 4:1 will answer the question. It is to establish the Lord's authority over every member of them, and especially to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Now that Nehemiah had given the necessary instructions for guarding the city from the intrusion of evil, he proceeds to the ordering of the people. But he is careful to relate that it was not his own thought. He says: "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." v. 5. This gives us a glimpse into the intimacy of his walk with God. It is "my" God, the One he knew as such in that relationship to himself, which faith and experience alone can recognize (compare 1 Chron. 28:20; 29:2, 320And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
2Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colors, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance. 3Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, (1 Chronicles 29:2‑3)
; Phil. 4:1919But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)); and it is the One in whose presence he so constantly dwelt, that he could instantly discern the thought which He put within his heart. And the object in view was to examine the title of the people to be in the place where they were. With the constant commerce going on between them and the enemy, and the alliances they had formed in forgetfulness that the Lord had chosen them out of all the peoples on the earth as His peculiar people, there would doubtless be many who could not show their genealogy, and hence had no claim to be numbered with Israel. Now that the wall was built, and the truth therefore of separation proclaimed, such a mixture within could no longer be tolerated. Those who occupied this holy ground and claimed the blessed privileges of God's house, must have an indefeasible title, and this is the meaning of this next step of Nehemiah. The work in his case was not difficult, for he "found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first," etc. (vv. 5, 6 and following); and by this register it was easy to ascertain whether those within the sacred enclosure of the rebuilt walls or those who might seek admission were all of Israel.1
(To be continued)
 
1. Neh. 7:6-736These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that 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; 7Who 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; 8The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two. 9The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two. 10The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two. 11The children of Pahath-moab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen. 12The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 13The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five. 14The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore. 15The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight. 16The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight. 17The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two. 18The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven. 19The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven. 20The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five. 21The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight. 22The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight. 23The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four. 24The children of Hariph, an hundred and twelve. 25The children of Gibeon, ninety and five. 26The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight. 27The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight. 28The men of Beth-azmaveth, forty and two. 29The men of Kirjath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three. 30The men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one. 31The men of Michmas, an hundred and twenty and two. 32The men of Beth-el and Ai, an hundred twenty and three. 33The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two. 34The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 35The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty. 36The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five. 37The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one. 38The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty. 39The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three. 40The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. 41The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. 42The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. 43The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four. 44The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred forty and eight. 45The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, an hundred thirty and eight. 46The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 47The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon, 48The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai, 49The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, 50The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, 51The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah, 52The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim, 53The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 54The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 55The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah, 56The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha. 57The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida, 58The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 59The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon. 60All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two. 61And these were they which went up also from Tel-melah, Tel-haresha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not show their father's house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel. 62The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. 63And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. 64These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. 65And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. 66The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, 67Beside 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. 68Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five: 69Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses. 70And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basons, five hundred and thirty priests' garments. 71And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. 72And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests' garments. 73So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. (Nehemiah 7:6‑73) is the repetition of Ezra 26The children of Pahath-moab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve. 7The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 8The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five. 9The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore. 10The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two. 11The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three. 12The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two. 13The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six. 14The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six. 15The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four. 16The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight. 17The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three. 18The children of Jorah, an hundred and twelve. 19The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three. 20The children of Gibbar, ninety and five. 21The children of Bethlehem, an hundred twenty and three. 22The men of Netophah, fifty and six. 23The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight. 24The children of Azmaveth, forty and two. 25The children of Kirjath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three. 26The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one. 27The men of Michmas, an hundred twenty and two. 28The men of Beth-el and Ai, two hundred twenty and three. 29The children of Nebo, fifty and two. 30The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty and six. 31The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. 32The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty. 33The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five. 34The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five. 35The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty. 36The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three. 37The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. 38The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. 39The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. 40The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four. 41The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred twenty and eight. 42The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all an hundred thirty and nine. 43The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth, 44The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon, 45The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub, 46The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan, 47The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah, 48The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam, 49The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai, 50The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim, 51The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, 52The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, 53The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah, 54The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha. 55The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda, 56The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, 57The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami. 58All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two. 59And these were they which went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel: 60The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two. 61And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: 62These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. 63And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. 64The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, 65Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women. 66Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five; 67Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty. 68And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: 69They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments. 70So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities. 1And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. 2Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. (Ezra 2:6‑3:3). For Mr. Dermett's comments on this portion, see his book on Ezra.