Scripture reading – Nehemiah 11; Nehemiah 12
As we near the conclusion of our study in the Book of Nehemiah, I remind you that although the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the city itself was not habitable. In an earlier passage we read, “the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded” (7:4). With the Temple built and the walls of Jerusalem completed, the challenge was now for some to commit themselves to building their homes and residing in the city. After all, what was a large city without a great population?
Three segments of Israel’s inhabitants were needed to repopulate the city.
With the majority of the city in ruins, Jerusalem resembled a place of poverty more than a place of privilege. To resettle the city, “the rulers of the people” determined to cast lots, and one of every ten people from Israel would dwell in Jerusalem that they might guard and protect the city (11:1). Some moved to Jerusalem because the lot fell on their household, but others “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).
Nehemiah 11-12 presented a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds. Here we find the names of men and deeds that would be forgotten if it were not for God having Nehemiah record them in His Word. From the tribe of Judah, there were 468 men described as “valiant men” (11:6). Of the tribe of Benjamin, 928 men resettled into Jerusalem (11:7-8).
Priestly families moved to Jerusalem, among whom there were 822 priests who labored at the Temple (11:10-12), and an additional 242 priests were noted in Nehemiah 11:13, along with 128 priests described as “mighty men of valour” (11:14). There were priests who “had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God”(11:16), and others who were charged with “the thanksgiving in prayer” (11:17). Another 172 priests served as porters, or gatekeepers of the Temple (11:19). Those men and their families were necessary to fulfill the ministry of seeing Jerusalem restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).
The balance of Nehemiah 11 gives the names of cities where the people were settled. The cities of Judah were identified in Nehemiah 11:25-30, and the cities that belonged to the tribe of Benjamin were named in Nehemiah 11:31-36.
Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of the names of priests and Levites (12:1-26), and the details of the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).
Closing thought – Reading the latter half of Nehemiah 12, we appreciate the preparations that went into the day of “the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem” (12:27). All the Levites were invited to come to the city, and “keep the dedication with gladness” (12:27). Notice also the prominence of music during the dedication services. There were musicians playing instruments (12:27, 36), singers (12:28, 42), and sons of priests playing trumpets upon the wall (12:35). Sacrifices for the dedication of the wall were offered, and the rejoicing of the people was so loud “the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (12:43).
Today’s Scripture reading concludes with the people bringing their tithes and offerings out of the fields to the Temple, for “Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites” (12:44-45).
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