May 16, 2020
These two chapters of the book of Nehemiah can seem like one big list of names, places, and laws which don’t have much relevance to us today. However, if we dig a little deeper to see what the author of the book is trying to communicate through these things, we see that there is actually a lot going on in these chapters and we can get a much better sense of how it applies to us in our context!
In chapter 10 we see a list of people who sealed the covenant which was referred to at the end of chapter 9. In chapter 9 the people confessed their sins to God, and now they are committing to turning from their sins and obeying the covenant God made with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. The list of the names of those who signed and sealed this renewal of the covenant includes people from every walk of life in the community of Israel, intending to demonstrate that the entire community pledged to be diligent in keeping God’s commands and walking in His ways.
In Chapter 11 we see the people of Israel give a “tithe” of their population to go and live in Jerusalem and the author recounts their names and families as well as the other villages surrounding Jerusalem which were populated. If we were to look on a map and see the land area that these villages cover, it really isn’t much compared to how big the nation of Israel was before they were exiled.
All of this is tied up with the overall message of the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah comes with zeal and devotion to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and to lead the people to honor the Lord. The exiles who had returned to Israel from various lands believed that they were the “remnant” spoken of by the prophets, and that the great restoration promised by the prophets was coming to them!
However, we see at each turn in the story of Nehemiah, even in his greatest successes, there is a hint of disappointment. Even though the walls are rebuilt and the people have committed to obeying God’s Law, Jerusalem is a ghost town, and the people have to be chosen by lot in order to decide who will go and live there; in other words, the people are not voluntarily lining up to go and live in the holy city. Outside Jerusalem, the land of Israel is only a fraction of its original size, and all that the land produces does not benefit the people but a foreign king who rules over them (Nehemiah 9:36-37).
This is a far cry from the promises of the prophets concerning the blessing and restoration that God will pour out on His people.
Nehemiah 10 & 11
The People Who Sealed the Covenant
10 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah,4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9 And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
The Obligations of the Covenant
28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have 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, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law. 35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. 38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”
The Leaders in Jerusalem
11 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.
3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4 And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.
7 And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah,8 and his brothers, men of valor, 928. 9 Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.
10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God, 12 and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, 13 and his brothers, heads of fathers’ houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer,14 and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.
15 And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God; 17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284.
19 The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.
22 The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. 23 For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required.24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side in all matters concerning the people.
Villages Outside Jerusalem
25 And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages, 28 in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29 in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. 31 The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32 Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
The story of Nehemiah is one of triumph and disappointment; his ministry among the people of Israel is one of faithfulness and strength on his part, but one of half-heartedness and failure on the people’s part, as we will see in the ending of the book. Ultimately, the book sets up an expectation: the restoration that God promised His people through the prophets is still to come, and we know now that this restoration has come and is coming in and through the person of Jesus Christ!
Have you ever gone into a situation with high hopes and expectations only to be met with tremendous disappointment? How does that relate to the experience of the people of Israel after their return from exile?
How does the expectation of a future and final restoration give us hope and change our living in the here and now? How should we on this side of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, live as we wait expectantly for him to return and restore all things?