The city committed to Hananiah. (1-4) Register of those that first returned. (5-73)
Verses 1-4 Nehemiah, having finished the wall, returned to the Persian court, and came to Jerusalem again with a new commission. The public safety depends on every one's care to guard himself and his family against sin.
Verses 5-73 Nehemiah knew that the safety of a city, under God, depends more upon the inhabitants than upon its walls. Every good gift and every good work are from above. God gives knowledge, he gives grace; all is of him, and therefore all must be to him. What is done by human prudence, must be ascribed to the direction of Divine Providence. But woe to those who turn back from the Lord, loving this present world! and happy those who dedicate themselves, and their substance, to his service and glory!
Nehemiah 7:1-4 . NEHEMIAH COMMITS THE CHARGE OF JERUSALEM TO HANANI AND HANANIAH.
2. I gave my brother Hanani . . . 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 on whose ability, experience, and fidelity, he could confide. Hanani, a near relative ( Nehemiah 1:2 ), was one, and with him was associated, as colleague, Hananiah, "the ruler of the palace"--that is, 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 pre-eminently qualified for being invested with an official trust of such peculiar importance. 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.
3. Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot, &c.--In the East it is customary to open the gates of a city at sunrise, and to bar them at sunset--a rule which is very rarely, and not except to persons of authority, infringed upon. Nehemiah recommended that the gates of Jerusalem should not be opened so early; a precaution necessary at a time when the enemy was practising all sorts of dangerous stratagems, to ensure that the inhabitants were all astir and enjoyed the benefit of clear broad daylight for observing the suspicious movements of any enemy. The propriety of regularly barring the gates at sunset was, in this instance, accompanied with the appointment of a number of the people to act as sentinels, each mounting guard in front of his own house.
4. Now the city was large and great--The walls being evidently built on the old foundations, the city covered a large extent of surface, as all Oriental towns do, the houses standing apart with gardens and orchards intervening. This extent, in the then state of Jerusalem, was the more observable as the population was comparatively small, and the habitations of the most rude and simple construction--mere wooden sheds or coverings of loose, unmortared stones.
Nehemiah 7:5-38 . GENEALOGY OF THOSE WHO CAME AT THE FIRST OUT OF BABYLON.
5. my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, &c.--The arrangement about to be described, though dictated by mere common prudence, is, in accordance with the pious feelings of Nehemiah, ascribed not to his own prudence or 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. While thus directing his attention, he discovered a register of the first detachment who had come under the care of Zerubbabel. It is transcribed in the following verses, and differs in some few particulars from that given in Ezra 2:1-61 . 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; in particular, one person being, according to Jewish custom, called by different names. Thus Hariph ( Nehemiah 7:24 ) is the same as Jorah ( Ezra 2:18 ), Sia ( Nehemiah 7:47 ) the same as Siaha ( Ezra 2:44 ), &c. 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. For guiding to exact information in this important point of enquiry, the possession of the old register of Zerubbabel was invaluable.
Nehemiah 7:39-73 . OF THE PRIESTS.
39. The priests--It appears that only four of the courses of the priests returned from the captivity; and that the course of Abia ( Luke 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.
70. And some of the chief of the fathers, &c.--With Nehemiah 7:69 the register ends, and the thread of Nehemiah's history is resumed. He was the tirshatha, or governor, and the liberality displayed by him and some of the leading men for the suitable equipment of the ministers of religion, forms the subject of the remaining portion of the chapter. Their donations consisted principally in garments. This would appear a singular description of gifts to be made by any one among us; but, in the East, a present of garments, or of any article of use, is conformable to the prevailing sentiments and customs of society.
drams of gold--that is, "darics." A daric was a gold coin of ancient Persia.
71. pound of silver--that is, mina (sixty shekels, or about $45).
73. So . . . all Israel, dwelt in their cities--The utility of these genealogical registers was thus found in guiding to a knowledge of the cities and localities in each tribe to which every family anciently belonged.