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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Nehemiah 12

 

 

Verses 1-47

PRIESTS AND LEVITES

(vv. 1-26)

In these verses God sees fit to list the names of the priests and Levites who came to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in the first return for the rebuilding of the city. Ezra refers to these in chapter 2 of his book, but God is concerned to express His own approval of every individual who is exercised to help in recovery of the testimony of His truth in times when failure has resulted in general apathy. The priests are listed first (vv. 10-7) and the Levites in verses 8-26. At least we can learn from this that God values the worship of devoted hearts, as is illustrated by the priests; and asks the service of those devoted to Him as is pictured in the Levites. There is no reason why both of these characteristics should not be seen in every believer today.

THE DEDICATION OF THE WALL

(vv. 27-43)

We might naturally think that the dedication of the wall would immediately follow the report of its being completed (ch. 6:5), but we have seen many things intervene, things that had to be taken care of that were inconsistent with the truth the wall emphasizes, that is, godly separation from all that would bring dishonor to the name of the Lord. Therefore only when these things had been faced and judged as before God was it time to dedicate the wall. How could the people really rejoice before God (as the dedication required) when they were acting badly?

The dedication then was an occasion "to celebrate with gladness, both with thanksgiving and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps' (v. 27). The Levites were gathered from the surrounding area and the sons of the singers also, who had built villages for themselves all around Jerusalem (v. 29). At least, though these did not live in Jerusalem itself, yet they are found "all around Jerusalem," recognizing Jerusalem as God's center. Thus, though they are not seen in closest proximity to the Lord, they typically regard Him as their Center. No doubt there are many like them in the Church of God today.

The priests and Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates and the wall (v. 30). Of course this was by a formal ritual, which is only symbolic of the moral self-judgment that believers today should practice continually, not only at special times. Thus Nehemiah brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, where he appointed two large "thanksgiving choirs." One of these groups marched to the right hand on the wall, half of the leaders being with them (vv. 31-32), and some of the priests' sons with trumpets, others with different musical instruments. Ezra took the lead before this group (v. 36).

"The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I (Nehemiah) was behind them" (v. 38). Evidently the two groups met by the gate of the prison (v. 39). The various gates of the city are mentioned, for they illustrate truths of serious importance for us today, for instance, "the Refuse Gate" (v. 1), which speaks of the putting ways of the filth of the flesh; the Fountain Gate (v. 37), symbolizing the refreshment of the Word of God by the living power of the Spirit; the Water Gate, also insisting on the value of the Word of God; the gate of Ephraim (v. 39), speaking of fruitfulness in the believer's life; the Old Gate (v. 39), indicating the importance of maintaining "the old paths," not being enticed away by new suggestions; the Sheep Gate" (v. 39), reminding us of care for the sheep as well as of the sacrifice of Christ; then the Gate of the Prison (v. 39), with its solemn message that God does not allow evil to go unchecked. This was where the two groups stopped, for the lesson of God's judgment of evil was specially needed after Israel had recognized how evil their history had been.

Still, the trumpets and other musical instruments were employed in praise and thanksgiving to God, and the day was one of great rejoicing. The two thanksgiving choirs eventually "stood in the house of God" (v. 40), the priests with trumpets and the singers singing loudly. Also, evidently afterwards, they offered great sacrifices, and their joy was so great the noise of it was heard far from Jerusalem (v. 43).

FURTHER APPOINTMENTS FOR SERVICE

(vv. 44-47)

At this same time appointments were made for keeping the rooms of the storehouse, which would call for faithful men to take care of offerings and tithes and to to see that there was proper disbursement to the priests and Levites, for Judah had reason to be thankful to have the priests and Levites ministering in their places (v. 44). Singers and gatekeepers were put in their places too, with David's example to encourage them. Now in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah all Israel contributed to the support of these singers and gatekeepers. Similarly today, we should be thankful to have those among the saints who will devote themselves to encouraging the joy of the people, and those who are concerned as gatekeepers to see that those who ought to be allowed in are welcomed, and that those who should not be in are kept out. This is not the easiest job, but it is important, and we should always back up what is truly done for the Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Nehemiah 12:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/nehemiah-12.html. 1897-1910.

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