Nehemiah 12

CHAPTER XII

Account of the priests and Levites that come up with

Zerubbabel, 1-7.

Of the Levites, 8-21.

The Levites in the days of Eliashib, 22-26.

Of the dedication of the wall, and its ceremonies, 27-43.

Different officers appointed, 44-47.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII

Verse 1. Now these are the priests] Not the whole, but the

chief of them, as we are informed, Ne 12:7, 22-24.

The Septuagint omit ver. 3,

except the word Shechaniah; as also

verses 12:4-6, 9, 37-41.

The Arabic omits the first twenty-six verses, and 12:29.

Mention is made of Ezra in this verse; and he is generally allowed

to be that Ezra whose book the reader has already passed over, and

who came to Jerusalem in the time of Cyrus, with Zerubbabel. If

this were the same, he must have been at this time upward of a

hundred years of age: and this case is not improbable, as an

especial providence might preserve such a very useful man beyond

the ordinary age of men. See what has been said on the case of

Nehemiah, See Clarke on Ne 1:1.

Verse 7. The chief of the priests] They were twenty-four

orders or courses in number, all subordinate to each other; as

established by David, 1Ch 24:18. And these orders or courses

were continued till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

See Calmet.

Verse 8. Over the thanksgiving] The principal singers:

See Clarke on Ne 11:17.

Verse 22. Jaddua] This was probably the high priest who went

in his pontifical robes, accompanied by his brethren, to meet

Alexander the Great, when he was advancing towards Jerusalem, with

the purpose to destroy it, after having conquered Tyre and Gaza.

Alexander was so struck with the appearance of the priest, that he

forbore all hostilities against Jerusalem, prostrated himself

before Jaddua, worshipped the Lord at the temple, and granted many

privileges to the Jews. See Josephus, ANT. lib. xi., c. 3, and

Prideaux's Connections, lib. 7, p. 695.

To the reign of Darius the Persian.] Calmet maintains that this

must have been Darius Codomanus, who was defeated by Alexander the

Great: but Archbishop Usher understands it of Darius Nothus, in

whose reign he thinks Jaddua was born, who was high priest under

Darius Codomanus.

Verse 23. The book of the chronicles] This is not the book of

Chronicles which we have now, no such list being found in it; but

some other book or register, which is lost.

Verse 25. The thresholds of the gates.] Some understand this

of a sort of porticoes at the gates, and are puzzled about it,

because they find no mention of porticoes elsewhere: but why may

we not suppose these to resemble our watch-boxes or some temporary

moveable shelters for those who took care of the gates? That

there must have been some such conveniences, common sense

dictates.

Verse 27. At the dedication of the wall] They sent for the

Levites from all quarters, that this dedication might be as solemn

and majestic as possible; and it is likely that this was done as

soon as convenient after the walls were finished. The dedication

seems to have consisted in processions of the most eminent persons

around the walls, and thanksgivings to God, who had enabled them

to bring the work to so happy a conclusion: and no doubt to all

this were added a particular consecration of the city to God, and

the most earnest invocation that he would take it under his

guardian care, and defend it and its inhabitants against all their

enemies.

The ancients consecrated their cities to the gods, and the very

walls were considered as sacred. Ovid gives us an account of the

ceremonies used in laying the foundations of the walls of the city

of Rome, by Romulus. After having consulted together who should

give name to the city, and have the direction of the wall by which

it was necessary to surround it, they agreed to let the case be

decided by the flight of birds. One brother went to the top of

the Mons Palatinus, the other to that of Mount Aventine. Romulus

saw twelve birds, Remus saw but six; the former, therefore,

according to agreement, took the command. The poet thus describes

the ceremonies used on the occasion:-

Apta dies legitur, qua moenia signet aratro;

Sacra Palis suberant; inde movetur opus.

Fossa fit ad solidum: fruges jaciuntur in ima.

Et de vicino terra petita solo.

Fossa repletur humo, plenaeque imponitur ara;

Et novus accenso finditur igne focus.

Inde, premens stivam, designat moenia sulco;

Alba jugum niveo cum bove vacca tulit.

Vox tuit haec regis; Condenti Jupiter urbem,

Et genitor Mavors, Vestaque mater ades:

Quosque pium est adhibere deos, advertite cuncti:

Auspicibus vobis hoc mihi surgat opus.

Longa sit huic aetas, dominaeque potentia terrae:

Sitque sub hac oriens occiduusque dies!

Ille precabatur. OVID, Fast. lib. iv., ver. 819.

"A proper day is chosen in which he may mark out the walls with

the plough: the festival of Pales was at hand when the work

was begun. A ditch is dug down to the solid clay, into which

they cast the fruits of the season; and bring earth from the

neighbouring ground, with which they fill up the trench; and

on it build an altar, by whose flames the newly made hearth

is cleft asunder. Then Romulus, seizing the plough, which a

white heifer yoked with a snowy bull drew along, marked out

the walls with a furrow. And thus spoke the king: 'O Jupiter,

and Father Mars, with Matron Vesta, prosper me in founding

this city! And all ye gods, approach, whomsoever it is right

to invoke! Under your auspices may the work arise; may it

endure for countless ages, and be the mistress of the world;

and may the East and the West be under its control!' Thus he

prayed."

The above is a literal version, and the account is not a little

curious.

Verse 29. From the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of

Geba and Azmaveth] Or, from Beth-Gilgal; a village erected in the

place where the Israelites encamped after they had, under the

direction of Joshua, passed over Jordan.

Verse 30. The priests and the Levites purified themselves]

This consisted in washings, abstinence from wine, and other

matters, which, on all other occasions, were lawful. And as to

the purifying of the gates and the walls, nothing was requisite

but to remove all filth from the former, and all rubbish that

might have been laid against the latter.

Verse 31. Then I brought up the princes] Perhaps this verse

should be read thus: "Then I caused the princes of Judah to go

upon the wall, and appointed two great choirs, [to sing praises,]

and two processions, one on the right hand, &c.

The following seems to have been the order of the procession: he

divided the priests, the Levites, the magistrates, and the

people into two companies; each company to go round one half of

the wall. They began at the dung gate, one party going to the right

and the other to the left, till they met at the great space

opposite to the temple, where they all offered many sacrifices to

God, and rejoiced with exceeding great joy; shouting so that the

noise was heard a great way off.

Verse 38. The broad wall] What part this was, we know not: it

might have been a place designed for a public promenade, or a

parade for assembling the troops or guard of the temple.

Verse 47. All Israel-gave the portions of the singers] The

singers and the porters were supported by the people at large;

and each of these had their portions served out to them daily.

And they sanctified-unto the Levites] The things which were

provided for sacred uses were delivered by the people to the

Levites, and the Levites presented them to the priests.

The children of Aaron.] This may refer principally to the

tithes which the people brought to the Levites; the tithe or

tenth of which the Levites gave to the priests. The presenting

these tithes is termed sanctifying them; that is, dedicating

them to those sacred or ecclesiastical uses for which they were

designed: this is a very general meaning of the word sanctify in

Scripture.

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