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Nehemiah Chapter Twelve


Nehemiah 12

Chapter Contents

The priests and Levites that returned. (1-26) The dedication of the wall. (27-43) The officers of the temple settled. (44-47)

Commentary on Nehemiah 12:1-26

(Read Nehemiah 12:1-26)

It is a debt we owe to faithful ministers, to remember our guides, who have spoken to us the word of God. It is good to know what our godly predecessors were, that we may learn what we should be.

Commentary on Nehemiah 12:27-43

(Read Nehemiah 12:27-43)

All our cities, all our houses, must have holiness to the Lord written upon them. The believer should undertake nothing which he does not dedicate to the Lord. We are concerned to cleanse our hands, and purify our hearts, when any work for God is to pass through them. Those that would be employed to sanctify others, must sanctify themselves, and set themselves apart for God. To those who are sanctified, all their creature-comforts and enjoyments are made holy. The people greatly rejoiced. All that share in public mercies, ought to join in public thanksgivings.

Commentary on Nehemiah 12:44-47

(Read Nehemiah 12:44-47)

When the solemnities of a thanksgiving day leave such impressions on ministers and people, that both are more careful and cheerful in doing their duty, they are indeed acceptable to the Lord, and turn to good account. And whatever we do, must be purified by the blood of sprinkling, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, or it cannot be acceptable to God.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Nehemiah


Nehemiah 12

Verse 1

[1] Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

Priests — The chief of the priests, the heads of those twenty four courses which David appointed by divine direction, 1 Chronicles 24:1-19. And whereas there were twenty four, and here but twenty-two, and verse 12, etc. only twenty, the reason of this difference may be, because two of the twenty four courses were extinct in Babylon, and two of the persons here named, verse 2,5, Hattush, and Maadiah, may be omitted in the account of the posterity of these, verse 12, etc. because they had no posterity.

Ezra — Either this was another Ezra, or if it were the same mentioned Ezra 7:1, he lived to a great age; which may well be supposed, considering his great sobriety, and his great piety to which God promised long life, and withal the special providence of God continuing him so long in such a season, wherein the church of God did greatly need his help and counsel.

Verse 8

[8] Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren.

Moreover, … — He was to see, that the psalms of thanksgiving were continually sung in the temple, in due time and manner.

Verse 10

[10] And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada,

Jeshua — Here follows a catalogue of the Jewish high-priests; which was the more necessary, because their times were now to be measured, not by the years of their kings as formerly, but by their high-priests.

Verse 12

[12] And in the days of Joiakim were priests, the chief of the fathers: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;

Priests - As their fathers were priests in the days of Joshua, so in the days of Joiakim the son of Joshua, the sons of those persons executed the priesthood in their father's steads, some of their fathers probably being yet living, and many of them dead.

Verse 22

[22] The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian.

Darius — Darius Noehus; and so this Jaddua might be father to him who was in the days of Darius Codomanus, and of Alexander the Great.

Verse 27

[27] And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.

The wall — Of the city itself, which is here dedicated to God, and to his honour and service, not only upon a general account, by which we ought to devote ourselves, and all that is ours, to God; but upon a more special ground, because this was a place which God himself had chosen, and sanctified by his temple and gracious presence, and therefore did of right belong to him; whence it is often called the holy city. And they restored it to God by this dedication, withal imploring the presence, and favour, and blessing of to this city by solemn prayers, and praises, and sacrifices, wherewith this dedication was accompanied.

Places — To which they were now retired after that great and general assembly, Nehemiah 8:1 etc.

Verse 30

[30] And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.

Purified themselves — They that would be instrumental to sanctify others, must sanctify themselves, and set themselves apart for God, with purity of mind and sincerity of intention.

Verse 31

[31] Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:

Princes — And half of the people with them.

The wall — For the wall was broad and strong, and so ordered that men might conveniently walk upon it.

Right hand — Towards the south and east.

Verse 39

[39] And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate.

Stood still — Waiting, as also their brethren did, that they might go together in due order into God's house, there to perfect the solemnity.

Verse 43

[43] Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

The children rejoiced — And their hosanna's were not despised, but are recorded to their praise. All that share in public mercies, ought to join in public thanksgivings.

Verse 44

[44] And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.

Rejoiced — For the eminent gifts and graces which they observed in many of them: for the great benefit which they had now received by their ministry: and for the competent provision which hereby was made for them, that so they might wholly wait upon their office. The sure way for ministers to gain an interest, in the affections of their people, is to wait on their ministry, to spend their whole time, and thought, and strength therein.

Verse 45

[45] And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son.

The ward — That ward, or charge, which God had prescribed to them. And in particular the charge of purification, of taking care that no unclean person or thing should enter into the house or courts of the Lord.

Verse 47

[47] And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.

Sanctified — They set apart the first-fruits and tithes from their own share, and devoted them to the use of the Levites. And so did the Levites by the tithe of the tithes. Thus they all conscientiously paid their dues, and did not profane those things which God had sanctified, nor take them into their own common use. When what is contributed for the support of religion, is given with an eye to God, it is sanctified, and will cause the blessing to rest upon the house, and all that is therein.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Nehemiah



12 Chapter 12


Verses 1-28

Nehemiah 12:1-28

Were written in the book of the chronicles.

A book

I. A book unites the ages. Brings the past into the present; borrows the future to give the present significance. The “sceptred spirits of history” rule us still. With books the poorest enters the highest society: the loneliest need not be solitary.

II. A book reveals life’s importance. It gives permanence to thought. Life is a writing.

III. A book silently anticipates the judgment. A record may be appealed to: “Is this thy handwriting?” God’s “Book of Remembrance.” (J. Parker, D. D.)


“The commerce of books,” says our gossiping Montaigne “has the constancy and facility of its service for its own share: it goes side by side with me in my whole course, and everywhere is assisting to me: it comforts me in my age and solitude; it eases me of a troublesome weight of idleness, and delivers me at all times from a company that I dislike: and it blunts the point of griefs, if they are not extreme, and have not got an entire possession of my soul . . . books do not mutiny to see that I have only recourse to them for want of other more real, natural, and lively conveniences; they always receive me with the same kindness.”

Verse 24

Nehemiah 12:24

According to the Commandment Of David the man of God.

Posthumous influence

A man’s influence after he is dead. He is still present with his people.

I. By his will. “The commandment of David.” The grip of the dead is on our fields and churches, our schools and hospitals.

II. By his writings. Immortality of genius. David’s psalms. Solomon’s proverbs. The writings of Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, and many others.

III. By his example. “David the man of God.” For good or evil a man lives. For good or evil his deeds will live after him. “The memory of the just is blessed.” (Homiletic Commentary.)

Verses 27-47

Verses 27-43

Nehemiah 12:27-43

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem.

The dedication of the wall

In this dedication--

I. It was designed to offer thanks to God for the completion of a good work.

II. It was intended to set apart the holy city for its sacred ends.

III. It was desired to invoke the Divine blessing and guardianship on the city of God.

IV. It is beautiful to observe how fully the domestic affections are cherished and displayed. “The wives also and the children rejoiced.” (W. Ritchie.)

Verse 30

Nehemiah 12:30

And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people.

Beginning at the right place

I. A pure church may make a sound commonwealth. “They purified themselves.” Like priest, like people. Cleric and laie act and react on each other.” Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Eli’s sons. Uzzah may not sustain the ark.

II. To a pure people all things are pure. “They purified the people and the gates and the wall.” Citizens and city; sanctuary and house; God’s work and their own.

All things are sacred;

The eye of God is on them all,

And hallows all.”

Jesus revealed God in the minutest. Peter’s vision. The present preparatory. “I think our fathers had a better, grander, a diviner idea even of common life than we have when they spoke of the trades and professions of men as being their calling. There is a great thought in this word. It makes all the men, streets, shops, and warehouses to me as I walk along Divine objects. I feel that I am in a Divine place when I think of the men about me as following their calling. I feel that there is a God above men; that there is a God in human society; a God in the shops and counting-houses of London, touching and teaching every human being; and that every man is occupying the place, and putting his hand to the work to which God has called him. Sometimes you may see a man at a certain calling which is but preparatory. He is meant for something else. Providence opens the way, and he goes up higher and does another thing. God has given us a spiritual vocation--a Divine calling in Christ Jesus--and we are to walk worthy of that vocation here, doing all worldly things in a spiritual manner, preparatory to a higher calling which shall come one day, when we shall enter upon other forms of duty and service, to which the present inferior forms of duty and service faithfully fulfilled shall gradually prepare and fit us. (T. Binney.)

Verse 43

Nehemiah 12:43

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced.

A great rejoicing

A great rejoicing as it should be.

I. Associated with the bites of religion.

II. The outcome of a great deliverance. From captivity to freedom: heathen surroundings to heaven-chosen city and Divinely-built temple. The memory of God’s great goodness should awaken joy--a joy that all may share. “The wives also and the children rejoiced.”

III. The preparation for strong adhesion to a great cause. Sacred festivals not an end, but a means to an end. (Homiletic Commentary.)

True joy

I. Its right. The God who has given us life wishes also that it shall move joyfully; the God who always anew overwhelms us with favours wishes that they should fulfil their mission; that is, make us happy, in the end holy.

II. Its occasion. God’s grace, which has strengthened, protected, assured, and elevated our lower or higher life.

III. Its kind. It raises itself to God, is a joy in Him; that is, becomes s service to God and our neighbours. (Dr. Schultz.)

The joy of Christian work


I. That great sacrifices always precede great joy. God’s best gifts never increase by saving, but by scattering. The sea is in a constant state of evaporation. The mist rises, there are clouds above the hills, there are streams running into the valleys, there is life and greenness everywhere. There are some men who do not believe in evaporation. They believe in getting all they can and keeping all they get. But they are never joyful There is no joy in selfishness. It is against the great law of God, the law of sacrifice by His own Son. What is the meaning of these sacrifices mentioned in the text?

1. The sin-offering. This shadowed the great sacrifice. Morality alone will not save any man, and if you will only admit sin, you admit half the Bible, and the rest has to do with God’s way of getting rid of it.

2. The burnt-offering. This means that we give ourselves up to God entirely; and the happiest men I have met in my life have been men who have handed the keys of every room in their soul up to Christ, without keeping one closed to hide a loved sin.

3. The peace-offering. This was a peculiar offering in Israel. It was a free-will offering. When a man brought the peace-offering, God gave him a feast there and then in his house. A part of the offering was given back to the offerer. This peace-offering is very much like your contributions to-day. You can keep your offerings, but if you do God will keep the feast from you. We in Wales have two sermons in one service very often, and the collection comes before the second sermon. I have watched a man drop the smallest coin into the plate from a richly gloved hand. I have seen a poor old woman unwrapping a two-shilling piece from a paper, from another paper, from a third paper, in which she had wrapped it in order to keep it for the collection. And I have watched them through the second sermon. The tears of joy are coursing down the wrinkled face of the poor Christian woman, but the man who dropped his miserly coin is as dry as Gilboa. It is a remarkable fact that the Almighty never accepted a wild animal as an offering in the olden time. A man was always obliged to offer something he had taken trouble with: the fruit of his own garden, the fruit of his own farm, or from his own flock. I have heard a man say sometimes, “If I succeed in this speculation now, I will give to the cause of Christ.” Ah! that is a wild hare.

II. Great work for God brings great joy from God. Charles Kingsley has said that every man ought to thank God every morning because he has something to do that must be done that day. Work is the greatest blessing. I was once struck down with complete nervous prostration, and a medical man told me that I must do nothing for a twelvemonth, and that was the hardest work I ever did in my life--to do nothing. I see gentlemen come up along the Menai Straits in their yachts fighting the tempest. On they come like sailors on the ocean-wave, because it is easier to do that than to do nothing. You may see the room in which Louis XVI. worked as a common blacksmith, because it was easier to do that than to do nothing. Prisoners have come to the gaoler many a time, when confined in a room to do nothing, asking him for permission to pick oakum, or anything rather than do nothing. It is possible to do the most common work to God, to Christ, and when every one will do his work to Christ, that is the time when this world will be full of happiness and song. There is joy in serving Christ. Just think, for instance, of the erection of a place of worship: what an investment it is to contribute towards that.

III. This religion of great sacrifice and great joy will tell on our families. “The wives also and the children rejoiced.” Joyful religion repeats itself to others. Parents should let their children see that they value religion.

1. By making sacrifices for it.

2. By letting them see that they are most anxious for them to become decided Christians.

IV. That the religion of great sacrifices and great joy will be heard of afar off. “Then joy was heard afar off.” It is the names of self-sacrificers that live--Abraham--Abraham Lincoln--Florence Nightingale--Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. (E. Herber Evans, D. D.)

Sacrifice, a condition of joy

The principle of sacrifice stands at the very threshold of the ever-fascinating study of life, and is found at every turn of the bewildering maze which marks life’s upward pathway of struggle and survival. In merely physical processes, as well as in many vital functions of vegetable and animal life, there are clear foreshadowings of the part which sacrifice plays in the great tragedy of existence. The primitive rock, when subjected to the disintegrating action of the atmospheric agents, yields up its characteristic compactness, and crumbles into soil, which, in turn, surrenders its richness to promote the welfare of multitudinous forms of vegetable growth. In the lower species of animal life the death of the parent is the essential condition of the life of the offspring, and in the higher grades of creatures there is invariably a parental sacrifice in favour of the well-being of the progeny. Notwithstanding that these functions are nothing more than compulsory obedience to the stern mandates of nature, Mr. Herbert Spencer calls them acts of unconscious sacrifice, and so distinguishes them from those voluntary surrenders of self which spring from love to others, and which, strictly speaking, can only be termed sacrifice. The helpless infant survives merely on account of the care which the maternal love lavishes upon it. Let the attention of others be withdrawn, and the child must perish. It lives by the sacrifices which others make for it. The bond of family life is kept intact by a succession of beautiful deeds, springing from the ever-growing tendency to sacrifice the immediate interests of self to promote the good of others. The capacity to enjoy purely egoistic pleasures is heightened by ministering to the wants of others. Indulged selfishness, by producing satiety, defeats itself. But a nobler truth than that is this--that the deepest satisfactions and most lasting joys of life are blossoms on the tree whose roots derive nutriment from the soil of sacrifice. (S. S. Chronicle.)

Verses 45-47

Nehemiah 12:45-47

And both the singers.

Thanks-giving and thanks-living

We have here the effects of the joy that was at the dedication of the wall.

I. The ministers were more careful than they had been of their work. Ii. The people were more careful than they had been of the maintenance of their ministers. The surest way for ministers to recommend themselves to their people, and gain an interest in their affections, is to wait on their ministry, to be humble and industrious, and to mind their business; when these did so, the people thought nothing too much for them to encourage them.

1. Care is here taken for the collecting of their dues.

2. Care is taken that, being gathered in, it might be duly paid out. (Matthew Henry.)

For in the days of David and Asaph of old.

The good old times

I. Nothing is necessarily good because it is old. “Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?” Habit, education, tradition, prejudice, play an important part in history.

II. That which is old is presumptively valuable. Good lasts. Truth is as old as the hills. Application: Prove all things. Despise nothing. The present is a huge borrower from the dead past. (Homiletic Commentary.)

──The Biblical Illustrator