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Nehemiah

Nehemiah 7 KJV, Meaning, Commentary, Explained, Ezra 2

Nehemiah 7 KJV: This is the 14th week of our study of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today we’ll plan to cover 4 chapters. I know, you don’t think I can do it. But with God’s help we will!

We’re in the 7th chapter of the book of Nehemiah this morning. And this chapter begins the 2nd of 2 main sections in the book of Nehemiah. The first 6 chapters that we’ve been studying in the past few weeks prepared us for this point in the book. Those earlier chapters dealt with a few things. First, Nehemiah learned that his people were in distress – perhaps because of their sin. Then Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and led the Jews in rebuilding their wall, in the face of opposition from both without and within. But finally in the 6th month the Jews completed rebuilding the wall and the enemies were stunned… Now what?

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Verses 1-5

Let’s read 7:1-5.

Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, 2 That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. 3 And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house. 4 Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded. 5 ¶ And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein,

So Nehemiah hands the keys of the city over to one of his siblings and another man. This other man “was faithful” and “feared God more than many.”

And Nehemiah gives them a few tasks. The only thing keeping those old enemies out of the midst of God’s people was the wall and its locked gates. So these two needed to keep those gates locked as much as possible.

And there were only two of these guys. They needed assistance. So Nehemiah tells them to appoint guards from among the people who live in Jerusalem. And these guards can be stationed by their respective house.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Two Problems

Now, there are two problems with this situation.

First, Nehemiah says in verse 4 that there were very few people living in this large city. So how would these two guys find others who live in the city to help them when there was practically no one else living there?

Second, though the city was large and expansive, most of the houses weren’t built yet. So Nehemiah appears to be telling these two guards that they need to appoint assistant-guards from among the people of the city – who don’t live there – and these extra helpers can keep watch outside their houses – which don’t exist.

Do you see the potential for failure? Nehemiah did, as well.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Genealogical Census

So Nehemiah says that God put in his heart to enroll the people by genealogy. That’s interesting.

The first time we saw God put something in Nehemiah’s heart it was back in the early chapters of Nehemiah where he said that God put on his heart to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. And we know what happened there. The wall got rebuilt in quick order.

And now what God put on Nehemiah’s heart is to take a census of the people. We’ll see what happens from here!

Nehemiah 7 Ezra 2

Now right after Nehemiah declares that he wants to enroll the people by their genealogies, he finds the record of those who came to Jerusalem from the exile. Remember the folks who originally came with Zerubbabel and Jeshua back in Ezra chapter 2? Well, Nehemiah recounts this list in detail here.

We need to do a few things with this passage before we can move on.

First I want to point out something that can be alarming to folks like us who believe that the Bible is without error. Can I ask us to do something? Can we keep our hand both in this section and back in Ezra 2?

I want to compare a few things in these two citations of this one list of people… I’ll just come out and state that these two lists are not identical.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Children of Arah

Look at Ezra 2:5. The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.

And now look at Nehemiah 7:10. The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.

Well, which is it? How many of the children of Arah came? 775 or 652?

And this isn’t the only place where the numbers are different. I counted 19 instances in these two lists where the numbers differ from one another.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Word Differences

In addition, we have certain words included in one list that may not appear in the other. We have names that are featured in one list and not mentioned in the other.

So what if you’re witnessing to an atheist friend and he claims that the Bible contains errors and contradictions and he points to the differences in these two lists? How would you respond?

Again, I’ll mention the differences in numbers. I think this is the most troubling thing for us in this regard.

Let me offer a way to think about that.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
“Which Came with Zerubbabel”

Look at Ezra 2:2 — Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.

And we’ll stop there.

How many names of men do you count there including Zerubbabel?

I count 11.

Now read Nehemiah 7:7 — Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

Now I count 12 people.

Nahamani is added in Nehemiah’s list.

In addition, do you see the second-to-last name is each list? Nehum and Rehum? Maybe this is the same guy. But maybe they’re different.

So here’s what I’m led to believe. We’re talking about the same thing generally in both books – it’s a list of people who came to Jerusalem from Persia. But the list in Ezra has a few different names than the list in Nehemiah.

Neither list is fabricated or in error. They simply record a few different people.

I mean, if Nahamani brought some folks with him and he and his people are recorded only in Nehemiah, then the list in Nehemiah can be expected to have different numbers of people than the one in Ezra.

That’s one explanation that should set our mind at ease over this apparent discrepancy. But let me point out something else that should comfort us and strengthen our faith in the trustworthiness of God’s word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
How Many Returned?

Look at Ezra 2:64. How many people total came to Jerusalem?

The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.

If counting with scores is a little foreign to you, that’s 42,360.

Now look at Nehemiah 7:66.

The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.

Again that number is 42,360. It’s the same number – the same total number of people came back according to both Ezra and Nehemiah.

But you know what? When I go through these two lists I don’t get those numbers. In fact the list in Ezra gives me a total of 29,818. And in Nehemiah I get 31,809.

So here’s what I think we learn from this. The purpose of these lists in the minds of their authors is not to give us every single detail of every single person who came with Zerubbabel.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Purpose of the Lists

The lists are a representation of all those 42,360 folks who did come. So if you’re looking for two identical lists that enumerate every single person who came, you’re going to be disappointed. Because that’s not the purpose of these two authors.

An atheist can claim this represents an error. It does not represent an error. Plain and simple.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Returning to Jerusalem

Now, I want us to look one last time at Ezra. Look at Ezra 3:1.

And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.

So after this list in Ezra we’re told that the people gathered to Jerusalem. At that point they come together to rebuild the altar and to offer sacrifices.

And – wouldn’t you know it? – something similar happens in Nehemiah. Let’s read Nehemiah 7:73 and on into 8:1.

So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. 8:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.

So here in Nehemiah—similar to Ezra—we see the people gathering together to Jerusalem. But it’s a little different this time. This time when the people come to Jerusalem the altar is already built. So is the Temple and the wall. And now they want to hear God’s word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Spiritual Renewal

At first I wondered why all the Jews wanted to hear God’s word. Why this sudden enthusiasm about spiritual things? Was it a combination of the wall being rebuilt and the census being taken that ignited some nationalistic fervor among the people?

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Rosh Hashannah

Maybe. I do have another idea. Now, maybe it’s just the season of year we’re in right now that’s kind of coloring my understanding of this passage. But I’d like to think that’s not the case. What month are we in here in Nehemiah? The 7th month. And actually we’re on the 1st day of that month. What happens on the 1st day of the 7th month in the Jewish calendar? It’s the Feast of Trumpets. This is also known as Rosh Hashannah, which is Jewish for “the Head of the Year.” It’s the Jewish New Year’s celebration.

Imagine my shock when this realization dawned upon me – we’ve just entered a new year. And in our passage so have the Jews! Incredible timing.

So in the absence of the text plainly telling us why the Jews were suddenly so enthusiastic about God’s word, I’m going to suggest that perhaps the hopes of a new year spurred them on to a renewed interest in the Lord and his word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
New Year’s Resolutions

Surely you’ve known something of this kind of dynamic… For example, why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Ever wonder about that? I think it indicates that we as a race tend to have some renewed hope with the dawn of a new year.

Now, does anyone here have any New Year’s resolutions? Well, if not, it’s not too late to develop some!

So let’s go through the rest of chapters 8, 9, and 10 and try to make sense of what we see. Perhaps we’ll gain some pointers on how to make some God-honoring New Year’s resolutions.

That’s what I’ll entitle the message – God-Honoring New Year’s Resolutions.

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