Nehemiah borrows Ezra’s census
Nehemiah puts brother in charge1After we finished repairing the walls, we hung the gates. Then we appointed the Temple security guards and singers. And we gave the Levites their assignments. 2I put my brother Hanani in charge of Jerusalem as governor. And I gave Hananiah command of Jerusalem’s defensive forces. He was a man who had been devoted to God for many years.
3I told him, “Don’t open the gates of Jerusalem at first light. Wait until the sun rises a little more. Then close the gates and lock them with the beam when the sun goes down, before the guards go home. Choose guards from Jerusalem. Position them at different places around the wall. Have some guard the wall near their home.
Few Jews inside Jerusalem4Jerusalem was a big town with just a few people living inside. Jews hadn’t yet rebuilt many houses there, from out of the ruins. 5God gave me an idea: create a family census—make a list of all the people who came back from exile. I found a record about this, a genealogy.
Jewish families home from exile6Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and took Jews captive to Babylon. But now, people from those same families decided to return to Jerusalem and to other towns of Judah.
7Here’s the list of Jewish men whose families returned to Judah. Caravan leaders included Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
Here are totals, by families:
11Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812
21Ater (descendants of Hezekiah) 98
Family groups from Judah’s cities26Men of Bethlehem and Netophah 188
27Men of Anathoth, 128
28Men of Azmaveth 42
29Men of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth 743
30Men of Ramah and Geba 621
31Men of Micmash 122
32Men of Bethel and Ai 123
33Men of Nebo 52
34Men of the other Elam 1,254
35Men of Harim 320
36Men of Jericho 345
37Men of Lod, Hadid, and Ono 721
38Men of Senaah 3,930
Four families of priests join the trip39Jedaiah (descended from Jeshua) 973
Levite associates of priests43Jeshua, Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) 74
44Asaph, the singers 148
45Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai, temple guards at the gates 138
Individual Temple workers46Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
47Keros, Siaha, Padon,
48Lebanah, Hagabah, Shalmai,
49Hanan, Giddel, Gahar
50Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
51Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
52Besai, Meunim, Nephusim,
53Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
54Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
55Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
56Neziah, and Hatipha.
Descendants of men who worked for Solomon57These are descendants of men who worked for Solomon and who made the trip back from exile. Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
58Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
59Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.
60Total workers at the Temple, including those descended from Solomon 392.
Other returning families61Some people who joined the caravan to Judah couldn’t prove they were Jews. They came from the Babylonian towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer.
62Families from these towns included Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, for a total of 642.
63Three families claimed to be priests: Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. But Barzillai borrowed this family name from his wife. She was a daughter of the Barzillai’s from Gilead. 64Jewish leaders searched the genealogical records but couldn’t find any mention of these three families of priests. So, leaders disqualified them from working as priests.
65The Persian-appointed governor ordered them not to practice as priests and not to eat the priest’s share of meat offered in sacrifices. He said they had to wait until a legitimate priest could consult the LORD and get an answer from the two sacred objects called Lights and Perfection.
66In all, 42,360 people were returning to Judah. 67That doesn’t count the 7,337 temple workers and the 245 singers—men and women.
68The caravan included 736 horses, 245 mules, 69435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
Coming home to Jerusalem in ruins70When the people finally arrived at the Jerusalem hilltop where the Temple once stood, some family leaders gave donations to rebuild the worship center. The governor gave 1,000 gold coins weighing 18 pounds, 50 gold bowls, and 530 robes for the priests. 71Other leaders donated 20,000 gold coins weighing 337 pounds, along with 3,214 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.
72Remaining Jews gave another 337 pounds of gold, 2,921 pounds of silver, and 67 robes for the priest. 73People who settled in villages near Jerusalem were mostly priests and their Levite associates, along with other Temple workers, guards, and singers. Some others not involved in Temple work settled there, too. The rest of the Jews settled into their hometowns scattered throughout Israel.
Some scholars interpret this differently. They say guards are instructed to close the gates in the heat of the day.
Nehemiah seemed to find an updated version of the census reported in Ezra 2. Many numbers are different, usually just slightly. Some names are missing and some added. Donations reported at the end of the report are much lower in Nehemiah’s copy of the census.
Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and other cities of Judah in 586 BC. That was half a century before Persian King Cyrus freed Jews and others to go home in about 538 BC. Jews immediately begin returning home. Ezra’s ancestors, however, stayed. It wasn’t until another century passed before Ezra returned to Judah. He left Babylon in the spring of 458 BC.
Sorry ladies, but the census seemed to count only males. It was the patriarchal age. Nehemiah 7 reports the same information with some differences, especially in donations collected for rebuilding the Temple (verse 69; Nehemiah 7:69-70). Roughly half a ton of gold and three tons of silver in Ezra and only half that in Nehemiah.
Zerubbabel was a descendant of one of Judah’s last kings, Jehoiachin—from King David’s family dynasty. Persians appointed Zerubbabel governor of the new Persian province of Judah. Ideally, Zerubbabel would have been king of an independent Jewish nation of Judah. He shows up in the stories of Haggai and Zechariah as the top Jew in charge of rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple. He led the people even after Darius I became King of Persia. But then he suddenly disappeared. Some scholars guess the new Persian king removed him because Zerubbabel grew into a powerful Jewish ruler whom the people considered their rightful king.
This is lower than the 775 in Ezra 2:5. Nehemiah may have gotten the final version of Ezra’s family census.
The Hebrew word describing which Elam is aher. It can mean: other, different, or next. In a list of cities, it seems to refer to one of two cities named Elam. The “other” might otherwise mean an Elam family different than the man mentioned in 7:7.
Some use “Shamlai,” as it appears in Nehemiah 7:48.
At this time in history, Jewish leaders such as Ezra seemed to strongly embrace racial purity. They taught that Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem and Judah and the exile of the Jews was God’s punishment for Jews letting other cultures and religions intrude into their way of life, obeying God. People who couldn’t prove they were Jews may have been non-Jewish converts to the religion, some scholars speculate.
Location of these cities is unknown.
For more about what share of the meat priests got from sacrifices, see Leviticus 7.
The Hebrew names are Urim and Thummim, described as meaning “lights” and “perfection.” These were two objects never described in the Bible. They show up first in Exodus 28:30. They might have been stones, marked or colored in different ways. The high priest used them to answer questions with a “yes” or “no” or “wait.” It might have worked a bit like tossing two coins in the air and seeing how they land. Two heads for “yes.” Two tails for “no.” One of each for “wait.” It might seem foolish to make an important decision that way, such as whether to go to war. But the people of Israel seemed to believe that God controlled the objects the priests used. That doesn’t mean the Bible endorses making decisions that way today. As in, two heads up for a four-wheeler or two tails up for retirement savings.”
That’s 153 kilograms of gold and 1,458 kilograms of silver. That’s compared to 500 kilograms of gold and about 3 tons or 2.8 metric tons of silver in Ezra 2.
That’s 153 kilograms of gold and 1,325 kilograms of silver.
But it wasn’t called Israel anymore. It was the Persian province of Judah—one of many provinces in the land once called Israel. Other provinces in the former Israel included Samaria, Ashdod, Dor, and Gaza. They were all in one territory that became known as Palestine.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.