Nehemiah 12 – “A List of Priests and Levites; The Dedication of the Wall”

52431_boys-choir-singing-_667785cHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The priests and Levites are listed, Jerusalem’s walls are dedicated with great joy, and the Temple’s officers are appointed.

II. Photo
Jerusalem’s walls are dedicated with a musical procession: “The companies of singers assembled from the [Jordan] plain, the environs of Jerusalem, and from the Netophathite villages.” (v. 28)

III. Important Verses
v. 24: The heads of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their brothers served opposite them, singing praise and thanksgiving hymns by the ordinance of David the man of God — served opposite them in shifts.
v. 27: At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites, wherever they lived, were sought out and brought to Jerusalem to celebrate a joyful dedication with thanksgiving and with song, accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres.
vv. 44-47: At that time men were appointed over the chambers that served as treasuries for the gifts, the first fruits, and the tithes, into which the portions prescribed by the Teaching for the priests and Levites were gathered from the fields of the towns; for the people of Judah were grateful to the priests and Levites who were in attendance, who kept the charge of their God and the charge of purity, as well as to the singers and gatekeepers [serving] in accord with the ordinance of David and Solomon his son — for the chiefs of the singers and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God already existed in the time of David and Asaph. And in the time of Zerubbabel, and in the time of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions of the singers and the gatekeepers, and made sacred contributions for the Levites, and the Levites made sacred contributions for the Aaronites.

IV. Outline
1-7. List of priests from the time of Zerubbabel
8-9. List of Levites from the time of Zerubbabel
10-21. List of priests from the time of Joiakim
22-24. Reference to the Levites from the time of Joiakim
25. List of gatekeepers from the time of Joiakim
26. Summary statement
27-42. Choir procession at the dedication of Jerusalem’s walls
43. Sacrifices are offered
44-47. The Temple administration is appointed

V. Comment
Nehemiah 12 begins with a lengthy list of the priests and Levites from the times of Zerubbabel and Joiakim. It continues with the joyous dedication of Jerusalem’s walls, and Zar Kavod attempts to contextualize this account (translation my own): “It makes sense that the dedication was in the month of Tishrei, [the month] following the day that the wall was completed, i.e. the 25th of Elul of the first year that Nehemiah came to Jerusalem.” (137) He also points to the emphasis on joy found in the processional: v. 43 mentions the word simcha “joy/rejoicing” five times, “On that day, they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced, for God made them rejoice greatly; the women and children also rejoiced, and the rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard from afar.”

Having discussed the chronological complications regarding the dates of Ezra and Nehemiah in previous posts, let us now turn to the views regarding the book’s date of authorship. Klein writes: “Because Ezra and Nehemiah recount the rebuilding of the Temple and the work of Ezra and Nehemiah after their return to Judah, it is universally granted that the books were composed in Palestine. The date for the present shape of the books must be later than the events they recount: the dedication of the Temple in 515 B.C.E., the return of Ezra in 458 B.C.E. (or 398 B.C.E.; see H.2), and the governorship of Nehemiah, 445–433 B.C.E., and his second visit to Jerusalem, no later than 424 B.C.E. How many years elapsed after these dates until the basic shape of the books evolved depends on the compositional theory presupposed. Among recent commentators, Williamson (Ezra Nehemiah WBC, xxxvi) dates the final form of the books to about 300; Clines (Ezra Nehemiah Esther NCBC, 13–14) puts it “within a few decades” of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, or about 400 B.C.E. Japhet (1982: 89, n. 55), who notes that the last king mentioned (in 12:26) is Darius II (423–404) or Artaxerxes II (403–359), if Ezra came during his reign, and who believes that the last high priest mentioned, Jaddua, served under these Persian kings, assigns the book to the first quarter of the 4th century.” Thus, the consensus seems to be that the book was written in Israel between the years 420-300 B.C.E.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Klein, Ralph W. “Ezra-Nehemiah, Books of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. II pp. 731-742 (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
Zar Kavod, Mordecai. “Da‘at Miqra: ’ezra wenechemayah” (Jerusalem: Mosard Harav Kook, 1980).
Photo taken from http://www.macjams.com/filemgmt_data/snaps/52431_boys-choir-singing-_667785c.jpg

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