Daily Devotion Text

July 14, 2020

Nehemiah 7- 2020-07-14

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Commentary: Nehemiah 7

7:1–4 Given their appearance in 7:45, it is most probable that the gatekeepers (7:1) mentioned by Nehemiah were normally associated with the temple and here stationed along with the other cultic guilds (singers and Levites) on a temporary watch. Perhaps more permanent is Nehemiah’s appointment of his own brother, Hanani, who having lamented Jerusalem’s ruined walls (1:2–3), now takes charge of the city around which they have been rebuilt (7:2a). Also mentioned by Nehemiah is the elevation of a certain Hananiah as commander of the citadel, though not on the basis of kinship nor even his particular military experience or expertise. Though the latter may well be presumed, Nehemiah makes a point of explaining Hananiah’s appointment first and foremost on account of his virtuous character and his “fear[ing] God more than many.” Having castigated some for lacking such a trait (5:9) and reaffirmed his own fear of God (5:15), it is perhaps understandable that Nehemiah would appoint someone who shares a quality that he himself so prizes.

Whether uttered by Hananiah or Nehemiah himself, the instructions found in 7:3 make most sense if they are understood as warning against the opening of the gates not “until” (NRSV) but rather “while” the sun is hot. That this is most probable is confirmed by ancient testimony that city gates were often vulnerable in the heat of the day, at which time potentially lethargic guards should thus be encouraged to “shut and bar the doors” (7:3). The further precaution of enlisting the general populace at particular strategic points and near their own houses—in whose defense they might be expected to be especially energetic—is a further measure of the continuing anxieties regarding the defense of the city and leads understandably to Nehemiah’s subsequent observation that the city’s people were few and its houses rather too far between (7:4).

7:5 While, as we will see, Neh 11 will deal more directly and explicitly with the repopulation of the city, the gathering of the people by Nehemiah for the purposes of a census (7:5) is not unintelligible as a preparatory step to this repopulation. Thus it may well be that the list that follows (7:6–73a) did belong properly to the Nehemiah memoir. In the present form of the book, in which the census list is immediately followed by the corporate reading of Torah (Neh 8), Nehemiah’s reflection that God had “put it into my mind” (lit., “heart,”; so also 2:12) now appears as the divine impetus to a covenantal convocation rather than the city’s repopulation. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 46-47.

Bible Text: Nehemiah 6:15-7:3

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

7 1 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”


Go Deeper:

Questions to help us go deeper

Nehemiah 6:15-16

  • The wall, which had remained rubble for 140 years, ends up being completed in 52 days. Reflect on all it took to finish the wall in such a short time, and consider the power of the people of God uniting around a God-honoring vision. What is the vision around which I have united with others?
  • What kind of impact does the wall’s completion have on others? What lesson does this teach about what the church can do when it is carrying out its mission?

Nehemiah 7:2

  • What were the qualities Nehemiah considered when deciding to appoint someone over Jerusalem? How might faithfulness and fearing God be related?


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