February 27, 2003

Nehemiah 11

The rulers and the tenth man chosen by lot dwell at Jerusalem, #Ne 11:1,2. A catalogue of their names, numbers, and families, #Ne 11:3-19. The residue of the people dwell in other cities, #Ne 11:20-36. (Pool)

1. the rulers...dwelt at Jerusalem—That city being the metropolis of the country, it was right and proper that the seat of government should be there. But the exigency of the times required that special measures should be taken to insure the residence of an adequate population for the custody of the buildings and the defense of the city. From the annoyances of restless and malignant enemies, who tried every means to demolish the rising fortifications, there was some danger attending a settlement in Jerusalem. Hence the greater part of the returned exiles, in order to earn as well as secure the rewards of their duty, preferred to remain in the country or the provincial towns. To remedy this state of things, it was resolved to select every tenth man of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin by lot, to become a permanent inhabitant of the capital. The necessity of such an expedient commended it to the general approval. It was the more readily submitted to because the lot was resorted to on all the most critical conjunctures of the Jewish history, and regarded by the people as a divine decision (#Pr 18:18). This awakened strongly the national spirit; and patriotic volunteers came forward readily to meet the wishes of the authorities, a service which, implying great self-denial as well as courage, was reckoned in the circumstances of so much importance as entitled them to the public gratitude. No wonder that the conduct of these volunteers drew forth the tribute of public admiration; for they sacrificed their personal safety and comfort for the interests of the community because Jerusalem was at that time a place against which the enemies of the Jews were directing a thousand plots. Therefore, residence in it at such a juncture was attended with expense and various annoyances from which a country life was entirely free. (JFB)

V. 1, though Jerusalem was called the "holy city", the greater part of those who returned declined to live there.

Why? Matthew Henry gives these reasons:

First, it was called the "holy city", and those who care not about being holy are shy of dwelling in the "holy city".

Many shy away from the New Jerusalem today for the same reason.

Second, of all the places in the land, Jerusalem was the most hated of the enemies of God, including enemies living on the inside. Thus, the people were fearful of facing the wrath, persecution and reproach of the enemies of the city.

Many shy away from the New Jerusalem today for the same reason.

Third, because of the worldly advantage to dwell in the country. The city had just been rebuilt, and had no trade nor industry to prosper. The country had corn and cattle, but the city at this time had nothing. Living here at this time could well mean poverty, and it certainly meant hard work to get the city on its feet again.

Many shy away from the New Jerusalem today for the same reason. They seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (Php 2;21.)

Who replenished the city:

First, the rulers. The city was the center of the religious and civil functions of the nation. To their credit, the rulers desired to dwell in the "holy city". And thus they would attract others into the city.

Second, some willingly passed up dwelling for their benefit in the country, and offered themselves to live in the city. They willingly made the sacrifice. They no doubt claimed the promise of God of prosperity for those that love Zion. (Ps. 122:6, 9.)

The people praised them for giving up their personal pleasure for the good of the kingdom.

Will not God in that day "reward" His people who have given up personal pleasure for the good of His Kingdom on earth? We should be encouraged in doing good, and we should encourage others to do good also. (Gal. 6:10, 1 Tim. 6:18, Heb. 13:16, 1 Pet. 3:11.)

Third, lots were cast to chose one in ten to dwell in the city. The people were well aware to the importance of the lot (lot-pebbles used for systematically making decisions).

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
Proverbs 18:18 The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.

Those who were chosen by lot understood that it was the Lord who was calling them to live in the city.

Fourth, many of the priests and Levites settled at Jerusalem. Holy men should desire to be in the "holy city". V. 10ff., we see that many of the priests and Levites were "mighty men of valour", and necessarily so, 14. The priesthood is not only work, but is a serious warfare.

V. 3, province. Because of sin, the land was now a province of the Persian empire.

V. 4, the people are called, once again, Israel, but the land in which they settled was called Judah. People of all the tribes of Israel settled in the land, but only Judah and Benjamin settled in Jerusalem.

Vv. 23, 24, the king of Persia took special note of service of the Lord God as restored in Jerusalem, even paying for their maintenance in the Lord's service.

The importance of singing praises to God in the Old Testament cannot be overemphasized, as it is mentioned continually, with the song writers and singers being paid as were the teachers of God's word.

Though few in number, the returned Israelites are scattered throughout the land.

We will now suppose them safe and easy, though few and poor, but by the blessing of God they were likely to increase in wealth and power, and they would have been more likely if there had not been that general profaneness among them, and lukewarmness in religion, with which they were charged in God's name by the prophet Malachi, who, it is supposed, prophesied about this time, and in whom prophecy ceased for some ages, till it revived in the great prophet and his forerunner. (MH)