February 28, 2003

Nehemiah 12

This chapter gives an account of the chief of the priests and Levites in the days of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, and Nehemiah, #Ne 12:1-26, of the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, and of the joy expressed on that occasion, #Ne 12:27-43, and of the appointment of some persons over the treasuries for the priests, Levites, singers, and porters, #Ne 12:44-47. (Gill)

Vv. 1-26

We have here the names, and little more than the names, of a great many priests and Levites, that were eminent in their day among the returned Jews. Why this register should be here inserted by Nehemiah does not appear, perhaps to keep in remembrance those good men, that posterity might know to whom they were beholden, under God, for the happy revival and re-establishment of their religion among them. Thus must we contribute towards the performance of that promise, #Ps 112:6, The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. Let the memory of the just be blessed, be perpetuated. It is a debt we still owe to faithful ministers to remember our guides, who have spoken to us the word of God, #Heb 13:7. Perhaps it is intended to stir up their posterity, who succeeded them in the priest's office and inherited their dignities and preferments, to imitate their courage and fidelity. It is good to know what our godly ancestors and predecessors were, that we may learn thereby what we should be. (MH)

V. 1, these men came with Ezra from Babylon.

Note the mention of two groups:

Vv. 8, 24, the "singers"– those who were to give praise and thanks to God, as commanded by David.

Thanksgiving is required of God's people at all times.
Ephesians 5;20, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Timothy 4:4.
1 Timothy 4:4, requires a closer look:

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

Did Paul, with these words, void Leviticus 11?

Note Paul's context. He is warning against departure from the faith, being influenced by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. He was warning against the religious leaders who were teaching that it is good to abstain from marriage and from meats.

Barnes gives a good understanding for this passage:

And commanding to abstain from meats, etc; The word meat in the Scriptures, commonly denotes food of all kinds, #Mt 3:4 6:26 10:10; #Mt 15:37. This was the meaning of the word when the translation of the Bible was made. It is now used by us, almost exclusively, to denote animal food. The word here used brwma means, properly, whatever is eaten, and may refer to animal flesh, fish, fruit, or vegetables. It is often, however, in the New Testament, employed particularly to denote the flesh of animals, #Heb 9:10 13:9 Ro 14:15,20 1Co 8:8,13. As it was animal food particularly which was forbidden under the Jewish code, and as the questions on this subject among Christians would relate to the same kinds of prohibition, it is probable that the word has the same limited signification here, and should be taken as meaning the same thing that the word meat does with us. To forbid the use of certain meats, is here described as one of the characteristics of those who would instruct the church in the time of the great apostasy. It is not necessary to suppose that there would be an entire prohibition, but only a prohibition of certain kinds, and at certain seasons. That this characteristic is found in the Papacy more than anywhere else in the Christian world, it is needless to prove. The following questions and answers from Dr. Butler's Catechism, will show what is the sentiment of Roman Catholics on this subject. "Q. Are there any other commandments besides the Ten Commandments of God? A. There are the commandments or precepts of the church, which are chiefly six. Q. What are we obliged to do by the second commandment of the church? A. To give part of the year to fast and abstinence Q. What do you mean by fast-days? A. Certain days on which we are allowed but one meal, and forbidden flesh meat. Q. What do you mean by days of abstinence? A. Certain days on which we are forbidden to eat flesh meat; but are allowed the usual number of meals. Q. Is it strictly forbidden by the church to eat flesh meat on days of abstinence? A. Yes; and to eat flesh meat on any day on which it is forbidden, without necessity and leave of the church, is very sinful." Could there be a more impressive and striking commentary on what the apostle says here, that "in the latter days some would depart from the faith, under the hypocritical teaching of those who commanded to abstain from meats?" The authority claimed by the Papacy to issue commands on this subject, may be seen still further by the following extract from the same catechism, showing the gracious permission of the church to the "faithful." "The abstinence on Saturday is dispensed with, for the faithful throughout the United States, for the space of ten years (from 1833,) except when a fast falls on a Saturday. The use of flesh meat is allowed at present by dispensation, in the diocese of Philadelphia, on all the Sundays of Lent, except Palm Sunday, and once a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in each week, except the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and also excepting Holy-week." Such is the Roman Catholic religion! See also Peter Dens' Moral Theology, pp. 321—339. It is true that what is said here might apply to the Essenes, as Koppe supposes, or to the Judaizing teachers, but it applies more appropriately and fully to the Papal communion than to any other body of men professing Christianity, and taken in connection with the other characteristics of the apostasy, there can be no doubt that the reference is to that. (Barnes' Notes)

And commanding to abstain from meats; to abstain from some meats; and this also they should teach in hypocrisy, i.e. under a pretence of piety. This every whit as well agrees to the Romish synagogue as the other, whose prohibitions of flesh are sufficiently known. Mr. Mede is very confident that the Holy Ghost doth here describe the popish monks, and those that gave rules to those orders. (Matthew Pool. See also Geneva, Gill, JFB, MH & RWP.)

Paul is dealing with the problem described above—that is, it is a higher way of life to abstain from certain meats upon certain days. He is not voiding Leviticus 11.

Also included in the abstain from meats is the dispute about meats offered to idols, 1 Cor. 8-10, Ro. 14; 15.

Of them which believe and know the truth: not that such as believe not and are ignorant of the truth may not eat, but they have not so good and comfortable a right to the creatures as believers, #Tit 1:15; and they know and understand their liberty to eat of those things, which others deprive themselves of by their superstitious opinions and constitutions. (Matthew Pool)

In other words, Paul was dealing with superstitions that keep some from eating certain means on certain days. His remarks had nothing to do with Leviticus 11.

V. 25, the porters, or the door keepers.

Psalms 84:10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Vv. 27-43

27-43. at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem—This ceremony of consecrating the wall and gates of the city was an act of piety on the part of Nehemiah, not merely to thank God in a general way for having been enabled to bring the building to a happy completion, but especially because that city was the place which He had chosen. It also contained the temple which was hallowed by the manifestation of His presence, and anew set apart to His service. It was on these accounts that Jerusalem was called "the holy city," and by this public and solemn act of religious observance, after a long period of neglect and desecration, it was, as it were, restored to its rightful proprietor. The dedication consisted in a solemn ceremonial, in which the leading authorities, accompanied by the Levitical singers, summoned from all parts of the country, and by a vast concourse of people, marched in imposing procession round the city walls, and, pausing at intervals to engage in united praises, prayer, and sacrifices, supplicated the continued presence, favor, and blessing on "the holy city." "The assembly convened near Jaffa Gate, where the procession commences. Then (#Ne 12:31) I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall (near the Valley Gate), and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall towards the dung gate (through Bethzo). And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah. And (#Ne 12:37) at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they (descending by the Tower of Siloam on the interior, and then reascending) went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward (by the staircase of the rampart, having descended to dedicate the fountain structures). And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them (both parties having started from the junction of the first and second walls), and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall (beyond the corner gate). And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate (and the gate of Benjamin), and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate; and they stood still in the prison gate (or high gate, at the east end of the bridge). So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and half of the rulers with me (having thus performed the circuit of the investing walls), and arrived in the courts of the temple" [BARCLAY, City of the Great King]. (JFB)

We have read of the building of the wall of Jerusalem with a great deal of fear and trembling; we have here an account of the dedicating of it with a great deal of joy and triumph. Those that sow in tears shall thus reap. (MH)

V. 43, husbands' spiritual condition is reflected in their wives and children.

The joy was heard even afar off.

Vv. 44-47

We have here an account of the remaining good effects of the universal joy that was at the dedication of the wall. When the solemnities of a thanksgiving day leave such impressions on ministers and people as that both are more careful and cheerful in doing their duty afterwards, then they are indeed acceptable to God and turn to a good account. (MH)