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Later, when the wall was completed and the doors had finally been set in their places, the temple gatekeepers were appointed to protect the city, with the help of the singers and the Levites. I placed Hanani, my brother, in charge of Jerusalem, along with Hananiah, the captain of the fortress. Hanani was honest and faithful, and in the fear of God he surpassed most men. I commissioned these two men.

Nehemiah: Do not open the gates of Jerusalem while the sun is fully risen; make sure you close and secure the gates, and the gatekeepers will still watch over them. As for the guards, get men who live within Jerusalem. Have some stand watch at the regular stations and have those whose houses abut the city wall stand guard in front of their homes.

While Jerusalem was large and open, its population was still very small. In fact, no homes had yet been rebuilt, and without people it seemed empty.

It was at that time that God inspired me to gather those people who were in the city. I called the nobles, the officials of the city, and the common folk. I had found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return to Jerusalem; this is what the record showed:

A list of the Jews exiled under Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, living in the province of Jerusalem who returned from captivity in Babylon. They came back to Jerusalem and other towns around Judah, each returning to his home. They were the first to journey back, following the leadership of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.

The men of the population of Israel, listed by their family of origin Parosh’s descendants: 2,172; Shephatiah’s descendants: 372; 10 Arah’s descendants: 652; 11 Pahath-moab’s descendants (from Jeshua and Joab’s line): 2,818; 12 Elam’s descendants: 1,254; 13 Zattu’s descendants: 845; 14 Zaccai’s descendants: 760; 15 Binnui’s descendants: 648; 16 Bebai’s descendants: 628; 17 Azgad’s descendants: 2,322; 18 Adonikam’s descendants: 667; 19 Bigvai and his descendants: 2,067; 20 Adin’s descendants: 655; 21 Ater’s descendants (from Hezekiah’s line): 98; 22 Hashum’s descendants: 328; 23 Bezai’s descendants: 324; 24 Hariph’s descendants: 112; 25 Gibeon’s descendants: 95.

The men in the population of Israel listed by their place of origin— 26 the people of Bethlehem and Netophah: 188; 27 the people of Anathoth: 128; 28 the people of Beth-azmaveth: 42; 29 the people of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth: 743; 30 the people of Ramah and Geba: 621; 31 the people of Michmas: 122; 32 the people of Bethel and Ai: 123; 33 the people of Nebo (the other one): 52; 34 the people of Elam (the other one): 1,254; 35 the people of Harim: 320; 36 the people of Jericho: 345; 37 the people of Lod, Hadid, and Ono: 721; 38 the people of Senaah: 3,930.

The men in the population of Israel listed by their responsibilities 39 the priestly families—Jedaiah’s descendants (from Jeshua’s line): 973; 40 Immer’s descendants: 1,052; 41 Pashhur’s descendants: 1,247; 42 Harim’s descendants: 1,017; 43 the Levitical families—Jeshua’s descendants (from Kadmiel and Hodevah’s line): 74. 44 The singers—Asaph’s descendants: 148. 45 The gatekeepers—Shallum’s, Ater’s, Talmon’s, Akkub’s, Hatita’s, and Shobai’s descendants: 138. 46 The temple servants—Ziha’s, Hasupha’s, Tabbaoth’s, 47 Keros’s, Sia’s, Padon’s, 48 Lebana’s, Hagaba’s, Shalmai’s, 49 Hanan’s, Giddel’s, Gahar’s, 50 Reaiah’s, Rezin’s, Nekoda’s, 51 Gazzam’s, Uzza’s, Paseah’s, 52 Besai’s, Meunim’s, Nephushesim’s, 53 Bakbuk’s, Hakupha’s, Harhur’s, 54 Bazlith’s, Mehida’s, Harsha’s, 55 Barkos’s, Sisera’s, Temah’s, 56 Neziah’s, and Hatipha’s descendants. 57 The descendants of Solomon’s servants—Sotai’s, Sophereth’s, Perida’s, 58 Jaala’s, Darkon’s, Giddel’s, 59 Shephatiah’s, Hattil’s, Pochereth-hazzebaim’s, and Amon’s descendants. 60 Combined, the temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants added up to 392.

61 At the time of our reckoning, people from the outlying towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer came into Jerusalem. Their names, however, could not be found in the official record, and they had no records of their own to prove they had descended from the families of Israel. This group included 62 the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda and totaled 642 people. 63 Three families claiming to come from priestly families also returned: Hobaiah’s, Hakkoz’s, and Barzillai’s descendants. (Barzillai had married a woman descended from Barzillai of Gilead—he took her name as his own). 64 After searching the genealogical records they, too, were unable to find their names, and so they were considered impure and disqualified from serving in the priesthood. 65 As the governor appointed by Persia,[a] I ordered them not to eat any of the sacred food set apart for priests until a priest could be found to consult God on this matter with the sacred stones, Urim and Thummim.

Much like the Urim and Thummim, the exact identity of this book of the law (8:3) cannot be positively known. Most assume this law is some form of the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Those books are the foundational principles for the Jews’ proper worship of God, containing some 613 specific laws, so it is likely the text (or at the very least the knowledge) of the Pentateuch would have survived the exile because of its importance. Priests would have cared for it and not let the laws be completely forgotten among their people.

Because of their separation from Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, proper worship of God has been impossible during the exile. After 100 years in foreign lands, the layperson may have remembered to observe the major laws such as “Do not murder,” but the details of festivals and Sabbath observance are surely forgotten. So, many years later, it only takes half a day of reading to remind the Jews of their covenant with God and reinvigorate them to serve Him.

Not much is known about these ancient divination devices called Urim and Thummim. They are first mentioned in Exodus as 28:30 when God is giving Moses instructions on the clothing for the high priest. These tools were to be carried in the breast piece of judgment, and presumably were only used by the high priest. Suggestions as to their form and function come from the discovery of similar devices in other cultures of the ancient Near East. They may have been flat stones painted different colors, metal objects engraved with symbols, large dice, small sticks, or anything else imaginable. However they may have relayed God’s will, they were clearly effective tools used to discover God’s will in political situations.

66 When our census was complete, we numbered 42,360, 67 as well as the 7,337 male and female servants, 245 male and female singers, 68 and many animals: 736 horses, 245 mules, 69 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

70 Some of the heads of families made contributions so that the work we had begun could continue. As the governor, I contributed 1,000 gold coins, 50 gold bowls, 30 priests’ robes, and 630 pounds of silver.[b] 71 Then other family leaders began to give too: 20,000 gold coins and roughly 2,750 pounds of silver. 72 Together the rest of the community added 20,000 gold coins, 2,500 pounds of silver, and 67 priestly robes. 73 Then the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, many common folk, and the rest of Israel returned to live in their towns. This was finished by the beginning of the seventh month.


  1. 7:65 Hebrew, the Tirshatha
  2. 7:70 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.