Having given an account of the principal persons that dwelt in Jerusalem (a larger account of whom he had before, 1 Chron. 9:2-34), Nehemiah, in these verses, gives us some account of the other cities, in which dwelt the residue of Israel, Neh. 11:20. It was requisite that Jerusalem should be replenished, yet not so as to drain the country. The king himself is served of the field, which will do little service if there be not hands to manage it. Let there therefore be no strife, no envy, no contempt, no ill will, between the inhabitants of the cities and those of the villages; both are needful, both useful, and neither can be spared. 1. The Nethinims, the posterity of the Gibeonites, dwelt in Ophel, which was upon the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:26), because they were to do the servile work of the temple, which therefore they must be posted near to, that they might be ready to attend, Neh. 11:21. 2. Though the Levites were dispersed through the cities of Judah, yet they had an overseer who resided in Jerusalem, superior of their order and their provincial, to whom they applied for direction, who took care of their affairs and took cognizance of their conduct, whether they did their duty, Neh. 11:22. 3. Some of the singers were appointed to look after the necessary repairs of the temple, being ingenious men, and having leisure between their hours of service; they were over the business of the house of God, Neh. 11:22. And, it seems, the king of Persia had such a kindness for their office that he allotted a particular maintenance for them, besides what belonged to them as Levites, Neh. 11:23. 4. Here is one that was the king’s commissioner at Jerusalem. He was of the posterity of Zerah (Neh. 11:24); for of that family of Judah there were some new settled in Jerusalem, and not all of Pharez, as appears by that other catalogue, 1 Chron. 9:6. He is said to be at the king’s hand, or on the king’s part, in all matters concerning the people, to determine controversies that arose between the king’s officers and his subjects, to see that what was due to the king from the people was duly paid in and what was allowed by the king for the temple service was duly paid out, and happy it was for the Jews that one of themselves was in this post. 5. Here is an account of the villages, or country towns, which were inhabited by the residue of Israel—the towns in which the children of Judah dwelt (Neh. 11:25-30), those that were inhabited by the children of Benjamin (Neh. 11:31-35), and divisions for the Levites among both, Neh. 11:36. 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.
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