Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter is made up of two portions:
(a) lists of the leading priests and Levites at different periods Neh. 12:1-26:
(b) the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem Neh. 12:27-47.
This latter passage is certainly from the pen of Nehemiah, and was written probably about 433 B.C. The lists included in (a) are four:
(1) the chief priestly and Levitical families which returned to Jerusalem Neh 12:1-9;
(2) the succession of the high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua Neh 12:10-11;
(3) the actual heads of the priestly families in the time of the high priest Joiakim Neh 12:12-21;
(4) the chief Levitical families at the same period Neh 12:24-26.
Of these lists, List 1, List 3, and List 4, may have been drawn up in the time of Nehemiah, but List 2, in its present form, must be much later. See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah.
The priests - The number of the names here given, which is 22, is probably to be connected with that of the Davidic "courses," which was 24 Ch1 24:7-18. Eight names are identical with those of the heads in David's time. On comparing the present list with that of the families who sealed to Nehemiah's covenant Neh 10:2-8, we shall find that the first sixteen recur in that document nearly in the same order; but that the last six are absent from it. It would seem that as these six declined to seal to Nehemiah's covenant, they were placed below the rest here in a sort of supplementary list. Note especially the "and" which connects the second part of the lists with the earlier part, both in Neh 12:6 and in Neh 12:19.
Of the Levitical houses here mentioned, three only returned at first, those of Jeshua, Kadmiel, and Judah or Hodevah Neh 7:43. The others must have returned subsequently.
The six generations of high priests covered a little more than two centuries (538-333 B.C.), or a little under thirty-five years to a generation. Jaddua was the high priest who (according to Josephus) had an interview with Alexander shortly after the battle of Issus.
These verses interrupt the account of the church officers in the time of Joiakim, resumed in Neh 12:24. They appear to be an addition to the original text, made about the time of Alexander the Great, when the Books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah would seem to have first taken their existing shape. The same writer who introduced these verses, probably also added Neh 12:11 to the original text.
Darius the Persian - Probably Darius Codomannus (336-331 B.C.), the antagonist of Alexander the Great. See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah.
This passage shows that the practice of keeping a record of public events in state archives was continued after the return from the captivity, at least to the time of Johanan, the son, i. e., "the grandson," of Eliasbib.
Jeshua the son of Kadmiel - If the reading be sound, this Jeshua must have been the head of the Levitical family of Kadmiel in the time of Joiakim; but (compare Neh 8:7; Neh 9:4), some read "Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel," etc.
Ward over against ward - i. e., "alternately," one part of the choir corresponding the other.
In Ch1 9:17, Ch1 9:24, Ch1 9:26, four families of porters only are mentioned; six are implied here, in Neh 7:45, and in Ezr 2:42. From Ch1 26:14-19 it appears that the temple had four chief gates, fronting the cardinal points, and two minor ones, "toward Asuppim," and "at Parbar."
The dedication of the wall - The ceremony had been deferred for the space of nearly 12 years Neh 13:6. Perhaps Nehemiah required an express permission from the Persian king before he could venture on a solemnity which might have been liable to misrepresentation.
Out of all their places - i. e., out of the various cities of Judah and Benjamin in which they dwelt Neh 11:36.
The plain country round about Jerusalem - Perhaps the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, which enclose Jerusalem on three sides, are intended.
The villages of Netophathi - Rather, as in Ch1 9:16. Netophah lay near Bethlehem Ch1 2:54, and is perhaps represented by the modern Antubeh.
The house of Gilgal - Or, "Beth-Gilgal" - probably the Gilgal north of Jerusalem (now "Jiljilia).
I brought up - Note the resumption of the first person, which has been laid aside since Neh 7:5, and which is confirmed now to the end of the book. It is generally allowed that we have here once more a memoir by Nehemiah himself.
The two "companies" or choirs, having ascended the wall on its western face, near the modern Jaffa Gate, stood looking eastward toward the city and temple; then the southern choir, being on the right, commenced the circuit of the southern wall, while the choir upon the left proceeded round the northern wall Neh 12:38-39, until both met on the eastern wall, between the water and the prison gates.
"Judah and Benjamin" are the lay people of those two tribes.
Above the house of David - This choir or procession went above (or beyond) the old palace of David, following the line described in Neh 3:16-26, on their way to the eastern wall.
Judah rejoiced - Judah's satisfaction with the priests and Levites took the shape of increased offerings, more ample tithes, and the like, from where the appointment of treasuries and treasurers became necessary.
The ward of the purification - The observances with respect to purification. Compare Ch1 23:28.
The intention is to compare the religious activity and strictness of Nehemiah's time with that which had prevailed under Zerubbabel, as described by Ezra Ezr 6:16, Ezr 6:22. It is implied that the intermediate period had been a time of laxity.
They sanctified holy things ... - i. e, "the people paid their tithes regularly to the Levites, and the Levites paid the tithe of the tithes to the priests."