Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Account of the priests and Levites that come up with Zerubbabel, Neh 12:1-7. Of the Levites, Neh 12:8-21. The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Neh 12:22-26. Of the dedication of the wall, and its ceremonies, vv. 27-43. Different officers appointed, Neh 12:44-47.
Now these are the priests - Not the whole, but the chief of them, as we are informed, Neh 12:7, Neh 12:22, Neh 12:23, and Neh 12:24. The Septuagint omit Neh 12:3, except the word Shechaniah; as also Neh 12:4, Neh 12:5,Neh 12:6, Neh 12:9,Neh 12:37, Neh 12:38, Neh 12:39, Neh 12:40, and Neh 12:41. The Arabic omits the first twenty-six verses, and Neh 12:29. Mention is made of Ezra in this verse; and he is generally allowed to be that Ezra whose book the reader has already passed over, and who came to Jerusalem in the time of Cyrus, with Zerubbabel. If this were the same, he must have been at this time upward of a hundred years of age: and this case is not improbable, as an especial providence might preserve such a very useful man beyond the ordinary age of men. See what has been said on the case of Nehemiah, Neh 1:1 (note).
The chief of the priests - They were twenty-four orders or courses in number, all subordinate to each other; as established by David, Ch1 24:18. And these orders or courses were continued till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. See Calmet.
Over the thanksgiving - The principal singers: See on Neh 11:17 (note).
Jaddua - This was probably the high priest who went in his pontifical robes, accompanied by his brethren, to meet Alexander the Great, when he was advancing towards Jerusalem, with the purpose to destroy it, after having conquered Tyre and Gaza. Alexander was so struck with the appearance of the priest, that he forbore all hostilities against Jerusalem, prostrated himself before Jaddua, worshipped the Lord at the temple, and granted many privileges to the Jews. See Josephus, Ant. lib. xi., c. 3, and Prideaux's Connections, lib. 7, p. 695.
To the reign of Darius the Persian - Calmet maintains that this must have been Darius Codomanus, who was defeated by Alexander the Great: but Archbishop Usher understands it of Darius Nothus, in whose reign he thinks Jaddua was born, who was high priest under Darius Codomanus.
The book of the chronicles - This is not the book of Chronicles which we have now, no such list being found in it; but some other book or register, which is lost.
The thresholds of the gates - Some understand this of a sort of porticoes at the gates, and are puzzled about it, because they find no mention of porticoes elsewhere: but why may we not suppose these to resemble our watch-boxes or some temporary moveable shelters for those who took care of the gates? That there must have been some such conveniences, common sense dictates.
At the dedication of the wall - They sent for the Levites from all quarters, that this dedication might be as solemn and majestic as possible; and it is likely that this was done as soon as convenient after the walls were finished. The dedication seems to have consisted in processions of the most eminent persons around the walls, and thanksgivings to God, who had enabled them to bring the work to so happy a conclusion: and no doubt to all this were added a particular consecration of the city to God, and the most earnest invocation that he would take it under his guardian care, and defend it and its inhabitants against all their enemies.
The ancients consecrated their cities to the gods, and the very walls were considered as sacred. Ovid gives us an account of the ceremonies used in laying the foundations of the walls of the city of Rome, by Romulus. After having consulted together who should give name to the city, and have the direction of the wall by which it was necessary to surround it, they agreed to let the case be decided by the flight of birds. One brother went to the top of the Mons Palatinus, the other to that of Mount Aventine. Romulus saw twelve birds, Remus saw but six; the former, therefore, according to agreement, took the command. The poet thus describes the ceremonies used on the occasion: -
Apta dies legitur, qua moenia signet aratro;
Sacra Palis suberant; inde movetur opus.
Fossa fit ad solidum: fruges jaciuntur in ima.
Et de vicino terra petita solo
Fossa repletur humo, plenaeque imponitur ara;
Et novus accenso finditur igne focus.
Inde, premens stivam, designat moenia sulco;
Alba jugum niveo cum bove vacca tulit.
Vox tuit haec regis; Condenti Jupiter urbem,
Et genitor Mavors, Vestaque mater ades:
Quosque pium est adhibere deos, advertite cuncti:
Auspicibus vobis hoc mihi surgat opus.
Longa sit huic aetas, dominaeque potentia terrae:
Sitque sub hac oriens occiduusque dies! Ille precabatur.
Ovid, Fast. lib. iv., ver. 819.
"A proper day is chosen in which he may mark out the walls with the plough: the festival of Pales was at hand when the work was begun. A ditch is dug down to the solid clay, into which they cast the fruits of the season; and bring earth from the neighboring ground, with which they fill up the trench; and on it build an altar, by whose flames the newly made hearth is cleft asunder. Then Romulus, seizing the plough, which a white heifer yoked with a snowy bull drew along, marked out the walls with a furrow. And thus spoke the king: 'O Jupiter, and Father Mars, with Matron Vesta, prosper me in founding this city! And all ye gods, approach, whomsoever it is right to invoke! Under your auspices may the work arise; may it endure for countless ages, and be the mistress of the world; and may the East and the West be under its control!' Thus he prayed."
The above is a literal version, and the account is not a little curious.
From the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth - Or, from Beth-Gilgal; a village erected in the place where the Israelites encamped after they had, under the direction of Joshua, passed over Jordan.
The priests and the Levites purified themselves - This consisted in washings, abstinence from wine, and other matters, which, on all other occasions, were lawful. And as to the purifying of the gates and the walls, nothing was requisite but to remove all filth from the former, and all rubbish that might have been laid against the latter.
Then I brought up the princes - Perhaps this verse should be read thus: "Then I caused the princes of Judah to go upon the wall, and appointed two great choirs, [to sing praises], and two processions, one on the right hand, etc.
The following seems to have been the order of the procession: he divided the priests, the Levites, the magistrates, and the people into two companies; each company to go round one half of the wall. They began at the dung gate, one party going to the right and the other to the left, till they met at the great space opposite to the temple, where they all offered many sacrifices to God, and rejoiced with exceeding great joy; shouting so that the noise was heard a great way off.
The broad wall - What part this was, we know not: it might have been a place designed for a public promenade, or a parade for assembling the troops or guard of the temple.
All Israel - gave the portions of the singers - The singers and the porters were supported by the people at large; and each of these had their portions served out to them daily.
And they sanctified - unto the Levites - The things which were provided for sacred uses were delivered by the people to the Levites, and the Levites presented them to the priests.
The children of Aaron - This may refer principally to the tithes which the people brought to the Levites; the tithe or tenth of which the Levites gave to the priests. The presenting these tithes is termed sanctifying them; that is, dedicating them to those sacred or ecclesiastical uses for which they were designed: this is a very general meaning of the word sanctify in Scripture.