Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
II. Nehemiah's Further Exertions in Behalf of the Community - Neh 7:1
The building of the wall being now concluded, Nehemiah first made arrangements for securing the city against hostile attacks (Neh 7:1-3); then took measures to increase the inhabitants of Jerusalem (7:4-73 and Neh 11:1 and Neh 11:2); and finally endeavoured to fashion domestic and civil life according to the precepts of the law (Neh 8-10), and, on the occasion of the solemn dedication of the wall, to set in order the services of the Levites (Neh 12).
The watching of the city provided for. - Neh 7:1 When the wall was built, Nehemiah set up the doors in the gates, to complete the fortification of Jerusalem (comp. Neh 6:1). Then were the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites entrusted with the care (הפּקד, praefici; comp. Neh 12:14). The care of watching the walls and gates is meant in this connection. According to ancient appointment, it was the duty of the doorkeepers to keep watch over the house of God, and to open and close the gates of the temple courts; comp. Ch1 9:17-19; Ch1 26:12-19. The singers and the Levites appointed to assist the priests, on the contrary, had, in ordinary times, nothing to do with the service of watching. Under the present extraordinary circumstances, however, Nehemiah committed also to these two organized corporations the task of keeping watch over the walls and gates of the city, and placed them under the command of his brother Hanani, and of Hananiah the ruler of the citadel. This is expressed by the words, Neh 7:2 : I gave Hanani ... and Hananiah ... charge over Jerusalem. הבּירה is the fortress or citadel of the city lying to the north of the temple (see rem. on Neh 2:8), in which was probably located the royal garrison, the commander of which was in the service of the Persian king. The choice of this man for so important a charge is explained by the additional clause: "for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many." The כּ before אישׁ is the so-called Caph veritatis, which expresses a comparison with the idea of the matter: like a man whom one may truly call faithful. מרבּים is comparative: more God-fearing than many.
The Chethiv ויאמר is both here and Neh 5:9 certainly a clerical error for the Keri ואמר, though in this place, at all events, we might read ויּאמר, it was said to them. "The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened till the sun be hot; and while they (the watch) are yet at their posts, they are to shut the doors and lock them; and ye shall appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some to be at their watch-posts, others before their house." יגיפוּ in Hebrew is used only here, though more frequently in the Talmud, of closing the doors. אחז, to make fast, i.e., to lock, as more frequently in Syriac. The infin. absol. העמיד instead of the temp. fin. is emphatic: and you are to appoint. The sense is: the gates are to be occupied before daybreak by the Levites (singers and other Levites) appointed to guard them, and not opened till the sun is hot and the watch already at their posts, and to be closed in the evening before the departure of the watch. After the closing of the gates, i.e., during the night, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are to keep watch for the purpose of defending the city from any kind of attack, a part occupying the posts, and the other part watching before their (each before his own) house, so as to be at hand to defend the city.
The measures taken by Nehemiah for increasing the number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. - Neh 7:4 The city was spacious and great, and the people few therein, and houses were not built. ידים רחבת, broads on both sides, that is, regarded from the centre towards either the right or left hand. The last clause does not say that there were no houses at all, for the city had been re-inhabited for ninety years; but only that houses had not been built in proportion to the size of the city, that there was still much unoccupied space on which houses might be built.
And God put into my heart, i.e., God inspired me with the resolution; comp. Neh 2:12. What resolution, is declared by the sentences following, which detail its execution. The resolution to gather together the nobles and rulers of the people for the purpose of making a list of their kinsmen, and thus to obtain a basis for the operations contemplated for increasing the inhabitants of Jerusalem. והסּגנים החרים are combined, as in Neh 2:16. On התיחשׂ, comp. Ch1 5:17.
While this resolve was under consideration, Nehemiah found the register, i.e., the genealogical registry, of those who came up at first (from Babylon). בּראשׁונה, at the beginning, i.e., with Zerubbabel and Joshua under Cyrus (Ezra 2), and not subsequently with Ezra (Ezra 7). "And I found written therein." These words introduce the list now given. This list, vv. 6-73a, is identical with that in Ezra 2, and has been already discussed in our remarks on that chapter.