The Word Made Fresh
1The sealed document contains these names: Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, and the priests Zedekiah, 2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3Passhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6Daniel, Gennethon, Baruch, 7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah.
9The Levites were Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, and Kadmiel. 10Their associates were Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13Hodiah, Bani, and Beninu.
14The leaders among the people were Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Mani, 15Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.
28The remainder of the people, the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants, and everyone else who separated themselves from the other people of the countryside to cling to the law of God, along with their wives and sons and daughters, and everyone who understood, 29joined with their relatives and leaders and entered into a curse and a promise to follow God’s law given to them by Moses the servant of God. They promised to follow all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, every rule and ordinance. 30We will not give our daughters to the indigenous people of the land or accept their daughters for our sons. 31And if they bring any goods or grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy it from them on the sabbath or any sacred day, and we will let the fields rest every seventh year and will relax every debt.
32We also agree to annually contribute one eighth of an ounce of silver for the maintenance of our God’s house. 33That will provide the rows of bread, the regular grain offering and burnt offering, the offerings for the sabbath and the new moons and appointed festivals, the sacred donations and the guilt offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work that is done in the house of our God. 34We drew lots among the priests, the Levites and the people to bring the wood offering to the house of our God, identified by ancestral families at the appointed times each year to burn on the altar of the LORD our God as written in the law. 35We agreed to bring the first fruits of each harvest and the first gatherings of all fruit trees each year to the house of the LORD. 36We also agreed to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister there, our firstborn sons and the firstborn among our livestock, according to the law, and also the firstlings of our flocks and herds. 37We also agreed to bring the first of our dough, our offerings, the fruit of every tree, and wine and oil to the priests in the rooms of our God’s house, and to bring to the Levites the tenth part of our harvests, for the Levites are the ones who gather the tithes in our rural villages. 38The priests, descendants of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when they receive the tithes, and a tenth of the tithes shall be brought up to the storehouse chambers of the house of our God.
39The people of Israel, with the sons of Levi, shall bring the gifts of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the sanctuary containers are kept and where the priests do their work along with the gatekeepers and singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.
1-27: It is a curious thing to me that this covenant document is not reproduced verbatim, especially considering that both Ezra and Nehemiah have gone to such pains to preserve transcripts of several letters from Babylonian and Persian rulers. Instead, a list is given of the names of those who sign it, 74 in all, including representatives from the priests, the Levites and their servants, and the leaders of the people.
28-31: All the people who are of Israelite descent and who have separated themselves from the mixed population enter into the covenant. Nehemiah is making an effort to resume the law that Moses had given centuries before, including the bans on intermarrying with other peoples, buying and selling on the Sabbath, and observing the seventh year of rest for the fields.
32-39: A tax is levied for the maintenance of the temple and the priests and for the things that are needed for worship.
The priests and leaders make a monumental effort to restore the country to the time of David and Solomon. Their identity as a nation is solidified in their adherence to the faith of their ancestors. “Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we shall be true to thee till death,” goes the old hymn. When the people are bound together by their common faith, peace and prosperity are likely to follow.