Nehemiah 12:31
Then I brought up the princes of Judah on the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand on the wall toward the dung gate:
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(31) The princes.—The chiefs were assembled somewhere on the south-west wall, and then divided into two companies.

Nehemiah 12:31-33. Then I brought up the princes — And half of the people with them, as it is expressed afterward, Nehemiah 12:38. Upon the wall — For the wall was broad and strong, and so built that men might conveniently walk upon it, as at this day it is in many cities. Whereof one went on the right hand — Toward the south and east. Azariah and Ezra — Not the scribe, as is evident from Nehemiah 12:36, but another Ezra.12:27-43 All our cities, all our houses, must have holiness to the Lord written upon them. The believer should undertake nothing which he does not dedicate to the Lord. We are concerned to cleanse our hands, and purify our hearts, when any work for God is to pass through them. Those that would be employed to sanctify others, must sanctify themselves, and set themselves apart for God. To those who are sanctified, all their creature-comforts and enjoyments are made holy. The people greatly rejoiced. All that share in public mercies, ought to join in public thanksgivings.I brought up - Note the resumption of the first person, which has been laid aside since Nehemiah 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 Nehemiah 12:38-39, until both met on the eastern wall, between the water and the prison gates.

27-43. at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem—This ceremony of consecrating the wall and gates of the city was an act of piety on the part of Nehemiah, not merely to thank God in a general way for having been enabled to bring the building to a happy completion, but especially because that city was the place which He had chosen. It also contained the temple which was hallowed by the manifestation of His presence, and anew set apart to His service. It was on these accounts that Jerusalem was called "the holy city," and by this public and solemn act of religious observance, after a long period of neglect and desecration, it was, as it were, restored to its rightful proprietor. The dedication consisted in a solemn ceremonial, in which the leading authorities, accompanied by the Levitical singers, summoned from all parts of the country, and by a vast concourse of people, marched in imposing procession round the city walls, and, pausing at intervals to engage in united praises, prayer, and sacrifices, supplicated the continued presence, favor, and blessing on "the holy city." "The assembly convened near Jaffa Gate, where the procession commences. Then (Ne 12:31) I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall (near the Valley Gate), and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall towards the dung gate (through Bethzo). And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah. And (Ne 12:37) at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they (descending by the Tower of Siloam on the interior, and then reascending) went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward (by the staircase of the rampart, having descended to dedicate the fountain structures). And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them (both parties having started from the junction of the first and second walls), and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall (beyond the corner gate). And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate (and the gate of Benjamin), and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate; and they stood still in the prison gate (or high gate, at the east end of the bridge). So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and half of the rulers with me (having thus performed the circuit of the investing walls), and arrived in the courts of the temple" [Barclay, City of the Great King]. The princes of Judah, and half of the people with them, as it is expressed afterwards, Nehemiah 12:38.

Upon the wall; for the wall was broad and strong, and so ordered that men might conveniently walk upon it, as at this day it is in many cities.

On the right hand; towards the south and east. Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall,.... Which was so broad as to walk upon it, and there was a procession of the princes on it at its dedication, and here is described the manner of it; the princes of Benjamin must be included here:

and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks; he divided the people who were met together to praise God on this occasion into two companies: whereof

one went on the right hand upon the wall; that is, on the southern part of it:

towards the dung gate; of which see Nehemiah 2:13 some Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Ben Melech, give a different sense of , which we render "two companies", and take them to be two eucharistical loaves of leavened bread, with which a rite or ceremony was performed at the enlargement of a court or city; at the utmost boundary of which those were carried, and one was eaten and the other burnt (r); which rite is thus described by Maimonides (s),"how do they add to a city? the sanhedrim make two eucharistical sacrifices, and they take the leavened bread in them, and the sanhedrim go after the two eucharistical sacrifices, which follow one another, and they stand with harps, and psalteries, and cymbals, at every corner and at every stone in Jerusalem, and say, I will extol thee, for thou hast lifted up, &c. (#Ps 30:1) until they come to the end of the place they consecrate, there they stand and eat the thanksgiving loaf, one of the two, and the other is burnt.''

(r) Miss. Shebuot, c. 2. sect. 2. & Maimon, & Bartenora in ib. (s) Hilchot, Beth-habechirah, c. 6. sect. 12. Vid. Selden. de Synedr. l. 3. c. 13. sect. 6.

Then {i} I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:

(i) Meaning, Nehemiah.

31. the princes of Judah] i.e. all the nobles of the nation.

upon the wall] Much turns upon the meaning of the preposition here used. The words in the Hebrew, ‘from above, with respect to the wall’ have been considered by some to mean ‘beyond, at a little distance from the wall;’ by others ‘over against the wall.’ But a comparison with its use in 2 Chronicles 13:4 (= ‘upon’), Jonah 4:6 (= ‘over’) shows that the rendering of the English version may very well be defended.

two great companies of them that gave thanks] R.V. two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession. Literally ‘And I appointed two great thanksgivings and processions.’ The LXX. rendered καὶ ἔστησαν δύο περὶ αἰνέσεως μεγάλους. The Vulg. ‘statui duos magnos choros laudantium’ is clearly the origin of the A.V. rendering. The Hebrew word for ‘procession’ occurs only here in the O.T.

whereof one went on the right hand … dung gate] We have here to supply the words ‘whereof one went,’ which seem to have slipped out of the text. They are needed in order to correspond with ‘the other company’ in Nehemiah 12:38, ‘the right hand;’ facing towards the Temple, the procession moving to the right marched along the southern wall. The starting point seems to have been ‘the valley gate’ of Nehemiah 2:13. ‘Towards the dung gate.’ Cf. Nehemiah 3:14.

31–42. Nehemiah’s description of the dedication of the walls

Two processions headed by the priests and Levites started from near the Valley or Jaffa Gate, and proceeded, the one by the northern, the other by the southern wall, together accomplishing the complete circuit, and meeting one another in the open space on the eastern side of the Temple.Verse 31. - I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies. Nehemiah caused all the chiefs of the nation, both lay and clerical, to mount upon the wall, and there marshalled them into two companies, composed of clergy and laity intermixed, one of which he placed under the direction of Ezra (ver. 36), while of the other he took the command himself (ver. 38). The place of assemblage must have been some portion of the western wall, probably the central portion, near the modern Jaffa gate. From this Ezra's company proceeded southward, and then eastward, along the southern wall, while Nehemiah's marched northward, and then eastward, along the northern wall, both processions meeting midway in the eastern wall, between the "water" and the "prison" gates. Toward the dung gate. On the position of this gate, see the comment on Nehemiah 2:13. The names Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, frequently occur as those of heads of Levitical orders: the two first in Nehemiah 10:12., Ezra 8:18.; the two last in Nehemiah 12:8, Nehemiah 10:10, and Ezra 2:40; and the comparison of these passages obliges us to regard and expunge as a gloss the בּן before Kadmiel. Opposite to these four are placed their brethren, whose office it was "to praise (and) to give thanks according to the commandment of David," etc.: comp. 1 Chronicles 16:4; 1 Chronicles 23:30; 2 Chronicles 5:13; and בּמצות ד, 2 Chronicles 29:25. משׁמר לעמּת משׁמר, ward opposite ward, elsewhere used of the gatekeepers, 1 Chronicles 26:16, is here applied to the position of the companies of singers in divine worship. The names of the brethren, i.e., of the Levitical singers, follow, Nehemiah 12:25, where the first three names must be separated from those which follow, and combined with Nehemiah 12:24. This is obvious from the consideration, that Mattaniah and Bakbukiah are mentioned in Nehemiah 11:17 as presidents of two companies of singers, and with them Abda the Jeduthunite, whence we are constrained to suppose that עבדיה is only another form for עבדּא of Nehemiah 11:17. According, then, to what has been said, the division into verses must be changed, and Nehemiah 12:25 should begin with the name משׁלּם. Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub are chiefs of the doorkeepers; the two last names occur as such both in Nehemiah 11:19 and Ezra 2:42, and even so early as 1 Chronicles 9:17, whence we perceive that these were ancient names of races of Levitical doorkeepers. In Ezra 2:42 and 1 Chronicles 9:17, שׁלוּם, answering to משׁלּם of the present verse, is also named with them. The combination משׁמר שׁוערים שׁמרים is striking: we should at least have expected משׁמר שׁמרים שׁוערים, because, while שׁוערים cannot be combined with משׁמר, שׁמרים may well be so; hence we must either transpose the words as above, or read according to Nehemiah 11:19, בּשּׁערים שׁמרים. In the latter case, בּשּׁערים is more closely defined by the apposition השּׁערים בּאספּי: at the doors, viz., at the treasure-chambers of the doors. On 'acupiym, see rem. on 1 Chronicles 26:15, 1 Chronicles 26:17.
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