For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Of old.—Always there is a reverence shown for the old precedents.Nehemiah 12:46. For in the days of David, &c. — This verse gives the reason why the Levites and the singers performed their duty so accurately; because, from the time of David, who constituted their orders and offices, there were overseers appointed, who presided over them, and were careful both to instruct them in their duty, and keep them to it.1 Chronicles 23:28. David, and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun, 1 Chronicles 25:1; but Asaph only is mentioned here, as the most eminent and useful in that work.
There were chief of the singers; there were some overseers, whose office it was to see that the singers were fit for and diligent in their work; and therefore they took care of it at this time. 1 Chronicles 25:2 For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)46. in the days of David and Asaph of old] This combination of names may be illustrated by other examples in the writings of the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Chronicles 35:15).
The LXX. omits the copula between the names, ἐν ἡμέραις Δαυὶδ Ἀσὰφ ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς πρῶτος τῶν ᾀδόντων. This may represent the original reading. If so, it is the mention of David in the previous verse which occasions here the parenthetical statement that in those days the great Asaph was ‘overseer’ of the singers. We should then render ‘in the days of David Asaph was of old chief.’
there were chief] R.V. Marg. ‘Another reading is there were chiefs’. The plural ‘chiefs’ is the reading of the K’ri, which is also found in the Vulgate ‘erant principes constituti cantorum.’ If the reading of the first clause ‘in the days of David and Asaph’ be retained, the plural ‘chiefs’ with the allusion to a general custom, instead of to a particular example, is probably to be preferred. For the position of ‘chief’ of the singers associated with Asaph, see 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 16:7; 1 Chronicles 25:1-2; 1 Chronicles 25:9.
songs of praise and thanksgiving] In the English versions the punctuation gives the meaning as of a new clause ‘And there were songs of praise’ &c. Others make these words also dependent on ‘chief’ or ‘chiefs.’
There is no corresponding archæological reference to the position of the porters. The Chronicler throughout his work shows a marked preference for the interests of ‘the singers’ as compared with ‘the porters.’Verse 46. - For in the days of David. This verse is exegetical of the clause in ver. 45, "according to the commandment of David." The writer justifies his reference to that "commandment' by reminding his readers that the whole musical service - the singers , themselves, and their "chiefs," together with the "songs of praise" and the "thanksgiving songs - had descended to the Jews of his day from David and Asaph. Nehemiah 12:31), it passed on" to the fountain-gate; and נגדּם, before them (i.e., going straight forwards; comp. Joshua 6:5, Joshua 6:20; Amos 4:3), they went up by the stairs of the city of David, the ascent of the wall, up over the house of David, even unto the water-gate eastward. These statements are not quite intelligible to us. The stairs of the city of David are undoubtedly "the stairs that lead down from the city of David" (Nehemiah 3:15). These lay on the eastern slope of Zion, above the fountain-gate and the Pool of Siloam. לחומה המּעלה might be literally translated "the ascent to the wall," as by Bertheau, who takes the sense as follows: (The procession) went up upon the wall by the ascent formed by these steps at the northern part of the eastern side of Zion. According to this, the procession would have left the wall by the stairs at the eastern declivity of Zion, to go up upon the wall again by this ascent. There is, however, no reason for this leaving of the wall, and that which Bertheau adduces is connected with his erroneous transposition of the fountain-gate to the place of the present dung-gate. לחומה המּעלה seems to be the part of the wall which, according to Nehemiah 3:19, lay opposite the המּקצוע הנּשׁק עלת, a place on the eastern edge of Zion, where the wall was carried over an elevation of the ground, and where consequently was an ascent in the wall. Certainly this cannot be insisted upon, because the further statement דויד לבית מעל is obscure, the preposition ל מעל admitting of various interpretations, and the situation of the house of David being uncertain. Bertheau, indeed, says: "ועד in the following words corresponds with מעל before דויד לבית: a wall over the house of David is not intended; and the meaning is rather, that after they were come as far as the wall, they then passed over the house of David, i.e., the place called the house of David, even to the water-gate." But the separation of מעל from דויד לבית is decidedly incorrect, ל מעל being in the preceding and following passages always used in combination, and forming one idea: comp. Nehemiah 12:31 (twice) and Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. Hence it could scarcely be taken here in Nehemiah 12:37 in a different sense from that which it has in Nehemiah 12:31 and Nehemiah 12:38. Not less objectionable is the notion that the house of David is here put for a place called the house of David, on which a palace of David formerly stood, and where perhaps the remains of an ancient royal building might still have been in existence. By the house of David is meant, either the royal palace built (according to Thenius) by Solomon at the north-eastern corner of Zion, opposite the temple, or some other building of David, situate south of this palace, on the east side of Zion. The former view is more probable than the latter. We translate לבית ד מעל, past the house of David. For, though לחומה מעל must undoubtedly be so understood as to express that the procession went upon the wall (which must be conceived of as tolerably broad), yet למגדּל מעל, Nehemiah 12:38, can scarcely mean that the procession also went up over the tower which stood near the wall. In the case of the gates, too, ל מעל cannot mean over upon; for it is inconceivable that this solemn procession should have gone over the roof of the gates; and we conclude, on the contrary, that it passed beside the gates and towers. Whether the route taken by the procession from the house of David to the water-gate in the east were straight over the ridge of Ophel, which ran from about the horse-gate to the water-gate, or upon the wall round Ophel, cannot be determined, the description being incomplete. After the house of David, no further information as to its course is given; its halting-place, the water-gate, being alone mentioned.
The route taken by the second company is more particularly described. - Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. "And the second company of them that gave thanks, which went over against, and which I and the (other) half of the people followed, (went) upon the wall past the tower of the furnaces, as far as the broad wall; and past the gate of Ephraim, and past the gate of the old (wall), and past the fish-gate, and past the tower Hananeel and the tower Hammeah, even to the sheep-gate: and then took up its station at the prison-gate." למואל (in the form with א only here; elsewhere מול, Deuteronomy 1:1, or מוּל), over against, opposite, sc. the first procession, therefore towards the opposite side, i.e., to the left; the first having gone to the right, viz., from the valley-gate northwards upon the northern wall. וגו אחריה ואני (and I behind them) is a circumstantial clause, which we may take relatively. The order of the towers, the lengths of wall, and the gates, exactly answer to the description in Nehemiah 3:1-12, with these differences: - a. The description proceeds from the sheep-gate in the east to the valley-gate in the west; while the procession moved in the opposite direction, viz., from the valley-gate to the sheep-gate. b. In the description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3, the gate of Ephraim is omitted (see rem. on Nehemiah 3:8). c. In the description, the prison-gate at which the procession halted is also unmentioned, undoubtedly for the same reason as that the gate of Ephraim is omitted, viz., that not having been destroyed, there was no need to rebuild it. המּטּרה שׁער is translated, gate of the prison or watch: its position is disputed; but it can scarcely be doubted that המּטּרה is the court of the prison mentioned Nehemiah 3:25 (המּטּרה חצר), by or near the king's house. Starting from the assumption that the two companies halted or took up positions opposite each other, Hupfeld (in his before-cited work, p. 321) transposes both the court of the prison and the king's house to the north of the temple area, where the citadel. בּירה, βᾶρις, was subsequently situated. But "this being forbidden," as Arnold objects (in his before-cited work, p. 628), "by the order in the description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3:25, which brings us absolutely to the southern side," Bertheau supposes that the two processions which would arrive at the same moment at the temple, - the one from the north-east, the other from the south-east, - here passed each other, and afterwards halted opposite each other in such wise, that the procession advancing from the south-west stood on the northern side, and that from the north-west at the southern side of the temple area. This notion, however, having not the slightest support from the text, nor any reason appearing why the one procession should pass the other, it must be regarded as a mere expedient. In Nehemiah 12:40 it is merely said, the two companies stood in the house of God; and not even that they stood opposite each other, the one on the north, the other on the south side of the temple. Thus they may have stood side by side, and together have praised the Lord. Hence we place the prison-gate also on the south-eastern corner of the temple area, and explain the name from the circumstance that a street ran from this gate over Ophel to the court of the prison near the king's house upon Zion, which, together with the gate to which it led, received its name from the court of the prison. Not far from the prison-gate lay the water-gate in the east, near which was an open space in the direction of the temple area (Nehemiah 8:1). On this open space the two companies met, and took the direction towards the temple, entering the temple area from this open space, that they might offer their thank-offerings before the altar of burnt-offering (Nehemiah 12:43). Besides, the remark upon the position of the two companies (Nehemiah 12:40) anticipates the course of events, the procession following the second company being first described in Nehemiah 12:40-42. At the end of Nehemiah 12:40 the statement of Nehemiah 12:38 - I and the half of the people behind - is again taken up in the words: I and the half of the rulers with me. The סגנים are, as in Nehemiah 12:32, the princes of the congregation, who, with Nehemiah, headed the procession that followed the company of those who gave thanks. Then followed (Nehemiah 12:41) seven priests with trumpets, whose names are given, answering to the sons of the priests with trumpets (Nehemiah 12:36) in the first procession. These names are all met with elsewhere of other persons. These were succeeded, as in Nehemiah 12:36, by eight Levites - eight individuals, and not eight divisions (Bertheau). And the singers gave forth sound, i.e., of voices and instruments, - whether during the circuit or after the two companies had take their places at the temple, is doubtful. The president of the Levitical singers was Jezrahiah.
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