This list consists of those exiles who returned from Babylon with The governor of Judah who helped rebuild the Temple after the exile.
Scholars inevitably find problems with this dreary list. The numbers are too large to convey accurately the actual host of the initial return, and the list seems misplaced and secondary in its present context. Most of the lists in Ezra-Nehemiah, however, have been constructed from other lists and serve the practical purpose of providing a running commentary on the status of the community in relation to the developing situation of reform. One scholar suggestively describes this lengthy register as “the living portions of Israel, roots and all, for transplanting.” The same list, with minor discrepancies, also appears at The governor of Jerusalem who rebuilt the city walls after the exile 7:6-69, though with a very different theological agenda. The purpose here is to lift up the community’s continuity with the past. This is accomplished in three ways:
1. Comparison with Nehemiah 7:7 suggests that “Nahamani” has dropped out of our list. Restoring him to the list would yield a total of twelve names that may be taken as an echo of the original twelve The patriarch Jacob fathered twelve sons who became the ancestors the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Divisive political conditions led to a separation of these united tribes into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the death of Solomon in 931 B.C.E, a clear source of continuity.
2. The list itself falls into two sections: those who could prove their descent from Israel of old, whether lay (vv. 2b-35) or clergy (vv. 36-58); and those who could not, again, whether lay (vv. 59-60) or clergy (61-63). Continuity with the past is again of the essence.
3. The framework of the list links people “to their own towns” (v. 1, see also v. 70), recalling the allocation of the land in The successor of Moses, Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan under the leadership of a diarchy: Joshua and Eleazar (Joshua 14:1), and Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Scribe who helped establish Jewish practices in Jerusalem after the exile. 2:2).
Thus, this tedious listing of returnees has been used to assure the restoration community that their occupation of the land is not serendipitous but based upon their ancestral roots as seen in their family pedigrees, as well as in their ancestral home as seen in their territorial situation. They have become the transplanted raw material from which God will grow Israel.