Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 – The Repopulation of Jerusalem


Nehemiah 11:1-12:26


Following the covenant renewal of chapters 8-10, this long collection of lists returns to the problem raised in 7:5a of repopulating the city of Jerusalem. In essence, since 10 percent of the people are required to live in the city, this becomes a tithing of the people of God.


We have seen that the tedious lists of Ezra-Nehemiah serve the practical purpose of providing a running commentary on the status of the community in relation to the developing situation of reform. Here, the list in 11:3-36 ties the community, newly reconstituted in accordance with the law, to the land. In the same way, the list in 12:1-26, a list of the cultic personnel serving the restoration community, links the contemporary cultic situation under Ezra and Nehemiah (12:26) with the nascent situation obtained at the time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (12:1).

By placing the lists here, after the covenant renewal, the newly formed people themselves (11:1-2) are voluntarily responsible for the repopulating of the city as the first fruits of their pledge not to “neglect the house of our God” (10:39), the verse linking the covenant renewal to our text. This strategic placement also makes the point that the work of the reformers has been successful. The temple has been rebuilt and staffed with the cultic personnel, and the walls have been rebuilt and filled with people purified and bound together in a covenant resulting from the proclamation of the law.