7 After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do. 3 I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.”
4 Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. 5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there:
6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, 7 in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah):
The list of the men of Israel:
8 the descendants of Parosh 2,172 9 of Shephatiah 372 10 of Arah 652 11 of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,818 12 of Elam 1,254 13 of Zattu 845 14 of Zakkai 760 15 of Binnui 648 16 of Bebai 628 17 of Azgad 2,322 18 of Adonikam 667 19 of Bigvai 2,067 20 of Adin 655 21 of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98 22 of Hashum 328 23 of Bezai 324 24 of Hariph 112 25 of Gibeon 95
26 the men of Bethlehem and Netophah 188 27 of Anathoth 128 28 of Beth Azmaveth 42 29 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 30 of Ramah and Geba 621 31 of Mikmash 122 32 of Bethel and Ai 123 33 of the other Nebo 52 34 of the other Elam 1,254 35 of Harim 320 36 of Jericho 345 37 of Lod, Hadid and Ono 721 38 of Senaah 3,930
39 The priests:
the descendants of Jedaiah (through the family of Jeshua) 973 40 of Immer 1,052 41 of Pashhur 1,247 42 of Harim 1,017
43 The Levites:
the descendants of Jeshua (through Kadmiel through the line of Hodaviah) 74
44 The musicians:
the descendants of Asaph 148
45 The gatekeepers:
the descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai 138
46 The temple servants:
the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, 47 Keros, Sia, Padon, 48 Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai, 49 Hanan, Giddel, Gahar, 50 Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda, 51 Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah, 52 Besai, Meunim, Nephusim, 53 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, 54 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, 55 Barkos, Sisera, Temah, 56 Neziah and Hatipha
57 The descendants of the servants of Solomon:
the descendants of Sotai, Sophereth, Perida, 58 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel, 59 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Amon
60 The temple servants and the descendants of the servants of Solomon 392
61 The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel:
62 the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda 642
63 And from among the priests:
the descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name).
64 These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor, therefore, ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there should be a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.
66 The whole company numbered 42,360, 67 besides their 7,337 male and female slaves; and they also had 245 male and female singers.68 There were 736 horses, 245 mules, 69 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.
70 Some of the heads of the families contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 bowls and 530 garments for priests. 71 Some of the heads of the families gave to the treasury for the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver.72 The total given by the rest of the people was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver and 67 garments for priests.
73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.
(Nehemiah 7:1-73 NIV)
While Nehemiah rebuilt the walls and gates of Jerusalem, the persecution intensified. The five surrounding governors mocked the people, started conspiracies to cause fear among the Jewish people and stop the work, even baiting Nehemiah and accusing him of rebelling and setting himself up as king of Judah.
But Nehemiah stood firm in his faith in the Lord and his loyalty to King Artaxerxes, seeking God’s wisdom and power through prayer. The rebuilding effort took a total of 52 days, with Nehemiah and the Jewish people being on high alert nearly the entire time.
As we begin chapter 7, the Jerusalem walls and gates are in place, and Nehemiah begins restoring order and security in the city. Nehemiah first appoints his brother Hanani (remember him from 1:2?) and another man as heads of city security. Nehemiah also establishes a guard system across the city, coupled with a citizen’s alert process, similar to what we would call a “neighborhood watch” in our day.
The Lord then prompted Nehemiah to take a census of the Jewish people living in and around Jerusalem. This census is the same census we read about in Ezra chapter 2. Ezra records that a census was taken; Nehemiah tells us that the Lord prompted him to do so. In the following chapters, we will begin to see why.
Verse 4 gives us a hint of the reason for the census; the temple had been rebuilt and the city walls and gates and security were re-established, but the majority of the houses inside the city had not yet been rebuilt. Most of the returned exile families still lived in the villages surrounding Jerusalem.
Have you recently come through a season of trial and/or persecution, similar to the people of Judah, where problems from the outside and the inside just kept coming?
While the trials and tribulations are painful, when we stand firm in the Lord, God provides the eventual victory. Remember that God walks through those tough times with us, and uses those things to prepare us for what lies ahead.
If you’re in the midst of a trial or painful journey, don’t seek to escape or evade the pain, but rather, to grow closer to the Lord through the process. This is not a glib “no pain, no gain” statement – this is the experiential truth from some incredibly painful places in my own life. I would not wish the heartbreaking pain I have experienced on my worst enemies. At the same time, I would not trade the deep walk with God I have experienced as a result of pressing deep into my relationship with Him through that pain. Having passed through those painful years, the Lord continues to cross my path with others where He uses my pain and healing to encourage others and point them to Himself.
How does God redeem my pain to draw others to His love and mercy? I have no idea. I just know that He can and He does.
To God be the glory.