Nehemiah 12 - Rebuilding the Walls

Nehemiah's Levitical Choirs after rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is not an approved example for Christian worship.

A legalistic approach to the instrumental music in worship issue is to say that

  • God commanded instrumental music in worship as the law;
  • the people practiced instrumental music in worship;
  • Christ did not outlaw instrumental music in worship;
  • therefore, instruments are still legal.

Those who use legalistic music are totally convinced that every mention of an instrument under the Monarchy is a "proof-text" for the same practice in the spiritual worship under Christ. And I keep requesting:

"I would love to have one passage which shows that the "congregation" of the people worshiped with instruments.


In another article we looked at MDF's proof text that the praise of Joash being crowned as king and the murder of Athaliah was legalistic proof for instrumental music in "Spiritual" or Christian worship. This article may be viewed by clicking here.

Again, Michael responded: "Wait no longer"

Notice that "all the people of the land" were taking part. In Nehemiah 12, two choirs were appointed to celebrate the building of the wall of Jerusalem, each choir started walking from the same place and walked around the wall in opposite directions, then they made their way to the temple:

"The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people-- ...40 The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, ...The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away." (Neh. 12)

Michael, it is not uncommon to proof-text the Return from Babylonian Captivity and Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls as fodder for modern sermons.

We have noted that in addition to the "trumpets of God" we find "the instruments of David" involved in three major events in connection with the dedication or purification of the temple in Jerusalem.

This is the third such incident: the first was at Solomon's dedication of the temple, the second at the purification of the temple in Hezekiah's Reform, and now the third in rededicating the walls and temple. The record then goes silent about the temple -- to which the glory of God never returned -- for a hundred years until they are sacrificing pigs on the altar. This event, alluded to by Paul in Hebrews 11:35 where people had their "hides" stretched over a drum frame and then beaten to death with a "baton" is covered only in great detail in the Apocraphal book, Fourth Maccabees.

I have summarized these events and added other historical evidence in another article.

The temple in Jerusalem was built as part of a like the nations civil state after Israel "fired" God and demanded a king like the nations. People can never resist the urge to "set a king over us." The common people as "congregatation" were never involved with these ceremonies. When sacrifices began with the Levitical clergy musicians, the people were put "outside the camp." Then, only the clergy and civil authorities participated. This is well documented in the Bible and in the records of all civil-religious ceremonies by and for the king and not the people.

Chapter 12 has its chapter 13 to contend with. The Levitical musicans fled to their own homes and fields and the temple, as almost always, became "a den of thieves and a house of merchandise."

Well did the people resist the gainsayers but as soon as things were set in order old Eliashib the priest who had charge of the food pantry cleaned it out and made a grand appartment for old Tobiah, the enemy -- the same fellow who had instigated the badmouthing. That is, the chief of the badmouthers gained control. The ministry then failed as the "church" heaped its resources on "clergy" and "buildings and grounds."

McClintock and Strong identify the "Musical clergy leader as the first heresy largely pervading the church." When you find loud singing of secular songs and/or instrumental music and choirs you find a clergy system which has as its goal the centralization of church politics and assigning the contemptible "laity" to the silent pews.

Again, as always, it was only the clergy classes who were authorized to do the music:

David's Instruments and the Levites:

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. Nehemiah 12:27

And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi; Nehemiah 12: 28

Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem. Nehemiah 12: 29

And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall. Nehemiah 12: 30

Then 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: Nehemiah 12: 31

And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah, Nehemiah 12: 32

And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam, Nehemiah 12: 33

Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, Nehemiah 12: 34

The trumpets ordained by God:

And certain of the priests sons with trumpets; namely, Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph: Nehemiah 12: 35

And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani,

with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them. Nehemiah 12: 36

And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they 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. Nehemiah 12: 37

And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, 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; Nehemiah 12: 38

And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, 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. Nehemiah 12: 39

So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me: Nehemiah 12: 40

The Priests: And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; Nehemiah 12: 41

The Levites: And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. Nehemiah 12: 42

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. Nehemiah 12: 43

And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites:

for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited. Nehemiah 12: 44

You will notice that Nehemiah does not refer to the unalterable Law of Moses but to the changes made by David. This particular change was not for "congregational worship" but for stopping a plague. Hezekiah also performed a plague-stopping ceremony.

1037 BC - Solomon succeeds King David.

520 BC - work on the temple walls begins.

Notice that Nehemiah reaches back to David to explain what has just taken place:

And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. Nehemiah 12: 45

For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. Nehemiah 12: 46

And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron. Nehemiah 12: 47

The loss of The Book of the Covenant at Mount Sinai and the imposition of The Book of The Law "added because of transgression" made the common people of Israel into "strangers." Thereafter in the Tabernacle or Temple they could not come before God. This is usually restored in contemporary "churches" which have become like the nations with the demand to "set a king over us."

As a result, they paid for their own lives with their own wealth by redeeming themselves with WORK. Even then the payment was so horrible that those actually assuming the burden for the people (as the Levite burden) brought in the civil-military musicians to take their minds off the horror.

"AND the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy fathers house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of (connected with) your priesthood. Numbers 18:1

Remember that Deuteronomy was the Second Law:

These are the terms of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb. Deut. 29:1

David's and Hezekiah's redemptive work was extra because the sin was so horrible. The normal redemptive work was performed by the Levi tribe specificially to keep the burden of sacrifice, blood and noise off the backs of the people:

"And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Numbers 18:21

"Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. Numbers 18:22

On one sense the "congregation" was deprived from a close approach to the symbolic presence of God; in another it was a blessing. The sacrificial cultus was not "approved worship" but, like the death of Christ, paying for the horrors of mankind.

Those who see this as "magic" whether by singing of secular songs which have reeceived their second incarnation as "gospel songs" to be used in "gospel singing" or its equivalent with instruments as an act of magical work would, if they followed their leaders, be the mockers in song and dance around the cross of Christ.

The temple was a more permanent substitute for God's original plan to be with the people in their own communites as signified by the portable Tabernacle. Because "God's mercy endures forever" as part of the temple-state struck in a bargin with David but:

Only in Jerusalem:

Only the priestly class could come before God.

The people could not come nigh.

Therefore, the "congregation" was not part of this system of intensive works.

Can't we grasp that Lord Jesus Christ has removed the burden. There is no horror. There is no need to "bring the worshippers into the presence of God" with music. There is no need to dance or dramatize to provide a platform upon which God can land. -- The DEBT HAS BEEN PAID, THERE IS NO WRATH!

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Hebrews 4:14

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

David's naked dance in "praise" which is making self vile trying to touch God with the feelings of David's infirmities have no place in Christian (spirit or mind) worship.

On the other hand:

"The solemn ritual described in Neh. 8-10 is one of the most important moments in the history of Israel: this is as it were the official birth of Judaism. The gathering does not take place in the Temple, but in the public square. It does not consist of bloody sacrifices, but of reading the law and prayer. Here is the birth of the Synagogue worship." (Charpentier, How To Read the Bible, p. 75)

And with the end of the Old Testament the Apocraphy which is the record for 400 years and an integral part of the 1611 King James Version those who later became just as hyprocritical as the other sects were the Pharisees who at least attempted to for a worship "for the congregation" in the synagogue which was "spiritual" or consisted of people speaking to God through prayer and God speaking to the people through His revealed Word with no sentimental, effeminate, voodoo-infected "gospel songs" or gospel singing.

The Shekinah glory or the symbolic presence of God never returned to the restored temple and the walls just became a convient place for old Tyre to return to her prostitute religion of secducing Israel "to the tune of the harp of the prostitute." Christ sent the church out into all the world as Zechariah predicted even as He named Messiah:

Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him Zechariah 2:3

and said to him: "Run, tell that young man, 'Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. Zechariah 2:4

And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.' Zechariah 2:5

Because the clergy priests and musicians didn't want to be entombed within the temple with their Paul-allocated "salary" as a daily dole of food, they went out into the world and had no need for "buildings and grounds" and clergy service to God. In the Christian dispensation each believer is a priest of God and can come boldly before the throne of grace because the curse of "temple, clergy and walls" has been washed away by the blood of Christ.

So, Michael, as always, the proof texts for walls, temples and any form of music to soothe the approach to God falls with the temple, clergy and walls of Jerusalem. Any restoration of these concepts is a works-oriented belief that, like Nimrod, you "can regenerate people with external means." It is a repudiation of the work of Lord Jesus Christ.

Kenneth Sublett

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