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 Nehemiah 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 tribes of Israel, 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 Joshua under the leadership of a diarchy: Joshua and Eleazar (Joshua 14:1), and Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 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.
2Now these were the people of the province who came from those captive exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia; they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, all to their own towns. 2They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
The number of the Israelite people: 3the descendants of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two. 4Of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two. 5Of Arah, seven hundred and seventy-five. 6Of Pahath-moab, namely the descendants of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve. 7Of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four. 8Of Zattu, nine hundred and forty-five. 9Of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty. 10Of Bani, six hundred and forty-two. 11Of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-three. 12Of Azgad, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two. 13Of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six. 14Of Bigvai, two thousand and fifty-six. 15Of Adin, four hundred and fifty-four. 16Of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, ninety-eight. 17Of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three. 18Of Jorah, one hundred and twelve. 19Of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three. 20Of Gibbar, ninety-five. 21Of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three. 22The people of Netophah, fifty-six. 23Of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight. 24The descendants of Azmaveth, forty-two. 25Of Kiriatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three. 26Of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one. 27The people of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two. 28Of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three. 29The descendants of Nebo, fifty-two. 30Of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six. 31Of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four. 32Of Harim, three hundred and twenty. 33Of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five. 34Of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five. 35Of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty.
36 The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three. 37Of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two. 38Of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven. 39Of Harim, one thousand and seventeen.
40 The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the descendants of Hodaviah, seventy-four. 41The singers: the descendants of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight. 42The descendants of the gatekeepers: of Shallum, of Ater, of Talmon, of Akkub, of Hatita, and of Shobai, in all one hundred and thirty-nine.
43 The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, 44Keros, Siaha, Padon, 45Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, 46Hagab, Shamlai, Hanan, 47Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, 48Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, 49Uzza, Paseah, Besai, 50Asnah, Meunim, Nephisim, 51Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, 52Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, 53Barkos, Sisera, Temah, 54Neziah, and Hatipha.
55 The descendants of Solomons servants: Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda, 56Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, 57Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.
58 All the temple servants and the descendants of Solomons servants were three hundred and ninety-two.
59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their families or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 60the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, six hundred and fifty-two. 61Also, of the descendants of the priests: the descendants of Habaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name). 62These looked for their entries in the genealogical records, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; 63the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.
64 The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, 65besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred male and female singers. 66They had seven hundred and thirty-six horses, two hundred and forty-five mules, 67four hundred and thirty-five camels, and six thousand seven hundred and twenty donkeys.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org