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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 9:1-2 After the exile

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 6, 2023

9:1 So all Israel was enrolled by their genealogies, and these were written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. Then Judah was taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. 2 Now the first group to resettle in their land in their cities were some Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants.

This point in the book begins a new section. No longer are the Israelites being described prior to the exile, but for a short time (1 Chronicles 9:1-34) we are hearing about what happened at the time of the great Babylonian crisis. Verse 1 describes the reason for the exile, and verse 2 begins the description of what happened after the exiles got back. In a chronological sense, this part of chapter 9 really belongs at the end of 2 Chronicles 24:34, because this is the description of the people who did as Cyrus allowed: “Anyone of the Lord’s people among you… may go back.” The list here corresponds to Nehemiah 11:1-3.

The returning laypeople are simply called “Israel” here in Hebrew,  but we usually prefer to say “Israelites.” We take this to mean that the very first exiles to return from Babylon were mostly ordinary Israelites—later to simply be called “Jews” since they were mostly from Judah. All of the references to “Jews” in the Old Testament come naturally from books written during or after the exile (Ezra 4:12; Nehemiah 2:16; Esther 2:5; Zechariah 8:23 and the late chapters of Jeremiah, such as 40:11; 52:28,30). This detail is one of many facts (not conjectures or guesses) that shows that the majority of the Old Testament was written prior to the exile, not after it as 19th century critics often proposed.

Other returning exiles included some of the priests and Levites, and a group described as the Nethinim or temple servants. In Ezra 2:70, they are distinct from “the singers and gatekeepers.” Most or all of the Nethinim lived on the hill of Ophel and helped with the repairs to Jerusalem’s wall (Nehemiah 3:25); two Levites named Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them (Nehemiah 11:21). Evidently, their service included many of the menial tasks in the temple, including much of the physical cutting up of sacrifices, and “standing before the people” to be available to assist with worship, something that we might think of as being between an usher and a waiter (Ezekiel 44:11:12), and also the cleaning up that needed to be done (Ezekiel 44:14). Unlike the priests, who could only do their work between the ages of thirty to fifty (Numbers 4:3,43), the temple servants (Nethinim) could work between the ages of twenty-five and fifty years (Numbers 8:24-25). After fifty they could instruct and assist, “but they themselves [were not to] do the work” (Numbers 8:26).

The reason for the exile was the unfaithfulness of the people. “Like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:20). “I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the LORD God” (Ezekiel 15:8). And Daniel prayed: “You have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you” (Daniel 9:7). While they were in exile, some of the Jews took their predicament to heart and repented of their sins. King Manasseh, one of the worst of Judah’s bad kings, was taken away prisoner. The enemy “took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon” (2 Chronicles 33:11). But he humbled himself there, prayed to God for forgiveness, and he was released and allowed to go home again where he did good things and threw the false gods out of the city of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 33:12-16). And in Nahum, God holds out his grace to unfaithful Judah: “Although I have afflicted you, O Judah, I will afflict you no more” (Nahum 1:12 ).

The grace of God is shown to sinful, repentant man like the sun suddenly coming out from behind the clouds after a storm. God smiles at his forgiven children and says, “Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” (Isaiah 50:2). When he is merciful, he is completely merciful, so much so that we could perhaps coin a new and correct Latin term: omni-miserent, “all merciful.” He gives to us the righteousness of Christ, which is ours by faith, exactly as he says: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). For this reason, our preaching must not consist “in merely giving all manner of interesting information about the forgiveness of sins, but in proclaiming to sinners the fact of the forgiveness, the fact that the world is reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). And because the Gospel is God’s own proclamation of grace to a sin-cursed world, it actually promises, offers, and brings grace and forgiveness to all who hear it.” Your sins are forgiven. You are at peace with God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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