ESV - 20 Besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
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The Nethinim, mentioned in I Chronicles 9:2 and Ezra 2:43, 8:20, are likely the Gibeonites who deceived Joshua and the men of Israel. By a guise of old sacks, old wineskins, old, patched sandals, and old garments besides dry and moldy bread, they pretended to have traveled a great distance, Joshua 9:3-6. It has been suggested that part of the gullibility of the men of Israel is that they had not seen clothes or sandals wearing out during the forty years in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:4, 29:5. But they were so easily duped and did not ask counsel of the Lord, Joshua 9:14. They made peace through a covenant with them, Joshua 9:15. In three days, the deception was uncovered, and Joshua could not take their cities, Joshua 9:17. They were a large population and Gibeon was a sizeable city, Joshua 10:2. They could not attack due to the covenant. In a technical sense, there was nothing that could be done to what must have been a large group of people. Instead, Joshua cursed them to be slaves. “Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD…” Joshua 9:27. ‘Nethinim’ means ‘given ones,’ as the word ‘made’ in this verse is ‘nathan,’ suggesting Joshua gave them to be in a state of servitude, which was far better than being slated for destruction. Joshua gave them to be servants just as the Levites were given to the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, Numbers 3:9, 8:16, 19. In fact, later in Ezra 8:20 they are said to be those “whom David and the leaders had appointed for the service of the Levites…” Apparently, they served the Levites. Josephus called the Nethinim ‘temple-slaves’ (Greek ‘hierodouloi’). Joshua 9:27 says they would serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the altar of the Lord, which ties in with what Josephus said. The last words, “in the place which He would choose” refer to wherever the tabernacle and, eventually, the temple were located. In Ezra 7:24, and Nehemiah 10:28, 29, the Nethinim are in the same category as others who were servants of the house of God. In Nehemiah 11:21 it is said they lived at Ophel under the supervision of Ziha and Gishpa which meant they were servants. Ophel was where they made repairs to the wall, Nehemiah 3:26, because they repaired the wall in the area they lived nearby. That they were servants or slaves of the tabernacle seems to be verified by the account of II Samuel 21:1. The slaughter of the Gibeonites by King Saul was avenged when David allowed them the death of Saul’s sons. Likely, these servants of the priests were killed at the massacre at Nob, I Samuel 22:19. They would have been serving there at that time and become victims of Saul’s anger when Saul had Doeg murder priests and also the residents of Nob, the city of priests. The Nethinim were likely the same as the Gibeonites.
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