NETHINIM is the name given in the post-exile books of the Hebrew Scriptures to the hereditary temple-servants who were given to the Levites to do the subordinate and menial work.
I. Name and its signification.—The name vino, which is the plural of inv, feminine rirra, passive participle of p13, to give, to set apart, to devote, properly denotes the given, the devoted, i. e. to do the menial work of the sanctuary for the Levites, and, like other terms of office, has become the appellative of that class of men who were thus given as hereditary temple-servants to assist the Levites. Hence they are called lepaouXot by Jose phus (Antiq. xi. 5. 6), whilst the Vulg. (Nathinaez), the Chaldee ().v11)), Luther (Nethintm), the Zurich Bible, Coverdale, Matthew's Bible, the Geneva Version, the Bishops' Bible, and the A. V., uni formly retain the original in all the seventeen passages in which it occurs, only that the A. V., following the example of the preceding English versions, incorrectly adds the plural termination s (Nethinims) to the Hebrew which is already plural, as it does in cherubims. The Sept., how ever, is inconsistent both in its spelling and render ing of it. Thus, in nine places out of the seventeen it has 01 Na0u4., Alex. NcatvelA (Ezra ii. 70 ; vii. 7, 24 ; viii. 20 (twice) ; Neh. iii. 26 ; vii. 46, 73 ; x. 28) ; in three at Na91paioi (Ezra ii. 43 [Alex., Vat.] ; Neh. xi. 3, 21) ; in two of isreaavelu [Vat. NaBaviu] (Ezra ii. 58 ; Neh. vii. 6o) ; in one A9apeia* (Ezra viii. 57) ; in another it takes ITZ for one word, and substitutes for it 13779av pa9pip. (Neh. iii. 35) ; and in another place again it translates nlru by of (1 Chron. ix. 2). Theodoret's explanation of D')VD, abo-ts TOU• Ilan, roil Evros Oeoii (Quest. in. i. Paralip.), which is also that of Bochart, appellavit, quad se sponte dededissent' (Phaleg, lib. ii. cap. i. Opp. vol. i., p. 67, ed. Lugduni 1692), is both contrary to the grammatical meaning of the word, which, as passive participle, can only be thas'e given, and not who voluntarily gave themselves, and at variance with facts.
2. Origin and Duties of the Nethinim.—It is the unanimous voice both of Jewish tradition (comp.
banzoth, 78 b ; Midrash 7a/kut on gosh. ix. 27) and the best Jewish commentators (comp. Rashi and Ibn Ezra on Ezra ii. 43 ; Kimchi on gosh. ix. 20), that the Gibeonites whom Joshua consigned for ever to be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, i. e., the perpetual menial servants 76N) of the sanctuary (Josh. ix. 21-27), are the original caste denominated Nethinim in the post exile period ; and there is no valid reason for re jecting this ancient tradition. As these Gibeonites
or sanctuary-slaves were greatly diminished by the bloody persecutions of Saul, and in the massacre at Nob (2 Sam. xxii. 19), and moreover, as the reorganisation and extension of the sanctuary-service effected by the royal Psalmist both rendered the work of the Levites very laborious and demanded an increase of the existing staff of menial servants, `David and the princes [after him] gave (171) the Ne thin:M. (or these given ones, for the service of the Levites' (Ezra viii. 20). From the ancient practice of consigning aliens and captives of war to do both the menial work of the people at large and of the priests and Levites (Num. xxxi. ; Dent. xxix. to), which also obtained among the Syrians, Phoenicians, the Greeks, and other nations of antiquity, and which still obtains among the Arabs, who devote slaves to the service of the Kaaba at Mecca, and to the sepulchre of the prophet at Medina (Burckhardt, Travels in Arabia,i. 288, etc.; ii. 166, etc., 574, 181), there can be little doubt that the thinned ranks were recruited by David and the other princes from the captives taken in battle. Indeed, their foreign names given in the catalogue of those who returned from Babylon (Ezra ii. 43-58) fully confirm this view. As this newly-increased and reorganised staff, founded upon the remnant of the aboriginal Gibeonites, was now formally and exclusively given by David to the Levites (Ezra viii, zo), just as the Levites themselves, by the command of God, were given to the priests (Num. viii. 19 ; xviii. 2-6), their primitive name was no more applicable to them, because the new accession, constituting the majority, were no Gibeonites, and because they were no more the servants of the sanctuary at large, but were a gift to the Levites. It was for this reason that they were henceforth called Nethinim the given ones, i. e., to the Levites, the very expression used with regard to the Levites when they in their turn were given to the priests. [LEvriEs.] Being thus given to them, the Nethinim had to relieve the Levites of every menial and laborious work con nected with the sanctuary. They had to draw and carry the water, hew and fetch the wood, and attend to everything which the Levites ordered them to do. And because they were so entirely at the disposal of the Levites, therefore the Bible pre scribes no special duties for the Nethinim.