From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

NETHINIM. The word is a late form of a passive participle nÄ•th ûnîm , and denotes ‘men who are given .’ In early days, when sacrifices were offered in the open air, there was little difficulty occasioned by the odour and dirt arising from the blood, fat, and ashes. But when they were offered within the walls of a temple, and offered with great frequency and with large numbers of victims, some very disagreeable drudgery was always necessary. The chopping of wood, lighting of fires, sharpening of knives, drawing of water, the cleansing not only of the altar and its surroundings and utensils, but of the whole of the Temple precincts, and the performance of many menial offices for the priests, required a large staff of servants. The analogy of other lands suggests that these offices would be performed by slaves, procured either by purchase or capture. The Greeks had hierodoutoi , ‘temple slaves,’ and the Mohammedans at Mecca similarly. It is not known at what date the practice arose in Israel; but there seem to have been three stages in the history of Temple servants. (1) They were slaves in the strict sense; (2) they were admitted to Israelite privileges, being circumcised, and treated as free men holding an official position in the Church; (3) they rose in standing and prestige so as to become practically equivalent to the Levites.

1 . The name Nethinim is not used before the Exile.   Ezra 8:20 speaks of the Nethinim as those ‘whom David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites,’ which shows, at least, that common belief traced their origin back to David. A very similar class of persons, ‘the children of Solomon’s servants ,’ is mentioned in   Ezra 2:55;   Ezra 2:58 ,   Nehemiah 7:57;   Nehemiah 7:60;   Nehemiah 11:3; their descent was evidently traced to the non-Israelite slaves employed by Solomon in connexion with his buildings, some of whom must have laboured in the new royal sanctuary (cf.   1 Kings 9:19-21 ). This employment of foreign slaves in the Temple continued till the beginning of the Exile (  Ezekiel 44:6 f.).

2. A change in the status of these men was brought about by the Exile. When the people were far from the land, every one who had held any sort of position in the Temple must have gained a certain prestige. The former Temple-slaves seemed to have formed themselves into a guild. By the very fact of their exile, they were freed from their slavery to the Temple, and thus when they and their sons returned to Jerusalem, they returned as free men, who were recognized as part of the nation. As a guild, they acquired for themselves the title Nethinim, owing to their traditional origin. In   Ezra 2:48-58;   Ezra 2:70 =   Nehemiah 7:46-58;   Nehemiah 7:73 are given the names of the Nethinim who are reported to have returned with Zerubbabel; and they are mentioned together with priests, Levites, singers, and porters. Some of the names in the list are undoubtedly of foreign origin. Again, Ezra relates (  Ezra 8:20 ) that on his return, 220 Nethinim from Casiphia accompanied him. After a time we find them so completely established as a sacred official class, that privileges are accorded to them. They shared with priests, Levites, singers, and porters, immunity from taxation (  Ezra 7:24 ). They lived in a special quarter of the city, named Ophel, i.e . the southern and eastern slope of the Temple hill, or more particularly that part of it which reached to the Water-gate on the east, and to the tower projecting from the royal palace (  Nehemiah 3:28 ). They were thus near the Temple, and Bp. Ryle ( Ezra , etc., p. lviii) points out the appropriateness of assigning to ‘drawers of water’ the position by the Water-gate, which communicated with the Virgin’s Spring. And   Nehemiah 3:31 mentions ‘the house of the Nethinim,’ which must have been an official building used by them during their periods of duty. They were under the command of two chiefs of whom one, at least, was a member of their own body Ziha and Gishpa (  Nehemiah 11:21 ); the former is the first in the list, in   Ezra 2:45 =   Nehemiah 7:48 , and Gishpa may possibly be the same as Hasupha, the second name. Further, only a portion of them, like the priests, Levites, singers, and porters, dwelt in Jerusalem; the others ‘dwelt in their cities’ (  Ezra 2:70 =   Nehemiah 7:73 ,   1 Chronicles 9:2 ). And so far were they from being regarded as foreign slaves, that they joined, as full members of the community, in the oath that they would not (among other things) allow their sons and daughters to marry any but Israelites (  Nehemiah 10:28-30 ).

3. From this point the Nethinim gradually rose in official position, until they were indistinguishable from the Levites. In   1 Chronicles 23:28 the Levites are spoken of in such a way as to suggest that the term included all Temple-servants. And conversely, since singers and doorkeepers (who are quite distinct from Levites in Ezr.-Neh.) were explicitly reckoned by the Chronicler as Levites (  1 Chronicles 15:18;   1 Chronicles 26:1-19 ), it is probable that the same was the case with the Nethinim. Finally, in 1E  Esther 1:3 the Levites, and in 1Es 8:22; 1Es 8:48 the Nethinim, are described by the same term, hierodoutoi .

A. H. M‘Neile.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

("given".)  Nehemiah 11:21;  Ezra 2:43;  Ezra 7:24;  Ezra 8:17;  Ezra 8:20;  1 Chronicles 9:2. Servants of the temple (Josephus Uses Of Them The Name Given To The Slaves Attached To The Greek Temples, Hiero Douloi , Ant. 11:5, Section 1) . So the Levites were "given" ( Nethunim ) unto Jehovah instead of the firstborn, and by Jehovah "given" to Aaron (see  Numbers 3:9;  Numbers 8:16-19). (See Levites .) Nethinim occurs only in the later books: Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. To the Levites 320 of the Midianite captives were given, and 32 to the priests (  Numbers 31:40;  Numbers 31:42;  Numbers 31:47). To these slaves doubtless the Levites and priests assigned the more laborious work of the tabernacle service. The Gibeonites similarly, having obtained by craft a covenant from Joshua ( Joshua 9:9;  Joshua 9:27), "because of the name" and "fame of Jehovah, Israel's God," were made "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and altar."

The Nethinim were their successors; a larger number of servants of the sanctuary being needed when David was reorganizing the worship, he and the princes "appointed" (Hebrew, "gave") Nethinim for the service of the Levites ( Ezra 8:20), probably from the prisoners taken in war, upon their embracing the worship of Jehovah. The foreign or Canaanite names confirm this view: "Mehunim, Nephusim, and the children of Sisera" ( Ezra 2:43-54). So "Solomon's servants" ( Ezra 2:55;  Nehemiah 7:60), those "left of the Amorites, Hittites ... upon whom he levied a tribute of bond service" ( 1 Kings 9:20). The rabbis represent them as having no right of intermarriage with Israelites (Gemara Babyl., Jebam. Ii. 4, Kiddusch. Iv. 1, Carpsov. App. Crit. De Neth.) ; below the children of "mixed marriages" ( Mamzerim ), but above proselytes fresh from paganism and emancipated slaves.

But when the Levites were slow in coming forward at the return from Babylon, 341 only under Zerubbabel as contrasted with 4,289 priests ( Ezra 2:36-58) and none under Ezra until especially called ( Ezra 8:15;  Ezra 8:17;  Ezra 8:20), the Nethinim became more conspicuous, 392 under Zerubbabel, 220 under Ezra, "all expressed by name," registered after the Levites ( 1 Chronicles 9:2) and admitted to join the covenant ( Nehemiah 10:28, compare  Deuteronomy 29:11). (See Levites .) Exempted from taxation by Artaxerxes ( Ezra 7:24). Ophel and the Levite cities were their dwelling place, and they had their own rulers ( Ezra 2:70;  Nehemiah 11:21). Josephus (B.J. ii. 17, section 6) mentions "a feast of carrying wood", Xylophoria , in which all the people brought wood for the sacrifices of the year, probably relieving the Nethinim; its beginning may be traced in  Nehemiah 10:34.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Neth'inim. (Given, Dedicated). As applied specifically to a distinct body of men, connected with the services of the Temple, this name first meets us in the later books of the Old Testament - in 1 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, The word and the ideas embodied in it may, however, be traced to a much earlier period. As derived from the verb, nathan , that is, Give, Set Apart, Dedicate, it was applied to those who were appointed to the liturgical offices of the Tabernacle. We must not forget that the Levites were given to Aaron and his sons, that is, to the priests as an order, and were accordingly, the first Nethinim.  Numbers 3:9;  Numbers 8:19.

At first they were the only attendants, and their work must have been laborious enough. The first conquests, however, brought them their share of the captive slaves of the Midianites and 320 were given to them as having charge of the Tabernacle,  Numbers 31:47, while 32 only were assigned specially to the priests. This disposition to devolve the more laborious offices of their ritual , upon slaves of another race showed itself again, in the treatment of the Gibeonites. No addition to the number, thus employed, appears to have been made, during the period of the judges, and they continued to be known by their own name as the Gibeonites.

Either the massacre at Nob had involved the Gibeonites as well as the priests,  1 Samuel 22:19, or else they had fallen victims to some other outburst of Saul's fury, and though there were survivors,  2 Samuel 21:2, the number was likely to be quite inadequate, for the greater stateliness of the new worship at Jerusalem. It is to this period, accordingly, that the origin of the class bearing this name may be traced.

The Nethinim were those, "whom David and the princes appointed, (Hebrew, nathan ; Gave ), for the service of the Levites."  Ezra 8:20. At this time, the Nethinim probably lived within the precincts of the Temple, doing its rougher work, and so enabling the Levites to take a higher position, as the religious representatives and instructors of the people. The example set by David was followed by his successor.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

Given, or consecrated, a term first applied to the Levites,  Numbers 8:19; but after the settlement in Canaan, to servants dedicated to the service of the tabernacle and temple, to perform the most laborious offices, as carrying of wood and water. At first the Gibeonites were destined to this station,  Judges 9:27; afterwards, other Canaanites who surrendered themselves, and whose lives were spared. Many of them appear to have been first assigned to David, Solomon, and other princes, and by them transferred to the temple service,  1 Kings 9:20,21   Ezra 2:58,70   8:20   Nehemiah 11:3 . It is probable that they became proselytes,  Nehemiah 10:28 , and that many of them could cordially unite with David in saying, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,"  Psalm 84:10 . The Nethinim were carried into captivity with the tribe of Judah, and great numbers were placed not far from the Caspian sea, whence Ezra brought two hundred and twenty of them into Judea,  Ezra 8:17 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

Name, signifying 'given, devoted ones,' applied to those who assisted the Levites in the service of the tabernacle and the temple. The name does not occur until  1 Chronicles 9:2 , and afterwards in Ezra and Nehemiah. The Gibeonites were made "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar."  Joshua 9:27 . These are not mentioned after 2Samuel, so that they and their descendants may have been the 'Nethinim.' It does not appear that God appointed them, as He did the Levites, but 'David and the princes' appointed them 'for the service of the Levites.'  Ezra 8:20 . Some of the Midianite captives were also given to the Levites.  Numbers 31:46,47 . After the return from exile the Nethinim are called the 'ministers of this house of God.' They were, along with the priests and Levites, exempt from 'toll, tribute, or custom.'  Ezra 7:24 . A list of them is given in  Ezra 2:43-54;  Nehemiah 7:46-56,60;  Nehemiah 10:28; etc.

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 Numbers 31:28 31:40 Numbers 31:30 31:47 Joshua 9:27 Ezra 8:20

Representatives of the Nethinim returned from Exile with Zerubbabel in 538 B.C. ( Ezra 2:43-54;  Nehemiah 7:46-56 ). The lists of returnees contain many foreign names suggesting their origin as prisoners of war. Despite their foreign origin, the Nethinim appear to be accepted as part of the people of Israel. They were prohibited from mixed marriages with the people of the land ( Nehemiah 10:28-30 ) and shared in the responsibility for repair of the Jerusalem city walls ( Nehemiah 3:26; contrast  Ezra 4:1-3 ). The Nethinim resided in the Ophel district of Jerusalem, likely near the water gate ( Nehemiah 3:26 ), a site conducive with their task as water bearers.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Nethinim ( Nĕth'I-Nim ), Given, Dedicated. The name of the Hebrew temple servants, under the Levites. The whole of the Nethinim do not appear to have been, in their origin, Gibeonites, as it is not improbable that other foreigners were occasionally added to the staff.  Joshua 9:3-27;  Ezra 8:20. The employment of the Nethinim, though the lowest in the service of the sanctuary, was not regarded as degrading, but rather as a sort of honorable servitude.  1 Chronicles 9:2;  Ezra 2:43-58;  Ezra 2:70;  Nehemiah 3:31;  Nehemiah 7:46-60;  Nehemiah 7:73;  Nehemiah 11:8;  Nehemiah 11:21..

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Ezra 2:70 7:7,24 8:20 Joshua 9:27 Ezra 8:20 Ezra 2:58 8:20 Nehemiah 7:46

Webster's Dictionary [9]

(n. pl.) Servants of the priests and Levites in the menial services about the tabernacle and temple.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

(Heb. Nethinim, נְתִינִים ) is the name given in the post-exilian books of the Hebrew Scriptures to the hereditary Temple servants who were assigned to the Levites to do the subordinate and menial work.

1. Name And Its Signification . The name נְתַינַים which is the plural of נתין , passive adjective from נתן , To Give, "to set apart, to denote," properly denotes 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 allotted as hereditary Temple servants to assist the Levites. Hence they are called Ἱερόδουλοι by Josephus (Ant. 11:5, 6), while the Vulg. (Nathinzaei), the Chaldee ( נתינין ), Luther (Nethiniam), the Zurich Bible, Coverdale, Matthew's Bible, the Geneva Version, the Bishops' Bible, and the A.V. uniformly retain the original in all the seventeen passages in which it occurs, except that the A.V., following the example of the preceding English versions, incorrectly adds the plural termination s ("Nethinims") to the Hebrew ים , which is already plural, as it does in "cherubims." The Sept., however, is ins consistent both in its spelling and rendering of it. Thus, in nine places out of the seventeen it has Οἱ Ναθινίμ , Alex. Ναθινείμ L ( Ezra 2:70;  Ezra 7:7;  Ezra 7:24;  Ezra 8:20 [twice];  Nehemiah 3:26;  Nehemiah 7:46;  Nehemiah 7:73;  Nehemiah 10:28); in three Οἱ Ναθιναῖοι ( Ezra 2:43 [Vat. Ναθινίμ ];  Nehemiah 11:3;  Nehemiah 11:21); in two Ναθανείμ [Vat. Ναθανίμ ] ( Ezra 2:58;  Nehemiah 7:60); in one Ἀθανείμ , ( Ezra 8:17); in another it takes בית הנתינים for one word, and substitutes for it Βηθανναθινίμ ( Nehemiah 3:31); and in another place again it translates נתינים by Οἱ Δεδομένοι ( 1 Chronicles 9:2). Theodoret's explanation of נתינים , Δόσις Ι᾿Αώ , Τουτέστι , Το ῾Υ Ὄντος Θεοῦ (Quaest. In. I. Paralip.), which is also that of Bochart, "Dedititios appellavit, quod se sponte deedissent" (Phaleg, lib. 2, cap. 1; Opp. 1:67, ed. Lugduni, 1692), is both contrary to the grammatical meaning of the word, which, as "Pail" Participle, can only be Those 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. Jebasmoth,. 78 b; Midrash Jalkut on  Joshua 9:27) and the best Jewish commentators (comp. Rashi and Aben-Ezra on  Ezra 2:43; Kimchi on  Joshua 9:20) that the Gibeonites whom Joshua consigned forever to be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, i.e., the perpetual menial servants (לבית אלהי ) of the sanctuary ( Joshua 9:21-27), are the original caste denominated Nethinim in the post-exilian period; and there is no valid reason for rejecting 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 Samuel 22:1-19), and moreover, as the reorganization 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 ( נתן ) the Nethinim (or these given ones, : הנתינים ) for the service of the Levites" ( Ezra 8:20).

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 ( Numbers 31:25-47;  Deuteronomy 29:10), 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, 1:288, etc.; 2:166, etc., 174, 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 2:43-58) fully confirm this view. As this newly increased and reorganized staff, founded upon the remnant of the aboriginal Gibeonites, was now formally and exclusively given by David to the Levites ( Ezra 8:20), just as the Levites themselves, by the command of God, were given to the priests ( Numbers 8:19;  Numbers 18:2-6), 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 ( נתינים ), 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. (See Levite).

Being thus given to them, the Nethinim had to relieve the Levites of every menial and laborious work connected 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 prescribes no special duties for the Nethinim.

3. Number Of The Nethinim, Their Locality, Revenues, And Social Position. We must not forget that the Levites were given to Aaron and his sons, i.e., to the priests as an order, and were accordingly the first Nethinim ( נְתוּנַם ,  Numbers 3:9;  Numbers 8:19). At first they were the only attendants, and their work must have been laborious enough. The first conquests, however, brought them their share of the captive slaves of the Midianites, and 320 were Given to them as having charge of the Tabernacle ( Numbers 31:47), while 32 only were assigned specially to the priests. This disposition to devolve the more laborious offices of their ritual upon slaves of another race showed itself again in the treatment of the Gibeonites. They, too, were given (A.V. "made") to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the house of God ( Joshua 9:27), and the addition of so large a number (the population of five cities) must have relieved the Levites from much that had before been burdensome. We know little or nothing as to their treatment. It was a matter of necessity that they should be circumcised ( Exodus 12:48) and conform to the religion of their conquerors, and this might at first seem hard enough. On the other hand, it must be remembered that they presented themselves as recognising the supremacy of Jehovah ( Joshua 9:9), and that for many generations the remembrance of the solemn covenant entered into with them made men look with horror on the shedding of Gibeonitish blood ( 2 Samuel 21:9), and protected them from much outrage. No addition to the number thus employed appears to have been made during the period of the Judges, and they continued to be known by their old name as the Gibeonites. The want of a further supply was, however, felt when the reorganization of worship commenced under David. Either the massacre at Nob had involved the Gibeonites as well as the priests ( 1 Samuel 22:19), or else they had fallen victims to some other outburst of Saul's fury, any though there were survivors ( 2 Samuel 21:2), the number was likely to be quite inadequate for the greater stateliness of the new worship at Jerusalem. It is to this period accordingly that the origin of the class bearing this name may be traced.

The Nethinim were those "whom David and the princes appointed (Heb. gave) for the service of the Levites" ( Ezra 8:20). Though their number is nowhere given up to the time of the Babylonian captivity, yet the fact that the aboriginal Hieroduli, i.e., the Gibeonites, consisted of thee population of five cities when the service of the sanctuary was not so imposing makes it pretty certain that the Nethinim with whom David and the other princes replenished the thinned ranks at the time when the Temple worship required a large staff of menial servants must have counted their thousands. As a matter of convenience, they most probably lived within the precincts and in the immediate neighborhood of the Temple, and must have been supported by the contributions of the people. We have more decided information about them in the post-exilian records. Only 612 Nethinim returned from Babylon 392 with Zerubbabel ( Ezra 2:58;  Nehemiah 7:60), and 220 with Ezra ( Ezra 8:20) under the leadership of Ziha and Gispa ( Nehemiah 11:21), who, as their foreign names indicate, were of their own body. But even this small number had to be coaxed in order to get them to return from exile, as is evident from  Ezra 8:17, where they are addressed as Brethren of Iddo, a chief of the Levites. It is evident from the whole context ( Ezra 8:15-19), which speaks of securing Iddo's interests to procure Levites as well as Nethinim, that he was not a Nathin, but a distinguished Levite who had great influence both among his own Levitical brethren and the Nethinim who were under his control. Some of them lived in Ophel, which they helped to rebuild ( Nehemiah 3:26;  Nehemiah 11:26), because of its proximity to the Temple; while others, as in the preexilian period, dwelt with the Levites in their own cities ( Ezra 2:70). They were under the control of a chief of their own body ( Ezra 2:43;  Nehemiah 7:46). Belonging to the Temple, they, like the other sacred ministers, were exempted from taxation by the Persian satraps ( Ezra 7:24), and were maintained from the Temple treasury and ( מעשר שנם ) the second tithes (Jebamnoth, 86 b; Jerusalem Maaser Sheni, 5:15; Jerusalem Sota, 9:11; comp. Herzfeld, Geschichte Des Volkes Israel, 1:138-140).

Though they conformed to the Jewish religion ( Exodus 12:48;  Deuteronomy 29:11;  Joshua 9:9;  Nehemiah 10:28), they occupied a very low position, and were even ranged below the Mamzer ( ממזר ), or illegal offspring, as may be seen from the following order of precedence given in the Mishna: "A priest is before a Levi, a Levi before an Israelite, an Israelite before a Manzer, a Mamzer before a Nathin, a Neathin before a proselyte, and a proselyte before a manunitted slave" (Horajoth, 3:8). The Nethinim were restricted to intermarriage among themselves, and if a Jew or Jewess married one of them, though all the valid ceremonies were performed, the issue shared in all the degrading disqualifications of the Nethinim (Mishna, Kiddushin, 3:12; 4:1; Jebamoth, 2:4); and they were even excluded from the privileges of being exempt from military service, allotted to newly-married people and to those who were faint-hearted ( Deuteronomy 20:7-8, with Mishna, Sota, 8:3-6). If a woman was suspected of being deflowered by any one, or if she had an illegitimate child, it was ascribed to a Nathin, and the offspring took the degraded position of the Nathin, notwithstanding the assertion of the mother that the father of the child was a priest, unless she could adduce proof to support her assertion (Mishna, Kethuboth, 1:8, 9). If a court of justice ( בית דין ) gave a decision, and one of the members of the court was found to be a Nathin, the judgment was invalid, inasmuch as he was not regarded as a legal number of the congregation ( עדה ) specified in  Leviticus 4:13;  Numbers 35:24 (Mishna, Elorajoth, 3:1). Eventually they seem to have been merged in the mass of the Jewish population, as no allusion to them occurs in the Apocrypha or New Testament. Their number, at all events, was then insufficient for the service of the Temple; whence, as Josephus tells us ( War, 2:17, 6), a festival, called Ξυλοφορία (Xylophoria), was established, in which the people, to supply the deficiency, were obliged to bring a certain quantity of wood to the Temple for the use of the altar of burnt offering. See Schroder, De Netthinceis (Marb. 1719; Will, De Nethinceis Levitarmur Famulis (Altdorf, 1745); Lampe, in Miscell. Groning. 1:463 sq., 539 sq.; Pfeffinger, in Ugolin. Thesaur. volume 13. (See Gibeonite); (See Temple).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

neth´i - nim ( נתינים , nethı̄nı̄m , "given"; Ναθεινείμ , Natheineı́m  ; the King James Version Nethinims ):

1. Meaning:

A group of temple-servants ( 1 Chronicles 9:2 and   1 Chronicles 9:16 times in Ezra and Nehemiah). The word has always the article, and does not occur in the singular. The Septuagint translators usually transliterate, but in one passage (  1 Chronicles 9:2 ) they render, "the given ones" ( hoi dedoménoi ). The Syriac (Peshitta) also, in Ezra, Nehemiah, transliterates the word, but in  1 Chronicles 9:2 renders it by a word meaning "sojourners." The meaning "given" is suggestive of a state of servitude, and Josephus seems to confirm the suggestion by calling the Nethı̄nı̄m "temple-slaves" ( hieródouloi ) ( Ant. , XI, v, 1). It should, however, be noted that another form of this word is employed in the directions regarding the Levites: "Thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him on behalf of the children of Israel" (  Numbers 3:9; compare also  Numbers 8:16 ,  Numbers 8:19 ).

2. History:

Of the history of the Nethı̄nı̄m in earlier times there are but few and uncertain traces. When Joshua discovered that he had been beguiled by the Gibeonites into a covenant to let them live, he reduced their tribe to servitude, and declared, "Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall never fail to be of you bondsmen, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (  Joshua 9:23 ,  Joshua 9:27 ). It is no doubt tempting to see in the Gibeonites the earliest Nethinim, but another tradition traces their origin to a gift of David and the princes for the service of the Levites ( Ezra 8:20 ). Their names, too, indicate diversity of origin; for besides being mostly un-Hebrew in aspect, some of them are found elsewhere in the Old Testament as names of non-Israelitish tribes. The Meunim , for example ( Ezra 2:50 =   Nehemiah 7:52 ), are in all likelihood descended from the Meonites or Maonites who are mentioned as harassing Israel ( Judges 10:12 ), as in conflict with the Simeonites ( 1 Chronicles 4:41 ), and as finally overcome by Uzziah ( 2 Chronicles 26:7 ). The next name in the lists is that of the children of Nephisim. These may be traced to the Hagrite clan of Naphish ( Genesis 25:15;  1 Chronicles 5:19 ). In both Ezra and Nehemiah, the list is immediately followed by that of the servants of Solomon, whose duties were similar to, it may be even humbler than, those of the Nethı̄nı̄m . These servants of Solomon appear to be descendants of the Canaanites whom Solomon employed in the building of his temple ( 1 Kings 5:15 ). All these indications are perhaps slight; but they point in the same direction, and warrant the assumption that the Nethı̄nı̄m were originally foreign slaves, mostly prisoners of war, who had from time to time been given to the temple by the kings and princes of the nation, and that to them were assigned the lower menial duties of the house of God.

3. Post-Exilic History:

At the time of the return from the exile the Nethinim had come to be regarded as important. Their number was considerable: 392 accompanied Zerubbabel at the first Return in 538 Bc ( Ezra 2:58 =   Nehemiah 7:60 ). When Ezra, some 80 years later, organized the second Return, he secured a contingent of Nethı̄nı̄m numbering 220 ( Ezra 8:20 ). In Jerusalem they enjoyed the same privileges and immunities as the other religious orders, being included by Artaxerxes' letter to Ezra among those who should be exempt from toll, custom and tribute ( Ezra 7:24 ). A part of the city in Ophel, opposite the Water-gate, was assigned them as an official residence ( Nehemiah 3:26 ,  Nehemiah 3:31 ), and the situation is certainly appropriate if their duties at all resembled those of the Gibeonites (see Ryle, "Ezra and Nehemiah," in Cambridge Bible , Intro, 57). They were also organized into a kind of guild under their own leaders or presidents ( Nehemiah 11:21 ).

The Nethı̄nı̄m are not again mentioned in Scripture. It is probable that they, with the singers and porters, became gradually incorporated in the general body of Levites; their name passed ere long into a tradition, and became at a later time a butt for the scorn and bitterness of the Talmudic writers against everything that they regarded as un-Jewish.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Neth´inim. This name, which means 'the given' or 'the devoted,' was applied to the servants of the temple, or temple slaves, who were under the Levites in the ministry of the tabernacle and temple. The first servants whom the Levites obtained were the Gibeonites, on whom devolved the very laborious services of fetching water and collecting wood . The number of such servants appears to have been increased by David; and it seems to have been then, when these servants ceased to be wholly Gibeonites, that Nethinim came into use as a proper name for the whole class . From that time forward, they appear to have been no longer regarded or treated as slaves, but as the lowest order of the servants of the sanctuary; who, although in their origin foreigners and heathen, had doubtless embraced the Jewish religion. These did not all forget their relationship to the sanctuary during the Captivity. Some of them returned to their duties under the decree of Cyrus, and were placed in cities with the Levites (;; ). It was not to be expected that many of them would return to this humble station in Palestine, but 220 accompanied Ezra , and 392 Zerubbabel . The voluntary devotedness which was thus manifested by these persons considerably raised the station of the Nethinim, which was thenceforth regarded rather as honorable than degrading. Their number was, however, insufficient for the service of the temple; whence, as Josephus tells us, a festival, called Xylophoria, was established, in which the people, to supply the deficiency, were obliged to bring a certain quantity of wood to the temple for the use of the altar of burnt-offering.