1 Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city.
NASB  Ezra 2:1

5 Then I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up first in which I found the following record:
6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city,

NASB  Nehemiah 7:5-6
Covering many SAB Contradictions.


First impression

In the Hebrew Bible, Ezra-Nehemiah form one book and so it is to be considered one in cases of exegesis. Remarkably, we find two lists of Israelites that returned from Babel to Jerusalem (and Judea) in the time after the exile:
– Ezra 2:1-67
– Nehemiah 7:6-68

The problem is that there are many similarities and differences between these lists. And of course that has always been fuel for the contradiction seekers. (There are God seekers and there are contradiction seekers.) In the SAB contradictions, the numbers 498-514 and 521-537 are involved: 16 contradictions.

Features of the lists

– Language and style are identical.
– Order of paragraphs is identical.
– They contain large groups under the name of a region or city in Israel where the family had lived before the exile.
– The names on Ezra’s list are generally repeated in Nehemiah’s list.
– Lots of numbers are the same.
– Both lists are followed by the figure of returned people: 42,360.
– Neither the sum of people on Ezra’s list, nor that of Nehemiah’s list reaches the number of 42,360 returned people.

– Names that are not spelled identically.
– The list of Nehemiah contains more registered families than the list of Ezra.
– In a few cases the list of Nehemiah gives fewer people than Ezra
– Ezra’s list gives eleven leaders; Nehemiah’s list gives twelve leaders, including Nahamani.

Origins of the lists

Nehemiah calls his list ‘the book of the genealogy of those who came up first’. So we certainly have to do here with the first wave of Israelite immigrants after the Exile that came with Zerubbabel. No doubt this list was arranged in Jerusalem as there they could actually determine who the first were to return to Jerusalem and Judea.

Of course the list of Ezra was written in Babel at the meeting place of departure. All those who had decided to leave Babel and travel with Zerubbabel were registered there to be under the mandate that Cyrus had given to Zerubbabel.

With these contexts in mind, it is not difficult to explain the differences between the two lists.


Names that are not spelled identically. Often nicknames were given to people and in many cases they resembled the original names of the people.
More people in Nehemiah’s list. During the first days of the journey many Israelites who came up later joined the stream of immigrants.
Fewer people in Nehemiah’s list. For reasons we don’t know, some groups slowed and were not counted among the first who arrived in Jerusalem.
Nahamani. This leader with his people also joined the immigrants shortly after their departure.
The figure 42,360. The lists do not claim to be complete regarding all the individuals, but rather regarding the families, as they formed the backbone of the new nation in Judea.

No contradictions at all

The prophetic writers Ezra and Nehemiah didn’t see any contradiction in these texts and neither do we.

No Bible Contradictions

Proposed solutions that are inadequate

Copyist errors. Certainly, if we concentrate on the best available texts of the Hebrew Bible now, there are very few textual questions concerning scribal differences in the HB, but it is definitely not an option to use them for solving exegetical problems.
The list of Ezra had been made up at Babylon, while that of Nehemiah was drawn out in Judea, after the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; according to Archer’s Encyclopedia). This doesn’t seem a reasonable option as Nehemiah found his list in the ‘book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first’ (7:6).