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Nethinim (ha-netinim, הַנְּתִינִים, lit. "the given ones", or "subjects"), or Nathinites or Nathineans, was the name given to the Temple assistants in ancient Jerusalem. The term was applied originally in the Book of Joshua (where it is found in its verbal form) to the Gibeonites.[1][a] Later in the Book of Ezra they are counted alongside the Avdei Shlomo ("Servants of Solomon"). It is likely that the Nethinim descended from non-Israelites.[2] Opinion is divided as to whether the Gibeonites in Joshua are to be connected to the Nethinim of later texts.[3]


Netinim is derived from the Canaanite verb N-T-N, 'to give.'[4] The noun form occurs 18 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, always in the plural (1 Chr. 9:2; Ezra 2:43,58,70; 7:7,24; 8:17,20; Neh. 3:26,31; 7:46,60,73; 10:28; 11:3,21).[5][6]

Translations and spellings[edit]

In English, Nethinim is one of several Hebrew words which are transliterated rather than translated in the King James Version (1611). It is also the most common academic spelling. The form Nathinites is found in the Douay-Rheims Version and consequently in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) article "Nathinites".[7]

In Greek, the Septuagint transliterates Nethinim as οἱ Ναθιναῖοι, hoi Nathinaioi[8] (Ezra 2:43; Neh 11:3), and as Ναθινιν (Ezra 2:58); and on one occasion, translated into Greek as οἱ δεδομένοι hoi dedoménoi, "the given ones" (1 Chron 9:2). Josephus renders the term as ἰερόδουλοι ierodouloi "temple servants" (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.1.6). The Vulgate has Latin: Nathinæi). In Syriac the Peshitta follows the Hebrew, except that 1 Chron. 9 renders netinim with Syriac geyora pl., equivalent of Hebrew gerim.[9]

Hebrew Bible[edit]

In the Book of Joshua the Nethinim are mentioned in a passage concerning the 'leaders (nesi'im)[10] of the congregation', the ruling assembling of post-exilic Yehud Medinata. The passage has been read as one that confers legitimacy on this class, or, alternatively, criticizing them for acting autonomously. In the latter regard it is contended that the author of Joshua blames these leaders, independently of the priesthood, for inducting the Gibeonites into cultic service in Jerusalem.[11] In Talmudic tradition (b.Yebam 71A, 78b-79a) they became associated with the Nethinim.[1]

The Nethinim are mentioned at the return from the Exile and particularly enumerated in Ezra 2 and Neh 7. The original form of the name was Nethunim, as in the Khetib (consonantal reading) of Ezra 8:17 (cf. Numbers 3:9), and means "given" or "dedicated," i.e., to the temple. The Talmud also uses the singular form Nathin. In all, 612 Nethinim came back from the Exile and were lodged near the "House of the Nethinim " at Ophel, towards the east wall of Jerusalem so as to be near the Temple, where they served under the Levites and were free of all tolls, from which they must have been supported. They are ordered by David and the princes to serve the Levites (Ezra 8:20).

Many of the names enumerated in Ezra 2 for the Nethinim appear to indicate a foreign provenance, including people of Arab, Ishmaelite, Egyptian, Edominite and Aramaaic ethnicities, with nicknames appropriate to slaves.[12][b] Most of the names of the parents mentioned seem to be feminine in form or meaning, and suggest that the Nethinim could not trace back to any definite paternity; and this is supported by the enumeration of those who could not "show their father's house" (Ezra 2:60; Neh 7:62).


Rabbinical Judaism[edit]

Notwithstanding their sacred service, the Nethinim are placed in tables of precedence below mamzerim[13] and in the Mishnah[14] it is stated that the prohibition against intermarriage with the Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians and Edomites, though given in the Bible, only applied for a certain number of generations or did not apply at all to their daughters, but, it adds, "Mamzerim and Nethinim are prohibited (to marry Israelites), and this prohibition is perpetual and applies both to males and females".[15]

Jehovah's Witnesses[edit]

Jehovah's Witnesses use the term Nethinim to refer to members not claiming to be "anointed" who are selected to assist the Governing Body.[16][17]


  1. ^ Joshua 9:27
  2. ^ The nicknames are of the type: 'Speedy, White, Crooked, Taciturn, and Faithful.'[12]


  1. ^ a b Dozeman 2015, p. 415.
  2. ^ Day 2007, p. 136.
  3. ^ Gordon 2016, p. 83.
  4. ^ Orlin 2015, p. 651.
  5. ^ Strong.
  6. ^ e.g. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament English edition The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament Vol.10 ed. Ringren, entry N-T-N "Netinim" mentioned p102,105,106,107
  7. ^ Driscoll 1911.
  8. ^ Taylor 2009, p. 383.
  9. ^ Baumgarten 1977, p. 78, n.12.
  10. ^ Grintz 1966, p. 133.
  11. ^ Dozeman 2015, pp. 414–416.
  12. ^ a b Dunham 2016, p. 134.
  13. ^ Talmud, Hor. 13a, and Midrash, Numbers Rabbah 6:1.
  14. ^ Jeb. viii. 3.
  15. ^ Executive Committee of the Editorial Board & Jacobs 1905, p. 233.
  16. ^ Penton 2015, p. 172.
  17. ^ Chryssides 2009, p. 62.


External links[edit]