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Title: Nethinim  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Return to Zion, List of minor biblical figures, A–K, Qos (deity), Iddo (prophet), Domestic work
Collection: Domestic Work, Hebrew Bible People, Return to Zion, Slavery
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Nethinim (or Netinim, or Nathinites or Nathineans) (Hebrew: הַנְּתִינִים‎, "the given ones") 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 who converted during the time of Joshua, later in the Book of Ezra they include the Avdei Shlomo ("Servants of Solomon") the descendants of the remnant of the Canaanite people in the land.


  • Etymology 1
    • Translations and spellings 1.1
  • Hebrew Bible 2
  • Interpretations 3
    • Jehovah's Witnesses 3.1
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


The noun 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).[1] Lexicons generally regard Netinim (or Natin) as derived from the semitic root N-T-N, "to give."[2]

Translations and spellings

In English Nethinim is one of several Hebrew words which are transliterated rather than translated in the King James Version (1611), although incorrectly as "Nethinims" duplicating the Hebrew plural -im with an additional and redundant English -s. It is also the most common academic spelling. The spelling Nathinites is found in the Douay-Rheims Version and consequently in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) article "Nathinites."

In Greek the Septuagint renders the with graecicized οἱ Ναθιναῖοι, hoi Nathinaioi "the Nathinites" (Ezra 2:43; Neh 11:3), transliterated ναθινιν (Ezra 2:58); and on only 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. [3]

Hebrew Bible

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 has also 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. It is mentioned that they had been ordered by David and the princes to serve the Levites (Ezra 8:20).

Notwithstanding their sacred service, the Nethinim are placed in tables of precedence below mamzerim[4] and in the Mishna[5] 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 is added, "Mamzerim and Nethinim are prohibited (to marry Israelites), and this prohibition is perpetual and applies both to males and females."

A large majority 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 confirmed by the fact that the lists are followed by the enumeration of those who could not "show their father's house" (Ezra 2:60; Neh 7:62).


Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses publications apply the term "Nethinim" to modern elders serving in positions of responsibility immediately under the oversight of their Governing Body.[6] Whereas they consider Governing Body members and other "anointed" Witnesses to be members of "the Israel of God" and "really Israel", the vast majority of Witnesses consider themselves personally associated with but not members of "spiritual Israel".[7]


  1. ^ Strong's Concordance entry
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Joseph M. Baumgarten, "The Exclusion of Netinim and Proselytes in 4Q Florilegium," RevQ 8 (1972) 89-91; reprinted in idem, Studies in Qumran Law (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1977) 77-79; footnote 12 p 78.
  4. ^ Talmud, Hor. 13a, and Midrash, Numbers Rabbah 6:1.
  5. ^ Jeb. viii. 3.
  6. ^ "Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones”", The Watchtower, April 15, 1992, pages 16-17
  7. ^ "New Creations Brought Forth!", The Watchtower, January 1, 1993, page 6, "Moreover, well-trained members of the great crowd are now doing administrative and other responsible work alongside the anointed Governing Body of spiritual Israel, just as non-Israelite Nethinim worked with the priests repairing Jerusalem’s walls."
  •  "Nathinites".  

Further reading

  • Joseph M. Baumgarten, "The Exclusion of Netinim and Proselytes in 4Q Florilegium," RevQ 8 (1972) 89-91; reprinted in idem, Studies in Qumran Law (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1977) 77-79
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