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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 3

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The skill and ability of Nehemiah appear dramatically in this chapter. Even the High Priest, of all people, was enlisted in the work. Nobody was exempt; the entire population of Judah, some twenty five or thirty thousand men, all went to work at one time on the city wall. No wonder it was finished in record time.

Eliashib the High Priest, like many of the nobles and a large number of priests, would oppose some of Nehemiah’s reforms; but this building of the city wall was a project that received the unanimous support of the whole population, a fact that clearly surfaces in this chapter.

Verses 1-2


“Then Eliashib the High Priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Hammeah they sanctified it, even unto the tower of Hananel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.”

It was quite appropriate that the High Priest and his associate workers should have been assigned to build that section of the wall that included the sheep gate, because that was located at the northeastern corner of the city adjacent to the Temple area. We do not subscribe to the critical dictum that this chapter, in any manner, is some kind of an addition to Nehemiah’s account. Nehemiah was the one who planned and engineered every portion of this remarkable building project. Only Nehemiah had the ability to have done such a thing.

“There were approximately forty sections of the wall, in variable lengths and proportions; and, as they are listed here, they appear in a succession to the left, that is, counterclockwise, beginning here at the sheep gate and finally ending at this same sheep gate.”(F1)

Verses 3-5


“And the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, and next unto them repaired Meshullum the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel, and next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but the nobles put not their neck to the work of their lord.”

The fish gate was the northern gate of the city, See map on page 138 by Merrill F. Unger.(F2)

“The Tekoites lived south of the city and were probably in sympathy with Sanballat, or afraid of reprisals if they openly identified themselves with Nehemiah.”(F3) This would account for the fact that “Their nobles put not their neck to the work.”

Verses 6-12


“And the old gate repaired Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullum the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereoff and set up the doors thereof, and the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, that appertained to the throne of the governor beyond the River. Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths. And next unto them repaired Hananiah one of the perfumers, and they fortified Jerusalem even unto the broad wall. And next unto them repaired Rephaih the son of Hur, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem. And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabneiah. Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab, repaired another portion, and the tower of the furnaces. And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.”

Critics attempting to make this chapter some kind of an interpolation claim that, “It is intent upon underscoring the role of the clergy in the rebuilding of the wall.”(F4) However, no such intention is evident in this chapter. On the other hand, the focus is not upon the clergy at all, but upon the fact that EVERYBODY engaged in the work. “All classes participated in the project, including priests (Nehemiah 3:1), goldsmiths and perfumers (Nehemiah 3:8), rulers of the city and even women (Nehemiah 3:12), also Levites (Nehemiah 3:17) and merchants (Nehemiah 3:32).”(F5) Where is there any emphasis on the clergy in all that?

Not merely the population of Jerusalem engaged in this project, but their fellow-countrymen who lived throughout the area. “These included the men of Jericho (Nehemiah 3:2), the Tekoites (Nehemiah 3:5), the men of Gibeon and Mizpah (Nehemiah 3:7), the inhabitants of Zanoah (Nehemiah 3:13), those who lived in the district of Bethzur (Nehemiah 3:16), those in Keilah (Nehemiah 3:17), and the men of the Plain, i.e., the Jordan valley (Nehemiah 3:22).”(F6) Again, we must ask, “Where is there any special emphasis upon the clergy in this chapter”?

Another factor that ties this chapter irrevocably to the person of Nehemiah is the frequent mention of the great beams used for the doors of the various gates. Only Nehemiah had the king’s permission to bring these, presumably from the forest of Lebanon; and it was therefore the men directly obedient to the orders of Nehemiah who delivered these great timbers to the various locations. The fact of Nehemiah’s name not being mentioned in these verses is of no importance whatever.

Verses 13-14


“The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits of the wall unto the dung gate. “And the dung gate repaired Malchijah the son of Rechab, the ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof.”

Thousands of the Israelites worked on the walls, but only the leaders of the companies working on the various sections were named. Note that one group of workers build a thousand cubits of the wall (Nehemiah 3:13). That is fifteen hundred feet! The Rechabites also appear to have made their contribution, as may be indicated by the name of the ruler mentioned in Nehemiah 3:14.

The next section of the wall mentioned is that including the fountain gate, on the southeastern section of the city, where the walls were the most completely demolished. That accounts for the fact that the majority of the workers were employed there.

Verses 15-27


“And the fountain gate repaired Shellun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of the district of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall by the pool of Shelab by the king’s garden even unto the stairs that go down from the city of David. After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and unto the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty men. After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the district of Keilah, for his district. After him repaired their brethren, Bavvai the son of Henadad, the ruler of half the district of Keilah. And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another portion, over against the ascent to the armory at the turning of the wall. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired another portion, from the turning of the wall to the door of the house of Eliashib the High Priest. After him repaired Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz another portion, from the door of house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib. And after him repaired the priests, the men of the Plain. And after them repaired Benjamin and Hasshub over against their house. After them repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah beside his own house. After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another portion, from the house of Azariah unto the turning of the wall, and unto the corner. Palal the son of Uzai repaired over against the turning of the wall, and the tower that standeth out from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh repaired. (Now the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that standeth out.) After him, the Tekoites repaired another portion, over against the great tower that standeth out, and unto the wall of Ophel.”

It is significant that many of the prominent citizens of Jerusaelm, whose houses were near the wall, elected to repair that section of the wall that was beside their: houses. This is easily understood, because their own personal safety and security were thus procured and protected.

The exact locations and extent of each one of these various “repairs,” although unknown to us, and vigorously disputed as to details by special scholars in the topography of ancient Jerusalem, are nevertheless of little interest to present day Christians. The big point in all of this is simply that the total population of Judah and Jerusalem enthusiastically joined hands and hearts and re-fortified the ancient city. No doubt, those walls were finished, during the period when Sanballat and Tobiah were either sending someone, or going themselves to see Artaxerxes I in the hope of stopping it. Such a journey, round trip, would have taken at least six or eight months; and long prior to that, the walls were completed, the great gates rebuilt, the bolts and the bars put in place, and the city secured by the military. What a magnificent achievement!

Verses 28-32


“Above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house. After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his own house. And after him repaired Shemaiah the son of Shecanaiah, the keeper of the east gate. After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another portion. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber. After him repaired Malchijah one of the goldsmiths unto the house of the Nethinim, and of the merchants, over against the gate of Hammiphkad, and to the ascent of the corner. And between the ascent of the corner and the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.”

See the helpful map of Jerusalem (in 444 B.C.) on page 138 of the printed book.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Nehemiah 3". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/nehemiah-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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