(1) Nisan.—The old Abib, the first month of the Jewish year, following the vernal equinox. As we are still in the twentieth year of the king, the beginning of his reign must be dated before Chisleu. The record adopts Persian dates, and the two months fell in one year.
(1-8) Nehemiah’s appeal to the king.
(2) Then I was very sore afraid.—Waiting on Providence, Nehemiah had discharged his duties for three months without being sad in the king’s presence; but on this day his sorrow could not be repressed. His fear sprang from the king’s abrupt inquiry. A sad countenance was never tolerated in the royal presence; and, though Artaxerxes was of a milder character than any other Persian monarch, the tone of his question showed that in this respect he was not an exception.
(3) Nehemiah’s family was of Jerusalem. He does not as yet betray to the king the deepest desire of his heart, but simply refers to the desecration of his fathers’ sepulchres, an appeal which had great force with the Persians, who respected the tomb.
(4) So I prayed to the God of heaven.—The first note of that habit of ejaculatory prayer which is a characteristic of this book.
(6) The queen also sitting by him.—Probably Damaspia, the one legitimate queen: Shegal, as in Ps., where, however, she stands as in the presenco of her Divine-human Lord. This was not a public feast, as in that case the queen would not be present (Esther 1:9-12).
I set him a time.—Whatever that was, circumstances afterwards prolonged it.
(7) To the governors beyond the river.—Between the Euphrates and Susa protection was not needed.
(8) Keeper of the king’s forest.—Asaph, a Jew, was keeper of an artificial park or pleasure ground near Jerusalem: the Persian pardes, whence our “Paradise.” It was well planted with trees, as timber was to be supplied from it “for the gates of the palace,” rather the fortress, which protected “the house,” or temple, and was known in Roman times as Antonia; also for the city walls; also “for the house that I shall enter into,” that is, Nehemiah’s own house, for his being appointed governor is pre-supposed.
(9-11) His journey to Jerusalem, occupying some three months, and safe under good escort, is passed over in the narrative, as Ezra’s had been. It is mentioned, however, that Sanballat, one of the “governors,” was roused to hostility. After the laborious travelling Nehemiah rested three days, to review the past and prepare for the future.
(10) Sanballat the Horonite.—Satrap of Samaria under the Persians, whose secretary or minister was “Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite.” Sanballat was from one of the Beth-horons, which had been in Ephraim, and were now in the kingdom of Samaria. His name is seemingly Babylonian, while that of Tobiah is Hebrew. The revival of Jerusalem would be a blow to the recent ascendency of Samaria.
(11) Three days.—For rest and devotion, after the example of Ezra.
(12-18) Nehemiah’s cautious preliminaries.
(13) The gate of the valley, opening on Hinnom, to the south of the city. Nehemiah passed by “the dragon well,” nowhere else mentioned, and not now to be traced, and surveyed the ruins from the “dung port,” whence offal was taken to the valley of Hinnom.
(14) The gate of the fountain of Siloah (Nehemiah 3:15), called also “the king’s pool.”
(15) By the gate of the valley, and so returned.—The itineration seems to have completed the circuit of the walls.
(16) The rest that did the work, that is, afterwards. The caution of this procedure is justified by subsequent events: the city teemed with elements of danger. The nobles and rulers were possessed of no substantial repressive authority.
(17) Then.—There is no note of time. When his plans were matured, Nehemiah made an earnest appeal to their patriotism.
(18) Then I told them.—Nehemiah relates his providential call, with the king’s commission, and the people were thoroughly enlisted in the good cause.
(19) Geshem the Arabian.—This name completes the triumvirate of the leaders of the opposition to the mission of Nehemiah. They were not independent chieftains: Tobiah was Sanballat’s servant and counsellor, while Geshem was probably the leader of an Arabian company mostly in his service. The account of their contemptuous opposition is given in a few touches, as is the contempt with which it was met They charged Nehemiah with rebellion, as afterwards, in chapter .
(20) He will prosper us.—The reply is a defiance in the name of the God of heaven. The closing words imply that, as in the days of Zerubbabel, the Samaritan enemies desired really to have their share in the undertaking. Nehemiah makes Zerubbabel’s answer, but strengthens it; they had nothing in common with Jerusalem, not even a place in its memorials, save one of shame.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany