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(1-32) The memorial of the builders: to succeeding generations of dwellers in Jerusalem a deeply interesting chapter. It contains also a very important topographical account of the ancient city, since repeatedly destroyed. But no amount of ingenuity will avail to remove every difficulty. The text is in some places defective. It must, further, be remembered that the record does not so much describe the process as sum up the result. Much of the work of the gates must have required time, but all is described here as if everything was finished at once.
(1) Then Eliashib.—The account begins with due honour to the high priest and the priesthood.
The sheep gate was in the neighbourhood of the priests’ quarter. Through it the victims passed for sacrifice, first being washed in the neighbouring pool of Bethesda. This being built, “they sanctified it,” as an earnest of the subsequent consecration of the entire wall. Their work and the sanctification of it extended to two towns near each other at the north-east corner.
(2) Next unto him.—At his hand, the customary phrase throughout the chapter, indicating the order of the building, which, however, involves some difficulty towards the close. The phrase, as first used, does honour to the high priest, who must be supposed to have presided only over the religious ceremonial.
The men of Jericho.—At the point, it will be observed, opposite their own city.
(3) The fish gate.—Through which fish entered from the Jordan and Galilee.
The sons of Hassenaah.—Contrary to custom, their names are not mentioned.
The locks thereof, and the bars thereof.—The crossbars thereof, and the catches thereof, the latter holding the former at the two ends. Similarly in several other verses.
(4) Repaired.—Literally, strengthened; as before it was built.
(5) The Tekoites.—This verse is remarkable, as introducing men of Tekoah, not mentioned among Zerubbabel’s Returned, who furnish the solitary instance of internal opposition to the building; and as terming the common work “the work of the Lord.” The ordinary people of the place, however, did double duty. (See Nehemiah 3:27.)
(6) The old gate.—Not mentioned elsewhere: probably that of Damascus; but (by a conjectural addition to the text,) it has been translated the gate of the old wall, as if distinguished from “the broad wall.”
(7) Unto the throne.—Unto the seat of the pechah of the whole district this side the Euphrates: his residence when he came to Jerusalem.
(8) And they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.—The word translated “fortified” means literally left, and this yields a good sense: they left Jerusalem untouched as far as a certain portion of the wall extended which needed no restoration. The gate of Ephraim was in this (see Nehemiah 12:38-39); and it is significant that nothing is said about the rebuilding of this important gate.
(9) The half part of Jerusalem.—Of the district belonging to Jerusalem.
(11) The other piece.—This expression occurs a few times when the repairers have been mentioned as having repaired a first piece. But it occurs several times when there is no such mention; and in these cases, as here, must mean only what the margin indicates, a second measure, in relation to what had just been referred to.
(12) He and his daughters.—Shallum was governor of the second half-district around Jerusalem; and it has been thought that the “daughters” here are the villages of the district. But needlessly: the women of Jerusalem might do voluntarily what as females they were not pressed to do.
(13) A thousand cubits.—Not so much “built” as “strengthened.” This comparatively large space—mentioned in round numbers—had probably suffered less damage, and therefore needed less repairing.
(14) The son of Rechab.—Not “a son,” as if it meant that he was a Rechabite.
Part of Beth-haccerem.—The district around that place.
(15) He covered it.—Similar to laid the beams in Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6.
The pool of Siloah.—Called before “the king’s pool,” which received its water as “sent” through a long subterranean conduit, and supplied the king’s gardens.
The stairs.—Down the steep sides of Ophel, of which traces are thought still to remain. From this point it is very hard to trace the exact course.
(16) The sepulchres of David.—Excavated on the western side of the Temple, and never yet traced.
The pool that was made.—This may have been the reservoir of Hezekiah (Isaiah 22:11); and “the house of the mighty” may have been the barracks of David’s elect troops (1 Chronicles 11:10).
(17) The Levites.—The circuit is coming round to the Temple.
Rehum the son of Bani.—The Levites were under him as a body.
In his part.—The other part of the Keilah district (now Kila) is in the next verse.
(19) At the turning of the wall.—Literally, the armoury of the corner: the north-west corner of the “city of David,” with its special wall.
(20) Earnestly repaired the other piece.—The reason of this man’s emulation in building near the high priest’s house does not appear.
(21) Another piece.—Meremoth added to his other labour the repair of the wall under this house.
(22) The men of the plain.—Priests dwelling in the Jordan valley, the “Kikkar” of Scripture.
(24) Unto the corner.—The north-eastern angle of the “city of David.”
(25) The tower which lieth out from the king’s high house.—Better, the high tower outlying from the king’s palace.
That was by the court of the prison.—The palace generally had its prison, and near this was the “prison-gate” of Nehemiah 12:39.
(26) The Nethinims dwelt in Ophel.—It has been proposed to insert “who” before dwelt (following the Syriac); but this is not necessary. Ophel was the long rounded spur running out south of the Temple, on the sides of which the ancient “temple servants” still dwelt, separated from others, on a tract of land reaching from the “water-gate toward the east” to the outlying tower of the king’s citadel in the west. Nothing is said of their part in the general labour.
(27) After them.—Literally, after him, referring to Pedaiah of Nehemiah 3:25.
(28) From above the horse gate.—This gate was between the Temple and the palace, and the space from the wall of Ophel seems not to have needed repair.
(29) Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah.—The name in 1 Chronicles 3:22 of a descendant of David.
(31) The place of the Nethinims.—Rather, the house.
And of the merchants.—Possibly there is some connection between the traders, who brought their doves and so forth for the worshippers, and the Nethinim to whoso house or depôt they brought them. Near the sheep gate was the “going up of the corner,” or an ascent to the gate Miphkad, about which nothing is known.
(32) Unto the sheep gate.—It appears that the “goldsmiths and the merchants” undertook the small space necessary to complete the circuit.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29