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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 3

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

Verses 1-32


Nehemiah 3

The servant has been prepared, his way made plain, and now we have the record of the work. This special work, as we have seen is to bring about a revival, in the midst of this returned remnant, by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and setting up the gates.

To rebuild the walls and set up the gates has its answer in our day in the maintenance of the holiness of God's house through separation from iniquity and vessels to dishonour, and the godly care which gives free access to the privileges of God's house to all the people of God who come with integrity. Such godly care may indeed, at times, involve disciplinary action of which the gate, in Old Testament days was often the symbol.

The details recorded of the work In Nehemiah's day are rich with instruction for those who, in our day, desire to answer to God's mind for His people as to separation from evil, and the maintenance of holiness.

First it is noticeable that, from the greatest to the least, all were united in this particular work. Priests, nobles, and common people, were of one mind to build the walls and set up the gates. Those engaged in the work may occupy very varied social positions, some are "nobles," and some common people. Their daily callings may be very different - some are goldsmiths, some apothecaries, and others merchants (8, 31, 32).

Their individual work in the service of the Lord may be different, for some are priests and some Levites. But whatever their social position, their secular calling, or their special service for the Lord, all were of one mind and one purpose in building the walls and setting up the gates, and by this unanimity, as one has said, "they confessed their need of separation from the nations around and took measures to secure it."

And for those to-day, who have been delivered from the corrupt systems of men in order to maintain the truth of the house of God, it will bring about a revival of blessing if, as led by the Spirit of God, and in obedience to the word of God, they are united in seeking to maintain separation from the religious corruption of Christendom, and take measures to secure it by means of the walls and the gates.

This unity of mind and activity for such an end are sure marks of a work of the Spirit of God. And being such, the Lord shows His special approval by recording the names, and families, engaged in a work that so greatly concerns the honour of His name and the blessing of His people.

But while all engaged in this work have honourable mention, yet it is to be noticed that some are distinguished in the work above others. Of Baruch we read that he not only repaired the wall but he did so "earnestly" (20).

Then some are distinguished for the quantity of their work. Of "Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah" we read that they not only set up "the valley gate" but they also built "a thousand cubits of the wall" (13). The Tekoites not only repaired a piece of wall, following Zadok's work, but later we are told that they repaired "another piece" (5, 27). And of others we read that they "repaired a second piece" (11, 19, 30, N. Tr).

Moreover some are distinguished for the quality of their work, for God makes a difference between "quantity" and "quality." The quantity of the work accomplished by Eliashib and his brethren exceeds that of the sons of Hassenaah, for whereas the priestly company built a gate and apparently a considerable portion of the wall, the sons of Hassenaah only set up a gate. Nevertheless the quality of the work of the sons of Hassenaah exceeds that of the high priest and his brethren, for they not only built the gate, but they laid the beams thereof, and secured it with locks and bars. Such details are not recorded of the high priest's gate.

Again others are distinguished for their personal faithfulness in the work. They built over against their own houses (10, 23, 28, 29). God thus marks out for special approval those who are careful to maintain separation within the sphere of their own responsibility.

Furthermore one family is distinguished by the mention of the daughters. Shallum, a ruler, repaired the wall "he and his daughters." This then was a work in which women could rightly engage, and receive honourable mention for so doing (12).

But if the Lord stamps with his approval the work of these different labourers, there are a few things of which the Lord disapproves, and they are recorded for our warning. Of the nobles of the Tekoites we read that they "put not their necks to the work of their Lord." The stubborn neck that will not bow, speaks of the pride that governs the heart. They shrink from a path that makes nothing of man and his self-importance. It is ever thus, those who stand well in the religious world, are not careful to maintain the walls of separation.

Then we are told with careful detail that others built in front of the house of Eliashib, one man building to the door of his house, and another man continuing the work from his door (20, 21). The high priest was indifferent to his own house and put no locks and bars to secure the gate that he erected. As far as he was concerned he left his house and his gate exposed to the enemy.

And for all these distinctions - these approvals and disapprovals - there are causes and reasons in the lives of the approved and disapproved, not apparent at the moment but to be disclosed in the days to come, either now or hereafter. For whatever the goodness of God to the people, His government takes its sure and irrevocable course. There is ever a reason that lies behind men's actions, though cause and effect may be widely sundered. There is a reason for the significant omission of the locks and bars from Eliashib's gate, and in the near future of the story it is disclosed for our profit. We shall learn that Eliashib the priest is allied with Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat the Horonite. His own house not being in order he cannot build the wall over against it. Moreover he had prepared a great chamber for Tobiah in the house of the Lord, little wonder then that he put no locks or bars on his gate, for it is obvious that if he provides a chamber within for the enemy without, he must also leave the way free for the enemy to have access to the chamber. Thus it comes to pass that Eliashib, the one who should have walked with God in peace and equity is a cause of stumbling and corruption ( Mal_2:16 ). He makes a profession of separation by building the gate and the wall, to keep in with a separate people, but he is careful to put no locks or bars on his gate, to keep in with the man of the corrupt and mixed religion of Samaria, and leave room for the access of such among the people of God.

Alas amongst those who have been set free from men's systems in these last days, there have not been wanting leaders, who have made a fair profession of maintaining the walls and gates, and yet because of their links with the religious world, have been compelled to leave their gate unsecured. They may plead love and largeness of heart, and the desire to avoid sectarianism, but in result their course, if allowed to go on unchecked, leads to the further weakening of God's people by gradually linking them up with the religious corruptions of Christendom.

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Nehemiah 3". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/nehemiah-3.html. 1832.
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