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And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
It came to pass in the month Nisan. This was nearly four months after he had learned the desolate and ruinous state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:1). The reasons of so long a delay cannot be ascertained.
I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Xenophon has particularly remarked the polished and graceful manner in which the cup-bearers of the Median, and consequently the Persian, monarchs performed their duty of presenting the wine to their royal master. Having washed the cup in the king's presence, and poured into their left hand a little of the wine, which they drank off in his presence, they then handed the cup to him, not grasped, but lightly held with the tips of their thumb and fingers. This description has received some curious illustrations from the monuments of Assyria and Persia, on which the cup-bearers are frequently represented in the act of handing wine to the king.
Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
The king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad? It was deemed highly unbecoming to appear in the royal presence with any weeds or signs of sorrow (Esther 4:2), and hence, it was no wonder that the king was struck with the dejected air of his cup-bearer; while that attendant, on his part, felt his agitation increased by his deep anxiety about the issue of the conversation so abruptly begun. But the piety and intense earnestness of the man immediately restored him to calm self-possession, and enabled him to communicate, first, the cause of his sadness, and, next, the patriotic wish of his heart to be the honoured instrument of reviving the ancient glory of the city of his fathers.
And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? No JFB commentary on these verses.
And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
The queen also sitting by him. Since the Persian monarchs did not admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably Esther, whose presence would tend greatly to embolden Nehemiah in stating his request; and through her influence, powerfully exerted, it may be supposed, also by her sympathy with the patriotic design, his petition was granted, to go as deputy-governor of Judea, accompanied by a military guard, and invested with full powers to obtain materials for the building in Jerusalem, as well as to get all requisite aid in promoting his enterprise.
I set him a time. Considering the great despatch made in raising the walls, it is probable that this leave of absence was limited at first to a year or six months, after which he returned to his duties in Shushan. The circumstance of fixing a set time for his return, as well as entrusting so important a work as the re-fortification of Jerusalem to his care, proves the high favour and confidence Nehemiah enjoyed at the Persian court, and the great estimation in which his services were held. At a later period he received a new commission for the better settlement of the affairs of Judea, and remained governor of that province for twelve years (Nehemiah 5:14).
Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
Let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river. The Persian empire at this time was of vast extent, reaching from the Indus to the Mediterranean, and the Euphrates was considered as naturally dividing it into two parts, eastern and western (see Ezra 5:3-4).
And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, [ habiyraah (H1002)] - of the fortress, which was close to the temple. This word was changed into the Greek Baris, which, as we learn from Josephus, was the name of the tower, afterward called Antonia, on the north side of the temple area ('Jewish Wars,' b. 5:, ch. 5:, sec. 8).
According to the good hand of my God upon me. The piety of Nehemiah appears in every circumstance. The conception of this patriotic design, the favourable disposition of the king, and the success of the undertaking, are all ascribed to God.
Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
Sanballat the Horonite. Horonaim being a town in Moab, this person, it is probable, was a Moabite.
Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite. The term used indicates him to have been a freed slave elevated to some official dignity. These were district magistrates under the government of the satrap of Syria; and they seem to have been leaders of the Samaritan faction.
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. Deeply affected with the desolations of Jerusalem, and uncertain what course to follow, he remained three days before informing any one of the object of his mission, and at the end of the third day, accompanied with a few attendants, he made, under covert of night, a secret survey of the walls and gates.
And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
I went out by night by the gate of the valley - i:e., the Jaffa gate, near the tower of Hippicus.
Even before the dragon well - i:e., fountain on the opposite side of the valley, called "the dragon well," according to conjecture, from the spout being in the form of a dragon-mouth, or from the water meandering through the valley in a serpentine course. [The Septuagint calls it: stoma peegees toon sukoon, mouth of the fountain of figs.] The Syriac designates it, 'the fountain of the hills;' and the Arabic, 'the torrent.'
And to the dung port - the gate on the east of the city, through which there ran a common sewer to the brook Kidron and the valley of Hinnom.
Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.
Then - i:e., after having passed through the gate of the Essenes.
I went on to the gate of the fountain - i:e., Siloah, from which turning round the fount of Ophel.
To the king's pool ... no place for the beast that was under me to pass - i:e., by the sides of this pool-Solomon's-there being water in the pool, and too much rubbish about it to permit the passage of the beast.
Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.
Then went I up ... by the brook - i:e., Kidron.
And entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. The gate leading to the valley of Jehoshaphat, east of the city. He went out by this gate, and having made the circuit of the city, went in by it again (Barclay's 'City or the Great King').
And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.
The rulers knew not. The following day, having assembled the elders, Nehemiah produced his commission, and exhorted them to assist in the work.
Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.
Let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, [ chowmat (H2346)] - the walls of a city (Nehemiah 2:8; Isa. 20:10; Let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, [ chowmat (H2346)] - the walls of a city (Nehemiah 2:8; Isa. 20:10; Isaiah 36:11-12).
That we be no more a reproach, [ cherpaah (H2781)] - scorn, opprobrium (Job 16:10; Psalms 39:9; Psalms 79:12). But here it denotes the object of reproach (Psalms 22:7; Joel 2:17-19), as the returned exiles were the butte of Sanballat and his associates (Nehemiah 4:4; Nehemiah 5:13; Zephaniah 2:8). The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his address and example, so revived their drooping spirits, that they resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did, despite of the bitter taunts and scoffing ridicule of some influential men.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
Will ye rebel against the king? - i:e., the king of Babylon, the Persian monarch, to whom, it would seem, Moab, as well as Judea, was at that time tributary.
Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
The God of heaven - (see the note at Ezra 1:2.)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter