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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- Nehemiah

by Johann Peter Lange


Chancellor Of The University Of New York.
§ 1. The Book And Its Contents

The Book of Nehemiah holds a conspicuous place in the sacred canon as the last historic composition of the ante-christian period. With the exception of the prophecy of Malachi, it gives us the last clear look at the Jewish state before it reappears in the bright light of the gospels. We see the returned people—a small remnant of the children of Jacob—continuing the national line in the ancestral land toward the Messiah, with holy vitality enough (as it were) for this one purpose, but with a general mortification existing throughout the nation. The ark of the covenant was gone, the Shechinah no longer illuminated the holy of holies, the Urim and Thummim had long ceased, the bulk of the people were lost in captivity from Armenia to Elam, and Israel, instead of being an independent commonwealth, with a mighty and magnificent capital, had become a petty province of Persia, while Jerusalem was but a half-rebuilt ruin. Yet, with all this, prophets were still vouchsafed to the Abrahamic line. Haggai and Zechariah had by the use of their prophetic power certified the special presence of Jehovah at the building of the second temple, and Malachi, more than a century later, urged the people to renewed spirituality in the name of the Lord. From Nehemiah 6:10; Nehemiah 6:12; Nehemiah 6:14, we are led to believe that between Haggai and Malachi many prophets appeared before returned Israel, although some of them prostituted their divine gift to low and false ends.

This twilight age of Jewry is lighted up by the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah as the evening is often re-illuminated by the absent sun’s reflection upon a cloud high in the zenith. They give us an inlook into the style of life assumed by the nation in its lingering decadence. We enter the holy city—we see and hear the men—we note their tendencies, and mark the old, strange mingling of patriotism and devotion with a philoxeny that was destructive of both. The narratives bring us into close contact with the people. Nehemiah’s words are simple, betraying not the least effort of the rhetorician, but their very homeliness makes the scenes described most life-like. We see throughout the writing of an honest, earnest man,—and through him the history closes with a sublime dignity.

The book of Nehemiah was included by the old Jews with the book of Ezra, and the latter name was given to the two. In the Vulgate the book of Ezra appears as the first book of Esdras, and the book of Nehemiah as the second book of Esdras. The Geneva Bible introduced our present nomenclature, and thus made the Apocryphal third and fourth books of Esdras to be numbered as the first and second.
The language is a pure Hebrew, with here and there such an Aramaism as חׇּבַל in the sense of “deal corruptly” (Nehemiah 1:7), מִדָּה in the sense of “tribute” (Nehemiah 5:4), and מָלַךְ in the sense of “consult.” This book, Ezra and the Chronicles offer to us the same general linguistic appearance. Such ἄπαξ λεγόμενα as יָגִיפוּ (Nehemiah 7:3) and תַּהֲלֻכֹת (Nehemiah 12:31) are the peculiarities of the individual writer, and no marks of a different period.

The main subject of the book is the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, which, in the largest sense, if we include the dedication of the walls and the events occurring during the building, occupies nearly ten chapters of the thirteen which compose the book, namely, Nehemiah 3:0Nehemiah 12:43. Previous to the wall-building we have the account of Nehemiah’s concern for the holy city, his earnest prayer for the divine guidance, his request of the king of Persia, his journey (by royal permission and order) to Jerusalem as its governor, his careful examination of the ruined walls, his encouragement of the people to rebuild them and their consent, and his bold front against the neighboring enemies of the Jews. This preliminary narrative occupies the first two chapters. We may divide the next ten chapters regarding the wall-building and the dedication into—(1) The apportionment of the work, Nehemiah 3:0; (2) The opposition from enemies without, Nehemiah 4:0; (3) The hindrance from domestic dissensions, Nehemiah 5:0; (4) The opposition by combination between the outer enemies and their Jewish allies. The wall finished, Nehemiah 6:0; (5) The ordering of the city. To this end the genealogies are examined, Nehemiah 7:0. (6) Religious services follow, to wit: the public reading of the law by Ezra and his assistants. Preparation for and keeping the feast of tabernacles, Nehemiah 8:0; (7) Extraordinary fast with confession, Nehemiah 9:0; (8) A covenant sealed touching obedience to the law, separation from foreigners, observation of the Sabbath days and years, and support of the temple service, Nehemiah 10:0; (9) The settlement of the families in the holy city and the other towns, Nehemiah 11:0; (10) A preliminary list of priests and Levites. The dedication of the wall, Nehemiah 12:1-43.

The remainder of the book, viz., Nehemiah 12:44Nehemiah 13:0, contains an account of the appointment of officers over the treasures, and the ordering of the singers and porters, the thorough separation of Israel from the strangers, according to the law, and lastly (from Nehemiah 13:4), an account of Nehemiah’s second visit to Jerusalem, and his stern dealing with Eliashib’s family for their alliances with Sanballat and Tobiah, together with his other resolute measures of reform. (See the scheme following.)

§ 2. the author and his time

That Nehemiah is the author of the book, all agree. Much of it is written in the first person, and claims thus to be the writing of Nehemiah himself. But while it is agreed that Nehemiah is the author of the book, yet some learned commentators, such as Archdeacon Hervey, pronounce a large part of the book to have been inserted by other (though authorized) hands. From Nehemiah 7:6 to Nehemiah 12:26 inclusive the matter is supposed to be inserted, as also the passage Nehemiah 12:44-47. Keil, on the other hand, stoutly argues for Nehemiah’s authorship throughout. The truth is probably between these extremes. The genealogy in Nehemiah 7:6-73 (virtually the same as that in Ezra 2:1-70) is undoubtedly an inserted public document,data> and in Nehemiah 7:70 b regarding his own (the Tirshatha’s) action in reference to matters alluded to in, the older document.1 So the record in Nehemiah 12:1-26 is evidently an insertion, giving lists of priests and Levites from Zerubbabel’s day to the time of Alexander the Great (Jaddua in Nehemiah 7:11; Nehemiah 7:22), a century after Nehemiah. Keil’s attempt to explain away this latter is labored and unsatisfactory. The rest of the supposed inserted portion we take to be Nehemiah’s own. The fact that Nehemiah does not there speak in the first person only parallels his book with that of Daniel, where the first person and the third person are interchangeably used. Ezra’s prominence in this part of the narrative is simply caused by Ezra’s priestly duties requiring him to be the prominent figure,2 and only exhibits Nehemiah’s modesty in the record. The resemblance to Ezra’s style and the different construction of the prayer in Nehemiah 9:0 from that in Nehemiah 1:0 are arguments of a very frail character. The general likeness of Nehemiah 11:3-36 and 1 Chronicles 9:2-34 makes nothing against Nehemiah’s authorship of that portion. There is no good reason for denying a regular chronological sequence in this part of the book in perfect consonance with the rest, and we cannot but consider the attempts to throw doubt here on Nehemiah’s authorship as an effort of the destructive criticism that is so headlong and heedless in its efforts. Nehemiah 3:0 (Heb. נְחֶמְיָה, Nehemyah, “compassion of Jehovah”) was of the tribe of Judah, and probably of the royal stock. The expressions in Nehemiah 1:6; Nehemiah 2:5, together with his special activity in the matter of re-establishing Jerusalem, and his acceptability by his countrymen, and also his high-position at the Persian court, all seem to suggest this fact of Nehemiah’s birth. His father was Hachaliah, of whom we know nothing. The name Nehemiah was probably a common one. Many have supposed that Nehemiah was a priest, but there is no more satisfactory ground for such a notion than the occurrence of his name, as Tirshatha, before the names of the priests in Nehemiah 10:1. He was cup-bearer to Artaxerxes (Heb. אַוְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא‍, Artahshasta), king of Persia. This position was a very high one at court, and brought him into close and intimate relations with the monarch, whence came his ability (when his soul was stirred for Jerusalem) to carry out his measures of aid and reform for his beloved ancestral country. His character appears to us as faultless. Patriotism, piety, prudence, perseverance, probity and courage equally marked his administration of affairs. He renounced the luxuries of the Persian court for the hardships of what might almost be called a primitive and frontier life, in order to save his country from physical and moral ruin; in all his varied trials he looked up to the guidance and protection of his God; he used methods with careful discrimination, he pursued his determined course unflinchingly, he set an example of self-abnegation and liberal dealing, and met the enemies without and within the nation with equal firmness and success. The time in which Nehemiah flourished was clearly that of Artaxerxes I. (Longimanus). This king’s 32d year is mentioned in Nehemiah 13:6. Only three kings of Persia had a 32d year in their reigns—Darius I. (Hystaspis), Artaxerxes I. (Longimanus), and Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon). Now this Artaxerxes could not be Darius, for in Ezra 6:14 the two names are contrasted, as of different monarchs. Whoever the Artaxerxes may be there, his name in that connection shows that Darius was not known as Artaxerxes. The date of Artaxerxes II. is far too late for the chronological position of Eliashib, as high priest. We are therefore shut up to Artaxerxes I. as the monarch mentioned by Nehemiah. Josephus calls the king Xerxes, but the chronology of Joseph is so wretchedly corrupt in the matter of Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat, etc., that it is waste time to give him attention.4

In Artaxerxes I.’s time Persia was in its zenith of splendor and power, although the elements of decay were already beginning to work in the empire. Artaxerxes had come to the throne through the assassination of his father, Xerxes, by the chief of the guard, Artabanus. At the instigation of Artabanus, he put his brother Darius to death as the murderer of his father, but on discovering the designs of Artabanus against himself, he slew the double traitor. He subdued a revolt headed by his brother Hystaspes, reduced rebellious Egypt, and terminated the long hostilities with Greece by the peace of Callias. The empire then enjoyed a period of quiet, which may be regarded as the culminating point of its glory, during which the events of Nehemiah’s history occurred.
The name Artaxerxes is the Greek and Artahshasta is the Hebrew for the old Persian Artakhshatra from Arta (very) and Khshatra (powerful). Herodotus translates it μέγα�. Khshatra is allied to the Khshatram (empire) of the Behistun inscription (Colossians 1:0. Par 9, 11, 12, 13, 14) and to Khshayathiya (king). The second element of the name is not identical with the name Xerxes, which is in old Persian Khshayarsha.

§3. Scheme Of The Book

I. Before the wall-building (Nehemiah 1:2).

1. Nehemiah’s sadness (Nehemiah 1:0).

2. Nehemiah’s request of the king (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

3. Nehemiah’s journey (Nehemiah 2:9-11).

4. Nehemiah’s inspection and counsel (Nehemiah 2:12-20).

II. The wall-building (Nehemiah 3:1 to Nehemiah 12:43).

1. The stations (Nehemiah 3:0).

2. The opposition from without (Nehemiah 4:0).

3. The opposition from within (Nehemiah 5:0).

4. The craft used by the enemies (Nehemiah 6:0).

5. The ordering of the city (Nehemiah 7:1-4).

6. The genealogy (Nehemiah 7:5-73).

7. The law-reading on the first of Tisri (Nehemiah 8:1-12).

8. The preparations for the feast of tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:13-16).

9. The feast of tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:17-18).

10. The extraordinary fast (Nehemiah 9:10).

11. The distribution of inhabitants (Nehemiah 11:0).

12. The Levitical Genealogy (Nehemiah 12:1-26).

13. The dedication of the walls (Nehemiah 12:27-43).

III. After the wall building.

1. Levitical apportionments (Nehemiah 12:44-47).

2. The separation of the Erev (mixed multitude—Nehemiah 13:1-3).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

3. Nehemiah’s reforms twelve years later (Nehemiah 13:4-31).


1. The Sheep-Gate.—Heb. שַׁעַר הַצּאֹך. LXX. ἡ πύλη ἡ προβατική. It is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. It is probably the same as ἡ προβατική of John 5:2. In Nehemiah it is mentioned as near to the tower of Meah, and that is near the tower of Hananeel. From the fact that it seems to have had no locks and bars (see Nehemiah 3:1, and comp. Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 3:13-15), we conjecture that it led directly into the temple-precinct, where a Levitical guard was always present in place of locks and bars. Its name was doubtless given because through it the flocks were driven for the sacrifices, or because they were kept in pens by this gate. The present St. Stephen’s gate is usually supposed to mark the site of the sheep-gate, and if so, the Bethesda pool (John 5:2) would be the Birket Israil, which is now satisfactorily proved not to be a moat. Eusebius describes Bethesda as two pools, and the Bordeaux pilgrim (about the same time) speaks of it as twin fish-pools. The Birket Israil may have been divided into two by a transverse wall in their day, or they may have counted the Birket Hammam Sitti Mariam, just north of the St. Stephen’s gate and outside the walls, as one of the two pools; or, again, they may have intended by Bethesda the twin-pools under the convent of the Sisters of Sion near the north-west corner of the Haram, the position defended by Mr. Geo. Williams. The account in Nehemiah makes it necessary to place the sheep-gate somewhere in the region of the St. Stephen’s gate; but if our argument concerning the absence of locks and bars is worth anything, we must put the gate to the south of Birket Israil. To add to this necessity, we may doubt if the city wall extended further north than the temple-precinct corner, until long after Nehemiah’s day, when Agrippa built the third wall. If the Fountain of the Virgin is Bethesda, as Dr. Robinson thinks, then the προβατική of John 5:2 is another gate than that of Nehemiah, situated on Ophel.

On the whole, we are inclined to place the Sheep-Gate in the north wall of the temple-precinct, and in close neighborhood to the Birket Israil. In that case the two towers of Meah and Hananeel would be parts of the old Baris or fortification north of the temple, which afterward became altered and enlarged into Antonia.

2. The Fish-Gate.—Heb. שַׁעַר הַדָּגִים.—LXX. ἡ πύλη ἡ ἰχθυηρὰ (ἰχθυρὰ, Nehemiah 12:39 : ἰχθυικὰ, 2 Chronicles 33:14; in Zephaniah 1:10, it is πύλη�, gate of the stabbers, probably הרגים being read for הדגים). It is mentioned in ll. cc. It was between the sheep-gate and the old gate, as we see from the Nehemiah passages. The Zephaniah passage does not help us. The passage in 2 Chronicles seems to describe the building of the second wall (comp. Joseph, Nehemiah 5:4; Nehemiah 5:2) by Manasseh (“on the west to Gihon in the valley, and on the east to the entering in at the fish-gate”). If so, it would put the fish-gate near the Baris, where that wall ended (Jos. l. c .).

3. The Old Gate.—Heb. שַׁעַר הַיְשָׁנָה. LXX. ἡ πύλη ’Ιασαναὶ. Keil insists that הַיְשָׁנָה is genitive, and follows Arnold in supplying חוֹמָה, thus calling it “the gate of the old wall.” Schultz says: “the gate of the old town.” If we take it as a genitive, it may be “the gate of Jeshanah,” a name given because the road through it led to Jeshanah in Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13:19), mentioned by Joseph. Antiq. 8, 11, 3, and 14, 15, 12. The LXX. seem to have taken this view. But it need not be a genitive, as we have in Isaiah 14:31 הֵלִילִי שַׁעַר (the שַעַר being treated as feminine) and שַעַר הַפַּנִימִית (Ezekiel 8:3).

We are inclined to identify this gate with the “corner gate” of Zechariah 14:10 and Jeremiah 31:38 (שַׁעַר הַכִנָה or שַעַי הַפִּנִּים), and so to let it mark the north-east corner of the city-wall. The cited passages in Zechariah and Jeremiah seem to put the gate in relation with the tower of Hananeel. If the Fish-gate were close to that tower, then it would be very natural to mention the Old Gate or Corner Gate next to the tower, in describing a section of the wall. In 2 Kings 14:13 the “corner gate” is only four hundred cubits from the gate of Ephraim, but in which direction we cannot tell. If eastward, then it was very likely the same as the Old Gate; but if westward, then the gate of Ephraim, and the corner-gate may be unmentioned in Nehemiah’s account of the rebuilding, because belonging to the undestroyed portion of the wall on the western end of the north wall, which part many suppose is the “broad wall” of Nehemiah. Of course in this case, the corner gate and the old gate are different gates. We can, at any rate, quite confidently claim that the corner-gate was at either the north-east or the north-west corner of the city.

4. The Valley-Gate.—Heb. שַעַר הַגַּיְא.—LXX. ἡ πύλη τῆς φάραγγος. In Nehemiah 2:13 ἡ πύλη τοῦ Γωληλὰ (by joining גַיְא and לַיְלָה as one word). This gate (mentioned in Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 2:15; Nehemiah 3:13; 2 Chronicles 26:9) was evidently north of the dragon-well (עֵין התַּגִּין), wherever that was. If the Birket Sultan is the Dragon well (which is very doubtful), we may put the valley gate about a thousand feet south of the present Jaffa Gate. The “tower of the furnaces” would correspond to the north-east tower of the present citadel, perhaps is identical with this very ancient piece of masonry. It does not seem possible by any scheme to identify the valley-gate with the Gate Gennath of Josephus, for that must have been east of the western starting-point of the first wall, where the name of valley-gate would have been a misnomer. If the valley-gate were just north of the northern end of the Birket Sultan, the Dung-gate would come exactly at the southern extremity of Zion, over the deep ravine of Hinnom, The name of valley-gate was doubtless derived from the broad and deep Wady er Rababi (Hinnom), out to which it led.

The most natural point for a gate on this side the city is where the present Jaffa Gate is. If we put the Valley-gate there, then the Dung-gate will come opposite the Birket Sultan.
5. The Dung-Gate.—Heb. שַעַר הָאַשְפֹּת. In Nehemiah 3:13, שַעַר הָשְפֹת. LXX. ἡ πύλη τῆς κοπρίας. The Heb. is not so strong a word as the Greek, and may be rendered Rubbish-gate.5 This gate was a thousand cubits from the Valley-gate (Nehemiah 3:13). The extreme southern point of Zion would be a very natural place, from which to empty rubbish down into the deep valley below. Here we might place the Dung-gate, making it the same as the (later) Gate of the Essenes. With Robinson, we would consider the Bethso of Josephus the Heb. בֵּית צוֹאָה or Dung-place. The Dung-gate, however, must be opposite the Birket Sultan, if the Valley-gate is placed at the present Jaffa Gate. See the preceding note.

6. The Fountain-gate.—Heb. שַעַר הָעַיִן. LXX. ἡ πύλη τῆς πηγῆς. In Nehemiah 2:14 ἡ πύλη τοῦ Αῒν (untranslated). In Nehemiah 12:37 τοῦ αἰνεῖν by a gross error. That this was close to the pool of Siloam (the “King’s pool” of Nehemiah 2:14, the “pool of Siloah by the king’s garden,” comp. Nehemiah 3:15), there can be no doubt. In 2 Kings 25:4 it is called “the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden.” It was a gate down in the Tyropœon Valley, and at a corner, as the expression in 2 Kings 25:4 indicates.

7. The Water-gate.—Heb. שַעַר הַמַּיִם. LXX. ἡ πύλη τοῦ ὕδατος. At this gate one procession halted at the dedication-service, while the other halted at the Prison-gate (Nehemiah 12:37; Nehemiah 12:39). This would place the Water-gate at the south of the temple, and the Prison-gate at the north of the temple. They could scarcely have been in the city-wall, but were probably gates leading from the inner temple-enclosure to the outer. The water-gate may have derived its name from its leading to the remarkable cisterns lately discovered by Capt. Warren south of the Haram. It will be noticed that nothing is said of rebuilding either of these gates. We would put the Water-gate at the southern limit of the “mountain of the house,” near the present entrance to El-Aksa. This accords with the Talmud, Mid. 2, 6.

8. The Prison-Gate.—Heb. שַעַר הַמַּטָּרָה. This is referred to in the last section. It was probably the same as the שַעַר הַמִּפְקָד of Nehemiah 3:31 (i.e. gate of visitation of punishment).

If we follow the course of the second dedicative company (Nehemiah 12:38-39), we are constrained to put this gate between the sheep-gate and the temple, probably at the north limit of the “mountain of the house.” But in Nehemiah 3:25 we find the “court of the prison” mentioned, as in Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 33:1; Jeremiah 37:21. This was attached to the king’s palace, and was therefore at the south of the Haram. This prison, into which Jeremiah was cast, was probably the State-prison, while another prison, near the “prison-gate” (whence it derived its name), was a temple-prison, for offenders against the worship.

9. The Gate of Ephraim.—Heb. שַעַר אֶפְרַיִם. LXX. ἡ πύλη ’Εφραὶμ. Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39; 2 Kings 14:13. This gate was four hundred cubits from the corner-gate (wherever that was), and had an open square near it like that at the water-gate. It was also between the broad wall and the old gate. So much the cited passages show. It doubless derived its name from the fact that the main northern road to the Ephraimite country led through it. For a like reason it may have been called the “gate of Benjamin” (Jeremiah 37:13; Zechariah 14:10), the Benjamite country lying north of the city, and the road through this gate leading to its chief cities. This gate was not rebuilt by Nehemiah, because, probably, it was in the “broad wall” (i.e., as Keil and others hold, in that 400 cubits of wall which Joash broke down, and which Uzziah rebuilt in a stronger manner. 2 Chronicles 26:9). It probably coincided with the modern Damascus Gate, at which ancient substructions are found.

10. The first Gate. Heb. שַעַר הָרִאשׁוֹן LXX. ἡ πύλη ἡ πρώτη. (Zechariah 14:10). From this only mention of this gate, we would naturally place it between Benjamin’s gate and the corner gate. If the Old Gate and Corner Gate are the same, then we should have to suppose an important gate on the north of the city not elsewhere mentioned. But may not the peculiar phraseology of the Zechariah passage lead us to identify the first gate and the corner gate? The words are “unto the place of the first gate unto the corner gate.” That may mean “unto the place where the first city gate is, beginning at the north, to wit, unto the corner gate.” The adjective “first” seems more appropriate to distinguish one of a series, than to represent the peculiar name of a gate.

11. The High Gate. Heb. שַעַר הָעֶלְיוֹל LXX. ἡ πύλη ἡ ὑψηλὴ (in Jeremiah 20:2, πύλη τοῦ ὑπερῷου: in 2 Chronicles 23:20, ἡ πύλη ἡ ἐσωτέρα). The passage in Jeremiah calls this the “high gate of Benjamin by the house of the Lord.” “The passage in 2 Chronicles 27:3 calls it the ‘high gate’ of the house of the Lord.” In 2 Chronicles 23:20, we see that it was between the temple and the palace. Of course, then, it was not a gate of the city wall. It is called “gate of the guard” in 2 Kings 11:6; 2 Kings 11:19.

12. The Inner Gate. Heb. שַעַר הַפְּנִימִית. (Ezekiel 8:3).

13. The New Gate. Heb. שַעַר הֶחָדָשׁ. (Jeremiah 36:10).

14. The Middle Gate. Heb. שַעַר הַתָּוֶךְ. (Jeremiah 39:3).

15. The Gate of Sur or of the foundation. Heb. שַעַר סוּר or שַעַר הַיְּסוֹד. (2 Kings 11:6; 2 Chronicles 23:5).

16. The East Gate. Heb. שַעַר הַמִּזְרָח. (Nehemiah 3:29).

17. The Horse Gate. Heb. שַעַר הַסּוּסִים. (2 Chronicles 23:5; Jeremiah 31:40. Comp. 2 Kings 11:16).

These six, together with the gates mentioned by Ezekiel in his vision of the temple, are very evidently, like No. 11, gates of inner walls, and do not belong to the circuit of the city fortifications.
18. The Corner Gate. See above, under Nos. 3 and 10.

19. The Gate of Benjamin. See above under No. 9.

20. The Gate Miphkad. See above under No. 8.

21. The Tower of Meah.

22. The Tower of Hananeel.

These were evidently near one another, and stood between the Sheep Gate and the Fish Gate. We have supposed that they were towers of the special fortification north of the temple, known afterwards as Baris, and in Roman times as Antonia (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39; Jeremiah 31:38; Zechariah 14:10).

23. The Tower of the Furnaces. Heb. מִגְדָּל הַתַּנּוּרִים. LXX. πύργος τῶν θανουρίμ. The natural point in the circuit for this would be anywhere between the second wall’s beginning and the valley gate. What is more likely than the very old N. E. tower of the present citadel (the supposed Hippicus) should be it?

24. The Broad Wall. Heb. הַחוֹמָה הָרְחָבָה . LXX. τὸ τείχος τὸ πλατύ.

Keil supposes with much probability that this was that four hundred cubits of wall broken down by Joash from the gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate (2 Kings 14:13) and afterwards rebuilt of greater breadth by Uzziah.

25. The stairs that go down from the city of David. Heb. הַמַּעֲלוֹת הַיּוֹרְדוֹת מֵעִיר דָּוִיד. These, mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15, are again referred to in Nehemiah 12:37. From the latter passage we should gather that the company marched around the wall as far as the neighborhood of the fountain of Siloam, and then left the wall and passed up the stairs to Zion and along Zion’s eastern edge till they crossed over to the water-gate at the temple. We suppose, therefore, that these stairs ascended from the king’s gardens to his palace, (the Davidian palace) on Zion (Nehemiah 12:37, “the house of David”).

26. The Sepulchres of David. Heb. קִבְרֵי דָוִיד. The places of sepulture of David’s family were probably near his own palace on Zion. We should place them at the S. E. corner of the present Zion wall. The wall along Ophel is marked by reference to sites on the opposite side of the Tyropœon.

27. The Pool that was made. Heb. הַבְּרֵכָה הָעֲשּׂוּיָה. This may be the Fountain of the Virgin, about which there has been so much careful work of human hands in the galleries and cisterns connected with it.

28. The House of the Mighty.

29. The Armory.

To these we have no clue. They may have been both on Ophel.
The destruction of the city was so complete by Titus, and then by Hadrian, that the gates of the later city can be no guide to the position of those of the ancient city. We must depend on the Scriptures and Josephus, with perhaps a little help from Rabbinical tradition. It seems very clear that the main city wall in Nehemiah’s day ran directly from the southern brow of Zion over to Siloam, and then northward along Ophel to the S. E. corner of the Haram. On Ophel there may have been an intricacy of wall, by reason of which the topography in the latter part of Nehemiah 3:0 is very difficult to explain. As Ophel was a fortress, there may have been several angles in the wall there for strategic purposes.

We have given a crude sketch of the walls, gates, etc., as we suppose them to have existed in the days of Nehemiah, as a help to the understanding of the 3d and 12th chapters.

Click image for full-size version



1This document, so amended by Nehemiah, has been incorporated in Ezra.

2The Rev. Mr. Haigh has urged a very bold and ingenious theory, but one that will not bear examination,—that Ezra and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem together. (See Transact. of the Soc. of Bib. Arch., Vol. II.)

3The name Nehemiah occurs twice in the book as referring to others than the author—to Nehemiah, son of Azbuk, in Nehemiah 3:16, and to Nehemiah, a companion of Zerubbabel on Nehemiah 7:7.

4Josephus puts both Ezra and Nehemiah in the reign of Xerxes, son of Darius, and speaks of Xerxes’ twenty-eighth year! He also makes Nehemiah to be two years and four months building the walls. He puts the story of Esther in the time of Artaxerxes, and makes Sanballat to be appointed satrap at Samaria by Darius Codomannus.

5[The “east gate” of Jeremiah 19:2 is in Heb. שַעַר הַחַרְסִות, which is indicative of either שַעַר הַחַרְסוּת or שַעַר הַחַרְסית. If the former be the right reading, then this gate (“the pottery-gate”) may very likely be the same as the dung or rubbish-gate.—Tr.]

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