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EXPLANATORY NOTES.] “The second section of this book (chaps. 7–12:43) furnishes a description of the further efforts of Nehemiah to increase and insure the prosperity of the community in Judah and Jerusalem: first, by securing Jerusalem from hostile attacks; then, by seeking to increase the population of the city; and, lastly, by endeavouring to bring the domestic and civil life of the people into conformity with the precepts of the law, and thus to furnish the necessary moral and religious basis for the due development of the covenant people.”—Keil. It is generally supposed that Nehemiah’s return to Persia must be inserted after Nehemiah 12:43; the remainder of the book narrating his later reforms. Bishop Hervey, however, suggests that the work stopped immediately after the events narrated in Nehemiah 6:16-19, and that chapter 7 goes on to relate the measures adopted by Nehemiah upon his return with fresh powers.
Nehemiah 7:1-3. The watching of the city provided for.
Nehemiah 7:1. Porters … singers … Levites were appointed] In olden time each had a separate work. The porters guarded the gates of the temple. They were reckoned by genealogies, and separated into various divisions (see 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; 1 Chronicles 26:1-19). The singers had charge of the service of song (1 Chronicles 6:31), and “their brethren the Levites were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God” (1 Chronicles 6:48). “Under the present extraordinary circumstances Nehemiah committed also to these two organized corporations the task of keeping watch over the walls and gates of the city, and placed them under the command of his brother Hanani and of Hananiah, the ruler of the citadel. This is expressed by the words (Nehemiah 7:2), ‘I gave Hanani … and Hananiah … charge over Jerusalem.’ ”—Keil.
Nehemiah 7:2. The ruler of the palace] The marshal or chamberlain of the vice-regal court which Nehemiah had maintained in Jerusalem.—Jamieson.
Nehemiah 7:3. Let not the gates be opened until the sun be hot] In the East it is customary to open the gates of a city at sunrise, and to bar them at sunset—a rule which is very rarely, and not except to persons of authority, infringed. Nehemiah recommended that the gates of Jerusalem should not be opened until broad day. An earlier opening might expose the city to a sudden surprise. By day the special guard were to watch; by night the inhabitants.
Nehemiah 7:4. The city was large and great, &c.] Broad on both sides regarded from the centre. After the fashion of Oriental towns, the houses standing apart, with gardens and orchards intervening.
Nehemiah 7:5-69. Genealogy of those who came at the first out of Babylon] “Nehemiah discovered a register of the first detachment who had come under the care of Zerubbabel. It is transcribed in the following verses, and differs in some few particulars from that given in Ezra 2:0; but the discrepancy is sufficiently accounted for from the different circumstances in which the two registers were taken—that of Ezra having been made up at Babylon, while that of Nehemiah was drawn out in Judæa, after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The lapse of so many years might well be expected to make a difference appear in the catalogue, through death or other causes; in particular, one person being, according to Jewish custom, called by different names. Thus Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24) is the same as Jorah (Ezra 2:18), Sia (Nehemiah 7:47) the same as Siaha (Ezra 2:44), &c. Besides other purposes to which this genealogy of the nobles, rulers, and people was subservient, one leading object contemplated by it was to ascertain with accuracy the parties to whom the duty legally belonged of ministering at the altar, and conducting the various services of the temple; and for guiding to exact information in this important point of inquiry the possession of the old register of Zerubbabel was invaluable.”—Jamieson.
Nehemiah 7:39-42. The priests] Only four of the courses returned from the captivity,
Nehemiah 7:43. The Levites] “Assistants of the priests in Divine worship.”—Keil.
Nehemiah 7:44. The singers] Only sons of Asaph returned.
Nehemiah 7:45. The porters] Door-keepers.—Keil.
Nehemiah 7:46-56. The Nethinims] See on chap. Nehemiah 3:26;
Nehemiah 7:57-60. Solomon’s servants] “Doubtless those whom Solomon enslaved of the Canaanites (see 1 Kings 9:20-21). Their descendants were probably regarded as engrafted into Israel, as were the Gibeonites.”—Crosby.
Nehemiah 7:70.] “With Nehemiah 7:69 the register ends, and the thread of Nehemiah’s history is resumed. He was the Tirshatha or governor, and the liberality displayed by him and some of the leading men for the suitable equipment of the ministers of religion forms the subject of the remaining portion of the chapter. Their donations consisted principally in garments. In the East a present of garments, or of any article of use, is conformable to the prevailing sentiments and customs of society.” Drams of gold] i. e. darics. A daric was a gold coin of ancient Persia, worth £1 5s.
Nehemiah 7:71. Pound of silver] i. e. mina (sixty shekels, or £9).
Nehemiah 7:73. So … all Israel dwelt in their cities] “The utility of these genealogical registers was thus found in guiding to a knowledge of the cities and localities in each tribe to which every family anciently belonged.”—Jamieson.
HOMILETICAL CONTENTS OF CHAPTER 7
Nehemiah 7:1-3, Finished Work.
Nehemiah 7:2. The Best Testimonial.
Nehemiah 7:4. The Spaciousness and Emptiness of the City of God.
Nehemiah 7:5. Family Traditions.
Nehemiah 7:70-72. The Enthusiasm of Generosity.
Nehemiah 7:73. Toilers Resting.
Nehemiah 7:1-3. Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, that I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem, be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house.
THE narrative has traced the progress of the work—its inception, its difficulties, its opponents; now the last stone has been lifted into its place, and Nehemiah looks upon his finished work. This is fitting; it is beautiful, but withal uncommon. “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.” And the evening fell upon a finished world. “Father, the hour is come. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” And when the darkness at the crucifixion rolled away, the sun looked upon a finished redemption. Of John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle it is written, they “finished their course,” as if there were no incompleteness of character or tasks left undone. Uncommon!
I. Every man has some work to do. It is well surely, it is needful certainly, that we be reminded that business is a sacred thing, and that duty is a bow set in the firmament that is above every one of us. Right and wrong are not theological terms to be accurately defined in Christian pulpits, and spasmodically sought on holy days. The word work has all but infinite meanings. It was fitting that the man who perhaps more than any other in our country has taught the sacredness of work should have a medal struck in his honour when he reached the patriarchal age of eighty. That in us which is best and truest says that the man whom we delight to honour is he who can widen our conception of duty, who can cherish in us the faith that this is God’s world, not the devil’s world, and that life is more important than death. To live in this spirit is no child’s play. A merchant who strives to conduct a large business on Christian principles, who endeavours to divest himself of the prejudices of habit and the customs of those around him, will soon discover that the commonplace “honesty is the best policy” is not true in the first and most obvious interpretation which is put upon it. Let any one of us try to take up the petty details of each day’s work and ennoble them by the spirit in which they are done, and it shall not be easy. But be it remembered that, after all, the formation of his character is a man’s true work. Every work should bear relation to the one indispensable thing, “meetness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
II. Few men leave their tasks complete. Finished work—that suggests unfinished work. Nehemiah, the rebuilder of Jerusalem, reminds us of David, the projector of Jerusalem. There is much of human feeling in those words of David in which he refers to his unpermitted purpose. Shortly before his death—at that period of life when men become prophetic—he assembled the chiefs of the people, and said, “I had in mine heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: but God said unto me, Thou shalt not build a house for my name. Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts” (1 Chronicles 28:0). Much work is planned but never executed; more is begun which is not completed. There were brave men before Agamemnon, only no poet arose to sing their deeds. He who, sitting in the hull of some forest tree, first struck out upon the sea was one of the bravest men who ever lived, but his name those who heard it have not transmitted. Yet the art of ship-building had its birth in that man’s brain. There is an element of sadness in the fact that David only gathered the materials to build the temple. The idea of that temple floated in his mind, lay concealed there; grew slowly, as all great things grow. Even the pattern was partly conceived. Nothing was wanting but a Divine permission, and that was withheld. David was happy in that the work was entrusted to his son Solomon. For that man is honoured who conceives a noble project, and sees his children rise up to carry it out. When in this best and truest sense is fulfilled the old promise that after the fathers shall come up the children, it is well. Such a man may well take a farewell of the world, and say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” Perhaps that man is happier who, like Nehemiah, lives to complete his own work. One hardly knows. Of one thing we may be certain—this is the exception, the other is the rule. There are few cemeteries in which you will not find a broken column; broken not by accident, or stress of weather, but by the sculptor’s hammer, to indicate that the life of him who sleeps beneath was snapped asunder, his purposes suddenly hindered. As, however, God does not work without a purpose and a plan, there must be, there is, a meaning in this. The world is a huge clock-work. Each man is a part of and necessary to the whole. The individual is insignificant. His work is partial. Division of labour is necessary. One man’s skill needful to all men’s well-being. One country has what another lacks. Life is a series of beginnings. A human life is little more than a beginning. Threescore years and ten are too few in which to accomplish much. “No day without a line” was a motto of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Most men might imitate a famous carver, who when he exhibited his work wrote underneath, “Lysippus has something more to add to this.” In the artist’s mind the picture is perfect, on his canvas the picture is incomplete. It is only in a relative sense, only with mental reserve and understood apology, that any man can say of himself, “I have finished the work.” The story of our joint work is pictured in the history of our cathedrals. Norman barons, pious queens, monks of a long-forgotten age, and bishops of to-day have prayed and begged, toiled and given, to make them what they are. This is the conclusion of the whole matter. We work for eternity. We are strangers and sojourners, as all our fathers were.
III. He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. His work may not abide. Nehemiah’s did. A builder’s work is lasting. All necessary work is not. The eloquence of Chalmers will one day be only a memory; the bridges of Brunel and Stephenson will tell their tale to many generations. But the influence of Chalmers will abide. Your task may not be permanent; it has in it some permanent element. What is greater than the work? The man who does it. An invading army may destroy Nehemiah’s wall, but not the memory of Nehemiah’s character. The temple of David and Solomon is destroyed, but the Church has preserved their songs and copied their example in building a house for the Lord. They abide for ever. Let us do our work reliant on Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
SOMETHING LEFT UNDONE.
“Labour with what zeal we will,
Something still remains undone,
Something uncompleted still
Waits the rising of the sun.
By the bedside, on the stair,
At the threshold, near the gates,
With its menace or its prayer,
Like a mendicant it waits;
Waits, and will not go away;
Waits, and will not be gainsaid;
By the cares of yesterday
Each to-day is heavier made;
Till at length the burden seems
Greater than our strength can bear,
Heavy as the weight of dreams,
Pressing on us everywhere.
And we stand from day to day,
Like the dwarfs of times gone by,
Who, as Northern legends say,
On their shoulders held the sky.”—Longfellow.
THE BEST TESTIMONIAL
Nehemiah 7:2. I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
The obscure men and women of the Bible furnish a study as interesting as it is practically inexhaustible. Who was Hanani? A brother of Nehemiah, who took a journey to Susa to visit his brethren (Nehemiah 1:2). Who was Hananiah? Ruler of the palace at Jerusalem. No further biographic facts are discoverable. “Apelles approved in Christ” (Romans 16:10). Approved in Christ; what character lies behind that commendation! But how little of the private history of Apelles can investigation furnish. So with Paul’s friends in general. Nehemiah and Hanani. Two brothers whose paths diverged. They started in life together: one scaled the heights until he stood on the steps to the throne; the other moved in the quiet vales of lowly life. Both retained allegiance to the God of their fathers; both maintained loyalty to conscience; and each reverenced the other. A not too common thing—a brother’s testimony to a brother’s virtue. For though the description of a faithful God-fearing man grammatically applies to Hananiah, it is equally applicable in fact to Hanani. He preferred Jerusalem above his chief joy. A prophet is often without honour in his own country. “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” To be “sympathetic with the loads we see on others, forgetful of our own,” argues no small degree of saintliness. Nehemiah honoured himself by honouring Hanani and Hananiah.
I. A true man’s relation to God. “Hananiah feared God above many.” Religious reverence, a fear that hath not torment, was the basis of his character. “The God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac” was Jacob’s description of his God. Old Testament “fear” melts into New Testament “faith and love.” Patriarchs and prophets lived under the constraining influence of “the fear of God;” apostles and martyrs felt the sweet reasonableness of “the love of Christ.” The phrase is changed, but not the substance. Life hath its centre not in self, but in God. Selfishness is the most ignoble motive of action. All true life begins with God. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ladder between the earth on which we stand and the heaven in which God dwells. Christ came not to destroy. He expounded, illumined, fulfilled the descriptions of religious life he found already. Do not take old-time reverence out of your holy fear of God whilst you infuse into it more of the warmth of love and trust. Our God is more fully revealed to us; but their God is our God for ever. “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” urges the Psalmist; “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” counsels the Apostle.
II. A true man’s relation to his fellows. “Hananiah, a faithful man.” Firm, stable, enduring; a trustworthy man. In a judge this is integrity; in a witness, truth. “Fear” and “faithfulness” are inseparable. Our modern equivalents are profession and practice, creed and conduct The path reveals the purpose, the life confirms the lip. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Faulty conduct does not adorn a faultless creed. Notable devotion in church must be supported by noteworthy uprightness in business. If the temple of our character rests upon pillars of dishonesty, its rottenness and instability will soon appear. If the first table of commandments be written in the chancel, the second table must be suspended in the counting-house. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Only thus can you sanctify him in your lives. A Christian man ought to be able to show a bold front to the world. Let him strive ever to keep a conscience void of offence toward men as well as toward God. If the laws of trade are not compatible with the laws of God, so much the worse for the laws of trade. You may bend if you will, but alas if you cringe because you must! You must forgive your enemies, you must not fear them. Men of the world seal the lips of (so-called) Christian men when these show inconsistencies in life. Would you reprove sin? Then your daily life must rebuke it. Do you desire to maintain the character of a God-fearing man? The penalty you must pay is to deserve the character of a faithful man. “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
III. A true man’s reward in this world. “I gave Hananiah charge over Jerusalem.” Loyalty and royalty are not far apart. Those who will rule must learn to obey. Hananiah had been “faithful over a few things,” he was now to be made “ruler over many things.” No vote of thanks for what he had done. No testimonial raised. Simply higher work and more of it. Capacity creates responsibility. Power demands performance. “To him that hath shall be given.”
1. Graduate in the school of Christ. There is no limit to your knowledge except your power of acquirement. Do not be content with conventional standards of devotion. Obey conscience, worship duty, fear God above many. Thus did Hananiah.
2. Enter the sacred hierarchy of those who look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Look for virtues in your brethren. Be not like those who, “seeing many things, observe not.” Some flowers grow in the shade. Many men like Hanani and Hananiah are hidden until some Nehemiah discovers them. Recognize and reverence goodness wherever you find it. Say not, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” “Are not his mother and his sisters with us?” Thank God for what the man is, and aid the purpose of God by placing the man where he should be. Thus did Nehemiah.
“ ‘He was a faithful man, and feared God above many.’ It is said of Obadiah that he feared the Lord greatly. Every saint fears the Lord, but every saint does not greatly fear him. Oh, there are but few Obadiahs in the world, I mean among the saints on earth. As Paul said of Timothy, ‘I have none “like-minded,” ’ so it may be said of some concerning the fear of the Lord; they have scarce a fellow. Hananiah had got, as to the exercise of and growth in this grace, the start of many of his brethren. He ‘feared God above many.’ Now, then, seeing this grace admits of degrees, and is in some stronger, and in some weaker, let us be all awakened, as to other graces, so to this grace also: that like as you abound in everything, in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”—Bunyan.
THE SPACIOUSNESS AND EMPTINESS OF THE CITY OF GOD
Nehemiah 7:4. Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded
The spaciousness and emptiness of the city of God! This phrase suggests God’s doing and man’s misdoing. “With his sword and with his bow” David the warrior-king captured the city; with his wealth he endowed it; to Solomon his son he committed its keeping. Under the hand of Solomon it grew; the great of other nations came to behold its magnificence; silver was as plentiful as stone and cedar trees as numerous as sycamores: it was “the city of the great king.” When Nehemiah came it was almost a silent city, as a city of the dead. “The entire number of Jews who returned in Cyrus’ day to Jerusalem was small—about 50,000 out of millions. Piety, patriotism, and desire for change were three motives at work in the 50,000. But what a vast mass were unmoved by any of these motives, and were well satisfied with their exile! Some, however, like Daniel, remained from high and holy motives. The Jewish people is a remnant.”—Crosby.
I. The spaciousness of the city of God. “The Church on earth is called a city. How beautiful the orders, laws, and privileges thereof! God her king dwells in her; angels and ministers are her watchmen and guard; believers are her free CITIZENS, entitled to all the fulness of God; his salvation, providential preservation, and system of sacred government are her walls (Isaiah 62:12). She is called a great city because of her extent, and the vast number of her members (Revelation 21:10); a holy city because of the holiness of her Founder, laws, ordinances, and members, and end of erection (Revelation 11:2); and the city of God because he planned, built, peopled, rules, protects, and dwells in her (Hebrews 12:22).” “Heaven is represented as a city, a city with twelve foundations, a holy city. What glory, order, safety, and happiness are there enjoyed by the multitudes of saints! how perfect and durable their state of felicity! and all of it founded on the purchase of Christ! None but holy persons do ever enter it, nor is aught but holiness ever practised therein (Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16).”—Wood. The Church was made for man. What pages of history have been blurred and blotted in the strife to narrow the entrance; to make the Church for man a Church for men. Not from Rome only, from the east and the west, from the north and the south they have come who would limit the rights of men and monopolize the city of God. A city; a kingdom. Whose city? who is the king? “All the ends of the earth,” “all nations,” “sinners,” these are the catchwords of Old and New Testament teaching. The works of men are contracted; the creations of God are broad, limitless. The quiet star-lit sky, how suggestive of boundless space. The all-embracing atmosphere, how emblematic of an all-seeing and all-interested Presence. Everywhere is the only limit that can be assigned to God; to every one the only limit to the offer of his great gifts. “According to his glorious riches he shall supply all your need.” “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” This city is destined to grow. The Church is blessed first inwardly and then outwardly. Religion deepened within her pale, then extension. In the history of the first Church there are the “notes” of the Church’s life before the announcement of the Church’s increase (Acts 2:42-47). The Holy Ghost first fell on the assembled disciples, then there were added three thousand souls. The doctrine of justification by faith dawns upon a Luther, and a Reformation follows. The brotherhood of man arrests Wilberforce—“bows the tall soul as by wind”—and the slave-trade is doomed; its extinction is thenceforward only a question of time.
“The golden side of Heaven’s great shield is faith,
The silver reason.”
The gospel has an element of Divinity in the comprehensive way in which it claims all our service and the service of all. None are exempted. None are allowed to do partial fealty. “Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.”
II. The emptiness of the city of God. “Are there few that be saved?” Do you waive that question of curiosity? “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Take heed to thyself. “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought; but that we receive a full reward.” Leave the future, busy thyself with the practical, pressing present. Now at any rate “few” enough are saved. In any civilized Christian city the population divides into two classes—the churchgoing and non-churchgoing. If all were disposed to attend Church, they could not. Christian and heathen countries. All are not “soldiers of Christ.” What then? Despair? Nay, work, pray, wait. We see not as yet all things put under Christ. But “he must reign.” And we understand a Divine must.
“Let the echo fly
The spacious earth around”
The Church has done much; the world needs her to do more. Success has followed missionary effort at home and abroad. A kneeling Church has risen strong in the Lord and in the power of his might to lengthen her cords, strengthen her stakes, and multiply her converts. “As Jerusalem, in Nehemiah’s time, extended far on both sides, and was scantily populated, so also the city of God in all times has had space for new additions to its population. For, in truth, the rich possessions which God has prepared in his Church for mankind would only then be sufficiently turned to profit when every one called man should enjoy them, and it were itself full and sufficiently built out and all had entered in. For that God, who has made all things for himself, and for that Lord who has redeemed all, the totality alone, from which none is lost, forms a sufficiently great people.”—Schultz. The time is coming when the nations shall stretch out their hands unto God, the kingdoms of the earth sing praises unto the Lord. Right shall be predominant when at his name every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord. The rest is vision. “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Nehemiah 7:5. And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first.
When, in Biblical sense, we speak of a family, we may mean a household, a kindred, a division of a tribe, a nation, or the whole family of God in heaven and on earth. “The genealogies occupied an important place in Israel. They contained the certificate of Church-membership for each Israelite. They also contained the claims to official dignity that belonged to priest and Levite. The family-idea thus received a marked emphasis in God’s redemptive government—an emphasis which is echoed by Malachi (Malachi 4:6) and the angel that appeared to Zacharias (Luke 1:17). The appearance of the Nethinim in the genealogies is a forcible illustration of the impartial grace of God. That grace which would bring in all the Gentiles as children was foretokened by the brotherly position of the Nethinim (of Gentile blood) among the people of God—the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”—Crosby. The genealogy was the story of their lives from year to year.
I. The family-idea. The corrective of individualism. A natural barrier against selfishness. Father, mother, brother, sister suggest unity in diversity. Differences without disagreement. “There are the two opposite poles of masculine and feminine, which contain within them the entire of our humanity—which together, not separately, make up the whole of man. Then there are the diversities in the degrees and kinds of affection. For when we speak of family affection, we must remember that it is made up of many diversities. There is nothing more different than the love which the sister bears towards the brother, compared with that which the brother bears towards the sister. The affection which a man bears towards his father is quite distinct from that which he feels towards his mother; it is something quite different towards his sister; totally diverse, again, towards his brother. And then there are diversities of character. First the mature wisdom and stern integrity of the father; then the exuberant tenderness of the mother. And then one is brave and enthusiastic, another thoughtful, and another tender. One is remarkable for being full of rich humour; another is sad, mournful, even melancholy. Again, besides these, there are diversities of condition in life. First, there is the heir, sustaining the name and honour of the family; then, perchance, the soldier, in whose career all the anxiety and solicitude of the family is centred; then the man of business, to whom they look up, trusting his advice, expecting his counsel; lastly, perhaps, there is the invalid, from the very cradle trembling between life and death, drawing out all the sympathies and anxieties of each member of the family, and so uniting them all more closely from their having one common point of sympathy and solicitude.”—F. W. Robertson. “Of all the mysteries in the universe, I hardly know of any which is more wonderful than the kind of relationship existing between all of us and our parents. The universal consent of mankind sustains the authority of my conscience, and declares that I—I alone—must be held responsible for whatever evil I commit, and that I am to be praised if I do well. And yet nothing can be plainer than that it is easy or difficult for me to do well, according as my father and my mother, my grandfather and my grandmother, and I know not how far back I may go, were, or were not, temperate, virtuous, upright, good people. As there is this singular and most mysterious relationship between my moral life and the moral life of my parents, there is a relationship equally intimate between my physical and intellectual life and theirs. My voice, the length and shape of my limbs, my height, the colour of my hair, the strength and clearness of my sight, the soundness of my brain, my muscular vigour, whatever constitutes my weakness or my power, was largely determined for me by what my parents were.”—R. W. Dale. The mysteries of life are not so much abroad as at home. The miracle is not in some seldom, far-off event, but in life’s daily scenes—noon and night, birth and death, the daily bread, the nightly guardianship. Home, family, a sacred centre, a heaven-made bond.
“Where’er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.”
II. Family history. We are heirs of all the yesterdays. An unpayable debt owed to the past. The poets describe virtues more to be valued than “Norman blood.” Men prize “Norman blood” notwithstanding. The Jew, “the pilgrim of commerce,” turned homeward with a peculiar ardour of affection. The chosen people. All others Gentiles. Cosmopolitanism a modern idea. “My name and the name of my fathers.” Jacob. “My fathers’ God.” Moses. “I am not better than my fathers.” Elijah, “l am a sojourner as all my fathers were.” David. “O thou God of my fathers.” Daniel. “I worship the God of my fathers.” Paul. The thought which the dying Wesley phrased ran through Hebrew history as a “family tradition”—“The best of all is, God is with us.” Their familiar description of God was “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” The “family tradition” that links us with some event in history is good; the “family tradition” that tells of deeds of heroism and acts of unselfishness is better. Not who we are, but what we are, the pre-eminent consideration.
“My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned, and rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions rise—
The son of parents passed into the skies.”
The idea of the family is unity; the history of the family suggests continuance. “No separation can ever break that fellowship of common love which exists in a home. Its members may be sundered by unknown seas, yet the bands of a common affection and sympathy unite them still. So is the fellowship of the Christian brotherhood unbroken by death. It extends to heaven, and unites it with earth—the whole family in heaven and earth named in Christ.”—E. L. Hull. There is no past. The ages are inseparably linked together. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” So it shall be with us. Christ hath brought life and immortality to light. We shall stand in the presence of those who were dead, but are alive again and live for evermore. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” The dead will not return to us, but we shall go to them.
THE ENTHUSIASM OF GENEROSITY
Nehemiah 7:70-72. And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, five basons, five hundred and thirty priestsʼ garments. And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priestsʼ garments.
This scene reminds us of two similar ones in Hebrew history. Shortly before his death David the king gathered the people together, and by his example and entreaty caused the princes and people to offer willingly (1 Chronicles 29:0). Even the abundance of the offerings is less marked than the willing spirit of the offerers. “I know, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee.” Joash gave order to repair the temple with “all the money that cometh into any man’s heart to bring into the house of the Lord.” “And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in and cast into the chest, until they had made an end. And they gathered money in abundance” (2 Kings 12:0; 2 Chronicles 24:0; 2 Chronicles 24:0). The Jew and the Friend have received honourable mention for their generosity to the poor of their confraternity. The Jew has distinguished himself in his devotion to his temple. The pilgrim of commerce has cast some of his commercial gains into the treasury of God.
I. Claimants. The cause of God is the cause of humanity. The Church a republican institution. “The rich and poor meet together.” “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” “The poor ye have always with you.” Moses and Jesus, Old Testament and New, recognize what they do not explain—poverty. The Communion Service takes special cognizance of the poor. The offertory sentences cite the golden rule, the laws of analogy, the behests of God. It is fitting, it is beautiful that at the feast of love, love should take shape and colour, that a body should be prepared for it. “All ye are brethren.” How far-reaching are these simple sayings of Jesus Christ. The cause of God—let not that well-known phrase lose its sharpness by use and familiarity. The cause of God is the cause of righteousness, the cause of the weak and oppressed, the cause of the widow and orphan, the cause of the slave and aboriginal, the cause of those who in every clime sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
II. The generous spirit. Motive decides action. “The true measure of sacrifice is not the greatness of the outward act, but the perfectness of the inward motive. We like to do a thing which seems to be a great dedication, and which flatters our self-love by its greatness, partly because it is far easier to do a great thing which does not necessitate self-surrender, than a small thing that does. It is the all—the very heart of the man—that God asks for; the outward form of the sacrifice is of little worth. It is not the great outward act, but the perfect yielding of the soul, which constitutes the sacrifice which God will not despise.”—E. L. Hull. “The motive and measure.” How much shall I give to God? A tithe? “Am I a Jew?” Is the world still in its cradle? Is Christianity a set of rules or a great principle? How much owest thou unto thy Lord? “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Do not ask, “How little can I give?” Inquire rather how much thou hast received. “In the light of the judgment day” it will be well to be “blameless as the steward of God.” When the omniscient Searcher of all hearts pronounces his verdict, blessed will be the man whom he describes as “that faithful and wise steward.” Hold your possessions in trust. When need arises and ability be given, cast your uncounted coins into the treasury. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again.” “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” “Not getting, but giving, is the way to wealth.”
“Abon Ben Adhem—may his tribe increase!—
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw amid the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold, And to the vision in the room he said,
‘What writest thou?’ The vision raised its head,
And with a voice made of all sweet accord,
Replied. ‘The names of them that love the Lord.’
‘And is mine one?’ said Abon. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the Angel. Abon spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, ‘I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow-men.’
The Angel wrote and vanished. The next night
He came again with a great wakening light;
He showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And, lo, Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”
Nehemiah 7:73. So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
Wall built. Reformations about to begin. A breathing-time.
I. Rest after labour. The great human heart of Jesus speaks in Mark 6:31 : “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.” More dramatic when we see him weeping tears of friendship by the grave of Lazarus, or tears of regret over the city of Jerusalem. But not more human than this anxiety for his disciples. The people needed teaching and healing, but the disciples needed rest. The circumstances were these. They had been through the cities preaching and healing. Returning to their Lord, “they told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.” He orders them to cross the lake and be beyond the tide of human population. After the miracle of feeding he himself “departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, he was alone.” Putting side by side his precept and example, we have his recorded convictions on the necessity and importance of leisure and loneliness—the needs—be for rest. Body and mind require it. Rest and sleep are Nature’s great restorers. Never more than in this day. “One great danger in our time is that every man is so active; every man has so much to think about and to do. Nothing moves slowly. If we had the refashioning of the year, we would make it twenty-four months. If we had the refashioning of the day, we would make it forty-eight hours. If we had our own refashioning, we would kindle in ourselves a fire that would burn forty-eight hours without replenishing. Intensity of life, over-wrought occupation comes from the very social, political, and commercial conditions in which we live. And, as if this were not enough, we try, by strong stimulus, to wind up the flagging nerve, worn out by too much excitement. We want, in that way, to make twelve hours do the work of twenty-four.”—H. W. Beecher. One of the penalties we pay for high civilization. The too common history of men in relation to whom work has induced insanity and insanity suicide. Earlier rest would have ministered to many a man’s mind in the incipient stages of disease. Moral development retarded by the whirl of business; by the incessant anxiety to make both ends meet. “The cares of this world” and “the deceitfulness of riches” are both harmful. All a Christian’s time must not be devoted to others. The sanctuary is necessary. Labour is commendable. But leisure is invaluable. Leisure to remind ourselves that we are immortal, that there is a God for us; leisure for personal examination, contrite confession, private prayer, inward resolve; leisure for physical renewal, mental culture, spiritual advancement. “In these hours of rest and retirement many gentle qualities will spring up which find no place in life; only as flowers and grass find place on a pavement, growing up between the stones. There is many a man whose ordinary life is hard as a stone, and whose taste or culture shows itself only as it steals out through the joints where stone meets stone. It is a piteous thing that men should be so hard; and the habit of being by one’s self, the habit of rest and inspection, gives some opportunity for the development of the finer traits of character, which, after all, go far toward making the beauty of holiness in man spring up and bear appropriate fruit.”—H. W. Beecher.
II. Rest before labour. Rest not an end, but a means to an end. The corrective and reward of toil. The true reward of anything consists in having done it more than in its consequences or in men’s appreciation of it. All who labour may enjoy the earthly paradise of rest. But only when it is the preparation for renewed toil. The life of leisure which some sigh for is not desirable. None more wretched than those who have nothing to do. Work was not imposed as a curse. God put the first man into paradise “to dress it and to keep it.” It is expressly noted that “there was not a man to till the ground.” Work is as old as the creation. Noble too. God imposed it. The curse consisted in the toil and its fruitlessness. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” The naturalness of work is seen in the recurrence of day and night. Weary we lie down to rest. Sleep recruits the wasted energies of body; the mind recuperates itself. The morning calls us forth to labour. “Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.” All work and no play is a curse indeed. All play and no work is not a blessing. “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day.” So Christ spake. And he gives three reasons for this. It is the accomplishment of his Father’s purpose. “He sent me.” It is in imitation of his Father. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The opportunity for work will soon be past. “The night cometh, when no man can work.” Speaking of his disciples to the end of time, he said, “As the Father sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world.” “Labourers together with God” is our appellation. Rest is for a while; work is for life. We find Christ in the city, in the temple, in all the haunts of men. But he soon leaves. His choice seems to be where Nature can speak to him—on the mountain, in the desert, by the sea. He is grander there than when compelled to battle with prejudices. He drank at the pure fount of Nature. So must we. Amongst men we get dwarfed, discontented, disgusted. Meanness, selfishness, the grinding of the weak by the strong, the lip profession belied by the life—all this shakes our faith in goodness. No man can always live in a crowd. We are led by popular opinion, deceived by glitter and show. We shall be superficial in much the same proportion as we neglect solitary converse with ourselves. Too much looking within may be dangerous. That danger is remote. Our danger lies in being strangers to ourselves—looking upward, outward, and onward, but not inward. It is sometimes good for a man to be alone. Some experiences only come to us in solitude. We shall die alone. Friends may smooth our pillow and soothe our pain by their tender ministries of affection; but in the depths of the soul we shall be alone. To every one death is an undiscovered land. Alone in death we must be. And yet not alone. “The Father is with me.” Beyond, the labour that does not fatigue, the service that is perfect freedom. “They serve him day and night in his temple.” “They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” “They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 7
The classification of the human race into dwellers in towns and nomade wanderers (Genesis 4:20; Genesis 4:22) seems to be intimated by the etymological sense of the Hebrew words Ar or Ir, and Kirjath, viz., as places of security against an enemy, distinguished from the unwalled village or hamlet, whose resistance is more easily overcome by the marauding tribes of the desert. This distinction is found actually existing in countries, as Persia and Arabia, in which the tent-dwellers are found, like the Rechabites, almost side by side with the dwellers in cities, sometimes even sojourning within them, but not amalgamated with the inhabitants, and in general making the desert their home, and, unlike the Rechabites, robbery their undissembled occupation. The earliest notice in Scripture of city-building is of Enoch by Cain, in the land of his “exile” (Genesis 4:17). After the confusion of tongues, the descendants of Nimrod founded Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar; and Asshur, a branch from the same stock, built Nineveh, Rehoboth-by-the-river, Calah, and Resen, the last being “a great city.” A subsequent passage mentions Sidon, Gaza, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Lasha as cities of the Canaanites, but without implying for them antiquity equal to that of Nineveh and the rest (Genesis 10:10-12; Genesis 10:19; Genesis 11:3; Genesis 11:9; Genesis 36:37). Cities existed in Syria prior to the time of Abraham, who himself came from “Ur,” the “city” of the Chaldæans. The earliest description of a city, properly so called, is that of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-22); but it is certain that from very early times cities existed on the sites of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Damascus. The last, said to be the oldest city in the world, must, from its unrivalled situation, have always commanded a congregated population. Hebron is said to have been built seven years before Zoan (Tanis) in Egypt, and is thus the only Syrian town which presents the elements of a date for its foundation. Even before the time of Abraham there were cities in Egypt (Genesis 12:14-15; Numbers 13:22). The Israelites, during their sojourn there, were employed in building or fortifying the “treasure cities” of Pithom and Raamses; but their pastoral habits make it unlikely that they should build, still less fortify, cities of their own in Goshen. Meanwhile the settled inhabitants of Syria on both sides of the Jordan had grown in power and in number of “fenced cities.” In the kingdom of Sihon are many names of cities preserved to the present day; and in the kingdom of Og, in Bashan, were sixty “great cities” with walls and brazen bars, besides unwalled villages; and also twenty-three cities in Gilead, which were occupied and perhaps partly rebuilt or fortified by the tribes on the east of Jordan. On the west of Jordan, whilst thirty-one “royal” cities are enumerated (Joshua 12:0) in the district assigned to Judah, one hundred and twenty-five cities with villages are reckoned. But from some of these the possessors were not expelled till a late period, and Jerusalem itself was not captured till the time of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9). From this time the Hebrews became a city-dwelling and agricultural rather than a pastoral people. David enlarged Jerusalem, and Solomon, besides embellishing his capital, also built or rebuilt Tadmor, Palmyra, Gezer, Bethhoron, Hazor, and Megiddo, besides store-cities. Collections of houses in Syria for social habitation may be classed under three heads:
(2) towns with citadels or towers for resort and defence,
(3) unwalled villages. The cities may be assumed to have been in almost all cases “fenced cities,” i. e. possessing a wall with towers and gates; and that as a mark of conquest was to break down a portion, at least, of the city wall of the captured place, so the first care of the defenders, as of the Jews after their return from captivity, was to rebuild the fortifications. But around the city, especially in peaceable times, lay undefended suburbs, to which the privileges of the city extended. The city thus became the citadel, while the population overflowed into the suburbs. The absence of walls, as indicating security in peaceable times, combined with populousness, as was the case in the flourishing period of Egypt, is illustrated by the prophet Zechariah (Nehemiah 2:4). According to Eastern custom, special cities were appointed to furnish special supplies for the service of the state: cities of store, for chariots, for horsemen, for building purposes, for provision for the royal table. Special governors for these and their surrounding districts were appointed by David and by Solomon. To this practice our Lord alludes in his parable of the pounds, and it agrees with the theory of Hindoo government, which was to be conducted by lords of single townships, of 10, 100, or 1000 towns. To the Levites cities were assigned, distributed throughout the country, together with a certain amount of suburban ground, and out of these thirteen were specially reserved fur the family of Aaron. The internal government of Jewish cities was vested before the captivity in a council of elders with judges, who were required to be priests: Josephus says seven judges with two Levites as officers. Under the kings a president or governor appears to have been appointed, and judges were sent out on circuit, who referred matters of doubt to a council composed of priests, Levites, and elders at Jerusalem. After the captivity Ezra made similar arrangements for the appointment of judges. In the time of Josephus there appear to have been councils in the provincial towns, with presidents in each, under the directions of the great council at Jerusalem. In many Eastern cities much space is occupied by gardens, and thus the size of the city is much increased. The vast extent of Nineveh and Babylon may thus be in part accounted for. In most Oriental cities the streets are extremely narrow. It seems likely that the immense concourse which resorted to Jerusalem at the feasts would induce wider streets than in other cities. Herod built in Antioch a wide street paved with stone, and having covered ways on each side. Agrippa II. paved Jerusalem with white stone. The straight street of Damascus is still clearly defined and recognizable. We cannot determine whether the internal commerce of Jewish cities was carried on as now, by means of bazaars, but we read of the bakers’ street (Jeremiah 37:21), and Josephus speaks of the wool market, the hardware market, a place of blacksmiths’ shops, and the clothes market at Jerusalem. The open spaces near the gates of towns were in ancient times, as they are still, used as places of assembly by the elders, of holding courts by kings and judges, and of general resort by citizens. They were also used as places of public exposure by way of punishment. Prisons were under the kingly government within the royal precinct. Great pains were taken to supply both Jerusalem and other cities with water, both by tanks and cisterns for rainwater, and by reservoirs supplied by aqueducts from distant springs. Such was the fountain of Gihon, the aqueduct of Hezekiah, and of Solomon, of which last water is still conveyed from near Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Josephus also mentions an attempt made by Pilate to bring water to Jerusalem. Burial-places, except in special cases, were outside the city.—Rev. H. W. Phillott, M. A., in ‘Smith’s Bible Dictionary
Genealogy, literally the act or art of the γενεαλόγος, i. e. of him who treats of birth and family, and reckons descents and generations. Hence by an easy transition it is often (like ἱστορια) used of the document itself in which such series of generations is set down. In Hebrew the term for a genealogy or pedigree is “the book of the generations;” and because the oldest histories were usually drawn up on a genealogical basis, the expression often extended to the whole history, as is the case with the Gospel of St. Matthew, where “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ” includes the whole history contained in that Gospel. So Genesis 2:4, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth,” seems to be the title of the history which follows. Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 11:27; Genesis 25:12; Genesis 25:19; Genesis 36:1; Genesis 36:9; Genesis 37:2, are other examples of the same usage, and these passages seem to mark the existence of separate histories from which the book of Genesis was compiled. Nor is this genealogical form of history peculiar to the Hebrews, or the Semitic races. The earliest Greek histories were also genealogies.… The frequent use of the patronymic in Greek, the stories of particular races, the lists of priests, and kings, and conquerors at the games preserved at Sparta, Olympia, and elsewhere; the hereditary monarchies and priesthoods; the division, as old as Homer, into tribes, fratriæ, and γένη, and the existence of the tribe, the gens, and the familia among the Romans; the Celtic clans, the Saxon families using a common patronymic, and their royal genealogies running back to the Teutonic gods, these are among the many instances that may be cited to prove the strong family and genealogical instinct of the ancient world. Coming nearer to the Israelites, it will be enough to allude to the hereditary principle and the vast genealogical records of the Egyptians as regards their kings and priests, and to the passion for genealogies among the Arabs, mentioned by Layard and others, in order to show that the attention paid by the Jews to genealogies is in entire accordance with the manners and tendencies of their contemporaries. In their case, however, it was heightened by several peculiar circumstances. The promise of the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob successively, and the separation of the Israelites from the Gentile world; the expectation of Messiah as to spring from the tribe of Judah; the exclusively hereditary priesthood of Aaron with its dignity and emoluments; the long succession of kings in the line of David; and the whole division and occupation of the land upon genealogical principles by the tribes, families, and houses of fathers, gave a deeper importance to the science of genealogy among the Jews than perhaps any other nation. We have already noted the evidence of the existence of family memoirs even before the Flood, to which we are probably indebted for the genealogies in Genesis 4:5; and Genesis 10:11, &c. indicate the continuance of the same system in the times between the Flood and Abraham. But with Jacob, the founder of the nation, the system of reckoning by genealogies was much further developed.… According to these genealogical divisions the Israelites pitched their tents and marched, and offered their gifts and offerings, and chose the spies. According to the same they cast the lots by which the troubler of Israel, Achan, was discovered, as later those by which Saul was called to the throne. Above all, according to these divisions the whole land of Canaan was parcelled out amongst them. But now of necessity that took place which always has taken place with respect to such genealogical arrangements, viz., that by marriage, or servitude, or incorporation as friends and allies, persons not strictly belonging by birth to such or such a family or tribe were yet reckoned in the census as belonging to them. The tribe of Levi was probably the only one which had no admixture of foreign blood. In many of the Scripture genealogies, as, e. g., those of Caleb, Joab, Segub, and the sons of Rephaiah, &c., in 1 Chronicles 3:21, it is quite clear that birth was not the ground of their incorporation into their respective tribes. However, birth was, and continued to be throughout their whole national course, the foundation of all the Jewish organization, and the reigns of the more active kings and rulers were marked by attention to genealogical operations.… But, however tradition may have preserved for a while true genealogies, or imagination and pride have coined fictitious ones, after the destruction of Jerusalem it may be safely affirmed that the Jewish genealogical system then came to an end. Just notions of the nature of the Jewish genealogical records are of great importance with a view to the right interpretation of Scripture. Let it only be remembered that these records have respect to political and territorial divisions, as much as to strictly genealogical descent, and it will at once be seen how erroneous a conclusion it may be that all who are called “sons” of such or such a patriarch, or chief father, must necessarily be his very children.… The sequence of generations may represent the succession to such or such an inheritance or headship of tribe or family, rather than the relationship of father and son … As regards the chronological use of the Scripture genealogies, great caution is necessary in using them as measures of time. What seems necessary to make them trustworthy measures of time is, either that they should have special internal marks of being complete, such as where the mother as well as the father is named, or some historical circumstance defines the several relationships, or that there should be several genealogies, all giving the same number of generations within the same termini. As an indication of the carefulness with which the Jews kept their pedigrees, it is worth while to notice the recurrence of the same name, or modifications of the same name, such as Tobias, Tobit, Nathan, Mattatha, and even of names of the same signification, in the same family. The Jewish genealogies have two forms, one giving the generations in a descending, the other in an ascending scale. Females are named when there is anything remarkable about them, or when any right or property is transmitted through them. The genealogical lists of names are peculiarly liable to corruptions of the text. The Bible genealogies give an unbroken descent of the house of David from the creation to the time of Christ. The registers at Jerusalem must have supplied the same to the priestly and many other families. They also inform us of the origin of most of the nations of the earth, and carry the genealogy of the Edomitish sovereigns down to about the time of Saul. Viewed as a whole, it is a genealogical collection of surpassing interest and accuracy.—Rev. Lord A. Hervey, in ‘Smith’s Bible Dictionary.’
SENTENCES FROM OLD WRITERS
I. The wall completed (Nehemiah 7:1). “Nehemiah was not vain-glorious. He was humbly lofty, and loftily humble; humble in heart, and yet high in worth and works.” “Those that have a hand in building the spiritual Jerusalem shall be surely crowned and chronicled.” “There must be no straining courtesy who shall begin to build, nor must men fear for their forwardness to be styled seraphical and singular.” “Not priests and Levites only, but the great men in every country, yea, and the country people too, must work at God’s building. Every one must be active in his own sphere; not live to himself, but help to bear the burdens of Church and commonwealth.” “All God’s work is honourable.” “Let us learn at these good men’s examples to be bold and constant in well-doing, and not to fear every brag and blast of wind. Let us be as a lusty horse, that goeth through the street, and careth not for the barking of every cur that leapeth forth as though he would bite him; so let us not be afraid of the barking curs, nor look backward, but go on forth, not changing with every tide; and the mighty Lord will strengthen our weakness with good success to finish his building; for so have all good men done from the beginning.”
II. Hanani and Hananiah (Nehemiah 7:2). “Hanani was a gracious man according to his name, and zealous for his country, which indeed is a man’s self.” “An honest man of good credit, and more earnest in religion and love to his country than others, because his name is put down in writing, and the others are not.” “Hananiah was a man of truth, faithfulness, or firmness; a sure man, and such as one might safely confide in.” “He feared God. No wonder, therefore, that he was faithful to men. God’s holy fear is the ground of all goodness and fidelity. Hence Jethro, in his well-qualified ruler, places the fear of God in the midst of the other graces, as the heart in the body, for conveying life to all the parts, or as a dram of musk, perfuming the whole box of ointment (Exodus 18:21).” “Nothing maketh a man so good a patriot as the true fear of God.” “Take away piety, and fidelity is gone.” “He cannot be faithful to me (said a king) that is unfaithful to God.” “Religion is the foundation of all true fidelity and loyalty to king and country. Hence that close connection, Fear God, honour the king (1 Peter 2:17).” “Hananiah feared God above many. This is a singular praise, and by every man to be sought after, to be eminent and exemplary, taller than the rest by the head and shoulders, full of all goodness, filled with all knowledge (Romans 15:14), able and active in every good word and work.” “That is a low and unworthy strain in some, to labour after no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, soul and hell asunder.” “God would have his people to be discontentedly contented with the measures they have received, and to be still adding (2 Peter 1:5) and advancing (Philippians 3:14), aspiring to perfection, till they come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).”
III. The city guard (Nehemiah 7:3). “Set thou watches. He speaketh to the two Hananis, and bids each of them, whose turn it was, see to the well-doing of it. Xenophon saith of Cyrus, that when he gave anything in command he never said, ‘Let some one do this,’ but, ‘Do thou this.’ ”
IV. An inspired man (Nehemiah 7:5). “No man ever grew to be greatly good without a Divine instinct.” “Every good motion in him, and whatever he thought of that was conducive to the good and welfare of Jerusalem, Nehemiah always ascribed it to God.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Nehemiah 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany