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Nehemiah, hearing that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the gates burned, mourns with fasting and prayer.
Before Christ 445.
Nehemiah 1:1. Nehemiah— It may be well questioned, whether this Nehemiah be the same with him mentioned in Ezr 2:1 and chap. Neh 7:7 of this book, as one who returned from the Babylonish captivity under Zerubbabel; since, from the first year of Cyrus to the twentieth of Artaxerxes Longimanus, there are no less than ninety-two years intervening; so that Nehemiah must at this time have been a very old man; upon the lowest computation above a hundred, and consequently incapable of being the king's cup-bearer, of taking a journey from Shushan to Jerusalem, and of behaving there with all that courage and activity which is recorded of him. Upon this presumption, therefore, we may conclude, that this was a different person, though of the same name. That Tirshatha denotes the title of his office, and, both in the Persian and Chaldean tongues, was the general name given to all the king's deputies and governors, see on Ezra 2:63. The text calls him barely the son of Hachaliah, without informing us of what tribe he was. Some, therefore, from 2Ma 1:18; 2Ma 1:21 where he is said to have offered sacrifices, and from his being reckoned at the head of the priests who signed the new covenant with God (ch. Nehemiah 10:1.), have affirmed him to have been of the family of Aaron; but as there is nothing conclusive in all this, and it seems expressly contradicted by his saying, in another place, that he was not a fit person to shelter himself in the temple, chap. Neh 6:2 the far greater part suppose him to have been of the royal family of Judah. And this is so much the more probable, because we find none but such promoted to those high stations about the king's person; and we never read of a priest that was so till a long time after, and upon a quite different account. The month Chisleu answers to part of our November and December, and the twentieth year is the twentieth of the reign of Artaxerxes. See Le Clerc and Houbigant.
Nehemiah 1:3. The wall—also is broken down, &c.— The commissions which had hitherto been granted to the Jews were supposed to extend no further than to the rebuilding of the temple, and their own private houses; and therefore the walls and gates of the city lay in the same ruinous condition in which the Chaldeans left them after that devastation.
REFLECTIONS.—Nehemiah, though nobly advanced at court, and honoured with a mansion in the palace of Shushan, still bore in his heart the welfare of Zion, and still preferred Jerusalem's prosperity before his chief joy. Note; God has sometimes his friends even in the palace; and, though a court is usually a soil too unfavourable to religious concerns, he had monuments of grace even in Nero's houshold.
1. Nehemiah, on the visit of some of his brethren to Babylon, probably to solicit some favour in behalf of the Jews, earnestly inquires after Jerusalem, and the returned captives who dwelt in it; but receives an afflicting narrative of their wretched situation: the city lying in its desolations, and the people under distress, insulted, oppressed, and reproached by their more powerful neighbours. Note; (1.) We must not, in our advancement, forget ourselves, and grow strange to our brethren because they may be poor or afflicted. (2.) The persecution of God's people, which discourages the unfaithful, awakens the greater zeal and concern of such as are true-hearted.
2. The melancholy account affected the good Nehemiah: the tears ran down his cheeks; and, in affliction, four days he fasted and prayed before the God of heaven, that he would remember their misery, and return to them in mercy. Note; (1.) In seasons of public or private calamities, fasting and weeping should accompany our prayers. (2.) It is a relief to the oppression of our own spirit, when with tears we can pour our complaints into the bosom of a compassionate God. (3.) While we have a God in heaven to go to, our deeper distresses are not desperate.
Nehemiah 1:11. And grant him mercy—For I, &c.— Houbigant supposes, that Nehemiah repeated this prayer (which he had often before repeated) now again in silence, while he administered the cup to the king in his office; and therefore he renders the last clause, but I then administered the cup to the king; and this alone, he thinks, can account for the mode of expression, this man. The office of cup-bearer was a place of great honour and advantage in the Persian court, because of the privilege which it gave him who bare it, of being daily in the king's presence; and the opportunity which he thereby had of gaining his favour for the procuring of any petition that he should make to him. That it was a place of great pecuniary advantage, seems evident by Nehemiah's gaining those immense riches which enabled him for so many years, (ch. Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 5:19.) out of his own privy purse only, to live in his government with great splendour and expence, without burdening the people at all.
REFLECTIONS.—Nehemiah's prayer speaks the gracious temper of his soul.
1. He draws near to God with reverence and godly fear, yet mixed with filial confidence, as to the great God, terrible in judgments, yet faithful to his promises, and never failing those who trust him. Note; (1.) There is a reverential fear of God, which is perfectly consistent with the most enlarged love towards him. (2.) They, who experience the love of God in their souls, may comfortably conclude that he is their faithful friend.
2. He humbly prays that God would graciously hear the prayer which zeal for his glory dictated, and grant the desires of his heart which his grace excited. Note; When God pours out upon us the spirit of grace and supplication, we may assuredly conclude that he will hear and answer us.
3. He penitently confesses their sins, which justly had brought down these afflictions upon them; taking shame to himself, among the rest, for having added to the provocation.
4. He pleads for mercy and pardon; urging, as the ground of his hope, the divine promise that God had given by Moses, that whenever they returned to him, wherever dispersed, or however distressed, he would return to them: and such was now their earnest desire and prayer. Note; (1.) As we see the fulfilment of God's threatenings, we may conclude the fulfilment of his promises. (2.) The most reviving pleas in prayer are drawn from God's faithful word, wherein he has caused us to put our trust. (3.) Though we are not worthy to be called God's people; yet, when we return with penitential prayer, he will not disclaim the relation. (4.) The greater kings are but dying men, and worms of earth; and their hearts are in God's hand, to turn them according to the good pleasure of his own will.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Nehemiah 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14