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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Nehemiah 3

 

 

Verses 1-32

Nehemiah 3:1-32

1Then Eliashib, the high-priest, rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep-gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel 2 And next unto him [lit. at his hand] builded the men of Jericho. And next to them [rather, next 3 to him, i.e., next to Eliashib] builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But [and] the fish-gate did the sons of Hassenaah [sons of Senaah] build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks [sockets] thereof, and the bars thereof 4 And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz [Hakkoz], and next unto them repaired Meshullam, the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel 5 And next unto them repaired Zadok, the son of Baana. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the 6 work of their Lord. Moreover [and] the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks [sockets] thereof, and the bars thereof 7 And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah [the Mizpah which belonged] unto the throne of the governor on this side the river 9Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries [the son of Shelemiah of the apothecaries (?)], and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall 9 And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part [half the circuit] of Jerusalem 10 And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah 11 Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahath-moab, repaired the other piece12[a second piece], and the tower of the furnaces. And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part [half the circuit] of Jerusalem 13 The valley-gate repaired Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks [sockets] thereof, and the bars thereof, and a 14 thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung-gate [rubbish gate]. But [and] the dung-gate [rubbish gate] repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part [the circuit] of Beth-haccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks 15 thereof and the bars thereof. But [and] the gate of the fountain repaired Shallum the son of Colossians -hozeh, the ruler of part [the circuit] of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks [sockets] thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah [Shelah] by [that appertained to] the king’s garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David 16 After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk the ruler of the half part [half the circuit] of Beth-zur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the part that was made, and unto the house of the mighty 17 After him repaired the Levites, [under] Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah the ruler of the half part [half the circuit] of Keilah in his part 18 After him repaired their brethren, [under] Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part [half the circuit] of Keilah 19 And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece [a second piece] over against the going up to the armory at the turning of the wall [armory of the corner]. 20After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece [a second piece], from the turning of the wall [from the corner] unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high-priest 21 After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz [Hakkoz] another piece [a second piece] from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house 22 of Eliashib. And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain. After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house 23 After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house 24 After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another piece [a second piece] from the house of Azariah unto the turning of the wall [unto the corner], even unto the corner [and unto the turret]. 25Palal the son of Uzai [repaired] over against the turning of the wall over against the corner], and the tower which lieth out from the king’s high house, that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh [repaired.] 26Moreover [and] the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel unto the place over against 27 the water-gate towards the east, and the tower that lieth out. After them [him] the Tekoites repaired another piece [a second piece], over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel 28 From above the horse-gate repaired the priests, over against his house. After them (him, i.e., the last one of these 29 priests] repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate 30 After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another piece [a second piece]. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber 31 After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith’s son unto the place [house] of the Nethinim and of the merchants over against the gate Miphkad [gate of the visitation] and to the going up of the corner [turret]. 32And between the going up of the corner [turret] unto the sheep-gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

9. פֶּלֶךְ. In this sense of “circuit” the word is Chaldee. See Targum on Joshua 17:11. In Heb. it means “staff,” or “distaff.” See 2 Samuel 3:29; Proverbs 31:19.

13. הָשְׁפוֹת. The omission of the א is to be noted as comp. with Nehemiah 3:14. Gesenius considers the א as prosthetic, and makes the root שָׂפַת, but it is as likely to be אָאַף.

30. שֵנִי, a lapsus for שֵּנִית,נִשְׁכָּה. here and in Nehemiah 12:44 and Nehemiah 13:1, seems to be a varied form of לִשְׁכָּה.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The Wall-Building

Nehemiah 3:1. Eliashib the high-priest.—This man was afterwards closely allied to Jerusalem’s enemies, one of his grandsons having married Sanballat’s daughter ( Nehemiah 13:28). His alliance with Tobiah became so close that he prepared a room for Tobiah in the temple ( Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:7). Eliashib may have excused this desecration on the ground that Tobiah was a Jew by birth. (See on Nehemiah 2:10.) Eliashib was grandson of Jeshua, who, with Zerubbabel, led the original return. Notwithstanding the unworthiness of this high-priest and his probable want of sympathy with Nehemiah’s piety and patriotism, he could not refuse to take the lead in the wall-building. Public opinion was too strong under the appeals of Nehemiah.

The sheep-gate,Sha’ar hatz-tzon, must have been by the temple, or else the priests would not have been selected to build it. It is probably the προβατικὴ of John 5:2, translated in E. V. “sheep-market.” It seems to have been at the north-eastern corner of the temple-area, in the neighborhood of the present St. Stephen’s gate. It might derive its name from the fact that through this gate the sheep and goats (for the word refers to all small cattle) destined for the sacrifices were driven. (See Excursus.)

They sanctified it and set up the doors of it.—This gate is the only one which is said to be sanctified (kidshuhu), and we cannot tell whether it was done at once, so soon as it was built by the priests, or afterwards when the doors were set up ( Nehemiah 6:1). The other gates were purified (another verb, taher) after the completion of the wall ( Nehemiah 12:30). This seems to indicate a special connection with the temple. It probably opened into the temple-area. The setting up of the doors was not done until afterwards, but is here anticipated.[FN1] (See Nehemiah 6:1.)

The tower of Mean,migdol ham-meah,the tower of Hananeel,migdol hananeel.—These two towers were between the sheep-gate and the fish-gate. They are have occupied the north-eastern corner of the temple-enclosure, and the corner west of that, where the city-wall from the north joined the wall of the temple-enclosure. Hence they would (like the sheep-gate) be both connected with the temple, and hence they were sanctified. (See Excursus.) (They sanctified it in the second occurrence seems to refer to the wall including the two towers. )—The tower of Meah may have been the place where the nobles and rulers collected their hundredth ( Nehemiah 5:11), Meah being the Heb. for the “hundredth:” but?

Nehemiah 3:2. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.—This should read literally: And at his hand builded the men of Jericho, and at his hand builded Zaccur the son of Imri.—Zaccur may have been leader of the men of Jericho. The English version misleads.

Nehemiah 3:3. The fish-gate,Sha’ar had-dagim, was east of the present Damascus-gate in the north wall. It is mentioned 2 Chronicles 33:14 and Zephaniah 1:10. (See Excursus.)

The sons of Hassenaah.—Rather: the sons of Senaah. (See Ezra 2:35.) Senaah was a city, or more likely a large territory (if we are to judge from the large numbers in Ezra, l. c.), near Jericho. In the Onomasticon we find a Senna, seven miles north of Jericho.—The locks thereof were probably the sockets into which the bars fitted.

Nehemiah 3:4. Meremoth, the son of Urijah, is the same who is called in Ezra 8:33 “Mere-moth, the son of Uriah the priest.” (See Nehemiah 10:5.) He was of the family of Hakkoz, written wrongly in E. V. in this place Koz. See 1 Chronicles 24:10.

Meshullam, the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel.—This Meshullam was allied to Tobiah, for Tobiah’s son Johanan had married Meshullam’s daughter ( Nehemiah 6:18). Nehemiah made the Jews, allied to the enemies of Judah, to commit themselves to the welfare of the city, as against their chosen intimates of the heathen. The “Meshezabeel” may be the same mentioned in Nehemiah 10:21; Nehemiah 11:24.—Zadok, the son of Baana, seems to be the same as the Zadok of Nehemiah 10:21. Both Meshullam and Zadok were probably of the tribe of Judah.

Nehemiah 3:5. The Tekoites.—Tekoa (still bearing its old name) is nine miles due south of Jerusalem, and about two miles south-west of the conspicuous Frank Mountain.—Their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.—Nehemiah’s task was an immense one, to unite a people, in many of whom there was no sympathy with the cause, for a rapid and successful movement. The fashionable part of Jerusalem was in virtual league with the enemies of God. Some of these were constrained (as Eliashib) by circumstances to take part in the work of rebuilding the Holy City, but others (as these Tekoite nobles) resolutely kept aloof.

Nehemiah 3:6. The old gate must have been in the north wall, east of the present Damascusgate. Keil reads: “gate of the old wall” with Arnold and Hupfeld, as referring to the old wall in distinction from the “broad wall,” which was newer. If we are to read Jeshanah as a genitive, it is possible that the gate was “the gate of Jeshanah” as leading to that town ( 2 Chronicles 13:19). (See Excursus.)

Nehemiah 3:7. Meronothite.—Here and in 1 Chronicles 27:30 only. Meronoth may have been a dependent village of Mizpah.—Unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.—They did not repair unto (i.e. as far as) the throne, etc. Then the preposition would have been ’ad, but it is l (i.e. el). It connects the description with Mizpah, and describes this Mizpah as belonging to the throne (or sway) of the governor beyond the river (i.e. beyond the river from Susa and the empire’s centre), or as our version has it “the governor on this side the river.” Perhaps this was to distinguish it from the Gilead Mizpah, which was under another governor ( Judges 10:17, etc.). In this case the “river” would be the Jordan. Some place Mizpah at Neby Samwil, some at Scopus.

Nehemiah 3:8. The son of one of the apothecaries.—Probably the name Shelemiah ( Nehemiah 3:30) has dropped out here. The goldsmiths and apothecaries (makers of spices, ointments and perfumes) worked under these leaders. These apothecaries are supposed by some to have been priests ( 1 Chronicles 9:30).

Fortified Jerusalem.—Here and at Nehemiah 4:2, the Heb. word ’azab is translated in E. V. “fortify.” Fürst derives it from an original meaning of “knot” or “bind;” hence “fasten” or “repair.” Ewald gives it the meaning of “shelter.” But in Exodus 23:5 it seems to mean “help,” though Fürst there gives it the meaning of “loosen.” A common meaning of the word is “to forsake” as in Deuteronomy 31:16. This last meaning Fürst and Gesenius retain in Nehemiah 4:2 by translating: “will they (the governors) forsake the matter to them?” or “will they allow them?” May not this general notion be intended here: “they loosened (i. e freed from exposure and peril) Jerusalem?” Keil retains the common meaning of azab, and reads: “they (the builders, or else the Chaldeans) left Jerusalem untouched as far as the broad wall.”

The broad wall,hahomah harehavah ( Nehemiah 12:38) seems to have been a special fortification at the north-west corner of the city. Keil would identify it with the four hundred cubits destroyed by Joash, and afterward rebuilt by Uzziah. (See Excursus.)

Nehemiah 3:9. Ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.—Compare Nehemiah 3:12; Nehemiah 3:14-18. Pelek means a circuit, and is a governmental term. Rephaiah was ruler of half the circuit of Jerusalem, and Shallum ( Nehemiah 3:12) was ruler of the other half. The circuits of Beth-zur and Keilah had each two rulers also (see Nehemiah 3:16-18). These circuits were probably districts deriving their names from their chief towns.

Nehemiah 3:11. The other piece,middah shenith, “a second piece,” as in Nehemiah 3:19; Nehemiah 3:21; Nehemiah 3:27; Nehemiah 3:30. The first piece (“first,” perhaps, because first assigned to them) which they repaired is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:23, where Malchijah is called Benjamin. The Harim and the Pahath-moab, who are mentioned as the fathers of Malchijah and Hashub, who repaired this second piece, were probably remote ancestors, Harim being the third of the twenty-four who in David’s time gave name to the priestly divisions or courses ( 1 Chronicles 24:8), and Pahath-moab being one of the chiefs of families who came back with Zerubbabel a century before (see Nehemiah 7:11). The name Pahath-moab (governor of Moab) is one of the evidences of a close connection with Moab on the part of some of the families of Israel. Elimelech’s residence in Moab and David’s use of Moab as a place of safety for his family are other evidences. (See also 1 Chronicles 4:22 for another allusion.)

The Tower of the Furnaces,Migdal hattannurim would naturally fall into the neighborhood of the Jaffa Gate, and may be represented by the north-eastern tower of the citadel, which Dr. Robinson identifies with Herod’s tower of Hippicus. (See Excursus.)

Nehemiah 3:12. Shallum, the son of Halohesh. Halo‘hesh, or Hallo‘hesh, is another ancestral name, and not that of an immediate father. (See Nehemiah 10:24.) He and his daughters not ruling, but building. The zeal of these women is emphasized.

Nehemiah 3:13. The valley-gate. See on Nehemiah 2:13. Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah.—Hanun is called in Nehemiah 3:30, “the sixth son of Zalaph.” Zanoah was about twelve miles west of Jerusalem.

The dung-gate. See on Nehemiah 2:13.

Nehemiah 3:14. The ruler of part of Beth-haccerem, or the ruler of the circuit of Beth-haccerem. Beth-haccerem was near Tekoa, and was a height where a beacon could be displayed ( Jeremiah 6:1). It is identified by modern travellers with Jebel Fureidis, or the Frank Mountain.

Nehemiah 3:15. Gate of the Fountain.—See Nehemiah 2:14. Shallum the son of Colossians -hozeh, a Judahite ( Nehemiah 11:5). The ruler of part of Mizpah, or the ruler of the circuit of Mizpah. The circuit of Mizpah, and Mizpah itself, had different rulers. (See Nehemiah 3:19.) Covered it. Probably equivalent to “laid the beams thereof” of Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6. The pool of Siloah, by the king’s garden,Beréchath hash Shelah, legan ham-melek. It is Shiloah in Isaiah, and Shelah here. The pool is the present Birket Silwan, and probably includes the Birket el-Hamra. It was outside the city, near the Tyropœon valley, where it enters the valley of the Son of Hinnom. Just at this junction was the king’s garden (see 2 Kings 25:4, and Joseph, A. J. 7, 11), watered by this pool. It receives its water through a subterranean canal under the lower end of Ophel (the ridge running south from the temple-area) from the Fountain of the Virgin, on the west side of the Kidron valley. The old wall probably embraced all Zion, running along its southern brow, and stretched over to Ophel, in the neighborhood of the pool of Siloam, the fountain-gate being near by.

The stairs that go down from the city of David would then be an access to the Tyropœon from Zion, ending in this neighborhood of the pool. (See Excursus.)

Nehemiah 3:16. The ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, or the ruler of half the circuit of Beth-zur. Beth-zur is about four miles north of Hebron. Unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.—The sepulchres of David were probably the same as the sepulchres of the kings ( 2 Chronicles 28:27, et al.), and we may place them somewhere on Zion ( 1 Kings 2:10). The part of the wall here designated would be that on Ophel, opposite that portion of Zion where the sepulchres were, the valley of the Tyropœon being between. The “pool that was made” may be the present fountain of the Virgin, which perhaps Hezekiah formed with its remarkable galleries (see Capt. Warren’s account in “the Recovery of Jerusalem”) for the supply of Ophel (see 2 Kings 20:20). The “house of the mighty” (beth- Haggai -geborim) we have no clue to.

Nehemiah 3:17. The ruler of the half part of Keilah in his part, or the ruler of the half circuit of Keilah for his circuit. Those of the other half-circuit of Keilah are next mentioned.

Nehemiah 3:19. The ruler of Mizpah another piece.—The first piece is given in Nehemiah 3:7. Over against the going up to the armory at the turning of the wall.—Rather, from opposite the ascent of the armory of the corner. The armory of the corner was perhaps at an angle in the eastern Ophel wall.

Nehemiah 3:20. Baruch the son of Zabbai is honorably mentioned for his distinguished zeal. He worked at a second piece from the corner mentioned above to the high-priest’s house, which seems to have been on Ophel. Perhaps this Baruch’s first piece of work has slipped from the text. Zabbai may be the same mentioned in Ezra 10:28. Baruch may be the priest of Nehemiah 10:6.

Nehemiah 3:21. Meremoth, the son of Urijah, the son of Koz.—See on Nehemiah 3:4. As a conspicuous priest, it was appropriate that he should be connected with the work on the wall in front of the high-priest’s house.

Nehemiah 3:22. The men of the plain.—The word translated “plain” is kikkar, which is generally used for the Jordan valley, but in Nehemiah 12:28 it is used of the environs of Jerusalem. It literally signifies a circuit. As no qualifying word or phrase is found here, this kikkar is probably the Jordan valley.

Nehemiah 3:23. Benjamin (see on Nehemiah 3:11) one of the descendants of Harim. (See Ezra 10:32.) Hashub was son (or descendant) of Pahathmoab. (See on Nehemiah 3:11.) Their house may refer only to Benjamin, who was a priest (one of the Bene-Harim), Hashub, perhaps, being in some way allied to him.

Azariah may be the Levite mentioned in Nehemiah 8:7.

Nehemiah 3:24-25. Binnui is the Levite mentioned in chs. Nehemiah 10:9 and Nehemiah 12:8. Unto the turning of the wall, even unto the corner.—Or, unto the corner of the wall and unto the turret. By this seems to be intended the corner, where the “tower which lieth out” ( Nehemiah 3:25) formed a projection. Capt. Warren found about four hundred feet south-west of the south-east corner of the temple area the remains of an outlying tower to the wall, which he conjectures may be the “tower which lieth out.” This tower is described in the next verse as the tower which lieth out from the king’s high house.—Solomon’s palace, doubtless, occupied the south-east corner of the present Haram. It probably had a high fortified position extending south to the Ophel wall (see Capt. Warren’s map). This part was perhaps built by Jotham ( 2 Chronicles 27:3), or Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 32:5), or Manasseh ( 2 Chronicles 33:14). The height of Manasseh’s building is especially mentioned.

The court of the prison is spoken of in Jeremiah 32:2 as appertaining to the king’s house.

Nehemiah 3:26. Moreover the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel. Some with the Syriac, insert the relative and read, “the Nethinim who dwelt in Ophel,” and then supply the verb “repaired.” This is not needed. We may count this an interjected statement, showing what an important site had been given to the Nethinim. See, moreover, the אַחֲרָיו of Nehemiah 3:27, referring to Pedaiah. The water-gate was, perhaps, a gate opening into the subterranean water galleries, lately discovered by Capt. Warren. If Song of Solomon, then the Nethinim dwelt in all Ophel from a point a little north of the Fountain of the Virgin to this “tower which lieth without,” that Isaiah, along a distance of about eight hundred feet. This position of the water-gate answers to the narrative in Nehemiah 12:37. (See Excursus.)

The Nethinim (i.e., dedicated ones) were servants of the temple, who performed the menial duties of the precinct. In Josephus they are ἱερόδουλοι (temple-servants). They were appointed by David ( Ezra 8:20), as another guild of service (Solomon’s servants, or Andhé Shelomoh) was appointed by Solomon ( Ezra 2:58). The Levites, as compared with the priests, were called Nethunim ( Numbers 8:19), a word of the same signification as Nethinim. (Comp. the K’tib of Ezra 8:17.) Perhaps David’s Nethinim were the Gibeonites (hewers of wood and drawers of water) restored to their service in a regular manner, after a dispersion of their number in Saul’s time. (See 2 Samuel 21:2.)

Nehemiah 3:27. The Tekoites repaired their first piece near the old gate ( Nehemiah 3:5).

The great tower that lieth out is probably the same as “the tower that lieth out” of Nehemiah 3:25.

The wall of Ophel would be the southern wall of the temple-area where it joined the district of Ophel.

Nehemiah 3:28. The horse-gate was where Athaliah was slain. It was between the temple and the palace. This would put it about200 feet north of the present S. E. corner of the Haram. (See 2 Chronicles 23:15, and Jeremiah 31:40). The part from the “wall of Ophel” to the horse-gate (Sha’ar Has-susim) was probably in good order, as it was the wall of the old royal palace, and had been occupied by the governors of the city. Hence it is not mentioned as rebuilt at this time, but the next builders to the Tekoites begin from above (i.e., up the Kidron) the horse-gate. (See Excursus).

Nehemiah 3:29. The keeper of the east gate.—This Sha’ar ham-mizrah is the sha’ar hak-kadmoni of Ezekiel 11:1, one of the inner temple-gates, not a city gate. If this Shemaiah, the son of Shechaniah, is the same as the one mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:22, then he was a descendant of the kings, and his title may have been one of honor only. He may, however, have been another and a Levite.

Nehemiah 3:30. Hananiah. See on Nehemiah 3:8. Hanun another piece.—See on Nehemiah 3:13.Meshullam the son of Berechiah. See on Nehemiah 3:4.

Nehemiah 3:31. The place of the Nethinim and of the Merchants over against the gate Miphkad and to the going up of the corner. Lit. The house of the Nethinim and the traders opposite the gate of the visitation even to the ascent of the projecting turret. The “house” of the Nethinim and traders was not their dwelling-place, but, we suppose, the place where under the direction of the Nethinim the traders (see Matthew 21:12) brought their doves, etc, for sale to worshippers. We may place it near the northeast angle of the Haram. For the gate Miphkad, see Excursus. The ascent of the turret would be the stairs at the north-east angle leading up to a corner-tower, not far from the sheep gate.

Nehemiah 3:32. The goldsmiths may have been also connected with these matters of the Nethinim and traders.

For a plan of the walls of the city, see Excursus.

From this outline it will be seen that only those gates whose bars and locks and doors are mentioned do we consider as belonging to the city wall, to wit:

1. Sheep-gate, Nehemiah 3:1.

2. Fish-gate, Nehemiah 3:3.

3. Old-gate, Nehemiah 3:6.

4. Valley-gate, Nehemiah 3:13.

5. Dung-gate, Nehemiah 3:14.

6. Fountain-gate, Nehemiah 3:15.

The other gates are not spoken of as now constructed, and we take them to be inner gates belonging to the inner temple and palace divisions, to wit:

1. Water-gate, Nehemiah 3:26.

2. Horse-gate, Nehemiah 3:28.

3. East-gate, Nehemiah 3:29.

4. Gate Miphkad, Neh 3:31.

We also consider the wall along the southern brow of Zion to have continued across the Tyropœon to Ophel near the pool of Siloam.

HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL

1. Eliashib’s connection with Sanballat and Tobiah ( Nehemiah 13:7; Nehemiah 13:28) must have taken place at a later date, when Nehemiah had returned to Susa, and was not expected to revisit Jerusalem. If the high-priest had already made those scandalous alliances, Nehemiah certainly would have taken him to task, and the record of such reprimand would have been here given. With a heart disaffected, Eliashib nevertheless takes his place in the rebuilding of the wall. His prominence in the work was doubtless a great help to Nehemiah.

2. It is an interesting feature of this wall-building that those whose local interests were far off, as at Jericho, Tekoah, and Beth-zur, took such deep interest and such conspicuous part in the work. The old love for Zion and for the temple was still warm in the breasts of the returned Jews. They felt that the true life of the nation flowed from Jerusalem as the central heart. Their union in this work was a powerful means of renewing their patriotic affection and strengthening the interests of the commonwealth. Co-working for defence always brings souls together; and when the co-working is in defence of the citadel of religion and country, the strongest bond of union is formed. The wall-buildings formed a strong basis, on which Nehemiah could introduce his reforms.

3. However, there must have been many who refused the service, and were apathetic, if not hostile to the work. Otherwise we should not see some of them engaged doing a second piece of the wall, and perhaps a longer list of leaders in the service would be recorded. It is not to be believed that, if the high-priest himself was inclined to ally himself to Sanballat, there were not many others who had no hearty interest in the restoration of Jerusalem’s glory. The nobles of Tekoah ( Nehemiah 3:5) were but samples of a large number.

4. And yet, again, the thirty-four leaders whose names are given us cannot be considered as the only chief men engaged in the wall-building. Other prominent men whose names occur later in the book may have held office under them, and hence are here unmentioned.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Nehemiah 3:1. The importance of Zion’s walls1) For uniting the congregation, the congregation must be able to shut itself off and secure itself to protect its peculiar goods2) For exclusion of the world,—the world must be kept at a distance, so long as it only strives to rob the goods of the congregation.

Nehemiah 3:1-2. The precedence of the high-priest in making the city of God secure1) He himself is the first to build2) By this he consecrates the work of the others3) He is a pledge for the success of the work.—The duty of building the walls of Zion1) For those in authority (as Nehemiah), who have to incite and uphold the priests and people in their work2) For the priests who are not exalted above the common obligation.—3) For the people whose members must not forget in their household and inferior cares, those which are higher and more universal.—Bede: Qui portas et turres ædificant, per quas vel cives ingrediantur vel arceantur inimici, ipsi sunt prophetæ, apoastoli, evangelistæ, per quos nobis forma et ordo fidei ac rectæ operations, per quam unitatem ecclesiæ sanctæ intrare debeamus, ministrata Esther, quorumque verbis, qualiter adversarios veritatis redarguamus ac repellamus, discimus. Qui vero reliquis verbis extruunt, ipsi sunt pastores et doctores.—Starke: The clergy should set to work first in building the city of God, and precede others by a good example. The memory of those who have rendered services to the church and to the commonwealth remains, justly, blessed. Proverbs 10:7. The most powerful and richest people do, generally, the least in the temporal and spiritual edifice of the city of God. Happy he who willingly puts on the light and easy yoke of Christ at the building of the spiritual Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 3:31. The honor of the mechanics and artists1) They may be, and shall be at the same time priests of God2) Their products can and shall serve for God’s honor3) Their doing has in itself worth and reward.

Nehemiah 3:33–35. Why the world so easily pretends that our work will have no result1) Because in truth of ourselves we are not capable of great efforts: only the sacrifice and the power of Christ can make us willing and endow us with perseverance2) Because in truth the work is indeed altogether too lofty and glorious,—only the Spirit of Christ can consecrate us to it3) Because the world only sees that which is before its eyes; there Isaiah, however, something higher.—Starke: Fleshly-minded spirits consider the undertaking and the work of God’s children as contemptible and small, and measure it according to their standard. Wisdom of Solomon 5:3; 2 Kings 19:10. There are different degrees among the godless, in regard to their wickedness. The worst are those who not only do wickedly themselves, but also cannot bear to see others doing good, and express their rage in poisonous jeers. John 10:32; Psalm 109:4.

Nehemiah 3:36–38. Prayer is the most powerful weapon against the enemy1) It secures to us the best allies2) It makes us sure of the weakness of the enemy. If they are God’s enemies at the same time, they have God’s holiness opposed to them, before which nothing which is evil can endure3) It pledges the final victory to us. They can only escape by change of heart.—Starke: When we are in the greatest straits, there God is our safety, our rock, our strength and refuge, and we must fly to Him in prayer. 2 Chronicles 20:12; Proverbs 18:10; Nahum 1:3.

Nehemiah 3:38. The blessing of the oppression which the scorn of the world exercises upon us1) We work the more steadily under it, we do not indeed know how long the evening will permit us to work2) The joy in the work increases as surely as it is elevating to bear the disgrace of Christ3) The work advances so much the better. Starke: In the work of the Lord we must confidently proceed, heedless of all opposition. 2 Timothy 4:3-5. At pleasure’s call all work seems small, therefore be not slothful in what you should do. Romans 12:11; Proverbs 6:6. If God has given us successful progress in our work, this should be an admonition to us that we should the more boldly persist in pursuing our calling.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - This gate and the water-gate and horse-gate and gate Miphkad ( Nehemiah 3:26; Nehemiah 3:28; Nehemiah 3:31) all appear to have been within the temple-precinct or its neighborhood, and all appear to have been destitute of locks and bars; for these are spoken of with regard to all the other gates ( Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 3:13-14), but not with regard to these. These gates may have been kept constantly open, but guarded by an armed force.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Nehemiah 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/nehemiah-3.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, May 30th, 2020
Eve of Pentecost
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