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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Nehemiah 2

 

 

Verses 1-8

Nehemiah 1:11 b - Nehemiah 2:8. Nehemiah Receives Permission from Artaxerxes to Go to Jerusalem and Rebuild the City Walls.

Nehemiah 1:1. the twentieth year of Artaxerxes: 444 B.C.—I had not been aforetime sad: this cannot be got out of the Heb. which says simply "I was not sad; the meaning would appear to be that Nehemiah, knowing as a courtier that it was contrary to usage at court for a royal servant to appear sad in the presence of the king, had determined that he would not offend in this manner even though he had received the bad news about his brethren in Judah; nevertheless, his looks betrayed him in spite of his resolution; hence his words, "then I was very sore afraid" when the king noticed this. To the best of his knowledge Nehemiah had not appeared sad.

Nehemiah 1:2. And the king said . . .: better, "nevertheless the king said. . . ."

Nehemiah 1:3. Let the king live for ever: cf. Daniel 2:4; Daniel 3:9.

Nehemiah 1:6. For how long shall . . .: Nehemiah 5:14*.

Nehemiah 1:8. the castle: cf. Nehemiah 7:2; the word in Heb., birah, is a loan-word, perhaps from the Babylonian; in the Greek it is called baris, so too, by Josephus. This castle was intended as a defence for the Temple ("the house"). That Nehemiah should have had all these particulars ready to explain to the king without ever having been in Jerusalem is not easy to account for. Probably the Chronicler's hand has to some extent filled in the details.


Verses 9-20

Nehemiah 2:9-20. Nehemiah Arrives in Jerusalem and Surveys the Walls.

Nehemiah 2:9. The account of the journey is omitted, interest being centred upon what Nehemiah was going to do in Jerusalem.—the governors beyond the river: namely of the provinces on the west of the Euphrates; as Nehemiah would almost certainly pass through Hamath and Damascus, the two most important cities in Syria, the governors here resident are probably intended.—the king . . . horsemen: cf. Nehemiah 4:16; Nehemiah 4:23; this body-guard remained with Nehemiah in Jerusalem. Contrast Ezra 8:22.

Nehemiah 2:10. Sanballat the Horonite: more correctly Sinuballit; an inhabitant of Beth-horon in Samaria (cf. Joshua 16:3; Joshua 16:5; Joshua 18:13; Joshua 21:22). One of the Elephantine papyri (p. 79) refers to him as the governor of Samaria.—Tobiah the servant: lit. "slave"; the epithet is difficult to account for; perhaps Tobiah had once held a menial position under the Persian king, and had been raised to a place of honour.—a man: in the Heb. there is a note of contempt

Nehemiah 2:11. and was there three days: cf. Ezra 8:32.

Nehemiah 2:12. neither . . . Jerusalem: this secrecy was due to what is recounted in Nehemiah 2:10; whatever plans Nehemiah might have in view would necessarily require to be kept secret lest their carrying out should be forestalled by the enemy's partisans in the city (see Nehemiah 6:10-14).

Nehemiah 2:13. the valley gate: so called because it led to the valley of Hinnom.—the dragon's well: not mentioned elsewhere; it cannot be located with certainty Robertson Smith (The Religion of the Semites, p. 172 (1894)) says: "In 1 Kings 1:9; 1 Kings 3:8, the fountains of En-rogel, where Adonijah held his sacrificial feast, and of Gihon, where Solomon was crowned, are plainly the original sanctuaries of Jerusalem. The former was by the ‘serpent's stone,' and may perhaps be identified with the dragon well' of Nehemiah 2:13. Here again, as in Arabia and at the Orontes, the dragon or serpent has a sacred significance." [See also G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. pp. 74, Nehemiah 11:1 f. He considers that it was a spring opened by earthquake which subsequently disappeared. We have no reference to the name or to a well in the position described before or after the time of Nehemiah.—A. S. P.]—the dung gate: probably, as the name seems to imply, the gate out of which the town refuse was carried.

Nehemiah 2:14. the fountain gate: cf. Nehemiah 3:15, Nehemiah 12:37; on the east side of the mouth of the Tyropœon Valley, though this is not quite certain.—the king's pool: i.e. Solomon's pool; it lay to the east of the pool of Siloam.—but there was no place . . .: because the path was blocked with, the ruins of the walls.

Nehemiah 2:15. the brook: i.e. the Kidron; cf. 2 Samuel 15:23.—and I turned back: this reads as though Nehemiah did not finish his inspection of the walls; Ryle is, however, probably right ín thinking that "we have here an instance of condensation on the part of the compiler, who at this point passes at once to the return journey without giving us sufficient material to judge whether the complete circuit of the walls was made."

Nehemiah 2:16. And the rulers knew not: as "rulers" occurs again later in this verse it is perhaps better to follow the LXX here and read "guards."—to the rest that did the work: "the work can only refer to the building of the walls; but these had not been begun seeing that Nehemiah had not yet disclosed his purpose. The words were probably added by the compiler, writing later from his own point of view.

Nehemiah 2:17. The compiler is only utilising Nehemiah's memoirs, he is not transcribing them, and he leaves out the account of the calling of the assembly, the meeting of which is implied by what follows, in order to come to what he regards as more important.—that we be no more a reproach: cf. Psalms 44:13; Psalms 79:4.

Nehemiah 2:18. the hand of my God: i.e. God's guidance; this did not, however, mean that human means were not to be made the most of, so he recalls the promise of the king of Persia.—they strengthened their hands: i.e. they took heart; the approximate converse expression of "weakening the hands" of someone, in the sense of discouraging by hindering, occurs in Ezra 4:4.

Nehemiah 2:19. Geshem the Arabian: in Nehemiah 6:6 Gashmu.—what is this thing that ye do? The words imply that the building had already commenced.

Nehemiah 2:20. we his servants: if the reading of the LXX is right, "we his innocent (lit. "pure") servants," the words convey a repudiation of Sanballat's suggestion of rebellion.—ye have . . . Jerusalem: cf. Ezra 4:3.—memorial: viz. among their posterity: the thought of the memory of the departed living amongst their posterity was the forerunner of the belief in the life hereafter, and with it in the resurrection of the body, which became a dogma of Judaism soon after the Maccabæan struggle. The normal Sheol-conception—modified by the adumbration of a higher belief in a few isolated passages—pictured only the existence of the shades of the departed in the underworld with only a vague idea of personality (Isaiah 14:9-15*).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/nehemiah-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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