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THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH.
I. Of Nehemiah's personal history we know little three, were Nehemiah's own composition. But a glance beyond the few facts preserved in this book. He was at the three intermediate chapters shows that he was of the tribe of Judah; and probably, like Zerubbabel not the author of these in the same sense; and this is his predecessor, of the royal stock. He was one of the confirmed by a minute comparison of the style and "children of the captivity”; and, through circum. phraseology of the different portions. Those in which stances of which we know nothing, rose to eminence in the writer appears in the first person, and which bear the Persian court. As cupbearer of Artaxerxes he was the peculiar stamp of his devotion, seem to have been in a position of wealth and influence: the history extracts from his personal diary ; while the others seem shows how important both were in his vocation, and to have been incorporated from some public account how nobly he used both in the service of his country. authoritatively drawn up under the direction of Ezra The events recorded furnish only a scanty memorial and himself. But, though several hands contributed of Nehemiah's life; but they paint his character to to the compilation of this middle section, it is easy to perfection. He was a man of profound piety, con
see that Nehemiah made the whole his own. For necting everything, great or small, with the will of instance: the prayer in ch. ix. was probably Ezra's, but God, in whose presence he lived and moved and had in the history surrounding the prayer there is no his being : this is attested by the interjectional prayers special mark of his style ; and the remarkable which habitually recur. His prudence was equally transition to the “we” in ch. x., the sealing of the marked; and there is no better example of constant covenant, hardly allows either Nehemiah or Ezra dependence on God united with practical forethought. to be the immediate author, but is rather like He was disinterested and unselfish : his wealth was a free rendering of the very terms of the vow used for public ends, and there is not the slightest as written in a permanent document. The dedi. reference to self apart from the common good. This cation of the wall is vividly described in the first set the crown on his public administration, the energy, person; and so is the energetic administration of sagacity, and even severity of which were guided solely reform after his return from Susa. But between these by the demands of his vocation. He always appeals to there are a few verses which seem to be derived from a the judgment of a merciful God; and that appeal avails national record. The six lists which are interwoven against much hard modern criticism which dwells on in this middle section were of course extracts from his alleged asperity, self-confidence and self-assertion. public archives. Those of ch. xi. fall appropriately Ancient Jewish tradition gave his name a high place, into the narrative. The other lists have all the not a whit below that of Ezra.
appearance of being inserted on account of their
importance to the future commonwealth : one of them, II. Passing from the book to the writer, we have the that of the high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua, having long-contested question as to the nature and extent of been retouched at a later period. The interpolator his authorship. It is generally admitted that the first probably added also verses 22 and 23 of the same seven chapters, as also the greater part of the last chapter; as the notes will explain.
THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH.
B.C. cir. 446.
CHAPTER 1.-(1) The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, (2) that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah ; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. (3) And they said a 2 Kin. 25. 10. unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
(1) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, lo Dan. 9. 4.
and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, (5) and said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments : (6) let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. (7) We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou
(1) The words of Nehemiah.-Rather, The the city. As to the former the terms used have a deep narrative or record. Both as referring to his affairs pathos. Those who had returned to their countryand as written by him.
now only the province—are, in the question, the Jews (1–3) Introductory: tidings brought to Nehemiah
that had escaped ; in the answer they are the Remnant
that are left : both being from the captivity. concerning the sad estate of Jerusalem and the people.
In great affliction and reproach.-In (1) In the month Chisleu.--The names rather distress becanse of the contempt of the people than the numbers of the months are generally around. All these expressions are familiar in the employed after the captivity: Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, prophets; but they are united here in a peculiar and Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishri, Marchesvan, Chisleu, affecting combination. As to the city, the report is Tebeth, Shevat, Adar; with an intercalary month, that the walls were still “ broken down”: lying prostrate, the second Adar. Chisleu answers nearly to our with partial exceptions, as Nebuchadnezzar left them December.
a hundred and forty-two years before (2 Kings xxv. 10), In the twentieth year.–Of the reign of and, moreover, what had not been recorded, "the gates Artaxerxes Longimanus, which began B.C. 465 and thereof burned with fire.”. Though the Temple had ended B.C. 425.
been rebuilt, there is no valid reason for supposing that In Shushan the palace.-Susa, the capital of the walls of the city had been in part restored and Susiana ; where, after the capture of the Babylonian again demolished. empire, a great palace was built by Darius Hystaspis, the ruins of which are still seen. It was the principal
(411) Nehemiah's appeal to God. The prayer is a and favourite residence of the Persian court, alternating
perfect example of the private and individual devotion with Persepolis, the older capital, and Babylon.
with which the later Hebrew Scriptures abound. It Shushan was one of the most ancient cities in the
begins with formal and appropriate invocation (verse
5—8), flows into earnest confession (verses 6, 7), world ; and is associated with the visions of Daniel, and with the feast of Ahasuerus (Dan. viii. 2, Esther i.
pleads the covenant promises (verses 8—10), and sup3).
plicates a present answer (verse 11). The extant (2) He and certain men of Judah.–From
Scriptures, freely used, are the foundation of all. Judah : Hanani was Nehemiah's own brother (ch. vii. (4) Fasted.-Like Daniel, Esther, and Ezra, Nehe. 1). He and his companions came from “ the province miah fasted : fasting appears in later Judaism a of Judah (verse 3); nothing is said as to their motive in prominent part of individual devotion, as it is in the coming; and certainly there is no intimation that they New Testament. had been sent to the Persian court on account of recent (6) Both I and my father's house have disturbances.
sinned.—The supplication was for the nation; and (3) And they said.-Nehemiah's question and his in such cases of personal intercession the individual friends' answer refer first to the people and then to assumes the sin of all the past.
Nehemiah's Appeal to the King.
The King grants his Request.
a Deut. 4. 25, &c.
commandest thy servant Moses.
(10) Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. (11) O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, (3) and said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire ?
(1) Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request ? So I prayed to the God of heaven. (5) And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' ' sepulchres, that I may build it.
16) And the king said unto me, (the Iqueen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. (7) Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; (8) and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my
b Deut. 30. 4.
CHAPTER II.-(1)And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth 1 Heb. wise. year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him ; and I took
the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. (2) Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but
» in the pre
(8) The spirit of many threatenings and promises is (3) Nehemiah's family was of Jerusalem. He does summed up, as in the prayer of ch. ix.
not as yet betray to the king the deepest desire of his (11) This day
this man.-During his heart, but simply refers to the desecration of his “certain days” of mourning Nehemiah had fixed upon fathers' sepulchres, an appeal which had great force his plan, suggested by his God. “ This day” is “ This with the Persians, who respected the tomb. occasion”: the appeal itself was deferred for some (4) So I prayed to the God of heaven.-The months. The king becomes “
first note of that habit of ejaculatory prayer which is a sence of the “God of heaven.”
characteristic of this book. For I was the king's cupbearer.-One of his (6) The queen also sitting by him.-Probably cupbearers, therefore in high authority, having con. Damaspia, the one legitimate queen : Shegal, as in Ps. fidential access to him.
xlv. 13, where, however, she stands as in the presence
of her Divine-human Lord. This was not a public II.
feast, as in that case the queen would not be present (1—8) Nehemiah's appeal to the king.
(Esther i. 9—12).
I set him a time.—Whatever that was, circum(1) Nisan.-The old Abib, the first month of the stances afterwards prolonged it. Jewish year, following the vernal equinox. As we are (7) To the governors beyond the river.still in the twentieth year of the king, the beginning of Between the Euphrates and Susa protection was not his reign must be dated before Chislen. The record needed. adopts Persian dates, and the two months fell in one year. (8) Keeper of the king's forest.-Asaph, a Jew,
(27 Then I was very sore afraid.-Waiting on was keeper of an artificial park or pleasure ground Providence, Nehemiah had discharged his duties for near Jerusalem : the Persian pardes, whence our three months without being sad in the king's presence; “paradise.” It was well planted with trees, as timber but on this day his sorrow could not be repressed. His was to be supplied from its for the gates of the palace," fear sprang from the king's abrupt inquiry. A sad rather the fortress, which protected the house," or countenance was never tolerated in the royal presence; temple, and was known in Roman times as Antonia ; and, though Artaxerxes was of a milder character than also for the city walls ; also " for the house that I shall any other Persian monarch, the tone of his question enter into,” that is, Nehemiah's own house, for his being showed that in this respect he was not an exception. | appointed governor is pre-supposed.
of the Ruins of Jerusalem.
(9) Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. (10) When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
(11) So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. (12) And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
(13) And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. (14) Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. (15) Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and 80 returned. (16) And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what
I did ; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. (17) Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. (18) Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
(19) But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king ? (20) Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build : but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
CHAPTER III.-(1) Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep
(9—11) His journey to Jerusalem, occupying some subsequent events : the city teemed with elements of three months, and safe under good escort, is passed over danger. The nobles and rulers were possessed of no in the narrative, as Ezra's had been. It is mentioned, substantial repressive authority. however, that Sanballat, one of the “governors," was (17) Then. There is no note of time. When his roused to hostility. After the laborious travelling plans were matured, Nehemiah made an earnest appeal Nehemiah rested three days, to review the past and to their patriotism. prepare for the future.
(18) Then I told them.-Nehemiah relates his
providential call, with the king's commission, and the (10) Sanballat the Horonite.-Satrap of Samaria people were thoroughly enlisted in the good cause. under the Persians, whose secretary, or minister was
(19) Geshem the Arabian.—This name completes “ Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite.” Sanballat was the triumvirate of the leaders of the opposition to the from one of the Beth-horons, which had been in mission of Nehemiah. They were not independent chief. Ephraim, and were now in the kingdom of Samaria. tains : Tobiah was Sanballat's servant and counsellor, His name is seemingly Babylonian, while that of while Geshem was probably the leader of an Arabian Tobiah is Hebrew. The revival of Jerusalem would be company mostly in his service. The account of their a blow to the recent ascendency of Samaria.
contemptuous opposition is given in a few touches, as is (11) Three days.-For rest and devotion, after the the contempt with which it was met. They charged example of Ezra.
Nehemiah with rebellion, as afterwards, in chapter vi. 6. (12—18) Nehemiah's cautious preliminaries.
(20) He will prosper us.-The reply is a defiance
in the name of the God of heaven. The closing words (13) The gate of the valley, opening on Hinnom, imply that, as in the days of Zerubbabel, the Samaritan to the south of the city. Nehemiah passed by “ the enemies desired really to have their share in the underdragon well,” nowhere else mentioned, and not now to taking. Nehemiah makes Zerubbabel's answer, but be traced, and surveyed the ruins from the “dung strengthens it; they had nothing in common with port,” whence offal was taken to the valley of Hinnom. Jerusalem, not even a place in its memorials, save one
(14) The gate of the fountain of Siloah (chapter of shame. iii. 15), called also “ the king's pool.”
III. (15) By the gate of the valley, and so returned.—The itineration seems to have completed the (132) The memorial of the builders : to succeeding circuit of the walls.
generations of dwellers in Jerusalem a deeply interest(16) The rest that did the work, that is, after- ing chapter. It contains also a very important topowards. The caution of this procedure is justified by graphical account of the ancient city, since repeatedly