by Ken Cayce

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Nehemiah Explained

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Book of Nehemiah Explained

"Title": Nehemiah ("Yahweh has comforted"), is a famous cupbearer, who never appears in Scripture outside of this book. As with the books of Ezra and Esther, named after his contemporaries, the book recounts selected events of his leadership and was titled after him. Both the Greek Septuagint (LXX), and the Latin Vulgate name this book "Second Ezra". Even though the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah are separate in most English Bibles, they may have once been joined together in a single unit as currently in the Hebrew texts. New Testament writers do not quote Nehemiah.

"Authorship": Though much of this book was clearly drawn from Nehemiah's personal diaries and written from his first person perspective (1:1 - 7:5; 12:27-43; 13:4-31). Both Jewish and Christian traditions recognize Ezra as the author. This is based on external evidence that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book as reflected in the LXX and Vulgate; it is also based on internal evidence such as the recurrent "hand of the Lord" theme which dominates both Ezra and Nehemiah and the author's role as a priest-scribe. As a scribe, he had access to the royal archives of Persia, which accounts for the myriad of administrative documents found recorded in the two books, especially in the book of Ezra. Very few people would have been allowed access to the royal archives of the Persian Empire, but Ezra proved to be the exception (compare Ezra 1:2-4; 4:9-22; 5:7-17; 6:3-12).

The events in Nehemiah 1 commence late in the year (446 B.C.), the 20 th year of the Persian king, Artaxerxes 464 - 423 B.C.). The book follows chronologically from Nehemiah's first term as governor of Jerusalem (ca. 445 - 433 B.C.; Neh. Chapters 1-12), to his second term, possibly beginning (ca. 424 B.C.; Neh. Chapter 13). Nehemiah was written by Ezra sometime during or after Nehemiah's second term, but no later than 400 B.C.

Nothing is known about Nehemiah's childhood, youth, or family background, except that his father's name was Hachaliah (1:1), and that he had a brother named Hanani (1:2). Possibly his great-grandparents were taken into captivity when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. He was probably born in Persia sometime during or soon after Zerubbabel's ministry in Jerusalem. The frank and vivid reporting indicates that much of the material in the book comes from what must have been Nehemiah's personal diary. Much of the book is a first-person account of the circumstances surrounding Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem (chapters 1-7; 12:31 - 13:31).

"Historical Setting": Even before Nehemiah was born, the first group of Jews left Persia and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel (538 B.C.). A second group, led by Ezra, had returned in (458 B.C.), 13 years before the opening scene in Nehemiah's book.

The fact that Nehemiah felt anguish for a city he had never seen, a city that had been destroyed by the Babylonians more than 140 years earlier (586 B.C.), says something about his upbringing. His parents gave Nehemiah a name that reflected their own view of their lost heritage as Jews: "Yahweh has comforted". Little did they know that, in the course of his life, Nehemiah would become an enormous source of comfort and encouragement to the people of the Lord.

Ezra accomplished the spiritual establishment of the new community, whereas Nehemiah succeeded in giving it physical stability. When he was in the high position of cupbearer to the king, he learned that the community in Judah was "in great affliction and reproach" (1:3). Thus he succeeded in having himself appointed governor in Judah with authority and resources to rebuild the city walls. He was a man of skill and daring. He first surveyed the walls at night, to avoid detection by those who might oppose the work. Then he assembled a labor force and, dividing the walls into sections, he supervised the building process. The project was completed in the remarkably short time of 52 days. During this endeavor he faced determined opposition: mockery (2:19; 4:1-3); armed raids (4:7-12); a ruse to draw him outside the city, without doubt to murder him (6:1-4); blackmail (6:5-9); and finally a prophet hired to foretell his death. In every case he met the challenge with courage, wisdom and an invincible determination to compete the task for which God had called him.

After the wall was completed, he took measures to increase the population of Jerusalem and to correct social, economic, and religious abuses. The deep piety of Nehemiah is evidenced by his prayers and strong conviction to personally accomplish the task for which God had called him. His combined work with Ezra united the nation and gave them a unique identity in such a way as to preserve the people of God, the oracles of God, and the promises of redemption in the light of that day when God would fulfill all of the old covenant hopes and desires in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In addition to the material cited in the Introduction to the Book of Ezra, in 444 B.C., 14 years after Ezra's return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah also returned. God used him to guide Judah in rebuilding the city's walls and in reordering the people's social and economic lives. The Bible speaks of Nehemiah going to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (1:1) and again in his thirty-second year (13:6). The reference must be to Artaxerxes I (464 - 423 B.C.), and would yield the dates (445 and 433 B.C.), respectively.

The Elephantine Papyri, discovered in (A.D. 1903), confirm the historicity of the Book of Nehemiah, mentioning Sanballat (2:19), and Johanan (6:18; 12:23). These sources also tell us that Nehemiah ceased to be governor of Judah before (408 B.C.), thus making a later date for Nehemiah impossible.

"Historical and Theological Themes": Careful attention to the reading of God's Word in order to perform His will is a constant theme. The spiritual revival came in response to Ezra's reading of "the book of the law of Moses" (8:1). After the reading, Ezra and some of the priests carefully explained its meaning to the people in attendance (8:8). The next day, Ezra met with some of the fathers of the household, the priests, and Levites, in order to "gain insight into the words of the law" (8:13). The sacrificial system was carried on with careful attention to perform it "as it is written in the Law" (10:34, 36). So deep was their concern to abide by God's revealed will that they took "a curse and an oath to walk in God's law" (10:29). When the marriage reforms were carried out, they acted in accordance with that which "they read aloud from the book of Moses" (13:1).

A second major theme, the obedience of Nehemiah, is explicitly referred to throughout the book due to the fact that the book is based on the memoirs or first person accounts of Nehemiah. God worked through the obedience of Nehemiah; however, He also worked through the wrongly-motivated, wicked hearts of His enemies. Nehemiah's enemies failed, not so much as a result of the success of Nehemiah's strategies, but because "God had frustrated their plan" (4:15). God used the opposition of Judah's enemies to drive His people to their knees in the same way that He used the favor of Cyrus to return His people to the Land. To fund their building project, and to even protect the reconstruction of Jerusalem's walls. Not surprisingly, Nehemiah acknowledge the true motive of his strategy to repopulate Jerusalem: "my God put it into my heart" (7:5). It was He who accomplished it.

Another theme in Nehemiah, as in Ezra, is opposition. Judah's enemies started rumors that God' people had revolted against Persia. The goal was to intimidate Judah into forestalling reconstruction of the walls. In spite of opposition from without and heartbreaking corruption and dissension from within, Judah completed the walls of Jerusalem in only 52 days (6:15), experienced revival after the reading of the law by Ezra (8:1), and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (8:14; ca. 445 B.C.).

The book's detailed insight into the personal thoughts, motives and disappointments of Nehemiah makes it easy for the reader to primarily identify with him, rather than "the sovereign hand of God" theme and the primary message of His control and intervention into the affairs of His people and their enemies. But the exemplary behavior of the famous cupbearer is eclipsed by God who orchestrated the reconstruction of the walls in spite of much opposition and many setbacks; the "good hand of God" theme carries through the book of Nehemiah (1:10; 2:8, 18).

"Background and Setting": True to God's promise of judgment, He brought the Assyrians and Babylonians to deliver His chastisement upon wayward Judah and Israel. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians deported the 10 northern tribes and scattered them all over the then known world (2 Kings chapter 17). Several centuries later (ca. 605 - 586 B.C.), God used the Babylonians to sack, destroy, and nearly depopulate Jerusalem (2 Kings chapter 25), because Judah had persisted in her unfaithfulness to the covenant. God chastened His people with 70 years of captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11).

During the Jews captivity, world empire leadership changed hands from the Babylonians to the Persians (ca. 539 B.C.; Dan. Chapter 5), after which Daniel received most of his prophetic revelation (compare Dan. Chapters 6, 9 - 12). The book of Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus, a Persian king, to return God's people to Jerusalem to rebuild God's house (ca. 539 B.C.), and chronicles the reestablishment of Judah's national calendar of feasts and sacrifices. Zerubbabel and Joshua led the first return (Ezra chapters 1-6), and rebuilt the temple. Esther gives a glimpse of the Jews left in Persia (ca. 483 - 473 B.C.), when Haman attempted to eliminate the Jewish race. Ezra (chapters 7-10), recounts the second return led by Ezra (in 458 B.C.). Nehemiah chronicles the third return to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (ca. 445 B.C.).

At that time in Judah's history, the Persian Empire dominated the entire Near Eastern world. Its administration of Judah, although done with a loose hand, was mindful of disruptions or any signs of rebellion from its vassals. Rebuilding the walls of conquered cities posed the most glaring threat to the Persian central administration. Only a close confidant of the king himself could be trusted for such an operation. At the most critical juncture in Judah's revitalization, God raised up Nehemiah to exercise one of the most trusted roles in the empire, the King's cupbearer and confidant. Life under the Persian king Artaxerxes (ca. 464 - 423 B.C.), had its advantages for Nehemiah. Much like Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, he had attained a significant role in the palace which then ruled the ancient world, a position from which God could use him to lead the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls in spite of its implications for Persian control of that city.

Several other historical notes are of interest. First, Esther was Artaxerxes' stepmother (see note on Esther 1:9), and could have easily influence him to look favorably upon the Jews, especially Nehemiah. Second, Daniels's prophetic 70 weeks began with the decree to rebuild the city issued by Artaxerxes in 445 B.C., (compare chapters 1 and 2; see notes on Dan. 9:24-26). Third, the Elephantine papyri (Egyptian documents), dated to the late 5th century B.C., support the account of Nehemiah by mentioning Sanballat the governor of Samaria (2:19), Jehohanan (6:18; 12:23), and Nehemiah's being replaced as governor of Jerusalem by Bigvai (ca. 410 B.C.; Neh. 10:16). Finally, Nehemiah and Malachi represent the last of the Old Testament canonical writings, both in terms of the time the events occurred (chapter 13; Mal. Chapters 1-4), and the time when they were recorded by Ezra. Thus, the next messages from God for Israel do not come until over 400 years of silence had passed, after which the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were announced (Matt. chapter 1; Luke chapters 1 and 2).

With the full Old Testament revelation of Israel's history prior to Christ's incarnation being completed, the Jews had not yet experienced the fullness of God's various covenants and promises to them. While there was a Jewish remnant, as promised to Abraham (compare Gen. 15:5), it does not appear to be even as large as the time of the Exodus (Num. 1:46). The Jews neither possessed the Land (Gen. 15:7), nor did they rule as a sovereign nation (Gen. 12:2). The Davidic throne was unoccupied (compare 2 Sam. 7:16), although the High-Priest was of the line of Eleazar and Phinehas (compare Num. 25:10-13). God's promise to consummate the New Covenant of redemption awaited the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Messiah (compare Heb. Chapters 7 - 10).

"Restoration": In a world ravaged by sin, restoration and renovation are ongoing projects. The physical condition of Jerusalem and the spiritual condition of the returning Jews make the rebuilding of both the key theme of Nehemiah. The physical and spiritual reconstruction that this book describes, reminds us that the work of the Lord requires intense, committed labor, because forces are always fighting to tear down what He has built.

"Covenant Commitments": Throughout the history of the Jewish people, signposts were established to mark the faithfulness of God and the spiritual growth of the people. Just as God put His laws onto stone tablets to emphasize their permanence, so Nehemiah led the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to pledge their faithfulness to God and His laws with their own signatures (9:38 - 10:39). Confessing commitments out loud (Rom. 10:9), and putting them in writing are just two ways to establish spiritual accountability.

"Leadership": Spiritual leadership requires human and divine activity, and Nehemiah's experience reveals both working in one accord. While the wall around Jerusalem was being built, Nehemiah prayed for protection, but also set watchmen on the wall and required all laborers to carry swords strapped to their sides as they worked (4:9, 18). Meanwhile, the Lord enlisted willing volunteers for the work and ensured that their efforts were protected at every turn.

"What it means to you": Nehemiah could have heard the news about Jerusalem at the breakfast table and said, "That is too bad!" Instead, the terrible dilemma of his people in a faraway place gripped his heart. Yet rather than giving in to anxiety or depression, he took his concern to God, asking how he might be used.

Nehemiah shows us how God's work gets done. It starts with a person's concern, moves into prayer, and translates into courageous action. We must first be aware - living life with eyes open to the needs of others rather than being self-absorbed. After that, when God moves our hearts about a situation, we should give ourselves over to intense, persistent prayer. Then, directed and empowered by the Lord, we can look for ways to step into the circumstance and do what we can.

Like Nehemiah, we may be surprised at how much we can accomplish when the Lord is backing our efforts.


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Nehemiah 1 Nehemiah 8
Nehemiah 2 Nehemiah 9
Nehemiah 3 Nehemiah 10
Nehemiah 4 Nehemiah 11
Nehemiah 5 Nehemiah 12
Nehemiah 6 Nehemiah 13
Nehemiah 7  

Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah Chapter 1

Nehemiah was once a part of the book of Ezra. This book covers the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. It is also a time of return to the laws of God. Some believe that most of it is an autobiography of Nehemiah's life.

"Nehemiah" was the governor of Jerusalem who helped rebuild the city wall (1:1; 8:9; 10:1; 12:26, 47). Nehemiah was the personal cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I, Longimanus (ruled 464 - 424 B.C.).

About 445 B.C., Nehemiah received permission from Artaxerxes to go to Judah and restore his people's fortunes (verses 5-11; 2:8). He was appointed governor of the province with authority to rebuild the city walls.

Nehemiah and his work crew were harassed by three enemies: Sanballat the Horonite (a Samaritan), Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab (2:10, 19; 6:1-14). Jerusalem's wall was finished in a record 52 days (6:15). Nehemiah's success was assured because he kept praying, "O, God, strengthen my hands" (6:9). He also initiated many social and political reforms among the people (5:1-19; chapter 11). After a brief visit to Persia, he returned to Jerusalem (433 B.C.), and dealt with further matters of religious and social reform. Neh. 1-7; 11-13).

Verses 1:1 - 7:73a: Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and successfully leads a 52 day "rebuilding of the wall" project (compare 6:15).

Verses 1:1 - 2:20: This section details how Nehemiah became the governor of Judah (compare 5:14; 8:9; 10:1; 12:26).

Nehemiah 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,"

"Nehemiah" means "The Lord Comforts". The name "Hachaliah" distinguishes him from other Nehemiahs (3:16; 7:7; Ezra 2:2), but nothing is known about the origin or meaning of the father's name nor about his status. He is mentioned (in 10:1), but only by name to those who made covenant with God. The personal records of this famous royal cupbearer contribute greatly to this book. Unlike Esther and Mordecai, named after Mesopotamian deities Ishtar and Marduk, Nehemiah was given a Hebrew name. Nehemiah became a legendary figure in later Jewish literature. "Chisleu", or Kislev, was the ninth month (November - December), and the "twentieth year" would have been 445 B.C. (compare 2:1 and the "twentieth year of Artaxerxes").

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book. The words of Nehemiah indicate that this book gives his experience, told from his perspective, just as Ezra the priest recorded his narrative for posterity.

"Chislev" refers to a time in the reign of Artaxerxes (2:1), who ruled Persia from 464 - 423 B.C. He succeeded Ahasuerus, the husband of Esther, also known as Xerxes. These real-world references root the book in history.

"Twentieth year": The 20th year (ca. 446 / 445 B.C.) in the reign of Persian king Artaxerxes (ca. 464 - 423 B.C.; compare 2:1).

"Shushan the palace", or better, "Susa, the citadel", was the winter resort of the Persian kings. In 478 B.C., Esther became Xerxes' queen in this palace (Esther 2:8-18), and (in 550 B.C.), Daniel was carried there in a vision (Dan. 8:2).

Verses 2-4: God often stirs people's hearts before He moves in their circumstances. In the Lord's hands, Nehemiah's concern and curiosity "concerning the Jews ... and ... Jerusalem" would soon become a calling, because he knew that a city wall broken down with its gates burned was a sign of not just past defeat but continuing vulnerability.

Nehemiah 1:2 "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."

"Hanani": Apparently a sibling of Nehemiah, he had gone to Jerusalem in the second return under Ezra's leadership (ca. 458 B.C.). He may have been a real brother of Nehemiah, although the term may be used in the sense of "kinsman" (7:2), where he appears as a man whom Nehemiah could trust with high office.

"Jews ... Jerusalem": Nehemiah was deeply concerned about the people and the city, especially during the previous 13 years, since the second return under Ezra (458 B.C.).

Nehemiah was living at the Persian court. Chisleu is the month of December on our calendar. This 20th year is speaking of the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes. Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah came to Nehemiah to tell him of his homeland. Israel was a nation of people, but it was also God's family. Nehemiah wanted to know how the people who had gone back to Jerusalem from captivity were doing.

Nehemiah 1:3 "And they said 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."

"Wall of Jerusalem ... gates": The opposition had successfully thwarted the Jews' attempts to reestablish Jerusalem as a distinctively Jewish city capable of withstanding its enemies' assaults, which could possibly lead to another destruction of the newly rebuilt temple (ca. 516 B.C.; compare Ezra 4:7-23). Most likely this was a recent destruction (and not the one back in 586 B.C.).

The gates had been burned with fire before the captivity. The walls were broken down at that time as well. These were things that had been left undone, since their return to Jerusalem. It seems they had never re-established themselves in their land.

Nehemiah 1:4 "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned [certain] days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,"

"Sat down and wept, and mourned certain days": Although Nehemiah was neither a prophet nor a priest, he had a deep sense of Jerusalem's significance to God and was greatly distressed that affairs there had not advanced the cause and glory of God.

(See also 2:1), which reveals that Nehemiah spent about 4 months fasting and praying.

Nehemiah had assumed incorrectly, that everything in Jerusalem had been totally repaired. He was not aware that there was still much to be done. Nehemiah was brokenhearted at hearing this. He fasted and prayed to find the will of God in this for himself.

Verses 5-11: One of the greatest building projects in history was so successful because it was started by the prayers of a man of God. This is the first of many prayers this book records (2:4; 4:4-5, 9; 5:19; 13:14, 22, 29, 31), an intercessory prayer in which Nehemiah identifies with the people rather than just pleading to God on their behalf (Ezra 10:1; Dan. 9:20; Psalm 106:6 see also note on 2:17-18).

Nehemiah 1:5 "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:"

"That keepeth covenant and mercy": After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God kept His promise to restore His people to the Promised Land. The promise appeared to be failing, and Nehemiah appealed to God's character and covenant as the basis by which He must intervene and accomplish His pledges to His people. This is a refrain from (Deuteronomy 7:9), and is related to (Exodus 20:6 and 34:6-7). God keeps His "covenant-love" with those who love Him, those in a covenant relationship with Him.

This was almost identical to what Daniel had to say. Nehemiah was a believer in God. He called Him LORD. "Beseech" means pray in this instance. He realized the omnipotence of God. God is all powerful. God keeps covenant with mankind, when they obey His commandments.

Nehemiah 1:6 "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."

"We have sinned against thee": Nehemiah may have believed that the sins of the returnees (compare Ezra chapters 9 and 10), had prompted God to change His mind and withhold His favor from the Jews.

We see a humble man confessing to the LORD that he had sinned. The weight of the sins of his father and of the Hebrews, seemed to weigh as heavy on his conscience as did his own sins. He confesses for them all. His plea to God was that He had not turned completely away from His people. He was saying, please hear my prayer.

Nehemiah 1:7 "We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses."

"Commandments ... statutes ... judgments": Those which are recorded )in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).

This was speaking of the wide range of sins they committed. They mainly had totally disregarded the wishes of God for their lives, and were living to please themselves. He was aware that the condition attached to being blessed of God, included keeping God's statutes and His commandments.

Verses 8-9: Nehemiah showed God that he knew the conditions God Himself had established for His people through "Moses". Unfaithfulness would result in scattering; faithfulness would result in gathering. "If" indicates a choice, and choices have consequences. In a healthy prayer life, we should ask God to reveal if any current problems in our lives are the consequences of sinful choices.

"The word ... Moses": This represents a summary of various Mosaic writings. On "scatter" (verse 8; see Deut. 4:25-28; 28:63-65). On "gather" (see Deut. 4:29-31; 30:1-5).

Nehemiah 1:8 "Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, [If] ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:"

"Remember": Not a reminder to God as if He had forgotten, but a plea to activate His Word.

God had warned them in advance through Moses, that to disobey God brought curses, one of which was scattering into foreign countries as captives. They had disregarded the Word of God, and He had done just as He had promised. Their captivity was brought on them by their own transgressions.

Nehemiah 1:9 "But [if] ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, [yet] will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there."

Return by repentance, and, as a proof of the genuineness of it, yield obedience to the commands of God, and continue therein.

"Though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven": That is, the uttermost parts of the earth, the most distant regions. So called, because at the extreme parts of the horizon, according to our apprehension, the heavens and earth touch each other. So that what is the uttermost part of the one is supposed to be of the other.

"Yet will I gather them from thence and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there": That is to Jerusalem where the temple was built, and his name was called upon.

The best explanation of this Scripture is another Scripture.

2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

God would forgive them, if they were truly seeking forgiveness for their sins. God had saved this remnant of His people to start with again. God would gather them like a hen gathers her chicks. God loved them.

Verses 10-11: After confessing the sins of Israel and referring to the alternative of curse and blessing, Nehemiah reminds the Lord that these people with their sins and their inclination to depart from God are His "servants and ... people". Nehemiah's prayer was specific: "grant him mercy in the sight of this man" (the king). Artaxerxes had made an earlier decision to stop the work (Ezra 4:21). The answer to Nehemiah's prayer is recorded (in chapter 2). The "cupbearer" had direct access to the king and was an important and influential person. The same word was used for the "butler" (in Genesis 40). His basic duty was to choose and taste the wine to ensure that it was not poisoned, and then to present it to the king. In many cases the cupbearer was second only to the king in authority and influence.

Nehemiah 1:10 "Now these [are] thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand."

"Redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand": His allusion to the Exodus redemption recalled the faithful and strong hand of God which had brought Israel out of bondage once before and grounded his confidence in God's power as the basis of his appeal for a second deliverance that will be as successful as the first.

It is as if Nehemiah was reminding God that these are the same people He had promised to forgive.

2 Chronicles 7:15 "Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer [that is made] in this place."

God promised Solomon that anyone looking toward the temple and praying would be heard of Him. God had redeemed them from captivity, now He must help them even more keep their relationship with Him. They were back in their land, but not in fellowship with the LORD as they needed to be. God would bless them, but they needed someone to help them stay in fellowship with God. It seems they were quick to drift away, if there was not someone with a strong hand to keep them from it.

Nehemiah 1:11 "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."

"Who desire to fear thy name": Nehemiah alluded to the fact that Israel was the place which God had chosen for His name to dwell (1:9); the people desired to fear His name and, thus, were praying for God's intervention.

"In the sight of this man": The reference to King Artaxerxes anticipated the discussion (in 2:1).

"The king's cupbearer": As an escort of the monarch at meals, the cupbearer had a unique advantage to petition the king. Not only did the king owe him his life, since the cupbearer tasted all the king's beverages for possible poison, thus putting his own life at risk, but he also became a close confidant. God sovereignly used this relationship between a Gentile and Jew to deliver His people, such as He did with Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Mordecai.

Nehemiah expected to see God answer prayer in his role as the "king's cupbearer". Cupbearers were trusted servants who made sure that the king's drinks were not poisoned. They also had the responsibility of bringing the king joy, not sadness.

It appears that Nehemiah had made himself useful to the king and had acquired the distinction of the king's cupbearer. It would be easy for him to be satisfied with what he had, and forget about Judah and Jerusalem. If Nehemiah was to go to Jerusalem, God would have to make it alright with Artaxerxes. Nehemiah had it in his heart to go to Jerusalem, and help with the work in rebuilding the walls and the gates. He felt he could be an asset in leading them back into good relations with God.

Nehemiah Chapter 1 Questions

1. What does the book of Nehemiah cover?

2. It is also a time of returning to the _______ of God.

3. Some believe it to be an _______________ of Nehemiah's life.

4. Who was the father of Nehemiah?

5. The month of Chisleu is similar to what month on our calendar?

6. The twentieth year of the reign of ______________ is mentioned here.

7. Who was Hanani?

8. What did Nehemiah inquire of him about?

9. Where was Nehemiah living at the time?

10. Israel was a nation of people, but it was also ________ _______ ____.

11. What report did Hanani give Nehemiah?

12. What effect did this have on Nehemiah?

13. What did he do about this, besides pray?

14. What did Nehemiah call God in verse 5?

15. What does "beseech" mean?

16. When does God keep covenant with mankind?

17. In verse 6, we see an _________ man confessing.

18. What was the confession?

19. Who was he confessing for?

20. What had God said He would do to them, if they transgressed His law?

21. What was the fulfillment of that?

22. What would God do, if they repented?

23. Why had God saved this remnant of His people?

24. What was Nehemiah reminding God of in verse 10?

25. What was missing, since they had gone back to their homeland?

26. Whose prayers was Nehemiah asking God to be attentive to?

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Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah Chapter 2

Nehemiah 2:1 "And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, [that] wine [was] before him: and I took up the wine, and gave [it] unto the king. Now I had not been [beforetime] sad in his presence."

"Artaxerxes (reigned 464 - 424 B.C.), was a king of Persia in whose court Ezra and Nehemiah were officials (Ezra 7:1, 7). Known as Artaxerxes I, Longimanus ("Long-handed"), he temporarily halted the rebuilding program at Jerusalem that his predecessor Cyrus had encouraged (Ezra 4:7-23). However, he later allowed it to resume (Ezra 6:14). In the seventh year of his reign (458 B.C.), he authorized Ezra to lead a large number of Israelites back from the captivity to return to Jerusalem in order to begin rebuilding the city' walls (verses 1-10; 13:6; see Ezra 4:7-23 and chapter 7).

"Nisan" is April - May and is the beginning of the Persian and Jewish year. The details of chapter 2 take place about four months after Nehemiah began praying. It was still in Artaxerxes' "twentieth year" (1:1), for his official year began in the seventh month - Tishri (October).

"That wine was before him": Since the act of tasting wine to ensure it was not dangerous to the king strengthened the trust between king and cupbearer, this was the appropriate time for Nehemiah to win Artaxerxes' attention and approval. Not surprisingly, kings often developed so much trust in their cupbearers that the latter became counselors to the kings.

"Now I had not been ... sad": Sadness was a dangerous emotion to express in the king's presence. The king wanted his subjects to be happy, since this reflected the well-being brought about by his administrative prowess.

The month of Nisan is their first month, similar to our month of April. We learned from the last lesson, that Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. He had always been pleasant in the company of the king in the past. At this time, he was not able to keep from showing his sadness about Jerusalem. He was in the very presence of the king serving him, so the king noticed the sadness in Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 2:2 "Wherefore the king said unto me, Why [is] thy countenance sad, seeing thou [art] not sick? this [is] nothing [else] but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,"

"Was very sore afraid": He feared that either his countenance, his explanation or his request would anger the king and thus lead to his death (compare Esther 4:11 with 5:1-3).

Nehemiah had reason to fear, for being sad in the king's presence was a serious offense in Persia (compare Esther 4:2). Also, he knew his request might greatly anger the king.

This king seemed to care for the feelings of those around him. He knew Nehemiah was not sick and he was probably very good to Nehemiah, so this question is understandable. He is very aware because he realized this sickness was of Nehemiah's heart. Nehemiah was afraid, thinking he might have displeased his king.

Nehemiah 2:3 "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' sepulchers, [lieth] waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?"

"Sepulchers ... gates": Nehemiah's deep concern and sadness over the condition of Jerusalem and his people was expressed in his reference to tombs and gates. A tomb was a place to show respect for dead community members who birthed the living generation and passed on their spiritual values to them. Tombs were also the place where the present generation hoped to be honored by burial at death. Gates were emblematic of the life of the city, since the people gathered for judicial procedure or basic social interaction near the gates. The burned gates represented the death of social life, i.e., the end of a community of people.

Nehemiah began with a compliment to the king. His fear of displeasing the king was not as strong as his desire to change things in Jerusalem. Nehemiah told of the things troubling him about his homeland to the king.

Nehemiah 2:4 "Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven."

"What dost thou make request"? The king rightly interpreted Nehemiah's sad countenance as a desire to take action on behalf of his people and homeland. His immediate response to the king's question illustrates how continual his prayer life was (compare 1:6).

"God of heaven" (see note on Ezra 1:2).

Artaxerxes was a kind king. He did not like to see his faithful servant so unhappy. The question the king asked Nehemiah was sincere. He was saying, Nehemiah, what would it take to make you happy? It appears that Nehemiah prayed, before he answered the question. He did not want to request something of the king that was not the will of God for his life. His prayer was to God alone. He prayed in his heart before he answered the king.

Nehemiah 2:5 "And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchers, that I may build it."

Nehemiah asked the king to reverse the first decree (in Ezra 4:21).

"That I may build it": The request undeniably referred to the city walls, for there could be no permanence without walls, but it also may have included political and administrative rebuilding as well.

This was the first mention that Nehemiah even wanted to go to Jerusalem. He was not asking the king to release him, but just to reassign him to Jerusalem. He wanted to rebuild the wall, gates, and now we read sepulchers of his ancestors.

Nehemiah 2:6 "And the king said unto me, (the queen 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."

"The queen": Since Esther was the queen of the previous king Ahasuerus (Xerxes; ca. 486 - 464 B.C.), and the stepmother of Artaxerxes, it could be that she had previously influenced the present king and queen to be favorably disposed to the Jews.

Some think the set "time" actually turned out to be 12 years (as 5:14 indicates), after which he returned to the king for several years (13:6). Others believe he reported back after the dedication of the walls, within the year, then had his appointment as governor renewed and returned to Jerusalem.

The queen was named Damaspia. Since she was in the room, this was possibly a time of relaxing and putting away the government issues. He would be in a good mood at that time with his wife there. He did not want to give Nehemiah up completely, but would listen to any reasonable time he might want to be away. Nehemiah explained to him the length of time it would take, and the king approved and let him go. Nehemiah actually stayed away 12 years.

Verses 7-8: This decree was the same as the one (in Daniel 9:24-27), which relates to the beginning of the 70 weeks of prophetic years to "restore and to build Jerusalem". Note how specific Nehemiah was in the contents of his request. The "palace" actually was a fortress or tower and may have been Hananeel's mentioned (in 3:1). It protected the temple and overlooked the northwest corner of its courts. Hyrcanus I (134 - 104 B.C.), built an acropolis here, and later Herod rebuild it and named it Antonia. The "house that I shall enter" is the governor's home.

Nehemiah 2:7 "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;"

"Let letters be given me": Official letters transferred a portion of the king's authority to Nehemiah. In this context, he needed to pass through the lands of Judah's enemies who could harm him or prevent him for rebuilding Jerusalem. The roads upon which messengers, ambassadors, and envoys of all sorts traveled had stations where such letters could be inspected for passage. Three months of travel from Susa to Jerusalem was long, dangerous, and ridden with protocol where letters were required for passage. The danger associated with the passage, but particularly the administrative authority which Nehemiah carried in the letters, led Artaxerxes to send captains of the army and horsemen with Nehemiah for protection (2:9; see notes on Ezra 1:11; 7:8-9).

The letters would declare that Nehemiah had not run away, but had been sent by the king. This would give him safe passage.

Nehemiah 2:8 "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 God upon me."

"And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest": Lumber was a very precious commodity. This is illustrated in a document from one ancient city in Mesopotamia in which a forest official is taken to court for cutting down a tree. Forests were carefully guarded, and written permission from the king would assure Nehemiah of the lumber he would need to build the citadel, wall reinforcements, and his own residence from which he would administrate the reconstruction.

"Palace": This edifice located next to the temple on the northwest side was a fortified building for the purpose of guarding the temple. It was subsequently rebuilt by Herod and named Antonia.

"The good hand of my God upon me": This refrain is common to both Ezra and Nehemiah. It is a frequent reminder in these inspirited books that God works through His servants to accomplish His will (compare Ezra 1:5; 7:6).

The timbers that Nehemiah was asking for were possibly from trees growing in an area near Jerusalem, so they would not have to be carried far. This was a generous king, and he granted the request of Nehemiah. He realized these were not for Nehemiah's own use, but for the wall and gates that he went to repair. It would be of no use to go, if there were no materials to do the work with.

Verses 2:9 - 3:1: The journey from Persia to Jerusalem and the preparation period was to be 3-4 months (compare 2:1 with 6:15).

Nehemiah 2:9 "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."

"I came to the governors": Nehemiah's encroachment upon their provincial control posed a tremendous threat to these officials. If handled improperly, disregard for the other local officials would have put Nehemiah's life and the lives of those in Jerusalem in jeopardy. To prevent such a reaction, God had moved the Persian king to dispatch royal army captains and horsemen to accompany Nehemiah and to guard against such attacks.

The escort provided more than protection; it gave the expedition style and impressively reinforced their credentials to the neighboring governors, vividly illustrating the change in policy.

Not only did the king allow Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem, but he sent captains of the army and horsemen with him to give him a safe journey. The governors received Nehemiah with his proof of the blessings of the king written in the letters he had sent.

Nehemiah 2:10 "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."

"Sanballat ... Tobiah": These men were probably also behind the opposition described (in Ezra 4:7-23), which stopped the work in Jerusalem. Sanballat served as governor of Samaria (Horonaim being a town in Moab, he was probably a Moabite), and Tobiah of the region east of the Jordan. These district magistrates were leaders of Samaritan factions (see chapter 6), to the north and east. They had lost any recourse to prevent Judah from rebuilding since God's people were authorized to fortify their settlement against attack from enemies such as these two officials. To overtly attack or oppose the Jews would be to oppose the Persian king.

"Sanballat" was the governor of Samaria, according to an Elephantine document written in (407 B.C.), some 38 years after the events of this chapter. He would cause much grief to the Israelites (compare 13:28-29). Sanballat's name, coming from Akkadian Sin-uballit , "Sin [the moon god] Has Given Life", may indicate something of the mixed character of the Samarian religion at this time.

"Tobiah" had a good Jewish name, "Yahweh Is Good", but was a treacherous person. He may have been an ex-slave, but more likely "servant" indicates his position in the Persian Empire, maybe east of Judea. Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the term is often used of high officials in the Persian Empire.

It appears that not all of the governors were pleased. He was probably of Samaria. They were jealous of those of Judah. Sanballat and Tobiah were not eager to help Judah. Tobiah was an Ammonite, and especially did not like Judah. They would both rather see them destroyed, than the king sending Nehemiah to help them.

Verses 11-16: Nehemiah spent 3 days discerning what course to follow before informing anyone of his plan; then, he wisely viewed the terrain in secret and surveyed the southern end of the city, noting the broken and burnt conditions of the walls and gates.

Nehemiah 2:11 "So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days."

We see that Nehemiah still made it to Jerusalem, in spite of the opposition. After this long journey, it appears he rested three days.

Before he entered on any business, resting himself from the fatigue of the journey, and receiving the visits of his friends. As Ezra before him did (Ezra 8:32).

Nehemiah 2:12 "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."

Both the season of the night, and the small number of men to accompany him, were chosen for greater secrecy, that the business he came upon might not as yet be known. And so no schemes formed to obstruct or discourage.

"Neither told I any man what God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem": He was satisfied that what he had in view was from the Lord, who had stirred him up to it. But thought it prudent for the present to conceal it, until things were prepared to put it in execution.

"Neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon": He only rode perhaps on a mule, being not yet recovered quite from the fatigue of his journey. And for the sake of honor; the rest went on foot, that there might be no noise made, and so pass on unheard and unobserved.

Nehemiah was not ready, at this point, to make everyone aware of his mission. He was not part of the system in Jerusalem. It would be a shock, when he explained why he was there. He kept it very quiet and went out to survey the damage during the night, so no one would know what he was doing.

Nehemiah 2:13 "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."

"The gate of the valley" was probably on the south wall, in the southwest corner of the city, with the valley being the Kidron Valley (compare 2 Chron. 26:9). The "dragon well" may be either "jackal" or "dragon". The location is disputed and is generally identified with En-rogel, but also the identification with Siloam has been forcefully argued. The "dung port", or gate, was about five hundred yards from the valley gate. It was the city's southern or southeastern extremity, leading to the valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna. Formerly a site of monstrous pagan sacrifices, it had been ritually polluted to desecrate the pagan gods, and turned into a refuse heap.

"Dragons well": The exact location is unknown, although it is somewhere in the southern section of Jerusalem.

"Dung port": A.k.a. Dung gate. At the southern tip of the city (compare 3:13; 12:31), a common sewer ran to the Kidron Brook into the Valley of Hinnom.

This lets us know that the damage to the wall was extensive. He went to several areas of damage, to figure out how many trees he would need to repair the wall.

Nehemiah 2:14 "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."

The "gate of the fountain" may have led to the spring called En-rogel near the southeastern corner, where the Hinnom and Kidron valleys meet. The "king's pool" may have been Hezekiah's pool of Siloam which was beside the southern tip of the eastern ridge (compare 3:15). He set out from the west side of the city, coming out of the ruined gateway, and turned left toward the south, and so round to the eastern side. Then he was forced to dismount for there "was no place for the beast ... to pass", and he proceeded on foot along this ridge above the Kidron Valley, and turned back to his starting point.

"King's pool": Possibly the pool of Siloam (compare 3:15).

This just means that all of the gates were torn down. This was possibly speaking of an area between two walls that was torn down.

Nehemiah 2:15 "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 [so] returned."

"By the brook": The Kidron Valley, running north and south to the east of the temple mount.

"Gate of the valley": Nehemiah began and ended his trip at the same spot (compare 3:13 on the west side.

It appears that he rode this animal completely around the wall. He probably stayed out all night looking at the damage. He came in before or at daybreak, to keep the inhabitants from realizing what he had in mind to do.

Nehemiah 2:16 "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."

The rulers of the city of Jerusalem, who seem to be officers of the king of Persia, since they are distinguished from Jewish rulers in the next clause.

"Neither had I as yet told it to the Jews": What he came about and designed to do.

"Nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers": The principal men among the Jews, both ecclesiastical and civil.

"Nor to the rest that did the work": Of building and repairing. Neither those that were employed in it, nor those that overlooked it.

It appears that Nehemiah wanted to keep all of this quiet, even from the rulers, until he had his plan ready. He had not even asked for workers yet. The first thing to do was to find out what would be needed to complete the work, and then he could tell.

Nehemiah 2:17 "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."

"That we be no more a reproach": The destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar brought great reproach upon Israel, but particularly upon their God. Nehemiah assured the Jews (verse 20), that because God would prosper them in this endeavor for His glory, they should move ahead.

After he had all of his plans ready, he told them of what he wanted to do. I am sure he also told them of the trees available to them to do the work. He would need their laborers to help him in the work. He explains that this would be a benefit to all of them.

Nehemiah 2:18 "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]."

The sight of Nehemiah's credential and his motivating message revived their drooping spirits to begin the building despite the bitter taunts of influential men (verses 19-20).

At first it was difficult for them to understand why a total stranger would want to come and do such a difficult task with nothing to gain for himself. When he explained that God sent him to do this, they understood. He got all of the help he needed when he told them that God wanted him to do this, and the king allowed him to come and provided the timber.

Nehemiah 2:19 "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?"

"Sanballat ... Tobiah" (see note on 2:10).

"Geshem the Arabian": This ruler most likely officiated to the south of Jerusalem.

"Geshem" (compare 6:1-2, 6), was an even more powerful figure than his companions. He and his son seem to have ruled a league of Arabian tribes which took control of Moab and Edom, together with part of Arabia and the approaches to Egypt, under the Persian Empire. Nehemiah was surrounded by enemies, with Samaria to the north, Ammon to the east, and now Geshem to the south.

These three Arabs were from three different directions, but none of them wanted a wall to be built around Jerusalem. They laughed and made light of the idea of Nehemiah attempting to do this. They had forgotten the power of God. They were trying to say that Nehemiah wanted to build the wall, so he might rebel against his king. Of course, this was not true, because the king was in favor of him building the wall.

Nehemiah 2:20 "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."

"God of heaven" (compare Nehemiah 1:5 and see note on Ezra 1:2). Not only did Nehemiah have the king's permission and was not rebelling, but he had God's protection. Those enemies who tried to intimidate against the work had neither since they were not commissioned by God or the king.

Nehemiah said they had no "portion", which refers to a "legal share" in the Jewish nation. Sanballat and Tobiah were also serving the Lord, but in an illegitimate way. Therefore, they had no jurisdiction over the pure religion of the exiles.

Nehemiah realized that God sent him on this mission. He told these Arab leaders, opposed to the building of the wall, that they would have no portion in it. God would see that the walls were rebuilt. Nehemiah put his trust in God.

Nehemiah Chapter 2 Questions

1. What is the month Nisan on our calendar?

2. Nehemiah was the ______________ for the king.

3. What was unusual about Nehemiah serving the king in verse 1?

4. What did the king ask Nehemiah?

5. The king discerned that Nehemiah was ___________ of __________.

6. What compliment did Nehemiah answer the king with?

7. Why was Nehemiah sad?

8. What did Nehemiah do, when the king asked him what his request was?

9. What was the request?

10. Who was with the king, when he was talking to Nehemiah?

11. How long would Nehemiah be gone?

12. What did Nehemiah ask the king to give him, so he could travel with no problem?

13. Where would Nehemiah get the material to build with?

14. Who went with Nehemiah?

15. Who did Nehemiah show the papers to?

16. Who opposed Nehemiah?

17. Why did they oppose him?

18. How long did Nehemiah rest, when he arrived in Jerusalem?

19. When did Nehemiah go to examine the walls?

20. Why did he not tell anyone?

21. What did he find?

22. How did he travel around the wall?

23. When did Nehemiah tell them what he wanted to do?

24. When did they believe Nehemiah, and offer to help?

25. Why did the opponents of Nehemiah not want a wall built?

26. What had they forgotten?

27. Nehemiah put his trust in _______.

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Nehemiah 3

Nehemiah Chapter 3

Verses 3:1 - 7:3: A detailed account of rebuilding the wall is given.

Nehemiah 3:1 "Then 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."

"Eliashib the High-Priest": The grandson of Jeshua the High-Priest in Zerubbabel's era. He was the High-Priest (compare 12:10; Ezra 10:6), and in later years caused much trouble for Nehemiah by allowing alliances with the Samaritans (13:4).

The "sheep gate" was in the northeast corner, close by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2). Nehemiah lists in this chapter eight different gates and their attached sections of wall, together with the men who repaired them, beginning at the northeast corner of the city and moving in a counterclockwise direction.

The "tower of Meah" was the "Tower of the Hundred" right next to the sheep gate; the "tower of Hananeel" was a little further west. After these buildings were finished they were "sanctified", or "consecrated" to the Lord. Many different groups were involved in the work. Some labored as family units, others by towns, crafts (e.g., the goldsmiths and the apothecary of verse 8), trades (the merchants, verse 31-32), and callings (the priests, verses 1, 21-22, 28; Levites, verse 17); temple servants or "Nethinim" (verse 26); and district officers (verses 9, 12, 15-17). One man even mobilized his daughters (verse 12).

The sheep gate seemed to be a gate in the eastern wall. It would have been appropriate for the High-Priest and priests to work on this wall. Not everyone wanted the wall built. Nehemiah would give credit to those who did help with the re-building. Probably the High-Priest was an over-seer of the work, rather than doing the actual work. It is interesting that as soon as the gate was finished, they sanctified it. They worked on the gate and the wall on the eastern side. This gate was called the sheep gate because it was the gate the sheep were brought through, before sacrificing them at the temple.

Nehemiah 3:2 "And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri."

The posterity of those that formerly inhabited that city; these began where Eliashib and the priests ended, and went on from thence.

"And next to them": Or rather "to him", the High-Priest.

"Builded Zaccur the son of Imri": Who probably was the chief of the men of Jericho.

These were men assigned to the northeast corner of the wall. Very little else is known of Zaccur, or Imri.

Nehemiah 3:3 "But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who [also] laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof."

"Fish gate": So named because merchants sold fish on the northern side of Jerusalem. Men of Tyre and other coastal towns routinely brought fish to sell (compare 12:39; 13:16). It was located in the northern section of the wall, just west of the tower of Hananeel.

The fish gate was in the northern wall. It was very near the gate that is called today, the Damascus gate. The fish were brought in this gate into Jerusalem from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. They not only made the gate, but hung it for use as well. The bars were an extra precaution of locking the gates to keep the enemy out.

Nehemiah 3:4 "And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana."

"Meremoth" is important since he and Malchijah (verse 11), provide links between the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah. (In Ezra 8:33), Meremoth checked in the treasure brought by Ezra from Babylon. (In Ezra 10:31), Malchijah was one of those who submitted to Ezra's purge of mixed marriages.

This appears that these were working on the wall next to the fish gate.

Nehemiah 3:5 "And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord."

Tekoa was the hometown of the prophet Amos, located about 10 miles south of Jerusalem. Their territory was on the fringes of civilization, adjacent to the area controlled by Geshem (2:19). It is encouraging to note that the Tekoites built an extra portion (verse 27). The phrase "put not their necks to the work" indicates petty pride rather than half-heartedness. The unbending neck is a standard picture of this stubborn attitude (Exodus 32:9; Psalm 75:5).

"But their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord": One explanation, beyond just the laziness of the rich, is that these nobles had been pledged to Tobiah for personal gain (6:17-19).

These were the people and not their leaders, working on the wall and gates. The working people helped with the building. It seemed the upper class did not try to stop the others from helping. They just did not work themselves.

Nehemiah 3:6 "Moreover 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 thereof, and the bars thereof."

Which some think was so called because it led to the old city Salem. Dr. Lightfoot thinks it is the same with the second or third gate (Zeph. 1:10). According to Vatablus, it was the gate of the old pool (Isa. 22:11), or rather, perhaps, it was the gate of the old wall Josephus speaks of. The "old gate" was on the northwest corner (compare 12:39).

"They laid the beams thereof (as in Neh. 3:3).

This is possibly speaking of the Damascus gate. This gate appeared to be still standing and was repaired to fit in with the wall. Again, they fixed it where it could be barred and locked in the event they were attacked.

Nehemiah 3:7 "And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river."

Which places were both in the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). And one of these men was of the one place, and the other of the other.

"Unto the throne of the governor on this side the river": Where the governor of those parts under the king of Persia had his seat, and now Nehemiah.

It appears that each group of people repaired the wall and gate that led to the town they lived in. Gibeon and Mizpah were north of the city of Jerusalem, so their people repaired the north wall and gate.

Nehemiah 3:8 "Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of [one of] the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall."

Or Tzorephim, which, according to Jarchi, was the name of a family so called from their trade and business.

"Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries": Or confectioners, which also might be the name of a family so called for the same reason.

"And they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall": Which reached from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, which was broken down by Joash, king of Israel. But was rebuilt so strong by Uzziah, king of Judah, that it stood firm to this time. Wherefore these men repaired up to it, but left that as they found it (see 2 Chron. 25:23), and were not careful to repair it, it not needing any repair. "Broad wall": On the western side of the northern sector (compare 12:38).

Apothecaries made perfume and ointment. The repairs did not seem to be as extensive on this side of the wall. To fortify is to strengthen something that is already there. This possibly means the wall was not as destroyed here, and they just worked on it and made it stronger.

Nehemiah 3:9 "And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem."

That city belonging partly to the tribe of Judah, and partly to the tribe of Benjamin. One part of it was under a governor that was of the tribe of Judah, as this man seems to be; and the other part under one of the tribe of Benjamin (see Neh. 3:12).

These were people who actually lived within the city limits of Jerusalem. It would be of great advantage to them personally to have the wall and gates repaired.

Nehemiah 3:10 "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."

Requiring people to build the section of the wall next to their home was convenient; it also heightened their motivation: every household would have a personal stake in the work.

Again, it appears this repair was done near their home. They were wanting to help build the wall to help everyone, but would be personally benefited by protecting their own homes.

Nehemiah 3:11 "Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahath-moab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces."

The fathers of these were heads of families that came out of captivity with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:6).

"Repaired the other piece": Or second piece, below and next to that which Hattush repaired, the last builder mentioned.

"And the tower of the furnaces": Near to which were furnaces for the baking of bread, or of bricks. "The tower of the furnaces" was located at the southwest corner, just north of the valley gate (verse 13).

This seems to be the piece of the wall that was not repaired by those mentioned (in verses 10 and 11).

Nehemiah 3:12 "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters."

So called, as Ben Melech says, from his being an enchanter of serpents, or a wise prudent counsellor.

"The ruler of the half part of Jerusalem": Of the other half (see Neh. 3:9).

"He and his daughters": Who were rich widows or heiresses, and employed men to build at their own expense. He seems to have had no sons.

It appears that Rephaiah and Shallum each ruled half of Jerusalem. He possibly had no sons, so his daughters worked with him on the repair.

Nehemiah 3:13 "The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate."

"The valley gate" (see note on 2:13, 15).

The "dung gate" was at the southern tip of the city near the pool of Siloam, as refuse was carted to the valley of Hinnom to be burned (see note on 2:13).

The 1,000 cubits means 1,500 feet. This would be a very large area for repair. They also repaired the valley gate. In this instance, it appears the inhabitants of Zanoah did the work. They were located on the west side of Jerusalem. There were probably a large number of people working on the gate and wall, making it possible for them to repair such a long span.

Nehemiah 3:14 "But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Beth-haccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof."

If this was one of the Rechabites, they were forbidden to build houses (Jer. 35:7). But, perhaps, though they might not build private houses for themselves to dwell in, they might be employed in building walls and fortresses for public security. Though it is more probable that this man was not of that family.

"The ruler of part of Beth-haccerem": Or of the tract of Beth-haccerem, a place between Tekoah and Jerusalem (see Jer. 6:1).

"He built it, and set up the doors thereof" (as in Neh. 3:3).

This was a district located close to Tekoah. Again, they built the gate and fixed it to be locked in case of war.

Nehemiah 3:15 "But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Col-hozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David."

Of which (see Nehemiah 2:14).

"Repaired Shallum, the son of Col-hozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah": Of a tract, district, town, or city so called. Perhaps that in the tribe of Benjamin (see Neh. 3:7).

"He built it, and covered it; roofed it": Which is not said of any of the other gates, whether because of the fountain at it.

"And set up the doors thereof" etc., (finished it completely).

"And the wall of the pool of Siloah, by the king's garden": Which was formerly without the wall, on the west, but afterwards taken in by Manasseh, who built it (see 2 Chron. 33:14). And from hence the king's garden was watered (see note on 2:14).

"And unto the stairs that go down from the city of David": Zion, which was built on an eminence, from which they went down by steps into the lower city Acra. "The "gate of the fountain" was just north of the southern tip of the city, near the pool of Siloam.

Shallum actually ruled the district around Mizpah. Again, each of them chose a portion of the wall and a gate that was on the side their area was located on. Perhaps it took less trouble to get to the work, since it was nearby. This fountain furnished water for the city in case of a siege. The king's garden had been watered by this fountain. The stairs could be speaking of those that had led to the temple at one time.

Nehemiah 3:16 "After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, unto [the place] over against the sepulchers of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty."

The "Nehemiah" is one of three people so named, including one of the first to return home with Zerubbabel, nearly a century before (Ezra 2:2).

The "sepulchers of David" is most likely plural to include those of his descendants. (1 Kings 2:10), teaches that David was buried in the city that bore his name, this southern part of the eastern ridge of Jerusalem. His traditional tomb, however, is on the western ridge.

"House of the mighty": This location is probably associated with David's mighty men (compare 2 Sam. 23:8-39).

This is another Nehemiah. "Beth-zur" means house of the rock. It is located between Hebron and Jerusalem. This is one specific area that Nehemiah had wanted to repair, because of the sepulchers.

Nehemiah 3:17 "After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part."

Who was one of them, as he that follows was another.

"Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah": A city of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:4).

"In his part": Either with the men of that part of Keilah under his jurisdiction, or at the expense of that part of it.

We see from this, that nearly every class of people had a few who helped with the repairs. We can also see that not everyone helped. Again, Keilah here, is not speaking of a city, but of a region.

Nehemiah 3:18 "After him repaired their brethren, Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah."

Either the brethren of the two before named particularly, or the Levites their brethren in general, as Jarchi.

"Bavai, the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah": The other half of that place.

Verses 17 and 18 are companions. Bavai ruled one half of the region and Hashabiah the other half.

Nehemiah 3:19 "And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armory at the turning [of the wall]."

Either of another Mizpah, or of the other half of Mizpah (Neh. 3:15).

"Another piece": Or a second piece; one of the two pieces. For another is mentioned in the next verse.

"Over against the going up to the armory, at the turning of the wall": The western wall towards the south, near to which was a place where armor was laid up. Perhaps the same with the tower of David, to which there is an allusion (in SOS 4:4). "The armory": Located on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

We read earlier of the two who ruled one half each of Mizpah. Perhaps this is speaking of the town here, and not the region. The portion of the wall that he repaired was the northwestern angle. It appears in each of these corners, there was a place to easily get fighting gear. This is possibly, what this is speaking of as the armory.

Nehemiah 3:20 "After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning [of the wall] unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest."

Towards and next to that Ezer the last builder mentioned had repaired. And this he did "earnestly", or in anger as the word signifies. Being angry with himself or others that there was any backwardness shown to the work. And therefore, with all haste and eagerness imaginable, attended to it.

"From the turning of the wall": See the preceding verse (3:19).

"Unto the door of the house of Eliashib the High-Priest ": Of whom (see Neh. 3:1). Now either his house was upon the wall, or that part of the wall that was right against the door of his house is here meant.

It appears that Baruch was set aside as having a burning desire to finish the wall, as Nehemiah wanted to finish it. The word "earnestly" is the key to this. This is the second section that he had worked on. The house of the High-Priest had to be near the wall. The High-Priest and the priests had worked on the eastern wall. The house of the High-Priest was probably on the eastern wall somewhere. "Eliashib" means God will restore.

Nehemiah 3:21 "After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz another piece, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib."

He had done before in another part (Neh. 3:4), but having finished that, he sets his hand a second time to the work.

"From the door of the house of Eliashib, even to the end of the house of Eliashib": The door of his house seems to have been at one end of it, and from that end to the other was a considerable length. He being a great man, the High-Priest, had a large house.

Meremoth was a priest of a family of priests. He worked on the wall that was adjacent to the house of the High-Priest.

Nehemiah 3:22 "And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain."

Either of the plain of Jericho, where, in later times at least, there was a station of the priests. Or of the plain about Jerusalem. Those also assisted in the repairs of the wall.

This is speaking of the priests who settled in the Jordan valley.

Nehemiah 3:23 "After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house."

The last of the priests before mentioned.

"Repaired Benjamin, and Hashub, over against their house": As much of the wall as the length of their house, or houses, were.

"After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, by his house": As far as that reached.

This Azariah was the same one who helped Ezra teach the law. He was a Levite, as were all of the others mentioned in this verse. They had houses near the house of the High-Priest, and they repaired the portion of the wall near their houses.

Nehemiah 3:24 "After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another piece, from the house of Azariah unto the turning [of the wall], even unto the corner."

Beginning where Azariah ended.

"Unto the turning of the wall, even unto the corner": The corner where the wall turned from the south to the east.

This is speaking of an area of the wall from the house of Azariah to the corner of the wall. Binnui is believed by some to be the Levite Bavai.

Nehemiah 3:25 "Palal the son of Uzai, over against the turning [of the wall], 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."

Who dwelt there, and so repaired what was right against him.

"And the tower which lieth out from the king's high house": Which might be built for prospect, or his upper house.

"That was by the court of the prison": And we often read in Jeremiah of the court of the prison being in or near the king's house (see Jer. 32:2).

"After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh": Went on from hence with the repair.

The king's house here, is speaking of the old palace of David. Each palace had its own prison. This would have been in the court of the palace.

Nehemiah 3:26 "Moreover the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel, unto [the place] over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out."

"Ophel" means a "Swelling" or "Eminence" and was the beginning of the temple hill. Thus, it was a convenient place for the "temple servants" or "Nethinim". It went up toward the north end of the eastern ridge of Jerusalem. It was also known as Zion, and was the site of the Jebusite stronghold that David captured and made his capital (2 Sam. 5:6-10).

The "water gate" was most likely opposite the Gihon spring, the city's main water supply, along with rainwater cisterns.

We remember that the Nethinim did servile work in the temple. They would have lived close to the wall as well as the priests. Ophel was a ridge in the city of Jerusalem. It actually was located toward the Kidron valley on the edge of town. The water gate was speaking of the gate the water drained away from the temple area. There was a tower on each corner of the wall to help see intruders from a distance before they got to the wall.

Nehemiah 3:27 "After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel."

Having finished what they undertook in another part of the wall (Neh. 3:5), they engage in this part of it. Which shows their great zeal and diligence, when their nobles were so backward to it, and withdrew from it.

"Over against the great tower that lieth out": The same as in the preceding verse (3:26).

"Even unto the wall of Ophel": From right against the great tower unto the wall the Tekoites repaired.

The Tekoites started their repairs at the spot where the Nethinim had stopped. It seemed all of these were spoken of as they took up the repairs, where the other stopped. This was going all around the city wall explaining, as they came to them.

Verses 28-32: The "horse gate" was near the temple on the east. The "gate Miphkad" is a reference to the "inspection gate" or the "muster gate" where the people or men may have been mustered for conscription. It would be near the present golden gate. Jesus may have entered Jerusalem in His triumphal entry through this gate or the east gate (Matt. 21:10). With the "sheep gate" being mentioned at the outset in verse 1, we are brought back to the starting point.

Nehemiah 3:28 "From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house."

So called, either because near it were stables for horses. Or through it horses were led to be watered at the brook of Kidron, to which it was near. Or to be exercised in the valley. Josephus speaks of the "hippie", or horse tower, which might be near it.

"Everyone over against his house": For it seems there was a row of houses in which the priests dwelt. And each of them repaired as much of the wall as was right against his house.

This gate was in the eastern wall, where horses could enter the city. This would have been near the palace for the convenience of seeing David. It appears, that each priest repaired the portion nearest his own house.

Nehemiah 3:29 "After them 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."

After the last of the priests, this begun where they ended, and repaired as far as his house reached. And being, perhaps, a person of some note, his house might be a large one.

"After him repaired also Shemaiah, the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate": That is, of the temple. For the gates of the city having been burnt so long, it cannot be thought there should be a keeper of any of them.

Zadok was a priest. Shemaiah was a priest also. His distinction was that he was a keeper of the east gate. They repaired the wall at the location of their own houses.

Nehemiah 3:30 "After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another piece. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber."

This last man had six sons; but only his youngest son wrought at this work. Which is observed to his great commendation.

"After him repaired Shelemiah the son of Berechiah, over against his chamber": The same as in (Neh. 3:4), who having finished what he engaged in there. Took his part where his chamber was, and repaired over against that.

These were possibly chief men who worked on the wall. These were not the same as the verses we just read, who repaired the wall near their own houses. These seemed not to have a house near the wall.

Nehemiah 3:31 "After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinim, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner."

Or the son of Tzoreph, as some, so called from his business.

"Unto the place of the Nethinim, and of the merchants": He repaired up to the place where these dwelt.

"Over against the gate Miphkad": Where some think was a house of visitation or correction. And others, where the Sanhedrim sat, tried causes, and exercised justice.

"And to the going up of the corner": From the east to the north.

The goldsmith would be a very respected man in the community. He worked on the eastern wall near the corner.

Nehemiah 3:32 "And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants."

"The sheep gate": Having traveled around Jerusalem in a counterclockwise direction, the narrative ends where it began (compare 3:1; 12:39).

"Repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants": Or druggists; which was done at their expense. And so the wall all round, with the gates of it, were rebuilt and repaired, which was all done in fifty two days (Neh. 6:15).

These were not priests, or high government officials. They were just average citizens who were respected, because of their businesses.

Nehemiah Chapter 3 Questions

1. Who built the sheep gate?

2. What portion of the building did the High Priest probably do?

3. Why was the gate called the sheep gate?

4. The men, in verse 2, worked on the ________ ________ __________.

5. Who built the fish gate?

6. Why was it called the fish gate?

7. What were the bars on the gate for?

8. Who, of the Tekoites, did not work on their portion of the gate?

9. Verse 6 is, possibly, speaking of the ______________ gate.

10. Each group of people repaired the part of the gate that was nearest their _________.

11. Apothecaries made ___________ and ____________.

12. What is different about verse 8?

13. Rephaiah ruled the half part of _____________.

14. How would some of the people be personally benefited by the repair of the wall?

15. Who ruled the other half of Jerusalem?

16. 1,000 cubits is __________ feet.

17. Who repaired the dung gate?

18. What does "Beth-zur" mean?

19. Who had a burning desire to finish the wall, as Nehemiah had?

20. Who was Meremoth?

21. Who helped Ezra teach the law?

22. Where were the priests' houses located?

23. The king's house, in verse 25, is speaking of what?

24. The Nethinim did ____________ work in the temple.

25. The water gate is speaking of what?

26. Who was keeper of the east gate?

27. Who was the goldsmith's son?

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Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah Chapter 4

Verses 1-23: This section describes the intimidation and opposition to the project.

Verses 1-6: People like "Sanballat" will always be indignant when God's work begins. Yet Nehemiah and the people directed their attention to God, and then they returned to work after praying. Christians must not let the derision of the enemy distract them.

Nehemiah 4:1 "But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews."

Or were building it; for as yet it was not finished (see Neh. 4:6).

"He was wroth, and took great indignation": Inwardly, though outwardly he pretended to treat the work with contempt, as if it never would be accomplished, which yet he feared.

"And mocked the Jews": As a set of foolish builders, and unable to finish what they had begun.

This was the troublemaker we read about earlier. He did not want Jerusalem with this wall of protection. He had even accused Nehemiah of wanting to revolt against the king. They were actually mocking the Jews for taking on so large a task by so few people.

Nehemiah 4:2 "And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?"

"The army of Samaria": While it is a possibility that his intentions were to provoke the Samaritans to action, which would have brought the Persian overlord down on Samaria swiftly; harassment and mockery (verse 3), became the primary strategy to prevent the reconstruction of the walls.

The broken walls of Jerusalem did not consist of large blocks of stone that had been toppled by Babylonian invaders. The "stones" had been "burned" by fire and broke down by the intense heat, making much of the old stone too fragile to use again.

Sanballat used five questions; some of them were subtly phrased to require a negative answer. The audience could reach only one conclusion: these Jews were good for nothing. Part of Nehemiah's wall has now been found in recent excavations under the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.

The Samaritans had been enemies of Judah. Most of it came from jealousy. They felt the Jews were fortifying themselves against them. He could not believe that so large a task could be accomplished by this fragment of Jews, that came back from Babylonian captivity. He did not believe they would sacrifice their time and energy enough to get this job done. He was not even aware that the king had given authority to Nehemiah to cut down trees in the forest for their building materials. There is always someone saying the task the LORD has given you is an impossibility. Sanballat had underestimated the power of God working through Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 4:3 "Now Tobiah the Ammonite [was] by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall."

Who was one of his brethren he spake before (Neh. 4:2).

"And he said": In the like contemptuous and scoffing manner.

"Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall": Signifying not only that it was so low that a fox could easily get up to it, or leap over it; but that the materials were so bad, and the work so poorly done, that the weight of a fox would break it down. Of which creatures many were thereabout, since Jerusalem was desolate (see Lam. 5:18).

The Ammonites had also, always been enemies of the people of Judah. They were saying that the wall was built so weakly that just anything at all could tear it down. It was pretty obvious that Tobiah was listening to Sanballat. He was just agreeing with him, and trying to add something to show how weak the Jews were.

Nehemiah 4:4 "Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:"

Here begins the prayer of Nehemiah, who had been informed of what these men said in contempt of him, and his builders. And to whom he sent no answer, but applied to God.

"And turn their reproach upon their own head": As they have despised and reproached us, let them be despised and reproached by their neighbors.

"Give them for a prey in the land of captivity": Let them be carried captive, as we have been, and become a prey and booty to their enemies.

Nehemiah called out to God. He brought it to the attention of God that these Ammonites and Samaritans were opposed to the work on the wall. The thing that Nehemiah asked God for was for the hate to be turned again to them. Actually, Nehemiah would be pleased if these people, who are trying to stop the work, would be taken captive themselves so the work could continue without harassment.

Verses 4-5: Nehemiah's dependence of his sovereign God is never more evident than in his prayer (compare 1:5-11; 2:4). Nehemiah's prayer is like many of the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 123), and (Jer. 18:23), with a demand for retribution.

Nehemiah 4:5 "And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked [thee] to anger before the builders."

"Cover not their iniquity" means let them not go unpunished (Psalms 85:2-3). Nehemiah's harsh tone is due to the fact that God was being challenged.

Nehemiah was telling God that these enemies were not just the enemies of Judah, but they were God's enemies as well. They were trying to stop God's work on the wall, but they were actually insulting the name of God in the process. They were trying to cause the builders to lose confidence in the finishing of the wall.

Nehemiah 4:6 "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work."

Went on in building it, notwithstanding their scoffs and threats.

"And all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof": It was carried all-round the city to half the height of it.

"For the people had a mind to work": Their heart was in it, they had a good will to it, and they made haste to finish it.

All of the insults and troublemaking these two evil men did, could not stop the work on the wall. The entire wall was completed to half the height they had planned. The people had it in their hearts to do this, and no insults could stop them.

Verses 7-9: The "Ashdodites" were a new group joining the alliance to bring a threat from the west. They belonged to the Philistine race.

Israel's enemies made plans to "fight against Jerusalem", hoping to cause a delay. Yet whenever God enlists people to do something for Him, He enables His work and equips His workers to complete the job.

Verses 7-8: "The Ashdodites": Added to the list of enemies already given are the dwellers of Ashdod, one of the former Philistine cities to the west of Jerusalem. Apparently, they came to the point where they were at least contemplating a full-scale attack on Jerusalem because of the rapid progress of the wall.

Nehemiah 4:7 "But it came to pass, [that] when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, [and] that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,"

Who were under and influenced by Geshem the Arabian.

"And the Ammonites": Over whom Tobiah was governor.

"And the Ashdodites": Who were of Ashdod or Azotus, one of the principalities of the Philistines, who were always enemies to the Jews.

"Heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up": Or "the length of them went up"; that is, the height of them. That they rose up high apace, and were got up to, or almost completed to their proper height.

"And that the breaches began to be stopped": For the walls were not all thrown down by the Chaldeans, but breaches made here and there, which were now repaired.

"Then they were very wroth": And could not avoid showing it. Before they mocked them, as attempting what they could not go through with. But now, perceiving the work went on with great success, they were enraged.

All of these were the enemies of Jerusalem and Judah. They knew that with the wall it would be much harder to overthrow Jerusalem. Jealousy burned in their hearts that God had allowed the wall to be re-built. Their anger was great against Jerusalem, and Nehemiah in particular.

Nehemiah 4:8 "And conspired all of them together to come [and] to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it."

All the above men and people entered into a confederacy and combination.

"To come and to fight against Jerusalem": To bring an army with them, and by force cause the Jews to desist. The Jews pretend they came to war, and brought with them an army of 180,000 men, which is not probable.

"And to hinder it": The building of the walls of it; or "to make a wandering for him"; for Nehemiah, or the people, or both. To, cause them to stray from their work, to frighten them from it, that they might become like men at their wits end, not knowing what to do, where to turn themselves, or what course to steer. But to wander about as persons out of their senses; so Aben Ezra. De Dieu joins this clause to the next verse, to cause every one of them to wander, we prayed, etc.

The Arabians, Ammonites, and Samaritans had decided they must stop these men of Judah now, before they built the other half of the wall. They would even attack Jerusalem, if necessary to stop this wall.

Nehemiah 4:9 "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them."

The Jews exhibited a balance between faith in God and readiness, employing some of the wall builders as guards.

"Prayer" does not eliminate the need to take practical measures, in this case to "set a watch" against the enemy (Psalm 50:15). Faith and vigilance always go together. When God's people watch, they know how to pray (Col. 4:2).

The work was temporarily stopped to fight off their enemies, if they came. Nehemiah prayed and asked God to help. He also put men up and down the wall to warn of any attack.

Verses 10-15: External resistance often produces internal discouragement. Yet one great lesson of Nehemiah's story is that they would not stop the project to deal with the opposition. Sometimes the work had to be reorganized, but he and "all" the people always "returned all of us to the wall".

Nehemiah 4:10 "And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and [there is] much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall."

"Much rubbish": Literally "dust", the term refers to the rubble or ruins of the prior destruction (586 B.C.), which they had to clear away before they could make significant progress on the rebuilding of the walls.

The bearers of burdens had been reduced to a small number. Most of them were set as guards on the wall, and they could not continue the work. In this sense, the enemies had won for a time. The work on the wall stopped.

Verses 11-12: Part of the strategy of the enemy coalition was to frighten and intimidate the Jews by making them think their army would soon surprise them with a massive force that would quickly engulf them.

Nehemiah 4:11 "And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease."

Our designs upon them.

"Neither see": Or perceive what we are about to do.

"Till we come in the midst of them": With an army suddenly, unaware and unexpected.

"And slay them": They being unarmed, and not prepared to defend themselves.

"And cause the work to cease": As it must in course, the builders being slain.

The enemy was still threatening to come in and kill all of those working on the wall.

Nehemiah 4:12 "And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us [they will be upon you]."

Near Samaria, Arabia, and Ashdod, and had intelligence of their designs.

"Came, they said to us ten times": That is, they came to them at Jerusalem, and often told them, as this phrase "ten times" signifies (see notes on Gen. 31:7).

"From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you": Come which way you will, so that ye are in the utmost danger. Or "from all places"; where you are repairing and rebuilding.

"Return to us": That ye may enjoy peace and prosperity with us under Sanballat, etc. and escape the wrath and fury you are now exposed to. Or "from all places we come, that ye may return to us"; so De Dieu. These Jews, though they pretended to be friends to their brethren, yet seemed to be in friendship with their enemies, and sought to discourage them, and weaken their minds, and cause them to cease building.

There were Jews who lived outside of the wall. It seemed the people opposed to the building of the wall had told them, that they would not be strong enough to finish the building of the wall. They threatened these people by telling them they had ten times as many as Judah, and Judah would not stand under such pressure.

Verses 13-15: "Set I in the lower places": Nehemiah and the others had received word that Sanballat had mustered the army of Samaria (4:2). In fact, God made sure the strategy was known by letting the nearby Jews know, so they would report it to Judah's leaders. Though vigilant, armed, and ready, Nehemiah and those he led consistently gave God the glory for their victories and construction successes.

Nehemiah 4:13 "Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, [and] on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows."

Where the wall was lowest, and the enemy could more easily break it down, or get over it.

"And on the higher places": Where the wall was higher; or rather on the towers upon the walls, as the word signifies the tops of rocks, which are dry and smooth (see Ezek. 24:2).

"I even set the people after their families": According to their rank, number, strength, and valor.

"With their swords, their spears, and their bows": With weapons they could use both near, and at a distance.

This warning from the adversaries caused Nehemiah to gather the people and place them on the wall, and behind the wall armed with sword, spears, and bows. All of these threats were accomplishing the stopping of the work on the wall.

Verses 14-23: Nehemiah took quick and decisive action (verses 13-14), as he set armed individuals and exhorted them "be not ye afraid", but "remember the LORD" (Num. 14:9; Exodus 14:13-14). He then made sure that half of his own bodyguard was always armed, and alerted each ruler to be ready to lead his group in case of attack (verse 16; the "habergeons" were breastplates, leather coats covered with thin plates of metal). He then armed the laborers (verse 17), seeing that each builder had a sword at his side (verse 18), having a trumpeter always ready to sound the alarm (verse 18), and urging all who could possibly do so to remain in Jerusalem at night (verse 22). Nehemiah took the lead by setting the example of preparedness (verse 23).

Nehemiah 4:14 "And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, [which is] great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

Took a view of the people, and observed that they were in their proper place, and sufficiently armed. And also whether the enemy was coming.

"And rose up and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people": Who were under their nobles and rulers, as their captains and commanders.

"Be not ye afraid of them": Of their enemies, their numbers, and their threats.

"Remember the Lord, which is great and terrible": Who is greater than they, and is to be feared and trusted in by his people, and is terrible even to the kings of the earth.

"And fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses": Intimating, that they were in danger of losing all that was near and dear, valuable and precious to them, if they did not fight for them. And therefore, it became them to acquit themselves like men, and be strong.

Nehemiah had even found out the side the attack was supposed to come from. He alerted the rulers of people of what was planned, and then he reminded them that they should not fear, because God would fight for them. The wall would now help everyone, not just those who had been working on it. Everyone must take up arms and fight off their mutual enemy.

Nehemiah 4:15 "And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work."

What they intended, as might be reported to them from the preparations made by the Jews to receive them, and defend themselves.

"And God had brought their counsel to naught": Which was to come upon them secretly and unawares. But being discovered, they dropped their design, and their scheme came to nothing.

"So that we returned all of us to the wall, every man to his work": To that part of it where he made, in order to finish it.

When the enemy found that Nehemiah and all of Judah knew of their plans and were prepared to fight, the enemy decided not to fight them. There seemed to be just a short pause for the preparation for war. As soon as the threat was over, Nehemiah and all of the workers went back to work on the wall.

Verses 16-20: The people lived in a state of readiness to build or to fight, whichever was appropriate. When the "trumpet" sounded, everyone would rush to lend aid. To rally in times of trouble for mutual encouragement and support produced unity. This is how the church should respond.

Verses 16 - 18a: The threats cut the work force in half, and even those who worked carried weapons in case of attack (compare verse 21).

Nehemiah 4:16 "And it came to pass from that time forth, [that] the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers [were] behind all the house of Judah."

That they were thus alarmed of danger from their enemies.

"That the half of my servants wrought in the work": Of building the wall. His domestic servants, his guards, or mighty men, as Jarchi. Men of war, the soldiers.

"And the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows": Some offensive, others defensive weapons. Some to fight with at a distance, others near at hand.

"And the habergeons": Coats of mail, which they took and clothed themselves with.

"And the rulers were behind all the house of Judah": The Jews that were working at the wall, to animate and encourage them, protect and defend them.

It seemed the threat of war had drawn all of the people together as one. Half of the people worked on the wall, while the other half stood prepared for war. All of those who had not been willing to work on the wall, were now standing ready to defend Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 4:17 "They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, [every one] with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other [hand] held a weapon."

That laid the mortar and stones upon it, and timber where it was necessary.

"And they that bore burdens": That carried the mortar, stones, and timber to the builders, and served them.

"With those that laded": Which prepared the above for them, and laid them on their shoulders.

"Everyone with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon": Which is not to be understood strictly and literally, for without both hands they could not well perform either of the above works. But proverbially, signifying that they were intent on both working and fighting. And were ready and prepared to do the latter, as well as the former. Having weapons lying by them, or girt about them, as is explained in the following verse.

This is saying, that even those who were working on the wall, had a weapon ready beside them to use in case it was needed.

Verses 18b - 20: "Trumpet": Among other functions, trumpets were used to sound an alarm in the event of danger or to summon soldiers to battle. Nehemiah kept a trumpeter at his side always, so that the alarm could be sounded immediately. His plan also included perpetual diligence (verses 22-23).

Nehemiah 4:18 "For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and [so] builded. And he that sounded the trumpet [was] by me."

Thus, equipped he was prepared for either service.

"And he that sounded the trumpet was by me": To give the alarm of war, that everyone might lay aside his work, and prepare for the battle. This officer stood by Nehemiah, that when he found it necessary, might give him orders to sound his trumpet, for the men to gather to him.

This blowing of the trumpet in a certain area, would call the people to that area to fight. Even though the threat of war remained, they built on the wall. The men strapped their weapons to their sides and worked with their weapons where they could instantly get their hands on them. If the trumpet blew, they would all stop working and prepare for war.

Nehemiah 4:19 "And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work [is] great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another."

(See note on Neh. 4:14).

"The work is great and large": The building of the wall all around the city of Jerusalem.

"And we are separated upon the wall one far from another": Some at work on one part of it, and some at another. So that the distance between one another, at least in the further part, was very considerable.

Nehemiah 4:20 "In what place [therefore] ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us."

Be it what part of the wall whatsoever they were at work, even the most distant.

"Resort ye thither to us": To Nehemiah, and the half of his servants armed, where the trumpet was blown. That was to be the place of rendezvous.

"Our God shall fight for us": And give us victory over our enemies. None have any reason to be intimidated, when they shall hear the sound of the trumpet.

The wall went completely around the city with people every few feet working on building it up. Those of Judah and Benjamin, who had come back from Babylon, were not a large number of people. The blowing of the trumpet would be necessary to bring the greatest number together to fight, wherever the war broke out.

Nehemiah 4:21 "So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared."

Of building the wall. And half of them held the spears; and other weapons before mentioned (Neh. 4:16).

"From the rising of the morning till the stars appeared": That is, from morning to evening, the space of time the builders and laborers worked.

They were actually ready 24 hours a day, but they worked about a 12 hour shift from sunup to sundown. Half were working, and half were standing guard at all times.

Nehemiah 4:22 "Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labor on the day."

That were at work upon the wall.

"Let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem": Every builder had a servant, or a lad, as the word signifies. To wait upon him, to bring mortar or stone, or what he wanted. And some of these builders, with their lads, came out of the country towns and villages in the morning, and returned at night. Now Nehemiah proposed, for the safety of the city and its walls, that for the present they would lodge in Jerusalem.

"That in the night they may be a guard unto us, and labor on the day": Might help to protect them in the night, should they be surprised by the enemy, and be ready for their work in the daytime.

This was for the safety of Jerusalem, but it would also be safer for the workers to not leave the safety of the walls. One or two men could easily be stopped and killed, when they were away from the others. This way, they would all be together all the time.

Nehemiah 4:23 "So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, [saving that] every one put them off for washing."

The nobles and rulers.

"Nor my servants": His domestic servants that waited upon him.

"Nor the men of the guard which followed me": His bodyguard, which attended him as a commissioner of the king of Persia for state and grandeur.

"None of us put off our clothes": At night when they laid themselves down to sleep, but laid in, them, that they might be ready upon an alarm made.

"Saving that everyone put them off for washing": Not for common washing because dirty, but for washing on account of ceremonial uncleanness. Which required washing both of bodies and garments (see Lev. 15:5), etc. And the Vulgate Latin version expresses it by baptism, as the apostle calls such ceremonial ablutions in (Heb. 6:2). It is in the margin of our Bibles, "everyone went with his weapon for water". When he went to Siloam, or any other place, for water, he took a weapon with him to defend himself upon occasion; which is no bad sense of the words. Noldius renders the words, "everyone with his weapon (and) water". Both were at his bolster, ready, if needed (see 1 Sam. 26:11).

This is just saying, they slept in their clothes. The only time they had their clothes off, was to wash them and put them right back on. These had to be dedicated people to sacrifice like this to build the wall. Notice that Nehemiah did this, as well as the men. He set the example for them.

Nehemiah Chapter 4 Questions

  1. Who was angry about them building the wall?
  2. How were they mocking the Jews?
  3. What description of the Jews did he use in verse 2?
  4. What questions were they asking in a mocking way?
  5. Why were the Samaritans upset about the wall?
  6. There is always someone saying the task the LORD has given you to do is an _______________.
  7. How weak were they saying the wall was?
  8. Tobiah was listening to ___________.
  9. The ___________ and the ___________ are opposed to the building of the wall.
  10. What does Nehemiah ask God for?
  11. Who were they provoking to anger, besides the workers?
  12. In verse 6, we see that _________ of the wall is finished?
  13. Who became angry, along with Tobiah and Sanballat, when they heard the Jews were building the wall?
  14. What did they all conspire together to do?
  15. What did Nehemiah do first?
  16. What did they do, besides pray?
  17. What hindered them from finishing the wall?
  18. What were the adversaries threatening to do?
  19. What did they tell the Jews, who lived out of Jerusalem?
  20. What did Nehemiah do as a show of force?
  21. What did Nehemiah say to the nobles?
  22. As soon as the enemy had word of all they were doing to protect themselves, what did Nehemiah have his people do?
  23. _______ of the men worked on the wall and ________ stood guard.
  24. Those who worked on the wall had what weapons nearby to use, if necessary.
  25. How would they bring the majority of the people to one area, if there was an attack?
  26. How long were their workdays?
  27. What did they do, when they slept?
  28. This was for the safety of ____________.
  29. What did Nehemiah tell those who lived outside of the walls of Jerusalem to do?
  30. __________ set the example for them.

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Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah Chapter 5

Verses 1-13: Alongside intense opposition from the outside, Nehemiah faced internal pressures, with the people crying out against one another. The Israelites had become bogged down in financial quicksand. Facing the burden of high taxes with a famine underway, they mortgaged their houses and land at such high interest rates that their children were eventually forced into slavery, to their own people. Although Nehemiah sharply rebuked these practices, he also set a clear example of leadership by calling on the wealthy to follow his lead: "fear ... God" and freely lend the needed "money and ... corn". He could challenge them to a high standard because he practiced what he preached.

Enemy opposition and difficult time in general had precipitated economic conditions which had a devastating effect on Judah's fragile life. The effect of this extortion on the morale of the returnees was worse than the enemy opposition.

Verses 1-5: "The brethren the Jews": Perhaps this refers again to the nobles who would not work and had alliance with the enemies (see note on 3:5). The people were fatigued with hard labor, drained by the relentless harassment of enemies, poor and lacking the necessities of life, lacking tax money and borrowing for it, and working on the wall in the city rather than getting food from the country. On top of this came complaints against the terrible exploitation and extortion by the rich Jews who would not help, but forced people to sell their home and children, while having no ability to redeem them back. Under normal conditions, the law offered the hope of releasing these young people through the remission of debts which occurred every 7 years or in the 50th year of Jubilee (Lev. Chapter 25). The custom of redemption made it possible to "buy back" the enslaved individual at almost any time. But the desperate financial situation of those times made that appear impossible.

The events of this chapter may have taken place during the 52 days of wall building (6:15). Three reasons for the troublesome conditions were given:

For laws on loans, pledges and Hebrew debt, slaves who had to be released after six years. Or on the Year of Jubilee (see Exodus 21:2-11; Lev. 25:10:17; 39-55; Deut. 15:7-18; 24:10-13).

Nehemiah 5:1 "And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews."

Those of the poorer sort.

"Against their brethren the Jews": The rich that oppressed them. And this cry or complaint was made to Nehemiah for redress.

In the last lesson, we saw that The Ammonites, Samaritans, and some of the Arabians had threatened war, if the Jews did not stop the building of the wall. We also discovered they were on call 24 hours a day. They did not even take off their clothes to sleep. They had to stay prepared for war. From sunrise to sunset, half of the people worked on the wall with their swords strapped to their sides. The other half stood guard. We can see how this could become a problem, and how the wives would complain.

Nehemiah 5:2 "For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, [are] many: therefore we take up corn [for them], that we may eat, and live."

Not that they complained of the number of their children, for a numerous offspring was always reckoned a blessing with the Jews. But this they observed to show that their families, being large, required a considerable quantity of food to support them.

"Therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat and live": That is, they were obliged to take it at an exorbitant price, which is the thing complained of. Otherwise they must starve, the rich taking the advantage of their poverty and present dearth.

Nehemiah 5:3 "[Some] also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth."

Made them over to others. Put them into their hands as pledges for money received of them.

"That we may buy corn": For the support of their families.

"Because of the dearth": Or famine; which might be occasioned by their enemies lying in wait and intercepting all provisions that might be brought to them. For this seems not to be the famine spoken of in (Haggai 1:10), for that was some years before this, and for a reason which now was not.

We can easily see that the larger the family was; the more corn it would take to feed them. If the breadwinner had to work an extended length of time on the wall and could not provide for his family, it would cause great hardship. There had been a famine in the past, which had caused many of them to mortgage their homes and their land. It would be impossible to pay a mortgage off, if you had no funds coming in.

Nehemiah 5:4 "There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, [and that upon] our lands and vineyards."

Who though they were able to buy corn for their families without mortgaging their estates: yet, say they.

"We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards": For though the priests, Levites, and Nethinim, were exempted from it, yet not the people in common. And some of these were so poor, that they could not pay it without borrowing upon their estates, and paying large usury for it.

They had been paying tribute to the king of Persia. Even though he released them to come to their homeland, he did not let them come without them paying tribute. Judea was like all of the other countries that Persia had controlled. They all had to pay tribute. They must get back to making money, so they could pay their bills.

Nehemiah 5:5 "Yet now our flesh [is] as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and [some] of our daughters are brought unto bondage [already]: neither [is it] in our power [to redeem them]; for other men have our lands and vineyards."

We are of the same nature, nation, stock, and religion. Our children as their children; are circumcised as they, and have a right to the same privileges in church and state.

"And, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and daughters to be servants. Shall be obliged to it, unless relieved?

"And some of our daughters are brought into bondage already. Sold to be servants, as they might in case of the poverty of parents (Exodus 21:7). And some were sometimes taken to be bondmen in payment of their parents' debts (2 Kings 4:1).

"Neither is it in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards": As pledges for money borrowed.

This was a tragic situation, when the creditors put family members of those in debt in bondage. At the time this was written, people who could not pay their debts became the slaves of those they owed. Many times, a father would sell a daughter and try to keep the rest of the family together. They loved their children as much as the wealthy people loved their children, they just could not pay their debts and these were the results.

Nehemiah 5:6 "And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words."

Their complaint expressed in this manner; it not only raised pity and compassion in his breast towards these poor distressed people, but indignation at the rich that oppressed them.

The Hebrews were supposed to be considerate of their poorer brethren, and they were to be very lenient in such situations. It appears, the anger of Nehemiah was against those who were taking advantage of this situation.

Nehemiah 5:7 "Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them."

"Rebuked the nobles, and the rulers": The commitment of the nobles and rulers to the reconstruction project was negligible (compare 3:5), while their loyalty to Tobiah and others in opposition added to their opportunistic attitudes, placing them close to the status of opposition.

They had become the enemy from within.

"Exact usury": Usury can refer to normal interest or it can signify excessive interest. According to Mosaic law, the Jews were forbidden to take interest from their brothers on the loan of money, food, or anything else. If the person was destitute, they should consider it a gift. If they could pay it back later, it was to be without interest (see Lev. 25:36-37; Deut. 23:19-20). Such generosity marked the godly (see Psalm 15:5; Jer. 15:10; Prov. 28:8). Interest could be taken from foreigners (Deut. 23:20). Interest loans were known to exceed 50 percent at times in ancient nations. Such usury took advantage of people's desperation and was virtually impossible to repay, consuming their entire family assets and reducing the debtors to permanent slavery (see notes on Deut. 23:19-20; 24:10-13).

Lending money to the poor at interest was forbidden (Exodus 22:25).

"I consulted with myself" means that he thought about the situation. After he thought it out, he rebuked the nobles and the rulers for taking usury which was against the law of Moses. The nobles and rulers seemed not to heed to Nehemiah's rebuke, and he went to the people.

Nehemiah 5:8 "And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing [to answer]."

"We ... have redeemed": Nehemiah denounced with just severity the evil conduct of selling a brother by means of usury. He contrasted it with his own action of redeeming with his own money some of the Jewish exiles, who through debt had lost their freedom in Babylon.

Nehemiah and others had redeemed their Jewish brethren who had been sold to heathen masters. Now these money lenders had sold their brethren to the heathen in defiance of the law (Lev. 25:42).

Nehemiah and his family had been redeeming other Jews who had been enslaved. These rich nobles and rulers could do the same, if they would. They were all Hebrews and should act as brothers helping one another. They had no good answer to give Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 5:9 "Also I said, It [is] not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?"

The meaning is, that it was very bad. It is a "meiosis", by which more is intended than is expressed.

"Ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God": In reverence of him and his law, and according to that.

"Because of the reproach of the Heathen our enemies?" Whose mouths will be open to reproach the true religion, and the good ways of God. And say, these are the men that pretend to fear God, and serve him, and yet break his law, and use their brethren ill (see Rom. 2:24).

Nehemiah had tried to shame them into doing the right thing, and they would not. Now, he reminds them that God knows exactly what they were doing. He reminded them that their brother Hebrews were not their enemies, and they were treating them as strangers. God would not like this.

Verses 10-11: Nehemiah includes himself (verse 10), in extending loans, but not in relation to the slavery of deep indebtedness. He urges the people to return the property held in pledge, and to forgive the interest payments, so those in debt could begin to pay off the principal. The "hundredth part" might refer to interest of a hundredth a month, or 12 percent per annum.

Nehemiah 5:10 "I likewise, [and] my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury."

For our maintenance, in consideration of the services done by us, which would appear but reasonable, but this we decline for the sake of easing our poor brethren.

"I Likewise": Nehemiah set the example again by making loans, but not in exacting usury.

"I pray you let us leave off this usury": And not exact it, as has been too much and too long used.

It was against God's law for them to collect usury. He was insisting that they stop taking their brethren's living as a pledge. The law of God did not even allow a person to take someone's coat that he was wearing for pledge. This was worse.

Nehemiah 5:11 "Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth [part] of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them."

"Restore, I pray you, to them": To remedy the evil that they had brought, those guilty of usury were to return the property they had confiscated from those who couldn't pay the loans back, as well as returning the interest they had charged (see notes on Luke 19:2-10).

Nehemiah told them to restore all of the land and houses they had confiscated. He commanded them to even give them a tenth of their money back. They were even to give them food back that they had taken.

Nehemiah 5:12 "Then said they, We will restore [them], and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise."

"Oath": The consciences of the guilty were struck by Nehemiah's words, so that their fear, shame and contrition caused them to pledge the release of their loans and restore property and interest, including setting slaves free. This cancellation of debt had a profoundly unifying effect on both sides of the indebtedness. The proceedings were formally consummated with the people binding themselves by a solemn oath from the priest (with them as administrators), that they would be faithful to the pledge.

They agreed to do exactly as Nehemiah commanded them. Nehemiah wanted to make sure they would keep their word, and he had them to take an oath in front of the priests. They would be afraid to break an oath they made to God.

Nehemiah 5:13 "Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise."

"I shook my lap": This curse rite from the governor, Nehemiah, called down God's wrath upon anyone who would not follow through with his commitment to release debts. The people agreed and did as they had promised. When Nehemiah "shook" his "lap", it was taken as a gesture symbolizing the complete rejection of any who might violate this agreement. It was also a picture of being emptied, the consequences of being unfaithful to this oath to forgive any debts.

Nehemiah gave them a vivid example that God would banish them, if they did not keep their word. The entire congregation agreed to the punishment, if they did not keep their word. "Amen" means so be it. The praise was to God for the problem being solved. The people kept this serious oath they had made.

Verses 14-19: There is no better way to silence critics of the gospel than to live above reproach, according to God's standard of holiness (2 Cor. 9:4-5; 11:9). As "governor ... of Judah", Nehemiah could have received a food allowance from the Jews. Instead, he fed 150 workers of the wall at his "table", from his own pocket.

Because of the prevailing poverty (verse 18), neither Nehemiah nor his household demanded their rightful salaries from the people for the 12 years of his governorship, as former Persian governors had done.

Nehemiah 5:14 "Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, [that is], twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor."

"Twentieth year" (see note on 1:1).

"The two and thirtieth year": The year Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes in Persia (ca. 433 B.C.; compare 13:6).

"Eaten the bread of the governor": This refers to the provisions from the Persian administration, but from which he had chosen not to partake because it would have to come from taxing his poverty-stricken people (verse 15). The statement is testimony to the wealth of Nehemiah gained as the kings' cupbearer in Persia. Verses (17-18), record that he supported 150 men with abundant provisions who ruled with him (and their families), indicating the personal wealth he had brought from Babylon.

Nehemiah had taken a leave of absence from being the cupbearer of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah returned to the Persian king at the end of the 12 years. Nehemiah had not eaten of the people, as most of the governors did. He had supported himself.

Nehemiah 5:15 "But the former governors that [had been] before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God."

"Forty shekels": Approximately one pound of silver.

"Because of the fear of God": Nehemiah would not exact usury from his fellow countrymen as his predecessors had, because he viewed it as an act of disobedience toward God.

This was explaining that Nehemiah served as their governor without taking tribute for himself from the people. Nehemiah was serving the LORD the way he felt the LORD would have him serve. He was not the governor to make money. He was governor to build the wall of Jerusalem. God had given him this task as his service to the LORD.

Nehemiah consistently and publicly affirmed that his deepest motivation was "fear of God" (Psalms 33:18-19; 34:9-10; 128:1, 4). Like other heroes of the faith, Nehemiah served a powerful human ruler but never forgot that he was accountable to the Ruler of heaven and earth.

Nehemiah 5:16 "Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants [were] gathered thither unto the work."

Nehemiah did his share of the work on the wall, and gained no mortgages of land through lending money and grain (verse 10).

"Neither bought we any land": Even though the time to purchase property from those forced to sell couldn't have been better, Nehemiah maintained a consistent personal policy not to take advantage of another's distress. He worked on the wall rather than spending his time building personal wealth.

Nehemiah had set the example for all the others, when he and his servants worked on the wall without pay. He did not try to take advantage of his poor brothers, and buy up their land cheap. He was there for one purpose, and that was to build the wall.

Verses 17-18: All of this was at his expense. He would not do these things because of the fear of God" (verse 15), and "because the bondage was heavy upon this people (verse 18). Nehemiah set forth a picture of the labor of love, as he set an example of unselfishness for all the people.

Nehemiah 5:17 "Moreover [there were] at my table a hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that [are] about us."

Every day at his own cost, which must be considerable to provide for such a number, and of such rank.

"Besides those that came unto us from among the Heathen that are about us": Who were proselytes, and came there to worship, or on a civil account, to give intelligence, and take directions.

Nehemiah was explaining the vast number of people he had to feed each day. These were daily, but they could probably be compared to business meetings today. A large number of these people were the rulers and Jews. Perhaps they discussed the building of the wall at these times.

Nehemiah 5:18 "Now [that] which was prepared [for me] daily [was] one ox [and] six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people."

"The bread of the governor" (see note on 5:14). In the ancient Near East, it was customary to calculate the expense of a king's establishment, not by the quantity of money, but by the quantity of his provisions (compare 1 Kings 4:22; 18:9; Eccl. 5:11).

We are not told exactly where the funds came from for Nehemiah to acquire these things. We do know, it did not come from the people he ruled over as governor.

Nehemiah 5:19 "Think upon me, my God, for good, [according] to all that I have done for this people."

He did not expect any recompence from the people, but from the Lord. And from him not in a way of merit, but of grace and good will, who forgets not what is done for his name's sake (Heb. 6:10).

"Think upon me": The first of 4 such prayers (compare 13:14, 22, 31).

Some of the preceding Scriptures were spoken to God, as well as the people. Nehemiah was just explaining to God that he did his very best. I do not believe Nehemiah was wanting fame or fortune. His greatest desire was that he would do the task that God placed before him to the best of his ability.

Nehemiah Chapter 5 Questions

  1. Who cried out against the Jews?
  2. What were the conditions we studied in the last lesson, that might cause this?
  3. Who were having the hardest time feeding their families?
  4. In verse 3, what drastic measures had they taken to keep going?
  5. They had _____________ money to pay the king's tribute.
  6. Which king had they been paying tribute to?
  7. When Nehemiah heard their cries, how did it affect him?
  8. Nehemiah's anger was against whom?
  9. What was meant by "I consulted with myself"?
  10. Who did Nehemiah rebuke?
  11. What had Nehemiah been doing, that would have been an example for the others to do?
  12. When they did not change when Nehemiah tried to shame them, what did he tell them?
  13. What did Nehemiah tell them to restore to the people?
  14. What was their answer?
  15. What did Nehemiah have them to do, to ensure that they would keep their word?
  16. What threat did he tell them of, if they did not keep their word?
  17. How long was Nehemiah governor?
  18. How had Nehemiah lived?
  19. What did the other governors before him charge the people?
  20. Who did he supply to work on the wall?
  21. Who ate at his table?
  22. What was the daily amount of food used?

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Nehemiah 6

Nehemiah Chapter 6

Verses 1-4: God's people are often tempted to leave the "great work" He has called them to do for some lesser thing. "Four times" Nehemiah's "enemies" asked to meet with him, attempting to distract him from the work. Four times Nehemiah said no. The enemy does not stop with one confrontation; he keeps returning to try to lure God's people away. Nehemiah withstood these tests because of his discernment (he knew they intended to "do" him "mischief"), and his dedication.

Nehemiah 6:1 "Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and [that] there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)"

"Sanballat, Tobiah ... Geshem" (see notes on (2:10, 19).

" I had builded the wall": Finished it.

"And that there was no breach left therein": But all was made up firm and strong.

"Though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates": Not upon all of them, though some might by the particular builders of them. And they all of them might be ready made, though not as yet put upon the hinges.

This chapter happened at the same time as the building of the wall. It is not chronologically located. It is parallel with the earlier chapters. This was speaking of the hanging of the doors in the opening of the gates as being the last thing that was done.

Verses 2-4: See the notes at (Nehemiah 2:10, 19). Since the wall's progress had lessened the danger of attack, Nehemiah's enemies tried to lure him into one of the "villages in the plain of Ono". This valley was about 27 miles northwest of Jerusalem. This bordered the districts of Samaria and Ashdod, both hostile territories (compare 4:2, 7).

Nehemiah 6:2 "That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in [some one of] the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief."

"Sent unto me, saying": This suggests either a letter or an oral message delivered by messenger to Nehemiah. Satisfied that they could not prevent Nehemiah's project from succeeding by open military engagement (see note on 4:13-15), they decided to overcome him by deception.

"Plain of Ono": Located south of Joppa on the western extremity of Judah along the seacoast.

Ono was very near Philistia. They felt they could not get to Nehemiah while he was in Jerusalem with so many people around him, but they wanted to kill him. The only way to accomplish this was to get him off to himself.

Nehemiah 6:3 "And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I [am] doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?"

"And I sent messengers": Because he knew they were luring him into a trap, he sent representatives, who themselves might have been killed or imprisoned for ransom.

Nehemiah knew what they were trying to do, and he sent word to them that there was absolutely no way he could break away from the work on the wall to come out to meet them. They were not honorable men, and it would not have bothered them at all to lie to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:4 "Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner."

Being very desirous of getting him into their hands, and therefore were very pressing and persistent.

"And I answered them after the same manner": Every time as before, he being as much bent on finishing the work as they were to divert him from it.

This shows how determined they were to get rid of Nehemiah.

Verses 5-9: Sanballat sent "an open letter" against Nehemiah, which was made public. He accused Nehemiah of claiming kingship (verse 6), and of hiring prophets to support his claims (verse 7).

Nehemiah 6:5 "Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;"

"Open letter": Official letters were typically rolled up and sealed with an official signet by the letter's sender or one of his assisting officials. An open or unsealed letter was not only a sign of disrespect and open criticism, but also suggested the information therein was public knowledge. The goal of this document was to intimidate Nehemiah into stopping the work.

Verses 6-7: In their attempts to defame Nehemiah, his enemies labeled him a subversive who was seeking to becomes Jerusalem's new "king". Satan's concern is not whether anyone believes the rumors but whether had can use them to divert his targets from their divinely appointed task.

Nehemiah 6:6 "Wherein [was] written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith [it, that] thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words."

"It is reported among the heathen": The letter suggested that Nehemiah's intent to revolt was common knowledge which would get back to the king of Persia if he didn't come to the requested conference.

"Thou and the Jews think to rebel": This information would have brought Persian troops against the Jews had it been true. Even though Judah had a reputation for breaking its allegiances with its overlord kings, on this occasion that was not the case.

"Buildest the wall ... be their king": Artaxerxes had commissioned the rebuilding of the wall based on his relationship of trust with Nehemiah. Once the project was accomplished, the king expected Nehemiah to return to Susa. Allegations that Nehemiah was fortifying the city so that he might be made king would seriously violate the Persian king's trust, if not create a war. The plot was an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah with the idea that a wedge was to be driven between Nehemiah and Artaxerxes so that Nehemiah would come to the meeting with those enemies, a meeting that would have featured his death.

"Gashmu" is a variant of Geshem (verse 1; see the note on 2:19), which is closer to the original Arabic name Jasuma.

The open letter was so that all of the Jews could see the letter. This was a lie that Sanballat told to get the people stirred up, so they would not continue the work on the wall. He was undoubtedly not aware that the king of Persia had given Nehemiah leave to build the wall. Nehemiah nor the Jews, had any intention of rebelling. The building of the wall would keep others from attacking them successfully.

Nehemiah 6:7 "And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, [There is] a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together."

"Appointed prophets to preach": If there were such prophets, Sanballat actually hired them to feed incorrect information generating the false rumor (compare 6:10-14). By dispatching such prophets to make public proclamations that Nehemiah had made himself king, the Persian imperial rule would have appeared to be supplanted.

This shows how little he knew about the Hebrews and their God. Prophets are men of God that speak as an oracle of God. They are not under the control of a man upon the earth, unless they are false prophets. No such thing was planned. Nehemiah had one mission, and that was to build the wall.

Nehemiah 6:8 "Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart."

Whether a letter, or a messenger, is not said.

"Saying there are no such things done as thou sayest": That there was any scheme formed to rebel, and make him king. Or that prophets were appointed to declare him such.

"But thou feignest them out of thine own heart": In short, that they were none other than lies of his own inventing.

Nehemiah denied these accusations strongly. He knew that all of this had been made up by Sanballat. He made all of this up to pretend that Nehemiah was power hungry. These things were not true; they were coming from the evil heart of Sanballat.

Nehemiah 6:9 "For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, [O God], strengthen my hands."

Or you all, as Aben Ezra interprets it. Or all the Heathen nations, as Jarchi. This was the design of all those scandalous reports, to intimidate them, and with this they pleased themselves, as follows.

"Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done": This they hoped would be the effect of those reports sent to them.

"Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands": And let them not have what they will, and hope for. According to Aben Ezra, these words are directed to Sanballat, that if he was a friend, as he pretended, that instead of weakening, he would strengthen his hands by a sincere reconciliation. So Vatablus; but they are an address to God, such short ejaculations being usual with Nehemiah.

This was a request from Nehemiah to God for help to keep the desire strong to build the wall in all the people. Sanballat was doing all of this to turn Nehemiah's people against him. God can cause them not to listen to these lies.

Verses 10-14: Shemaiah claimed to have a special revelation about a plot against Nehemiah's life and suggested they meet in the temple, since it would provide the only place of refuge. This suggestion unmasked his evil intentions. Nehemiah knew that God could not have led him to break the Mosaic injunction against laymen entering the temple (Num. 1:51; 18:7). For Nehemiah to have done such a thing would have damaged his testimony.

Nehemiah 6:10 "Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who [was] shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee."

"Shemaiah": When the open letter failed to intimidate Nehemiah into stopping the work and coming to a meeting, his enemies decided to try intimidation from within. They hired a false prophet (verse 12), Shemaiah, to lure Nehemiah into the Holy Place in the temple for refuge from a murder plot. To enter and shut himself in the Holy Place would have been a desecration of the house of God and would have caused people to question his reverence for God. Shemaiah was the son of a priest who was an intimate friend of Nehemiah. This plan would give them grounds to raise an evil report against Nehemiah, who was not a priest and had no right to go into the Holy Place (compare 6:13). It could also make the people question his courage (verse 11). Other disloyal Jews included:

(1) The nobles (3:5; 6:17);

(2) Jews who lived near Sanballat (4:12);

(3) Noadiah (6:14);

(4) Meshullam (6:17-19);

(5) Eliashib (13:4, 7);

(6) The High-Priest's grandson (13:28).

"The house of God": This is a frequently used name for the temple (compare 8:16; 10:32-39; 11:11, 16, 22; 12:40; 13:4, 7, 9, 11, 14).

This Shemaiah was not concerned about the life of Nehemiah at all. He was paid by Sanballat to prophecy something that was not even truth to Nehemiah. This reminds me so much of the way the devil operates. When he is trying to destroy a person or a church, he first tries to destroy them from without. If that does not work, then he sends the enemy inside the church pretending to be of God. It is much more difficult to stop an attack from within. This Sanballat was trying everything he could think of to stop Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:11 "And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who [is there], that, [being] as I [am], would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in."

The king's commissioner, who had the conducting and management of the whole affair of building the wall of Jerusalem, on whom it wholly depended. For, should he absent himself, the people would depart and leave their work, and the city and wall be left defenseless, which was what was hoped for from this scheme. And who had expressed such confidence in God, and had had such success.

"And who is there, that, being as I am": In such a post, and in such circumstances, and on whom so much depended.

"Would go into the temple to save his life?" Or where there was little reason to believe it would be preserved long, should he take such a step as that.

"I will not go in": As being neither lawful, nor honorable, nor safe.

If God sent Nehemiah to build the wall, God would protect him while he was doing it. He did not need to hide. God would build a hedge of protection around him. Nehemiah had received no such information from God.

Nehemiah 6:12 "And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him."

Because he advised to that which was against the cause of God and true religion.

"But that he pronounced the prophecy against me": For by fleeing, as he advised, it would seem that he was guilty of the crimes of rebellion and treason he was charged with. And leaving the people, as they would in course break up, he himself could not be long in safety, no, not in the temple.

"For Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him": This he found out afterwards, on purpose to intimidate him, and take such measures as that thereby he would lose his character and his influence.

This man was a false prophet. God opened Nehemiah's eyes, so that he understood. He did not believe this man, because he perceived he was not from God.

Nehemiah 6:13 "Therefore [was] he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and [that] they might have [matter] for an evil report, that they might reproach me."

By distrusting the power and providence of God to protect him, and by going into such a part of the temple, which he, being no priest, had no right to go into.

"And that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me": As a rebel and traitor against the king, which had been reported of him. And which would be strengthened by such a step.

Those who believe in the LORD have nothing to fear but God.

Psalms 118:6 "The LORD [is] on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?"

In the case of Nehemiah, it would have been a sin to fear Sanballat. God had sent him to do this work, he could not allow Sanballat to stop him. It would be lack in faith of God on Nehemiah's part if he did. Nehemiah had set the example for all of the workers on the wall, and he must continue to do that.

Nehemiah 6:14 "My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear."

Their wicked counsels and schemes, and not only confound and disappoint them, but reward them as they deserve.

"And on the prophetess Noadiah": Whom Aben Ezra takes to be the same with Shemaiah, because he said, "let us meet", etc. (Neh. 6:10). But no doubt it is the name of a woman, a false prophetess, and was hired, and in the same scheme with Shemaiah.

"And the rest of the prophets that would have put me in fear": And so put him on leaving the people, and the work he was engaged in, and flee for his safety. It seems there were more than are by name mentioned, who sought to discourage and intimidate him.

All we know of Noadiah was that she was working against Nehemiah to cause him to fear.

Verses 15-19: When the project was completed, God was glorified, the people were unified, Nehemiah was justified ("the wall was finished"), and Israel's enemies were terrified at the prospect of a restored Jerusalem. Rather than bragging about his human achievement, that the work took only "fifty and two days" to compete, Nehemiah trumpeted "for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God". Disheartened enemies are a sign that God has been at work.

Nehemiah 6:15 "So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth [day] of [the month] Elul, in fifty and two days."

"Elul": (Aug. / Sept., 445 B.C.). Knowing that the project lasted 52 days, it commenced on the fourth of Ab (July / Aug.), 445 B.C.

The wall was approximately 4 miles in length. There were many groups who worked on the wall, so it would not have been impossible for it to have been finished in 52 days. Elul, on their calendar, is approximately the same as September on our calendar.

Verses 16-19: Nehemiah relates Tobiah's alliance with Jewish nobles through his marriage to a daughter of "Shechaniah the son of Arah" (Ezra 2:5). And the marriage of his son "Johanan" to "the daughter of Meshullam" (3:4, 30). Such links and loyalties were exploited by intrigues, leaks of information, and threatening letters.

Nehemiah 6:16 "And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard [thereof], and all the heathen that [were] about us saw [these things], they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God."

"They perceived that this work was wrought of our God": While modern readers might be tempted to exalt the leadership qualities which brought the work to completion, Nehemiah's conclusion was seen through the eyes of his enemies, i.e., God works through faithful people, but it is God who works. This is a change from the attitudes indicated (in 4:1 and 5:9).

The more trouble that came caused them to work harder, not slow down. These very same enemies who had done everything in their power to stop Nehemiah and the work on the wall, now realize that this was the work of God. They would have to have been totally unaware of reality, if they had not credited the supernatural hand of God in this.

Verses 17-19: "the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah": Nehemiah added a footnote that in the days of building the wall, the nobles of Judah who refused to work (3:5), were in alliance and correspondence with Tobiah because, although his ancestors were Ammonites (2:19), he had married into a respectable Jewish family. Shemaiah was from the family of Arah (Ezra 2:5), his son, Jehohanan was the son-in-law of Meshullam who shared in the work of building (3:4, 30). According to 13:4, the High-Priest Eliashib, was related to Tobiah (which is a Jewish name). The meddling of these nobles, by trying to play both sides through reports to Tobiah and to Nehemiah (verse 19), only widened the breach as Tobiah escalated efforts to frighten the governor.

Nehemiah offers additional insight about the forces that had opposed the reconstruction: both family ties and political alliances had motivated the "nobles" in Jerusalem and "Tobiah".

Nehemiah 6:17 "Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and [the letters] of Tobiah came unto them."

While the wall was being built.

"The nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them": Letters passed between them frequently, they informing him how things went on at Jerusalem. And he advising them to what was detrimental to the true interest of their nation. Such false friends had Nehemiah about him, and yet the work succeeded under him. Which showed it the more to be of God.

This was to stir up the people within the walls of Jerusalem. There seemed to be traitors inside of Jerusalem, who listened more to Tobiah than they did to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:18 "For [there were] many in Judah sworn unto him, because he [was] the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah."

To Tobiah, who not only in a private manner corresponded with him by letters, but bound themselves by an oath to him to be true to his interest, and do as he should advise them.

"Because he was the son in law of Shechaniah, the son of Arah": Of a family that came up with Zerubbabel from the captivity (Ezra 2:5). And very probably of considerable note.

"And his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah": A very eminent person, concerned in building the wall (Neh. 3:4).

It appears that Tobiah's family was unable to prove its kinship with Israel. They came back with Zerubbabel from captivity however. Shechaniah was the son of Arah. Tobiah's connection to these Hebrews was through marriage.

Nehemiah 6:19 "Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. [And] Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear."

Recommended him as a very worthy man, deserving of respect and notice by Nehemiah. And to be taken into his friendship, and admitted to conversation with him, whose counsel and advice might be of service.

"And uttered my words to him": Reported both what he said and did. For the word used signifies both words and actions.

"And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear": Perceiving, by the intelligence of his friends, that Nehemiah would have nothing to say to him, nor to do with him, he threatened him.

This was sad, because it spoke of traitors to Judah. They were living in Jerusalem enjoying all of the benefits, but reporting everything that Nehemiah did to Tobiah. All the time they were telling Nehemiah of the greatness of Tobiah, they were not faithful to Judah, Nehemiah, or the building of the wall. Their loyalty was bought by Tobiah.

Nehemiah Chapter 6 Questions

1. Verse 1, speaks of one thing yet to do, what was it?

2. Who sent word to Nehemiah to get him to come away from Jerusalem and meet with them?

3. Why did they want him to come out of Jerusalem?

4. What was Nehemiah's answer to them?

5. What did Nehemiah tell them he was doing?

6. Why did it not bother them to lie to Nehemiah?

7. What showed their determination?

8. Why did they send an open letter?

9. They were not aware of what?

10. What lie were they telling about Nehemiah wanting power?

11. Prophets should be men that speak as an ____________ of God.

12. If they are under the control of men on the earth, they are ___________ prophets.

13. Where did Nehemiah say these evil sayings came from?

14. Why had Sanballat made up these lies?

15. What did Nehemiah ask God to strengthen?

16. What terrible message did Shemaiah give Nehemiah?

17. How does the author relate the actions of Shemaiah, here, to the devil?

18. What questions did Nehemiah send to him as an answer?

19. What did Nehemiah perceive about him?

20. Who had hired Shemaiah to say these things?

21. Had Nehemiah feared Sanballat, it would have been a ______.

22. Who did Nehemiah ask God to think on for trying to make him fear?

23. When was the wall finished?

24. How long did it take to build it?

25. How long was the wall approximately?

26. What did the enemies of Nehemiah finally realize after the wall was finished?

27. Who sent letters to Tobiah?

28. Why were some of the people in Judah sworn to him?

29. What was sad about the people reporting Nehemiah's actions to Tobiah?

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Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah Chapter 7

Verses 1-2: The "doors" were those in the gates (6:1). Nehemiah appointed Levitical singers and porters, whose work was usually that of caring for the temple and the gates of its courts, to help stand guard at the city gates ("while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them", verse 3). He then put "Hanani" (1:2), and "Hananiah", the governor of the palace (on the north side of the temple), in charge of the city. These verses are an almost exact transcription (of Ezra chapter 2). This record was probably stored in the temple archives and provided the basis of Nehemiah's repopulation measures (in chapter 11). Tirshatha (verse 65; compare verse 70; 8:9; 10:1; Ezra 2:63), is a Persian title of honor and probably should be translated "governor".

The very thing the nobles had feared came to pass when Nehemiah gave the charge of Jerusalem to his brother and to the leader of the citadel, faithful men who "feared God".

Nehemiah 7:1 "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,"

Which was not done when Sanballat sent his first letter, but now was (Neh. 6:1).

"And the porters and the singers, and the Levites were appointed": Not to attend the doors of the gates of the wall, but to return to their service in the temple. Who had been employed in one thing or another, while the wall and gates were building and repairing (see Neh. 3:17).

There are a number of reasons why the Levites would keep the gates of the city. One of the reasons was because Jerusalem was the city of God. It was the holy city. Another very good reason was because after the Babylonian captivity, about half of those who returned to Jerusalem were Levites. We must remember again, that not all Levites were priests, but they were all in the service of the LORD in some capacity or other. Now we see why Nehemiah stayed longer than the time it took to build the wall. He was governor, and he was taking care of the city until it got started again. The people needed a strong leader. The porters and the singers served in the temple, and they were Levites as well.

Nehemiah 7:2 "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."

Who first brought him the melancholy account of the state of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:2).

"And Hananiah the ruler of the palace": The king's palace, in which the viceroy of the king of Persia dwelt, and now Nehemiah. To these two men he gave:

"Charge over Jerusalem": Committed it to their care during his absence, who may be supposed now to return to Persia, as he had promised (Neh. 2:6).

"For he was a faithful man": This is said of Hananiah, and given as a reason why such a trust was committed to him. Hanani's character was well known, and his journey from Jerusalem to Shushan was a full proof of his hearty concern for the interest of it.

"And feared God above many": Hananiah was exemplary in his fear of God, few were equal to him, and none exceeded him. Or of many days, as Jarchi. Of a long time, he had feared the Lord, and served him many years.

The similarity in the names here is a little confusing, but these were two men who would rule together. Hanani seemed to be the brother of Nehemiah. The reason for making Hananiah one of the rulers was a very good one. His main attribute was that he feared God. He probably had worked under Nehemiah before, and Nehemiah knew that he was trustworthy. A person who truly is in correct relationship with God, so much that they fear him, would be faithful.

Nehemiah 7:3 "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."

When he commanded that "the gates" of Jerusalem be shut each day "until the sun be hot", Nehemiah initiated both a military strategy that would help to protect the city from its enemies and a spiritual strategy that would be applied (in 13:15-22), to preserve the observation of the Sabbath.

In the ancient Near East, it was customary to open the city gates at sunrise and close them at sunset. Nehemiah recommended that this not be done, because of the hostility of the enemies. Rather the gates were to be kept shut until well into the heat of the morning when everyone was up and active. When the gates were shut, they were to be guarded by sentinels at watch stations and in front of their own vulnerable homes (verse 4).

The gates were to be closed and barred at night. They were opened in the middle of the day, but even then, there would be guards closely watching everyone who entered and left the city. Nehemiah knew of the hatred Sanballat, and others like him, had for Jerusalem. Nehemiah was taking no chances.

Verses 4-5: Although firm walls now surrounded the city, Jerusalem's population was relatively small. To update the official "register" of the genealogies of the people would help the leaders develop a plan to repopulate the city and rebuild it further.

Nehemiah 7:4 "Now the city [was] large and great: but the people [were] few therein, and the houses [were] not builded."

The circumference of it, all within the wall. For that was built on its old foundation, and enclosed as much ground as ever it did. Hecataeus, a Heathen writer, says the circumference of Jerusalem was fifty furlongs, which was 6.25 miles. But Josephus makes the circuit of it but thirty-three furlongs or about 4.12 miles.

"But the people were few therein": In comparison of the largeness of the place. For though there were 42,360 that came up at first with Zerubbabel, and many more with Ezra. Yet a great number chose to settle in the towns and cities in the country, Jerusalem being in such a desolate condition.

"And the houses were not builded": Some were, but they were but few, many of them still lay in ruins.

We must remember, that Jerusalem had been a large city. The wall covered 4 miles around it. The remnant of people, who came back from captivity in Babylon, were extremely few compared to the space in the city. They must be extremely careful that the enemy did not get within the walls. Jerusalem had been totally destroyed when the Babylonians attacked them and took the captives. Now they had not finished rebuilding their homes.

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, and found written therein,"

"My God put into mine heart": Throughout the book, Nehemiah claimed the hand of God was at work in all circumstance (compare 2:8, 18; 6:16).

"I found a register of the genealogy": Nehemiah discovered a record of the people made by Ezra in Babylon before the first group returned, a listing of the people who had come with Zerubbabel.

There had been some difficulty with the people being faithful during the building of the wall. Perhaps it was caused by some who had crept in, who were not in the genealogy register. God had put it in the heart of Nehemiah to check this register to see who were Hebrews, and who were not.

Verses 6-73: This list is very similar to the one (in Ezra 2:1-70). However, the numbers and names differ somewhat, perhaps because Ezra mentions those who decided to leave Persia, while this list reflects those who completed the journey. Some may had died on the way, and they may have gathered new recruits while traveling.

Nehemiah 7:6 "These [are] the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city;"

Who were of the province of Judea, as it was now reduced, and came up out of the captivity of Babylon through the edict of Cyrus (see Ezra 2:1). Where the same preface is given to the list of names as here; and from hence to the end of (Neh. 7:69). The same account is given of persons and families as there. With some little difference of numbers and names. In some instances, there are more in this list, in others fewer, which may be thus accounted for; that list was made in Babylon, when, upon the edict of Cyrus. The Jews, who intended to go up with Zerubbabel, gave in their names, and they were registered.

But this list was made when they came to Jerusalem. Now some of those that gave in their names changed their minds, and tarried in Babylon, and some might have died by the way, which makes the numbers fewer in some instances. And others who did not give their names at first, but, being better disposed towards their own country, followed after and joined those which were returning, and increased the number of others. To which may be added what Abendana observes, that in Ezra an account is given of those that came out of the captivity by the companies, in which they came not without genealogy as they had a mixture of persons of other families in them, and some that had no genealogy.

But afterwards, when they were given genealogy according to their families and a register of their genealogies was made, and is what Nehemiah now found, and here gives. And, as for difference of names, that may be owing to the carelessness of copiers, or to the different pronunciation of names, or some men might have two names. The matter is of no great importance.

This is an accounting of who is left of Judah, in Jerusalem, and the surrounding towns.

Nehemiah 7:7 "Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number, [I say], of the men of the people of Israel [was this];"

Jeshua, Nehemiah, etc. To the eleven names given by Ezra, Nehemiah adds one, "Nahamani," the sixth. He gives the others in the same order as Ezra, but spells some of the names differently - e.g. "Azariah" for "Seraiah," "Raamiah" for "Reelaiah," "Mispereth" for "Mizpar," and "Nehum" for "Rehum."

Zerubbabel had brought the first group back from captivity. He brought the largest number of the people back to their homeland. We find in the list of names of this group that Ezra had given, one addition by Nehemiah of Nahamani. These were the leaders. Some of the names are spelled a little differently, but they are the same people.

Nehemiah 7:8-23: "The children of Parosh, two thousand a hundred seventy and two." "The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two." "The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two." "The children of Pahath-moab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred [and] eighteen." "The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four." "The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five." "The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore." "The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight." "The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight." "The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two." "The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven." Adonikam had one more, than in the earlier list. "The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven." "The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five." "The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight." "The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight." "The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four."

Nehemiah 7:24 "The children of Hariph, a hundred and twelve."

Hariph is spoken of as Jorah in Ezra. Beginning with the verse below, the cities of the people who are registered is given. The families were listed before.

Nehemiah 7:25-29 "The children of Gibeon, ninety and five." "The men of Beth-lehem and Netophah, a hundred fourscore and eight." "The men of Anathoth, a hundred twenty and eight." "The men of Beth-azmaveth, forty and two." "The men of Kirjath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three."

"Kirjath-jearim" means city of forests. We will continue on with the people returning to their cities.

Nehemiah 7:30-32 "The men of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one." "The men of Michmas, a hundred and twenty and two." "The men of Beth-el and Ai, a hundred twenty and three."

Nehemiah 7:33 "The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two."

There had been no other Nebo mentioned. Some of the scholars believe the other is speaking of Acher.

Nehemiah 7:34-38 "The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four." "The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty." "The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five." "The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one." "The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty."

All of the above were listed according to their localities.

Nehemiah 7:39-42 "The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three." "The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two." "The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven." "The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen."

These are a listing of their priests according to their families.

Nehemiah 7:43-45 "The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, [and] of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four." "The singers: the children of Asaph, a hundred forty and eight." "The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, a hundred thirty and eight."

This above is a listing of Levites that were not priests, and yet worked in the temple as singers and porters. All of the Levites were in the service of the Lord, but not all were priests.

Nehemiah 7:46-56 "The Nethinim: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the children of Tabbaoth," "The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon," "The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai," "The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar," "The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda," "The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah," "The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim," "The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur," "The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha," "The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah," "The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha."

The Nethinim did the servile work in the temple. The name Akkub, listed in Ezra as a part of the Nethinim, is omitted in this list.

Nehemiah 7:57-60 "The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida," "The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel," "The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon." "All the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants, [were] three hundred ninety and two."

It is interesting to note that the Nethinim and Solomon's servants' children were not counted as individual families. Perhaps they were counted together, because they were all to serve, some in the temple and some for the kings.

Nehemiah 7:61 "And these [were] they which went up [also] from Tel-melah, Tel-haresha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not show their father's house, nor their seed, whether they [were] of Israel."

We decided in our study on Ezra that these were, probably, those who had intermarried and lost their genealogy connections.

Nehemiah 7:62-63 "The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two." " And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took [one] of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name."

Most of these were probably daughters of the Hebrews, including daughters of the priests who took the name of their husbands who were not listed as Hebrews.

Nehemiah 7:64 "These sought their register [among] those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood."

The priests that married the heathens and had been removed from the register were no longer classified as priests. Priests were strictly forbidden to marry a non Hebrew.

Nehemiah 7:65 "And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood [up] a priest with Urim and Thummim."

"Stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim": One of the methods used to discern the will of God on a specific matter (see note on (Exodus 28:30).

The Urim and Thummim was a pocket behind the breastplate of the high priest. God spoke to the people through this Urim and Thummim. This was saying they must not eat of the most holy things, until they had heard from God.

Nehemiah 7:66 "The whole congregation together [was] forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,"

"The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore". It makes against the view of Bishop Patrick and others, who regard Ezra's list as made at Babylon, some time before the final departure, and Nehemiah's as made at Jerusalem, after the arrival of the exiles. That the sum total is in each case the same (see Ezra 2:64).

This number was extremely small compared to the number who had settled Judah before their fall to Babylon. It is remarkable that the number given here, is the same as the number in Ezra. The number is 42,360.

Nehemiah 7:67 "Beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom [there were] seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women."

These were not included in the servile workers given earlier. These singers were not of the Levitical tribe here. These singing men and women were in addition to the family of Asaph.

Nehemiah 7:68-69 "Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five:" "[Their] camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses."

These were the animals they brought with them. There were not enough of them for everyone to ride. We may safely assume they carried the possessions of the people, and were used to carry those who, for one reason or another, could not walk.

Nehemiah 7:70 "And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basins, five hundred and thirty priests' garments."

Of building the city and the temple, and for that service (Ezra 2:68).

"The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drachms of gold": Each of which was one pound sterling, and so amounted to so many pounds. Of these "drachmas", or "darics", a Persian coin, mentioned in (Ezra 2:69). They were golden shekels and had their name as is said. Not from Darius, the father of Xerxes, though it is certain, from Herodotus, that he coined golden money. But from some other king of the same name, more ancient, which must be Darius the Mede. And if they are the same with the Adarcon in (Ezra 8:27), as they seem to be, then those in (1 Chron. 29:7), were pieces of money not so called in the times of David, but of Ezra, the writer of that book.

Whether this "Tirshatha" was Zerubbabel, or Nehemiah, is not easy to say, since this donation is not the same with that in Ezra. Not made at the same time nor are the gifts the same, nor the persons that gave them. Zerubbabel was Tirshatha when the Jews came out of Babylon, and Nehemiah now.

"Fifty basins": Which were vessels, in the which the blood of the sacrifices was received and out of which it was sprinkled.

"Five hundred and thirty priests' garments": Which were laid up in the wardrobe, and used on occasion.

Tirshatha was the title of the governor of Judaea under the Persians. This was a title that had been given Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 7:71 "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 pounds of silver."

To be put into the treasure, out of which the expenses of the temple, and service of it were defrayed.

"Twenty thousand drams of gold": Which were so many United Kingdom pounds of money, and somewhat more. For, according to Bishop Cumberland, a dram of gold was of the value of twenty shillings and four pence. And 2200 pounds of silver; "the maneh", or pound, with the Jews, was of the value of sixty shekels (Ezek. 45:12).

The heads of the families, along with Nehemiah, gave greatly to the treasures that were carried into Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 7:72 "And [that] which the rest of the people gave [was] twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pounds of silver, and threescore and seven priests' garments."

"And two thousand pounds of silver, of which (see notes on Neh. 7:71).

"And threescore and seven priests' garments": Having been so long in Babylon, and no use of sacrifices, and so not of garments to minister in, no care was taken to provide any. Which seems to be the reason why so many were given, when they returned to their own land, and sacrificed.

This was speaking of the average Hebrew and what they gave collectively.

Verses 73b - 10:39: God gave revival under Ezra's spiritual leadership.

Verses 73b - 8:12: The revival began with an exposition of God's Word.

Nehemiah 7:73 "So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and [some] of the people, and the Nethinim, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel [were] in their cities."

"Seventh month": The month of Tishri (Sept. / Oct., 445 B.C.), less than one week after completing the walls (compare 6:15). The Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, usually began on the fifteenth day (compare 6:14 with Lev. 23:33-44), but here it began on the second (compare 8:13), and it was a feast to which the whole nation was called. Usually the Feast of Trumpets occurred on the first day (compare Lev. 23:23-25).

This lists the various classes of people who went back to their homeland led by Zerubbabel. Their seventh month would be like our October. This was a several months journey. When they arrived back in their homeland, they would have to begin again to re-build. Ezra brought the second group a little later, and Nehemiah came with a few at an even later time.

The lesson that stands out in this to me, for us is it does not matter what station in life we have. We will all go home to heaven together. Our names must be written in the Lamb's book of life, before we will be accepted into our homeland. These Hebrews had to have their genealogy correct to stay in the homeland. They traveled together, as we travel together in life. All of them take their rightful places in the service of their LORD for this to work out. Not everyone could be a priest. This is the way it is in a church as well. We all have to take our rightful places in God's work for the church to succeed.

Nehemiah Chapter 7 Questions

  1. What was done, after the wall was built and the doors set up?
  2. What were some of the reasons for the Levites keeping the gates of the city of Jerusalem?
  3. Not all Levites were priests, but all were in the __________ of the LORD.
  4. Why did Nehemiah stay after the wall was finished?
  5. Who was Nehemiah's brother?
  6. Who ruled Jerusalem with Nehemiah's brother?
  7. What kind of man was he?
  8. When were the gates of Jerusalem to be opened?
  9. When they were opened, what did they do for precautions?
  10. How large was the city itself?
  11. The people were ________ for that much area.
  12. Why were the houses not built?
  13. What did God put in Nehemiah's heart to do?
  14. What could have been a reason for checking the record of the genealogy of the people?
  15. Who had carried them away captive to Babylon?
  16. Who led the first group returning to their homeland?
  17. What does "Kirjath-jearim" mean?
  18. What do most scholars believe is the other Nebo, mentioned in verse 33?
  19. Verses 39 through 42 are a list of the __________.
  20. What did the Nethinim do?
  21. Why were Solomon's servants and the Nethinim listed together?
  22. Those, in verse 61, are whom?
  23. What happened to priests, who married heathen women?
  24. They should not eat of the most holy things, until what happened?
  25. How many were in the total congregation?
  26. How many animals were carried back with them?
  27. Who gave to the treasures?
  28. Verse 73 is a listing of what?
  29. What is a lesson Christians can receive from this lesson?
  30. We must all take our ___________ places in God's work for the church to succeed.

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Nehemiah 8

Nehemiah Chapter 8

Verses 8:1 - 10:39: Until the end of the seventh chapter, the narrative focuses on Nehemiah, the people, and the reconstruction of the wall. Starting here, "Ezra the priest" takes center stage, because the people realized they were missing their spiritual foundation.

Verses 1-4: And "all the people gathered ... together as one man" was a move of God. They came with the right attitude, unified, expectant, prepared to hear the Word and gripped by the need to discover what else God had in store for them. In their spiritual hunger, they called for "Ezra" the priest ("scribe"), who "brought" the Word to them and for their leaders (8:4), to join them. "All who could hear with understanding" include older children, not just adults.

Verses 1-2: "The book of the law": In response to the people's request, Ezra brought the law of the Lord, which he had set his heart to study, practice, and teach to the people (compare Ezra 7:10). At this time, the law was a scroll, as opposed to a text consisting of bound pages. Such a reading was required every 7 years at the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles (compare Deut. 31:10-13), even though it had been neglected since the Babylonia captivity until this occasion.

Nehemiah 8:1 "And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that [was] before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel."

"Water Gate" (see note on 3:26).

"Ezra": This is the first mention of Ezra in the book of Nehemiah, though he had been ministering in Jerusalem since 458 B.C. (compare Ezra 7:1 - 13:44).

By the end of Nehemiah chapter 7, something is wrong in Jerusalem: The Word of God has not been made the center of the spiritual community. The people were rebuilding their city, but they were not rebuilding their hearts. In the thirteen years the people had been back in Jerusalem there is no mention of the centrality of Scripture, until we get to (Nehemiah chapter 8).

This was an awareness of the people that the answers to their problems would be found in God's Word. Oh! if we could come to that conclusion in our land today. Notice the word "all". This means that the entire group, that came back to their homeland, gathered here. The people who came back were those who wanted to be in better relationship with their God. We may remember that those that came, came of their own free will. They had gathered to hear the Word of the LORD from His law.

Nehemiah 8:2 "And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month."

The time was the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24), and was about September 27, 444 B.C. This was the most sacred of the new moons, and commenced the final month of religious festivals (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6). The concept of "understanding" was important as (Prov. 1:2), indicates (compare Exodus 12:26-27; Deut. 4:6; 6:6-9; 31:12-13). Mindless superstition was the mark of paganism "They have not known nor understood" (Isa. 44:18-20), and had been the downfall of apostate Israel.

Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge".

Notice the stress on understanding (in verses 2-3, 7-8, 12).

"All that could hear with understanding" was probably speaking of children being in the group, if they were old enough to understand. Ezra was a true priest of God. He restricted no one from hearing the law read.

Verses 3-8: The people were "attentive ("all the people stood up"), responsive ("Amen, Amen"), and demonstrative ("lifting up their hands ... bowed their heads").

Nehemiah 8:3 "And he read therein before the street that [was] before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people [were attentive] unto the book of the law."

"Read ... understand": Here is the general summary of the event of reading and explaining the Scripture from daybreak to noon, a period of at least 6 hours (more detail is added in verses 4-8).

He read from the first light of morning until noon. This had to be at least 6 hours of reading without a stop. We may safely assume that some of those on the platform with him, read part of it to spare his voice. It is interesting to me, that the reading would last this long. It is even more interesting to me, that the people would listen for this extended time.

Verses 4-5: "Ezra was above all the people" on a platform allowing all the people to see and hear, but it was also an outward expression of the importance of elevating the Word of God. He was in the center of the crowd as he read, exactly where the Word of God ought to be. Any church that wishes to honor the teaching of God's Word must find a place for hearing it.

Nehemiah 8:4 "And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, [and] Meshullam."

"Pulpit ... beside him": The platform was big enough to hold 14 people for the long hours of reading and explaining (verse 8). The men, probably priests, stood with Nehemiah to show agreement.

Notice in this, Ezra was spoken of as scribe, as if he was reading a document instead of acting as priest. This pulpit of wood was an elevated platform where all the people could plainly see him reading the Word. The people on his right and left could have been priests, but it would not have been necessary for them to be. They were probably chosen for their reading ability. The idea was, they must be able to accurately read the law.

Nehemiah 8:5 "And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:"

"Stood up": In respect at the reading of God's Word, as though they were in the presence of God Himself, the people stood for all the hours of the exposition.

The fact that they stood up, showed great respect for Ezra and for the law he was holding in his hand.

Nehemiah 8:6 "And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with [their] faces to the ground."

"Blessed the LORD": A praise befitting the reading. In a synagogue, the reading is preceded by a benediction. The response of "Amen, Amen" was an affirmation of what Ezra prayed.

Spiritual renewal and worship are inseparably linked to the Word of God. The people "lifting up their hands expressing their openness to whatever God would do (Lam. 3:41; 1 Tim. 2:8). This should be the spirit of our hearts whenever the Word of God is preached.

Ezra blessing the LORD had to be speaking of high praise coming from the lips of Ezra. The people were in agreement with the praise and said Amen. The lifting up of the hands was a sign of praise lifted to heaven to God. The bowing of the head showed they were humbled before almighty God. They worshipped and praised God in unison with Ezra.

Verses 7-8: Some of the Levites assisted Ezra with the people's understanding of the Scripture by reading and explaining it.

In verse 7 the men gave the sense of the "law (caused the people to understand"), and then in verses 8 translated or "read ... distinctly" from the Hebrew into Aramaic, the only language some of the people may have understood (compare 13:24; Ezra 4:18). This would be the first mention of what developed as the Targums, or oral paraphrases of the Law, which were later written down.

Nehemiah 8:7 "Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people [stood] in their place."

That is, others of them besides those named. For they seem all to be Levites, unless they can be thought to be priests, and so the Levites are distinguished from them. But the former seems evident from (Neh. 9:4). These also:

"Caused the people to understand the law": As well as Ezra; from whence it is plain that he did not only read the law, but gave the sense of it. Especially where there was any seeming difficulty, and these men were assisting in the same work.

"And the people stood in their place": To hear the law read and explained. They did not move from their first station, but continued in it from morning to noon. They were both attentive and constant.

It appeared these Levites were familiar with the law. When there was a pause in the reading, they expounded the meaning to those who did not understand.

Nehemiah 8:8 "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading."

"Gave the sense": This may have involved translation for people who were only Aramaic speakers in exile, but more likely it means "to break down" the text into its parts so that the people could understand it. This was an exposition or explanation of the meaning and not just translation.

"And caused [them] to understand the reading": In this act of instruction, Ezra's personal commitment to study the law, practice it in his own life, and then teach it (Ezra 7:10), was reflected.

Notice the word "distinctly" which means clearly understood.

Verses 9-12: There were four results from the reading and understanding of God's Word: the people worshiped, mourned, obeyed the instruction to celebrate, and rejoiced by feasting and sharing. Once people hear God's heart, a response will naturally follow.

Nehemiah 8:9 "And Nehemiah, which [is] the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day [is] holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law."

"The Tirshatha" (see note on 5:14).

"Ezra the priest" (compare Ezra 7:11-12, 21; 10:10, 16).

"Wept when they heard the words of the law": When they heard and understood God's law, they understood their violations of it. Not tears of joy, but penitent sorrow (8:10), came forth as they were grieved by conviction (8:11), over the distressing manifestations of sin in transgressing the Lord's commands and the consequent punishments they had suffered in their captivity.

The Israelites had been without the Word of God for so long that they probably "wept" tears of joy as well as remorse for all the years they had neglected it. As Scripture becomes precious to God's people (1 Sam. 3:1), even the simple reading of it can move them.

Nehemiah was the civil leader. He was the governor. Ezra was the spiritual leader. The people were weeping probably, because they were understanding where they had failed God. It was not suitable on any holy day to weep, so the Levites made them stop weeping. This day was holy unto the LORD.

Verses 10-12: The joy of the LORD is your strength": The event called for a holy day of worship to prepare them for the hard days ahead (compare 12:43), so they were encouraged to rejoice. The words they had heard did remind them that God punishes sin, but also that God blesses obedience. That was reason to celebrate. They had not been utterly destroyed as a nation, in spite of their sin, and were, by God's grace, on the brink of a new beginning. That called for celebration.

Nehemiah 8:10 "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for [this] day [is] holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Nehemiah the Tirshatha or governor.

"Go your way; to their own houses, and refresh themselves. It being noon, and they had stood many hours attentive to the reading and expounding of the law.

"Eat the fat, and drink the sweet": Not a common meal, but a feast, consisting of the richest provisions, the best of food and liquors.

"And send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared": For the poor, who had no food at home provided for them. The widow, fatherless, and stranger, who at festivals were to partake of the entertainment (Deut. 16:11).

"For this day is holy unto our Lord": Neither be you sorry; confirming what the Levites had said and exhorted to (Neh. 8:9).

"For the joy of the Lord is your strength": To rejoice, as the Lord commanded them on such days as these, was a means both of increasing their bodily strength and their inward strength. And of fitting them the more to perform their duty to God and men with cheerfulness, which sorrow and heaviness made unfit for. And the joy which has the Lord for its object, and comes from him, is the cause of renewing spiritual strength. So as to run and not be weary, walk and not faint, in the ways of God.

This was probably Ezra giving them instructions in spiritual things. Everyone was to eat and be merry on this day. They were to share their food with those who did not have to eat as well. The joy, spoken of here, was in the spirit. This joy was a gift from God, who gave them, and all who dare to believe, His strength.

Nehemiah 8:11 "So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day [is] holy; neither be ye grieved."

Made them quiet and easy, being backed by the governor.

"Saying, hold your peace": Refrain from weeping and mourning.

"For the day is holy": A festival, set apart for joy and gladness.

"Neither be ye grieved": Inwardly; as they were not to show any signs of sorrow outwardly, so they were not to cherish grief inwardly.

The weeping stopped. They were to rejoice in their LORD.

Nehemiah 8:12 "And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them."

Freely and cheerfully.

"And to send portions": To the poor, who had nothing to eat and drink.

"And to make great mirth": With music, vocal and instrumental.

"Because they had understood the words that were declared unto them": The meaning of the several laws read and explained unto them. Whereby they better understood their duty, and in what instances and in what manner it was to be performed. How much more reason is there for joy and gladness, when the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, are clearly known and understood? (Psalm 89:15).

The Word of God will set you free. They were joyful, because they had heard and understood the law presented to them by Ezra and his helpers. There is a real joy in being able to understand the meaning of the Scriptures we read as well. The Bible (God's Word), is a guide to each of us to know God's will for our life.

Verses 8:13 - 9:37: The Jews celebrated the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, and confessed their history of sins.

Verses 13-18: The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), had thanksgiving as its essential character (compare Lev. 23:33-43; Deut. 16:13-15). It was known in Solomon's time (1 Kings 8:2), and by Hosea in the northern kingdom (Hosea 12:9), and had been observed in the preceding century by Zerubbabel and his company (compare Ezra 3:4). Yet its detailed provisions were unknown even among the religious leaders. Evidently this was the first time that "all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths" and took part (verse 17). The reading of the Law was one of the prescribed features of the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:9-13). Here, 10 action verbs, gathered, understand, found, publish, went, brought, made, sat, read, kept", reinforce the effects of biblical preaching and teaching. People should hear God's Word with the intent of obeying it.

Nehemiah 8:13 "And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law."

"Even to understand the words of the law": The smaller group that gathered to Ezra consisted of those who had teaching responsibilities: the heads of the fathers' houses to their families, and the priests and Levites to the general population in the community (Mal. 2:6-7).

The reading of the law the day before was a sample of better things to come. Now those who had authority in their homes or in the temple, gathered, and Ezra taught them the law even more fully than before. Those who hear the Word and begin to study cannot, it seems, get enough. The more you study, the more you desire to study and it goes on and on. Humans cannot fully understand the Word of God. Each time we study, God reveals more and more of His Word to us.

Verses 14-17: Hearing the Word led to action, both individually and as a nation. On this occasion, the Israelites realized that since the days of Joshua they had neglected one of the Jewish celebrations "commanded" by God: The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-36; Deut. 16:13-17). They immediately reinstituted the feast, which anticipates the time when those who are in heaven will celebrate the joy of coming through the Tribulation (Rev. 19:1-10).

Nehemiah 8:14 "And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:"

The children of Israel, to be observed by them. Either by hearing it read the day before, or by conversation with Ezra. They perceived it was enjoined in the law, particularly in (Lev. 23:39).

"That the children of Israel should dwell in booths, in the feast of the seventh month": Which was the same month, and this the second day of it. And therefore, the time drew near for keeping it. For it was to begin on the fifteenth.

For details on the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles (compare Exodus 23:16; Lev. 23:33-44; Num. 29:12-38; Deut. 16:13-17).

This was speaking of the Feast of Tabernacles, which took place in October on our calendar. It appears that Zerubbabel had started the Feast of Tabernacles again, but they had not dwelt in booths during that time. There were three feasts that all male Hebrews were commanded to attend each year. Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were the three.

Verses 15-16: "They should publish and proclaim in all their cities": Proclamations such as this carried the authority of the administration represented by leaders such as Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra, the priest and scribe (8:9), who had been used to reestablish the city, its worship, and its social life. The people responded to their directive.

Nehemiah 8:15 "And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as [it is] written."

That is, as Jarchi interprets it, by supplying it thus: and they commanded that they should publish, etc. Ezra and those with him gave orders that heralds should proclaim in all cities where the Jews dwelt that the Feast of Tabernacles would be kept, and they should prepare for it. And which seems to be the true sense, since it is not written in the law that such a proclamation should be made. But this was an order of their own, thereby to give notice of it, that all might be provided.

"Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written": In (Lev. 23:40), where the first three of these seem to be called boughs of goodly trees. Though the Jews commonly understand them of pomecitrons, of which the Syriac version here interprets the myrtle branches. And by them are meant the citron branches, with the leaves and fruit, and which the Jews make absolutely necessary to the keeping of the feast, and for beautiful ones will give a large price. Some of them go every year to Spain, and buy as many as they can, and dispose of them wherever Jews live. And those branches were to be fetched, not properly speaking to make the booths of, which were made of boards and planks. But for the decoration of them; and it was not necessary, according to Aben Ezra, that some of each of these should be gathered for that purpose, but of any sort of them. For he interprets the words disjunctively olive branches, or pine branches, or myrtle branches, etc. These, according to the common notion of the Jews, were tied up in little bundles, and carried in the hand, which they call "lulabs". And they observe, the thick branches were for them, which included the rest. Now these they were to fetch from the mount of Olives, and other mountains about Jerusalem. Near to which also there was a place called Motza; whither they went, and gathered the willows of the brook mentioned in (Lev. 23:39).

Myrtlewood grows two places in the world. One of those places is in Israel. They went out from the city to the mount and cut branches to make the booths. These were temporary structures to live in during the week of Tabernacles.

Nehemiah 8:16 "So the people went forth, and brought [them], and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim."

Went out of Jerusalem to the mountains adjacent, and fetched in branches of the said trees, one or another.

"And made themselves booths, everyone upon the roof of his house": Which were flat (Deut. 22:8). And they might be made anywhere, so be it they were open to the air.

"And in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God": The common people in the courtyards belonging to their houses. And the priests and Levites in the courts of the temple, the yards or open places adjoining to them.

"And in the street of the water gate": Which led to that, and seems to have been a very large street, in which many booths might be built (Neh. 3:26).

"And in the street of the gate of Ephraim": Which led to the gate through which the road lay to the tribe of Ephraim (see 2 Kings 14:13). None were erected without the walls of the city, for fear of the enemy.

"Water gate" (see notes on 3:26; 12:37). "Gate of Ephraim": This is believed to have been near the Old Gate (compare 3:6; 12:39).

Those who lived in the city, would make the booths on the top of their flat-roofed houses. The people who lived elsewhere would put their booths near the gates.

Nehemiah 8:17 "And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness."

These came to Jerusalem, and made them booths there. For there only was this feast kept (see John 7:2).

"And sat under the booths": There they dwelt during the seven days of it, in commemoration of their ancestors dwelling in booths in the wilderness (see Lev. 23:42).

"For since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so": Joshua observed it, when he had brought and settled the people of Israel in the land of Canaan; and it had been observed since. Before this time, as appears from (1 Kings 8:2; Ezra 3:4); but not so, with such exactness, with such zeal and affection, with such a regard to the law of God, as to read it every day of the feast, as in the next verse, and with such joy and gladness. Wherefore there is no reason to suspect a corruption in the text, as a learned man does, who supposes that Joshua is put for Josiah.

"For since the days of Jeshua ... great gladness": The feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, had been celebrated since Joshua (2 Chron. 7:8-10; Ezra 3:4), but not with such joy.

"And there was very great gladness": That they were restored unto and settled in their land, had the book of the law, and the knowledge of it, and were directed and enabled to observe it.

The time spoken of here was approximately hundreds of years before the time of Joshua, who is probably intended by Jeshua above. Their gladness was that they knew what they were to do. They all built their little booths, and stayed in them during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Nehemiah 8:18 "Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day [was] a solemn assembly, according unto the manner."

That is, Ezra. This was done by him every day during the feast, whereas only the first and last days were the holy convocations on which it seems to have been read.

"And they kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner" (prescribed in Leviticus 23:39).

This was more than was required and arose from the exuberant zeal of the people.

This was speaking of Ezra reading in the book of the law of God. This was a time of not only returning to their homeland, but attempting to return to their God as well. The solemn assembly, kept on the eighth day, is described in the following Scriptures.

Leviticus 23:34-36 "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month [shall be] the feast of tabernacles [for] seven days unto the LORD." "On the first day [shall be] a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work [therein]." "Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it [is] a solemn assembly; [and] ye shall do no servile work [therein]."

Nehemiah Chapter 8 Questions

1. Where did the people gather themselves together?

2. What did they ask Ezra to do?

3. What was Ezra called in verse 1?

4. What conclusion does the author wish the people of our country would come to?

5. The people, who came out of captivity, wanted to be in __________ relationship with their _______.

6. The congregation was made up of whom?

7. When did he bring the law before the people?

8. "All that could hear with understanding", probably, meant whom?

9. How long did he read the law before them?

10. Who were some of the men on the platform with Ezra, that we can safely assume read part of the time for him?

11. What two words describe the condition of the ears of those who heard the law?

12. What did Ezra stand on to read?

13. Ezra opened the book in the sight of ______ the people.

14. Why did the people stand, when the book was opened?

15. In verse 6, Ezra did what?

16. How did the people respond?

17. The lifting of their hands was in ___________.

18. Their bowed heads showed their ______________.

19. What did the Levites standing by do, when there was a pause in the reading of the law?

20. Nehemiah was their ________ leader.

21. Ezra was their ____________ leader.

22. Why were they weeping?

23. What did Ezra say to them about their weeping?

24. The joy of the LORD is your ___________.

25. The Word of God will set you ________.

26. The Bible is ________ ________.

27. What Feast is verse 14 speaking of?

28. What had they failed to do in recent years, when celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles?

29. Where did they get the material for the booths?

30. Myrtlewood grows in 2 places in the world, where is one?

31. Where would they build the booths?

32. How many days did they kept the feast?

33. Where do we find the law on this?

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Nehemiah 9

Nehemiah Chapter 9

Verses 1-3: Three weeks had passed since the gathering began at the Water Gate (8:1). After a time of celebration for all that God had done, it was time for the people to repent, both personally and as a nation. Such confession, which combines exalting the name (or character), of God and acknowledging guilt for sins, is found elsewhere in Scripture (Joshua 7:6).

Nehemiah 9:1 "Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them."

"This month": Tishri (Sept. / Oct.; 445 B.C.; compare 7:73b; 8:2).

"With sackclothes, and earth upon them": The outward demonstration of deep mourning and heaviness of heart for their iniquity seems to have been done in the spirit of the Day of Atonement which was normally observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (compare Lev. 16:1-34; 23:26-32).

On our calendar, this would be the 24th day of October. The children of Israel here were determined to repent of their sins voluntarily, and begin again with their LORD. This was not a set time they were fasting and mourning in sackcloth, and throwing dirt upon their heads. This was a time of their own choosing. Ezra had stopped them from weeping in sorrow when they heard the law read, because it was to be a festive time.

Nehemiah 9:2 "And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers."

"Separated themselves from all strangers": This call for divorcing all lawful wives taken from among the heathen was needed, since the last time, prompted 13 years before by Ezra (see notes on Ezra chapter 10), had only been partially successful. Many had escaped the required action of divorce and kept their pagan wives. Perhaps new defaulters had appeared also, and were confronted for the first time with this necessary action of divorce. Nehemiah's efforts were successful in removing this evil mixture.

The reading of the law by Ezra had opened their eyes to the reality of their sins. They wanted to repent, so they could begin again. They separated themselves from the world around them and confessed their sins, and the sins of their fathers.

Nehemiah 9:3 "And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God [one] fourth part of the day; and [another] fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God."

"They stood ... read ... confessed and worshipped". The succession of events helped to reestablish the essential commitment of Israel to God and His law. They read for 3 hours about the sins of their fathers and for 3 more hours confessed that they had been partakers of similar evil deeds. In response to all of this, they worshiped.

This means they read the law for 3 hours, and confessed for three hours. The Levites actually read the law to them. They were sincere in their desire to seek God.

Verses 4-37: This long confession of sin in the context of the recitation of God's mighty redemptive acts on Israel's behalf is an expression of worship (verse 3), that recalls some of the psalms in their theme and worshipful purpose. This season of national humiliation centered on adoring God for His great mercy in the forgiveness of their multiplied iniquities, in delivering them from judgment, protecting them, and blessing them graciously. Apparently, this great prayer of worship offered to God was recited by a group of Levites (verses 4-5), indicating it had been prepared and adopted beforehand, probably by Ezra. This prayer initiated the 3 hours of confession and worship (verse 3), which led to a national promise of obedience to God in the future (verse 38).

Nehemiah 9:4 "Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, [and] Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God."

On an ascent. An elevated place where the Levites used to stand when they sang at the time of sacrifice, and where they might be seen and heard by the people.

"Jeshua and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani": Who seem to be all Levites (see Neh. 8:7).

"And cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God": Praying with great fervency, and making bitter lamentation for the sins of the people and their own.

Jeshua, Bani, and Kadmiel represented the three families of the Levites at that time. The leaders must lead in repentance as well. The Levitical family was not free of sin either. They must cry out to God for themselves, and then for the people.

Verses 5-38: This prayer gives a survey of the history of Israel, with emphasis on certain events in the life of the chosen people. The approach resembles that of Psalms 78, 105, 106, 135, and 136. The composition of this hymn is:

(1) The praising of God as Creator (verse 6);

(2) The covenant with Abraham (verses 7-8);

(3) The great and wonderful acts of God in Egypt (verses 9-11);

(4) The care of God in the desert (verse 12);

(5) Mount Sinai and the desert wandering (verses 13-21);

(6) The conquering of the Holy Land (verses 22-25);

(7) The unfaithfulness of Israel and God's patience in the Promised Land (verses 26-31);

(8) The confession of sin (verses 32-37); and then;

(9) A commitment to keep God's laws (verse 38).

Verses 5-38 is the longest sustained worship hymn in Scripture. It is unknown whether this was read or recited from memory by the "Levites". Still, it is a wonderful example of confession as part of worship and a memorable review of the blessings of God.

Nehemiah 9:5 "Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, [and] Pethahiah, said, Stand up [and] bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise."

Or, then the Levites, even Jeshua.

"And Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah": The same as before, with a little variation of their names. And perhaps some of them might have two names.

"And said": To the men that stood and confessed their sins (Neh. 9:2).

"Stand up": For though they are before said to stand, yet, through shame and confusion of face, and awe of the Divine Majesty, might be fallen on their faces to the ground.

"And bless the LORD your God for ever and ever": For all the great and good things he had done for them, notwithstanding their sins. And particularly for his pardoning grace and mercy they had reason to hope for.

"And blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise": The glory of which name, nature, and perfections of his, cannot be set forth by the highest praises of men. And the largest praise of blessing and honor to him.

Nehemiah 9:6 "Thou, [even] thou, [art] LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all [things] that [are] therein, the seas, and all that [is] therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshipeth thee."

"Hast made heaven": The recitation was ordered historically, although themes of promise and judgment are traced through Israel's history with God. The first feature is the celebration of God's greatness as Creator (compare Gen. chapters 1 and 2).

"And the host of heaven worshipeth thee": The praise which Israel offered on earth was also echoed in the heavens by angelic hosts.

This was a recognition of the LORD for who He really was. He is the Creator of everything. The angels in heaven even worship Him as well. He is not only Creator, but Deliverer and Preserver.

Nehemiah 9:7 "Thou [art] the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;"

From among the Chaldeans, and out of his father's family.

"And broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees": By calling him from thence (of which see Genesis 11:28). That being worshipped by them and by the Assyrians under the name of Ur.

"And gavest him the name of Abraham": Which was changed when the covenant of circumcision was given him (Genesis 17:5).

Verse 7 above, spoke of Abram who was selected of God to be the father of all believers. His faith in God won him favor with God. His faith was counted unto him for righteousness.

Nehemiah 9:8 "And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give [it, I say], to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou [art] righteous:"

"And foundest his heart faithful before thee": The Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:4-7; 17:1-9), was based on God's faithfulness to His Word and given to a man who was faithful to Him. (See notes on Gen. 15:6 and Rom. Chapter 4), where the faithful heart of Abraham is discussed.

"A covenant with him to give the land": This covenant was a covenant of salvation, but also involved the Promise Land. The people, having just returned from captivity, understandably emphasized that feature of the covenant, since God had returned them to the Land.

The covenant that God made with Abraham was an everlasting covenant. The following Scriptures are the covenant God made with Abram who became Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3 "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee:" "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:" "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

The land God promised Abraham was inhabited by seven heathen families, when God gave it to the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 7:1 "When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;"

God removed these 7 heathen families, and gave the land to His family Israel.

Verses 9-12: This section of the prayer of praise and confession recounts the Exodus (see Exodus chapters 2-15).

Nehemiah 9:9 "And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;"

The hard bondage in which their lives were made bitter. And was not a mere spectator of it, but looked upon them in it with pity and compassion, and sent them a deliverer (Exodus 2:23).

"And heardest their cry by the Red sea": Which was before them, and the rocks on both sides of them. And the host of Pharaoh behind, pressing upon them, when he heard them, and wrought salvation for them (Exodus 14:10).

These Israelites had been freed from hard labor in Egypt, when God sent ten plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh released them after the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. God even opened the Red Sea that these same Israelites could walk over on dry ground. At the same time, He drowned all of the Egyptian soldiers who tried to follow them.

Nehemiah 9:10 "And showedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as [it is] this day."

By inflicting the ten plagues upon them.

"For thou knowest that they dealt proudly against them": Behaved haughtily to them, and despised them (see Exodus 18:11).

"So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day": God established His righteous reputation over the powers of Egypt by the miracles of immense power performed in Egypt. Displayed his power on Pharaoh, and his goodness to Israel, the fame of which reached all over the world, and continued to that day (see Exodus 9:16).

God had defamed all the false gods of Egypt, and caused all the nations, who knew of His act, to realize that He was the True God.

They did not know that He could be their God. They called Him the God of Israel.

Nehemiah 9:11 "And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters."

That is, the Israelites (see Exodus 14:21).

"And their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps": With great ease, and with indignation. Meaning the Egyptians, that pursued hotly after them, and were thrown into the sea.

"As a stone into the mighty waters": Where they sunk and perished (see Exodus 15:4).

This is again speaking of the opening of the Red Sea to give Israel passage through the midst of the sea, and causing the Egyptian soldiers to drown.

Nehemiah 9:12 "Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go."

The Israelites, to shelter them from the heat of the sun in a dry and barren wilderness.

"And in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go": Through a trackless desert (see Exodus 13:21).

The presence of the LORD crossed the wilderness with them. His presence was seen of them in the fire by night and the smoke by day. They moved when the fire or smoke moved, and stopped when it stopped. He led them as a Father would a helpless child. He is the Light of the world. They would not dwell in darkness. The Light of the world was with them.

Verses 13-19: The months at Sinai are remembered (see Exodus chapters 19-40).

Nehemiah 9:13 "Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:"

By some visible tokens of his presence, as a cloud, fire, smoke, etc. Which must be understood consistent with his omniscience (see Exodus 19:18).

"And spakest with them from heaven": The Decalogue or Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1).

"And gavest them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments": Both judicial and ceremonial, which were of excellent use to them in their civil and ecclesiastical polity. These were not spoken to Israel, but given to Moses on the mount, to be delivered to them.

God came down the mountain and spoke the ten commandments to them. It frightened them so badly, they asked Moses to speak to God for them. They were without excuse when they sinned with the golden calf, while Moses was on the mount getting the ten commandments on stone. He was gone 40 days and nights, but that was no excuse. They had heard in their ears, before he went up the mountain, these same commandments.

Nehemiah 9:14 "And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:"

Among God's gifts to His people was the institution of the "Sabbath". Sabbath observance was a covenant sign established specifically between God and His people at Sinai (Exodus 31:12-17).

This was speaking of the Levitical law and commandments. There were over 625 of them in the book of Leviticus. God gave them laws of religion, civil laws, dietary laws, etc. Moses received them of God, and gave them to the people. These same laws were spoken of by the Jews as the law of Moses.

Nehemiah 9:15 "And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them."

To satisfy that, meaning the manna (Exodus 16:3).

"And broughtest forth water for them out of the rock, for their thirst": To quench it. This was done both quickly after they came out of the land of Egypt, and a little before their entrance into the land of Canaan (see Exodus 17:6).

"And promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them": Which oath was made to them and to their fathers also (see Num. 14:30).

The manna that fell from heaven fed them for their 40 year journey across the wilderness. When they had no water, Moses struck the Rock and water came forth to quench their thirst. Look with me at what Jesus said about this Bread.

John 6:50-51 "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

1 Corinthians 10:4 "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

Nehemiah 9:16 "But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,"

Behaved in a haughty manner towards God, their kind benefactor.

"And hardened their necks": Refused to take the yoke of his law. As refractory oxen, that withdraw their necks from the yoke.

"And hearkened not to thy commandments": To do them, though they promised they would (Exodus 24:7).

This one verse is the story of these Israelites. The LORD would forgive them, but they would fall back into sin, over and over.

Nehemiah 9:17 "And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou [art] a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not."

"Appointed a captain": The Hebrew of this statement is almost a repeat of (Num. 14:4), which records the discontent of the people with God's plan and Moses leadership.

They had been slaves in Egypt. They were so rebellious, they turned against God and started to go back to Egypt. Moses prayed for them and God forgave them.

Nehemiah 9:18 "Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This [is] thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;"

In imitation of the Apis, or ox of the Egyptians.

"And said, this is thy god that brought thee out of Egypt": Or the image of thy god, as the Arabic version (see Exodus 32:4).

"And had wrought great provocations": Of all which nothing was greater than idolatry.

Verses 19-21: "They lacked nothing": The same word is used (in Psalm 23:1). "I shall not want". Even during the long season of chastisement, God miraculously cared for their every need.

Nehemiah 9:19 "Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go."

Where no supply could be had, if he had cast them off (see Neh. 9:17).

"The pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way": Which, if it had, they would have been scorched by the heat of the sun.

"Neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go": Or otherwise they would have lost their way, and not have known which way to have gone.

The mercy of God always outweighed His judgement. They deserved to die for their sins, but God forgave them. This was the story of the Israelites the entire 40 years of their wandering in the wilderness.

Nehemiah Chapter 9 Questions

1. How many years did God provide manna for the Israelites?

2. How did he quench their thirst?

3. What is the good spirit in verse 1?

4. What miracles, that happened on their journey, were mentioned in verse 21.

5. God took the Promised Land away from _______nations, and gave it to Israel.

6. Sihon was king of __________.

7. Og was the ___________ king of Bashan

8. Their children also _______________ thou as the stars of heaven.

9. From the approximately 75 people who went into Egypt, ____ __________ came out.

10. In most instances, God had instructed them to __________ the people of the lands they conquered.

11. The ______________ were a constant thorn for them, as well.

12. What was already growing in the land they took?

13. God had promised them a land of ________ and ________.

14. Nevertheless, they were _______________.

15. What was the one thing God asked from the Israelites?

16. What did God do to cause them to return to Him?

17. Who did God send to warn them of their sins?

18. When they turned to God and repented, what did God do?

19. Which of the judges had been spoken of as saviors?

20. All the wars they lost, and the famines they suffered, were to drive them back to ____ _______ and the _______.

21. God waited several hundred years, before He did what to them?

22. Why was Judah's captivity over a hundred years after the ten tribes' captivity?

23. God loved them so much, He always saved a ____________.

24. God's ________ saved them.

25. The king's of Assyria were the _________ of God' anger.

26. Was God unfair with them?

27. Who were some of the good kings?

28. Who had let them come back to their homeland?

29. Were they truly free?

30. When did they become completely free?

31. What were they going to do, to show God their sincerity in keeping the covenant with Him?

Nehemiah Chapter 9 Continued

Nehemiah 9:20 "Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst."

In the knowledge of the laws delivered to them. The spirit of prophecy, according to Ben Melech, and which Aben Ezra interprets of the spirit put upon the seventy elders (Num. 11:17).

"And withheldest not thy manna from their mouth": All the while they were in the wilderness, until they came to Canaan's land. Called the Lord's manna, because prepared by him, and given by him to them. A part or portion and gift from the Lord, as Ben Melech, from whence it had its name (see Exodus 16:15).

"And gavest them water for their thirst": Which seems to have respect to the last rock struck for them, after their many provocations in the wilderness (Num. 20:11).

This was speaking of the nearly 3 million people being fed for the 40 years with manna that fell from heaven. The water spoken of here, was the water that flowed from the Rock. This is, however, the first and only mention of the Holy Spirit being their instructor in the Old Testament.

Nehemiah 9:21 "Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, [so that] they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not."

As not for food, so neither for raiment, as follows.

"Their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not": Of which (see Deut. 8:4).

There were so many miracles God had done for them in the wilderness journey, that we tend to forget the miracle of their clothes lasting 40 years. Not only did their feet not swell, but their shoes did not wear out either. These were really great miracles within themselves.

Verses 22-25: These verses encompass the period of possessing the Promised Land, as recorded (in Num. chapter 20; Joshua chapter 24).

Nehemiah 9:22 "Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan."

"Gavest them kingdoms and nations": Canaan was comprised of a number of politically semi-autonomous groups all loosely connected under the waning authority of Egypt. The Lord divided Canaan into tribal districts, thus apportioning the Land for Israel's possession.

We discussed in the previous lesson, how God took the land away from the 7 nations that lived in the area of the Promised Land, and gave it to the Israelites. The land was divided into 12 parts, and each tribe received their part. Sihon was king of Heshbon. Og was the Amorite king of Bashan. The giants came from this territory.

Nehemiah 9:23 "Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess [it]."

"Their children also multipliedst": A nation of offspring was another aspect of the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). God told Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars of heaven (Gen. 15:5), and (Exodus 1:1-3), reminded Israel that their multiplication in Egypt was nothing short of miraculous.

Approximately 75 people went into Egypt, and the nation of Israel, approximately 3,000,000 came out of Egypt. This was a tremendous increase. This near 3,000,000 people took the land of promise and dwelled in it, as God had promised.

Nehemiah 9:24 "So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would."

"Subduedst before them": Moses said (in Exodus 15:3) "The LORD is a warrior". As Israel's military leader and king, He led them into battle to defeat their enemies and take the Land.

When they went in and took the land, as God had commanded them to do, God was with them and they won their battles. In most instances, God had instructed them to kill the people of the lands they conquered. They never did seem to quite rid the land of the Ammonites, Moabites, and the other five tribes. The Philistines were a constant thorn for them as well.

Nehemiah 9:25 "And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness."

Such as, in a hyperbolical way, are said to be walled up to heaven (Deut. 1:28).

"And a fat land": Of a good and fruitful soil, abounding with all good things (Deut. 8:7).

"And possessed houses full of all goods": Ready built and furnished for them, both with good provisions and good furniture.

"Wells digged": To supply them with water.

"Vineyards, and olive yards, and fruit trees in abundance": Which they planted not.

"And they did eat, and were filled, and became fat": In body, though in mind became wanton and wicked. They made their hearts fat, or stupid, as Aben Ezra interprets it (see Deut. 32:15).

"And delighted themselves in thy great goodness": Not in praising the Lord for it, and using it to his honor and glory, but indulged themselves to luxury and intemperance. Though it may be understood of a lawful pleasure in the enjoyment of the great affluence they were brought into, which last agrees with what follows.

This truly was a land of milk and honey, as God had promised them. The olive trees and the vineyards were already planted by the people they overran. The children of Israel wanted for nothing. God had kept his covenant with Abraham.

Verses 26-31: This section summarizes the period from the judges to the Assyrian deportation (722 B.C.), and Babylonian exile (586 B.C.; see 2 Kings chapters 17-25).

Verses 26-27: The "saviors" that God provided throughout Israel's history foreshadow the ultimate Deliverer, God's own Son.

Nehemiah 9:26 "Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations."

"Which testified against them": God's prophets brought them to God's court to be judged by His law. This theme is repeated throughout the message (verses 29-30, 34).

To be blessed beyond any other nation of the world, there was only one thing God asked of them. He asked them to keep His commandments and be faithful to Him. They did not do even that. They rebelled against God. They were disobedient at every turn. God sent them prophets to warn them, and they killed their prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were all said (by historians), to have been murdered. They angered the LORD by worshipping false gods as well.

Nehemiah 9:27 "Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest [them] from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviors, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies."

As the kings of Mesopotamia, Moab, Canaan, and others.

"And in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee": As they usually did (Judges 3:9).

"Thou heardest them from heaven": And according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviors, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. Such were judges, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, etc. And this was done for them, not on account of their merits, but the abundant unmerited mercy of the Lord towards them.

It seemed to be a never-ending cycle. They would sin against God and bring His wrath upon them. Many times His wrath was carried out by them losing a very important battle and losing many men. They would repent, and God would forgive them. They seemed to never learn. God sent judges, prophets, and priests to help them. God sent those like Samson and David to defeat their enemies. It was all the same. As soon as they were out of trouble, they returned to their false gods. The judges, Othniel and Ehud, were spoken of as saviors. When each judge was in control, God would give peace to Israel.

Nehemiah 9:28 "But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest [them] from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;"

From their enemies, enjoyed their liberty, and were in prosperity.

"They did evil again before thee": Relapsed into idolatry.

"Therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them": As the Philistines had for the space of forty years (Judges 13:1).

"Yet when they returned and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven, and many times didst thou deliver them, according to thy mercies": This was their case frequently in the times of the judges. They sinned and fell into the hands of their enemies. Then they repented, and cried to God for help, and he had compassion upon them, and saved them.

This is another way of saying the previous verse. It seemed not to matter how great the help had been from God; they still would turn again to the false gods after their trouble was momentarily gone. Notice, God forgave them because He was merciful, not because they deserved to be forgiven.

Nehemiah 9:29 "And testifiedst against them, that thou mightiest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear."

By sending prophets to them, to admonish them of their sins, and remind them of their duty.

"That thou mightiest bring them again unto thy law": To regard it, and walk according to it.

"Yet they dealt proudly": With a haughty air rejected the counsel of God.

"And hearkened not unto thy commandments": Yielded no obedience to them.

"But sinned against thy judgments": Transgressed his laws, which were so just, righteous, reasonable, and equitable.

"Which if a man do, he shall live in them": Or by them, in the land of Canaan (see Lev. 18:5).

"And withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear": Like oxen, that wriggle and struggle, and draw back, and will not admit the yoke upon them.

All of the wars they lost and the famines that came, were to drive them back to the LORD and the law. They were a proud rebellious people, who felt they did not need the LORD. They did not keep the law, and did not even try to know what God's law said. They wanted to be like the world around them.

Nehemiah 9:30 "Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands."

Throughout the reigns of several kings, such was God's longsuffering towards them. Or, "thou didst draw upon them". That is, his mercy, as Jarchi interprets it; he drew it out of his heart, and prolonged it towards them.

"And testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets": Who reproved and admonished them, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God in them. Who spoke in his name, and what he suggested to them.

"Yet they would not give ear": To what the prophets said, and the Spirit of God in them.

"Therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands": People that were lords of many countries, as the Assyrians and Chaldeans.

God waited several hundred years for them to repent and turn to Him with a pure heart. He sent prophets to warn them of their evil deeds, and they took no heed. He waited about 260 years for the ten tribes to repent and turn to Him, but they did not. They went into captivity about 135 years before the tribe of Judah and Benjamin did. The main difference I saw in this, was the ten tribes did not have any kings who truly loved God and kept his commandments, and Judah had a few kings who sought God. Eventually, even Judah got so far away from God, that they were taken into Babylonian captivity.

Nehemiah 9:31 "Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou [art] a gracious and merciful God."

For the displaying of that, and the glorifying of it, which is so large and exceeding abundant.

"Thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them": Some were left in the land, and those that were carried captive found favor in the eyes of those that carried them away. And were suffered to live, and many of them now had returned to their own land.

"For thou art a gracious and merciful God": Of which they had abundant proof and evidence.

God loved them so much, that He always saved a remnant to start again. At the time this is being spoken, that remnant had come back to Judah to begin again. Notice, Gods mercy was what saved them.

Nehemiah 9:32 "Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day."

"Now, therefore": Having reviewed the faithfulness of God to the Abrahamic Covenant (verses 7-8), throughout Israel's national history, the prayer picks up with the present time confessing their unfaithfulness to (verses 33-35), and renewed commitment to the Mosaic Covenant (verses 36-38).

"The kings of Assyria unto this day": This statement sweeps across a summary of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian domination of the nation for almost 4 centuries up to that time.

The kings of Assyria were the rod of God's anger. They were the instrument God used to punish the people and make them repent. This was a reminder of the greatness of God. The people must never forget the punishment that came upon them for their sins. God is merciful and keeps His covenant. It is man who breaks the covenant.

Nehemiah 9:33 "Howbeit thou [art] just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:"

They own the justice of God, could not complain of any wrong done them. And had he shown them no mercy at all, it was but what they deserved.

"For thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly": He had done according to the truth of his word of promise. He had faithfully kept it, but they had transgressed his righteous law.

This was admitting that as bad as the punishment had been from God on His people, they had brought it upon themselves by their sins. God had done what was right. It was the wickedness of the people that had brought on the terrible times.

Nehemiah 9:34 "Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them."

All ranks of men, from the highest to the lowest, had shown no regard, nor yielded obedience to the holy law of God.

"Nor hearkened unto thy commandments, and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them": Moral and ceremonial, which were a testimony of the will of God to them, and a testimony against them if they observed them not.

The Israelites were the only people in the world who had been given the law of God. All they had to do was live by that law. The ten tribes of Israel had no kings who kept God's law. There were a few like Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah of the tribes of Judah that did right in God's sight. Even they were overwhelmed finally by the sins of the people, and God punished Judah too. Verse 34 is saying, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Nehemiah 9:35 "For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works."

When in it, whether of Israel or of Judah, and when in the most flourishing circumstances.

"And in thy great goodness that thou gavest them": Amidst all the prosperity and affluence of good things they enjoyed, which was an obligation upon them to serve the Lord.

"And in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them": The land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk, which lay open for them. Their enemies being driven out before them (see Neh. 9:25).

"Neither turned they from their wicked works": Their idolatries more especially.

While Israel and Judah were free and were not subjects to a foreign land, they did not serve God. They had everything and threw it away in disobedience.

Verses 36-38: Until this point, the Levites in their hymn reviewed Israel's history; now they gave it a personal application. "We are servants", said twice, represent the people's desire to come back under God's "covenant" and agree to once again be His people.

In it ... over us": The praise prayer rejoices that the Jews have been returned to the Land, but grieves that Gentiles still rule over them.

Nehemiah 9:36 "Behold, "we [are] servants this day, and [for] the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we [are] servants in it:"

For though they had leave to return to their land, and rebuild their city and temple, yet they were still in subjection to the kings of Persia.

"And for the land thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it": Though the rightful owners and proprietors of it by the gift of God to their ancestors. To hold it and enjoy the good of it, and yet were obliged to pay tribute for it to the kings of Persia, all excepting priests and Levites (see Ezra 6:8).

Even though the king of Persia had let them come back to their homeland to live, they were not out from under his domination. They still had to pay tribute to him. The children of Israel had never really been completely free since then, until 1948 when the country of Israel was given to them. Off and on they were in the land, but under domination of some other country.

Nehemiah 9:37 "And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we [are] in great distress."

"Much increase unto the kings": Because God's people continued in widespread sin, enemy kings enjoyed the bounty that would have been Israel's.

What God had intended to bless the children of Israel with, had in turn blessed the kings who they were subject to. The Persian king was their master as they were speaking these words.

Verse 9:38 - 10:39: The nation makes a new covenant with God to keep the Mosaic law. Though well intended, as they had been (in Exodus 14:1-8), their failure was forthcoming (see note on 13:10-13).

Nehemiah 9:38 "And because of all this we make a sure [covenant], and write [it]; and our princes, Levites, [and] priests, seal [unto it]."

"Because of all this": The history of God's faithfulness, in spite of Israel's unfaithfulness, is the ground of a pledge and promise which the people make to obey God and not repeat the sins of their fathers.

"We make a sure covenant and write it": An agreement, or covenant, was a binding contract between two parties. In short, it was a formalized relationship with commitments to loyalty. In this case, the nation initiated this covenant with God.

This was re-establishing a covenant with their God. They did not want these same problems to come upon them again. All of the leaders would sign this covenant, they had written down promising to seek God and His ways from henceforth.

Nehemiah Chapter 9 Continued Questions

  1. How many years did God provide manna for the Israelites?
  2. How did he quench their thirst?
  3. What is the good spirit in verse 1?
  4. What miracles, that happened on their journey, were mentioned in verse 21.
  5. God took the Promised Land away from _______nations, and gave it to Israel.
  6. Sihon was king of __________.
  7. Og was the ___________ king of Bashan
  8. Their children also _______________ thou as the stars of heaven.
  9. From the approximately 75 people who went into Egypt, ____ __________ came out.
  10. In most instances, God had instructed them to __________ the people of the lands they conquered.
  11. The ______________ were a constant thorn for them, as well.
  12. What was already growing in the land they took?
  13. God had promised them a land of ________ and ________.
  14. Nevertheless, they were _______________.
  15. What was the one thing God asked from the Israelites?
  16. What did God do to cause them to return to Him?
  17. Who did God send to warn them of their sins?
  18. When they turned to God and repented, what did God do?
  19. Which of the judges had been spoken of as saviors?
  20. All the wars they lost, and the famines they suffered, were to drive them back to ____ _______ and the _______.
  21. God waited several hundred years, before He did what to them?
  22. Why was Judah's captivity over a hundred years after the ten tribes' captivity?
  23. God loved them so much, He always saved a ____________.
  24. God's ________ saved them.
  25. The king's of Assyria were the _________ of God' anger.
  26. Was God unfair with them?
  27. Who were some of the good kings?
  28. Who had let them come back to their homeland?
  29. Were they truly free?
  30. When did they become completely free?
  31. What were they going to do, to show God their sincerity in keeping the covenant with Him?

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Nehemiah 10

Nehemiah Chapter 10

Hebrews 12:1 "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,"

"Wherefore": This is a very crucial transition word offering an emphatic conclusion (1 Thess. 4:8), to the section which began (in 10:19).

"Witnesses": The deceased people of (chapter 11), give witness to the value and blessing of living by faith. Motivation for running "the race" is not in the possibility of receiving praise from observing heavenly saints. Rather, the runner is inspired by the godly examples those saints set during their lives. The great crowd is not comprised of spectators but rather is comprised of ones whose past life of faith encourages others to live that way (11:2, 4-5, 33, 39).

"Let us": The reference is to those Hebrews who had made a profession of Christ, but had not gone all the way to full faith. They had not yet begun the race, which starts with salvation. The writer has invited them to accept salvation in Christ and join the race.

"Every weight": Different from the "sin" mentioned next. This refers to the main encumbrance weighing down the Hebrews which was the Levitical system with its stifling legalism. The athlete would strip away every piece of unnecessary clothing before competing in the race. The outwards things emphasized by the Levitical system not only impede, they "entangle."

"Sin": In this context, focuses first on the particular sin of unbelief, refusing to turn away from the Levitical sacrifices to the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ (John 16:8-11). As well as other sins cherished by the unbeliever.

"Patience": Or endurance which is the steady determination to keep going, regardless of the temptation to slow down or give up (1 Cor. 9:24-25).

"Race": The athletic metaphor presents the faith-filled life as a demanding, grueling effort. The English word "agony", is derived from the Greek word used here.

The present exhortation to "run" finds its basis in the examples of the champions mentioned (in chapter 11). These heroes of the faith are like a "cloud of witnesses". As "witnesses" (Greek marturon), they are sometimes regarded as spectators (Greek theatai), or as martyrs. Yet this Greek word should be understood as referring simply to those who testify or witness.

The emphasis is on the witness provided by their living by faith. This "race": of faith is described by three modifying statements. First, it is to be run by laying aside "every weight". This refers to impediments that weigh one down, whether clothing or excessive body weight. These things are not inherently wrong, but for the diligent runner or the faithful Christian they must be removed.

Second, it is to be run by putting off the entangling "sin". This seems to refer to the one sin above all others that defeats a Christian. This may be a different sin for each individual. Third, it is to be run "with patience" (Greek hypomones).

Since patience is not an attribute commonly associated with running, this word would be better translated as endurance (as it is in the cognate verb forms of verses 2 and 3). Endurance and persistence have been on the author's mind since the end of chapter 10 (10:32, 36-38; 11:13).

These witnesses that are watching everything you do and say can easily be won over to Jesus, if you live the Christian life before them every day. The best sermon any of us can preach is the one we live. Christianity is a turning away from the old habits, and allowing Jesus to live in you. This next Scripture explains it better.

Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Romans 2:7 "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:"

When a person truly loves Jesus, it is no longer a chore to do good things. It is the desire of their heart to do good things. These next few verses of Scripture really tell us what the difference is. We are not part of the dark side of life, if we are a Christian; we are of the Light (Jesus Christ).

Romans 13:12-14 "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof]."

The flesh is opposed to God. The battle going on in every person is between listening to the sinful flesh or listening to the spirit. If we belong to Jesus, then we have put our flesh under the control of the spirit.

1 Corinthians 9:27 " But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

These 3 Scriptures tell us what it is necessary to do to be able to walk the Christian life every day. Notice in these verses that the Christian has a free will in this, and must will, to do this.

Ephesians 4:22-24 "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;" "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;" "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

Have we become a Christian to the extent this is speaking of?

Hebrews 12:2 "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

"Looking unto Jesus": They were to look to Jesus as the object of faith and salvation (11:26-27; Acts 7:55-56; Phil. 3:8).

"Author" (see the note on 2:10). The term means originator or preeminent example.

"Finisher" (see note on 5:14). The term expresses the idea of carrying through to perfect completion (John 19:30).

"The joy": Jesus persevered so that He might receive the joy of accomplishment of the Father's will and exaltation. (1:9; Psalm 16:9-11; Luke 10:21-24).

"Right hand" (see note on 1:3).

Just as (verse 1), establishes some qualities for the entrance into and the actual running of life's race, so (verse 2), directs one's eyes to the finish line. Jesus is the "author and finisher" in that He has already blazed the trail and finished the course.

This very thing is what disturbs me about the casual attitude most believers have about Jesus Christ. We must first realize who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the Word of God which created the entire world, and everything in it. He created you and me. He is not only the Author of our salvation, but he is the Author of our life as well.

He was Creator God.

John 1:1-3 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." "The same was in the beginning with God." "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."

He loved us enough to suffer on the cross for us, because we were His creation. He bought us back with His precious blood. We belong to Him. If we have accepted Him as our Savior and Lord, we are not our own, we are His. The contract says paid in full.

He is seated at the right hand of the Father because His work is finished; it was finished on the cross, and at His resurrection. He defeated sin, when He took sin on His body on the cross. Sin died for the believer on the cross, when Jesus said it is finished. Death was defeated when Jesus rose from the grave. IT IS FINISHED.

Verses 3-4: Though (chapter 11), provides many champions for believers to emulate, the supreme example of endurance is Jesus Himself.

Hebrews 12:3 "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."

"Consider him": Jesus is the supreme example of willingness to suffer in obedience to God. He faced "hostility" (the same word as "opposed" in Luke 2:34), and endured even the cruel cross. The same opposition is faced by all who follow Him (Acts 28:22; Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 3:12).

"Wearied and faint": Believer's pressures, exhaustion and persecutions (Gal. 6:9), are as nothing compared to Christ's.

At one point, the non-believers even said that Jesus was of the devil. What a terrible accusation to make to the Son of God. Even those who were astonished at the miracles Jesus did, thought He was someone else. Even today, people speak of Jesus as a man. The real problem then, and now, is in realizing who this Jesus Christ really is.

Jesus Christ was Immanuel, God with us. God Manifest (made real), in the flesh.

Matthew 16:13-17 "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" "And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?" "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

I have a question for you, who do you say, this Jesus Christ is?

Hebrews 12:4 "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin."

"Unto blood": None of the Hebrews had experienced such intense exhaustion or persecution that it brought them to death or martyrdom. Since Stephen (Acts 7:60), James (Acts 12:1), and others (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:10), had faced martyrdom in Jerusalem, it would appear to rule out that city as the residence of this epistle's recipients.

One of the greatest consolations that I have, when I am told, it is not the will of God for me to teach, is the fact that my Leader (Jesus Christ), was rejected also. The church people of Jesus' day gave Him no encouragement at all. I cannot say that to be true with me, many of them have encouraged me. Just a few rejected these teachings.

I believe this Scripture above is for people like me and for the disciples of all ages. I certainly have not resisted to the point of shed blood. I have not been nailed to the cross. In our society today, just the fact that you are a Christian, labels you as being weird. The majority of people today, are living to please the flesh. The only consideration of whether they will do something is, will it be a pleasure to me?

James 4:7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

Stand up for what you believe, don't follow the crowd. Know in your heart what is right and then do it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]."

A Christian should never say (I can't do it). God will help you, and you can do what He has called you to do. The desire of my life is to be able to say with Paul, at my departing;

2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith:"

Verses 5-6: Here the writer recalls and expounds (Prov. 3:11-12). Trials and sufferings in the Christian's life come from God who uses them to educate and discipline believers by such experiences. Such dealings are evidence of God's love for His own children (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Hebrews 12:5-6 "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:" "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."

"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth": God's principle of disciplining His own people is completely congruous with human practices. This quotation from (Proverbs 3:12), stating God's practice, corresponds to the commands God gave to fathers: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [promptly]" (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13).

"Scourgeth": This refers to flogging with a whip, a severe and painful form of beating that was a common Jewish practice (Matt. 10:17; 23:34).

Love and corporal punishment are not incongruous; they are two complementary and necessary aspects of training.

The way we grow in the Lord, is to face problems, and overcome them with the help of the Lord.

Romans 5:3-5 "And not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;" "And patience, experience; and experience, hope:" "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

The lessons that we learned the best when we were a child were the ones we were spanked for. If God did not chasten us, it would mean that we are not His. We are a pretty rough stone when God first accepts us as His. He has to smooth us down to make us into the beautiful stone fit to be placed next to the chief Cornerstone (Jesus Christ).

Proverbs 3:11-12 "My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:" "For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son [in whom] he delighteth."

I am thoroughly convinced that the reason children feel so unloved by their parents today is because they do not punish them for wrong doing. Children need a standard set. When they break the rules, they should be punished. If they are not properly punished for their misdeeds, they are never able to release the guilt they bear for that misdeed.

If you love your child, show him you do, by punishing him for wrong doing. Guilt is a terrible thing to carry around. If you sin, pray and ask for forgiveness. God will forgive. Let us see what Jesus said about this (in Revelation 3:19).

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

The best thing to do is not sin in the first place then there will be no punishment.

James 1:12 "Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."

Hebrews Chapter 12 Questions

  1. Why is it so important for us to lay aside every weight and sin?
  2. How are we to run the race that is set before us?
  3. How can we win these witnesses to Christ?
  4. What is the best sermon you can preach?
  5. When does it cease to be a chore to do good?
  6. Are we Christians, of the night, or of the day, explain?
  7. What is the battle that goes on in every person?
  8. What is necessary to do to walk the Christian life every day?
  9. Who is the Author and Finisher of our faith?
  10. Where is He now?
  11. What is the very first thing we must do before we can live for God?
  12. Who created the world?
  13. He is not just the Author of our salvation, but the Author of what as well?
  14. In what Scripture is Jesus called the Word of God?
  15. Why did He love us enough to suffer on the cross for us?
  16. When did Jesus defeat sin?
  17. When did He defeat death?
  18. What was the worst thing the nonbelievers, said about Jesus?
  19. Who did many of Jesus' followers think He was?
  20. Who did Peter say He was?
  21. Who do you believe Jesus to be?
  22. Ye have not yet resisted unto _____, striving against sin.
  23. In our society today, to be a Christian is to be labeled as what?
  24. How do the majority of people decide whether they will do something or not?
  25. If you resist the devil, what will happen?
  26. With every temptation, God will make you a way of _______.
  27. What should a Christian never say?
  28. What does the author desire to be able to say, that Paul said?
  29. Whom the Lord loveth He ____________.
  30. Why should we glory in tribulation?
  31. Blessed is the man who endureth ___________.

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Nehemiah 11

Nehemiah Chapter 11

Verses 11:1 - 13:31®Detail of Nehemiah exercising his governorship are given in this section.

Verses 1-36: In this chapter, which offers some logistical notes on the functioning of the city of Jerusalem, it is clear that God's assignments are never jobs for just one person. He expects His people to do their work in community with Him and each other. Jerusalem and Judah are resettled.

Verses 1-2: Three significant actions are noted in these verses:

(1) A policy was established and "the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem:

(2) Lots were cast to choose "one of ten" in the general population to live in Jerusalem; and

(3) The people "blessed" those who chose to reside in the holy city. These were practical and reasonable strategies to repopulate the city and create a sense of national identity among the people.

Nehemiah 11:1 "And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts [to dwell] in [other] cities."

"Cast lots": A method of decision-making which God honored (Prov. 16:33). Nehemiah redistributed the population so that one out of every 10 Jews lived in Jerusalem. The other 9 were free to reestablish their family heritage in the Land.

It seemed at this time, it was very important to increase the size of Jerusalem. The rulers were already living there. The reasons for this were probably several. One of the reasons would be that they must have the wall protected. Another reason could have been that in the event the out-lying cities and farms were destroyed, there would still be a remnant in Jerusalem. Another very good reason for their increasing the number in Jerusalem, would be to have innkeepers for those who came here to worship in the temple. This brought greater protection to the rulers as well. The last reason I will give was the fact that countries were sometimes judged by the size of their capitol city.

Nehemiah 11:2 "And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem."

Who were not taken by lot, but of their own accord settled at Jerusalem. They praised them for it, and wished them all happiness and prosperity, since they denied themselves of ease and profit for the sake of the public good. And it is this which makes the difference between the list of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (in 1 Chron. 9:2 etc.). And this here, that takes in all that settled there, whether voluntarily or by lot. This only such as were fixed by the lot, and of them only those who were of greatest note and esteem, as Jarchi observes, and so it follows.

It appears from this, that some volunteered even before they were selected by lot. These were loyal to their land. They moved their homes and their families into the wall of Jerusalem.

Verses 3-24: This list corresponds well with (1 Chron. 9:2-17), and probably relates to those already living in Jerusalem, including laymen (verses 3-9), priests (verses 10-14), Levites (verses 15-18), gatekeepers (verse 19), temple servants (verse 21), and certain other individuals (verses 22-24). The duties of the "porters" (gatekeepers), are explained more fully in (1 Chron. 9:17-27), where it appears that the security of the temple area was their hereditary charge. The people who dwelt in Jerusalem are identified.

Nehemiah 11:3 "Now these [are] the chief of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem: but in the cities of Judah dwelt every one in his possession in their cities, [to wit], Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants."

That is, of Judea, reduced to a province by the king of Babylon, and now a province of the Persian monarchy.

"But in the cities of Judah dwelt everyone in his possession in their cities": In which they or their ancestors had formerly dwelt. To wit, Israel. The people in general of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and such of the other tribes that returned with them.

"The priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants": Of whom (see Ezra 2:55).

The chief of the province was speaking of those in authority within Judah. Of course, they lived in Jerusalem. Those who lived outside and ministered in Jerusalem were possibly those mentioned here.

Nehemiah 11:4 "And at Jerusalem dwelt [certain] of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin. Of the children of Judah; Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalaleel, of the children of Perez;"

It belonging partly to one tribe and partly to the other, and so inhabited by both, as it originally was (Joshua 15:63).

"Of the children of Judah": Athaiah; called Uthai (1 Chron. 9:4), whose lineage is traced through Uzziah, Zechariah, Amariah, Shephatiah, Mahalaleel.

"Of the children of Perez": A son of Judah (see 1 Chron. 9:4).

This seems to be a listing of the families of Judah and Benjamin, who dwelt within the city walls. This did not mean they no other tribes were represented, because we know for sure that some of the Levites lived in Jerusalem. We also know that some of the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh as well, lived there. The Nethinim were not a tribe, and some of them lived there as well.

Nehemiah 11:5 "And Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni."

Who seems to be the same with Asaiah (1 Chron. 9:5). And whose genealogy is carried up through Baruch, Col-hozeh, Hazaiah, Adaiah, Joiarib, Zechariah, to Shiloni. Perhaps the same with Shelah, another son of Judah (see 1 Chron. 9:5).

Nehemiah 11:6 "All the sons of Perez that dwelt at Jerusalem [were] four hundred threescore and eight valiant men."

And so well qualified to defend the city against its enemies.

The sons of Perez who were inside the wall, were there for defending the city. That was what was meant by them being valiant men.

They numbered 468 men. Counting their families, this would be a great portion of the over 20,000 needed for the city.

Nehemiah 11:7 "And these [are] the sons of Benjamin; Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jesaiah."

That were of that tribe, and inhabited Jerusalem, namely, that follow.

"Sallu the son of Meshullam": Who from him is traced up through Joed, Pedaiah, Kolaiah, Maaseiah, Ithiel, to Jesaiah.

Nehemiah 11:8 "And after him Gabbai, Sallai, nine hundred twenty and eight."

That is, Sallu: were Gabbai and Sallai; in all "nine hundred twenty and eight": There were more of the tribe of Benjamin than of the tribe of Judah, they having perhaps a greater share in the city, or were better disposed to dwell in it.

Those of Benjamin, who came to dwell inside the city wall, were 928.

Nehemiah 11:9 "And Joel the son of Zichri [was] their overseer: and Judah the son of Senuah [was] second over the city."

Or chief governor of the city.

"And Judah the son of Senuah was second over the city. Or the deputy governor of it. So Pitholaus is called an under governor in Jerusalem by Josephus.

Joel had a job very similar to what the mayor of a modern city would have. His assistant, who would take his place if anything happened to him, was Judah.

Nehemiah 11:10 "Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin."

Who returned and dwelt at Jerusalem.

"Jedaiah, and Jehoiarib, and Jachin": Jedaiah was the son of Jeiarib, and Jachin is called Jachin.

Nehemiah 11:11 "Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, [was] the ruler of the house of God."

That is, the son of Azariah, whose name was Seraiah (see 1 Chron. 6:13), whose pedigree is traced up from Hilkiah through Meshullam, called Shallum, (1 Chron. 6:12). Zadok, Meraioth, to Ahitub.

"The ruler of the house of God": High Priest in it; which is to be understood of Ahitub, and not of Azariah or Seraiah in the time of Ezra; for Joshua was then High Priest.

These were speaking of the heads of the families of priests. Some of them already had homes next to the walls of the city. Seraiah was the head of the high priestly family.

Nehemiah 11:12 And their brethren that did the work of the house [were] eight hundred twenty and two: and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashur, the son of Malchiah,

That offered the sacrifices, burnt incense, set on the showbread, lighted the lamps, etc.

"And Adaiah the son of Jeroham": (See 1 Chron. 9:12), whose genealogy is traced here through Pelaliah, Amzi, Zechariah, Pashur, to Malchiah.

Even though this temple was smaller than Solomon's original masterpiece, it required the direct service of "eight hundred twenty and two" people, all of whom depended on the support of the rest of the nation to meet their daily needs. The number of hands necessary to keep a local church can usually add up to those of all members.

Nehemiah 11:13 "And his brethren, chief of the fathers, two hundred forty and two: and Amashai the son of Azareel, the son of Ahasai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer,"

That is, the brethren or relations of Adaiah.

"And Amashai": Called Maasiai (1 Chron. 9:12), whose lineage is traced here through Azareel, Ahasai, Meshillemoth, to Immer.

Nehemiah 11:14 "And their brethren, mighty men of valor, a hundred twenty and eight: and their overseer [was] Zabdiel, the son of [one of] the great men."

The brethren of Adaiah and Amashai, who were able men to do the work of their office as priests. And men of courage to fight the enemy, and defend the city upon occasion.

"And their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of one of the great men": Or the son of Hagedolim, or Gedolim, as some, who take it to be the proper name of a man.

All of these were families in the service of the LORD in a lesser capacity than the ones mentioned earlier. They were all Levites. All of them together were 1192. Mighty men of valor, in this instance, was pertaining to the service of the LORD.

Nehemiah 11:15 "Also of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hashub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni;"

Who dwelt in Jerusalem.

"Shemaiah the son of Hashub": Traced from him through Azrikam and Hashabiah to Bunni. These were of the sons of Merari, the third son of Levi (see 1 Chron. 9:14).

Nehemiah 11:16 "And Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chief of the Levites, [had] the oversight of the outward business of the house of God."

Along with Shemaiah. These;

"Had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God": Who had the care of the repairs of the temple, and of getting in the wood for the altar, as Jarchi. And collecting the third part of the shekel, to purchase things with, for the use of the temple.

Shemaiah was descended from Merari, one of the three Levitical families that all the others descended from. It appears he was in charge of the affairs of the church in worldly matters. He was in charge of the treasury, and Shabbethai and Jozabad were his subordinates. This service they did for the LORD, would be like a deacon in the church today. In the book of Acts, there were men who were set aside to serve tables. All these did the same thing at a different time.

Nehemiah 11:17 "And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, [was] the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer: and Bakbukiah the second among his brethren, and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun."

Zabdi is called Zichri in (1 Chron. 9:15).

"Was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer": He was the precentor, or led the song at the time of the daily sacrifice, in which prayer was also made. As in many of the songs, hymns, and psalms of David.

"And Bakbukiah the second among his brethren": He was the next singer, or deputy to Mattaniah. Perhaps the same that is called Bakbakkar (1 Chron. 9:15).

"And Abda the son of Shammua": Called Obadiah the son of Shemaiah (1 Chron. 9:16).

"The son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun": One of the three principal singers.

Asaph's descendants would be called to the service of leading the praise and worship in song and music. They were musicians and singers. In our churches today, Mattaniah would be choir leader.

Nehemiah 11:18 "All the Levites in the holy city [were] two hundred fourscore and four."

Who had their residence there (Nehemiah 11:1).

This was a certain group of Levites and not the whole, that made up the 284. The priests and the porters were Levites too, but not included in this number. They were given separately.

Nehemiah 11:19 "Moreover the porters, Akkub, Talmon, and their brethren that kept the gates, [were] a hundred seventy and two."

The "porters" were responsible for the security of the temple area rather than the city gates. A clear picture of their responsibilities can be found (in 1 Chron. 9:17-27).

These were Levites, as well, but with a different service to perform. They were keepers of the gates. Obviously, they did not need 172 all at once. They took shifts, so the gates were watched at all times.

Nehemiah 11:20 "And the residue of Israel, of the priests, [and] the Levites, [were] in all the cities of Judah, every one in his inheritance."

All of them, besides those that dwelt at Jerusalem. Were;

"In all the cities of Judah, everyone in his inheritance": The Israelites in the cities, houses, and estates enjoyed by their ancestors. And the priests and Levites in the cities given out of the several tribes.

These were just speaking of the others who did not live in Jerusalem, but lived in the adjoining towns and countryside.

Nehemiah 11:21 "But the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa [were] over the Nethinim."

A high place or tower on the wall of Jerusalem (see 2 Chron. 27:3). "Ophel" (See note on 3:26).

"And Ziha, and Gispa, were over the Nethinim": Had the oversight of them, and took care that their needs were met.

Ophel was a fortified suburb of Jerusalem. It was not far from the temple hill. The Nethinim did servile work in the temple. They had to be near for this purpose. Ziha and Gispa were their leaders.

Nehemiah 11:22 "The overseer also of the Levites at Jerusalem [was] Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micha. Of the sons of Asaph, the singers [were] over the business of the house of God."

He was the supervisor of them, that looked after them that they did their work in ministering to the priests, as they had occasion for them. This man's genealogy is further traced through Hashabiah and Mattaniah, to Micha the son of Asaph (Neh. 11:17).

"Of the sons of Asaph, the singers were over the business of the house of God"; Which, according to Jarchi, was to take care of the repairs of the temple and other things. But one would think rather that part of the service of the house which lay in singing the songs of it is respected.

Uzzi seemed to be in charge of the business inside the house of God. Another name for Uzzi was Huzzi.

Nehemiah 11:23 "For [it was] the king's commandment concerning them, that a certain portion should be for the singers, due for every day."

Either of King David as some (see Neh. 12:24), or rather of the king of Persia.

"That a certain portion should be for the singers, due for every day": He settled a daily salary for them, to be paid out of his treasury. Having perhaps a peculiar respect for such sort of men, being a lover of music, by means of which they had a settled habitation in Jerusalem.

The king intended here, was Artaxerxes. It appears he had set aside some funds to care for the living of the singers every day.

Nehemiah 11:24 "And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel, of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, [was] at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people."

Nehemiah's name goes unmentioned in this chapter because his primary task was completed. The citizens had a new representative to King Artaxerxes, "Pethahiah". The twin brother of Pharez (Genesis 38:30).

"Was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people": To speak for them to the king, as Jarchi. When they had a favor to ask of him, a petition to present to him, he delivered it for them, and by him the king returned the answer.

Pethahiah seemed to be in charge of anything, where the king was dealing with the Jewish people. His service was to take care of problems that might occur involving the king and the people.

Verses 25-36: The resettlement depicted in these verses goes beyond the confines of the new small province to include places that had belonged to Judah in the old days. The verses list towns in the former territories of Judah (verses 25-30), and Benjamin (verses 31-36), where other Jews lived.

These are the places where 90 percent of the people dwelt outside of Jerusalem (compare Ezra 2:21-23, 27, 34).

Nehemiah 11:25 "And for the villages, with their fields, [some] of the children of Judah dwelt at Kirjath-arba, and [in] the villages thereof, and at Dibon, and [in] the villages thereof, and at Jekabzeel, and [in] the villages thereof,"

The cities and villages in the country, an account of the inhabitants of them next follows.

"Some of the children of Judah dwelt at Kirjath-arba, and in the villages thereof": The same with Hebron (Joshua 15:54).

"And at Dibon": The same with Dimonah (Joshua 15:22).

"And at Jekabzeel, and in the villages thereof": The same with Kabzeel, one of the uttermost cities of the tribe of Judah southward (Joshua 15:21). Of which city was Benaiah, one of David's worthies (2 Sam. 23:20). From here to the end of (Neh. 11:30), mention is made of various cities and towns, in the tribe of Judah. Inhabited by the men of it, which are to be met with in (Joshua 15:1). Excepting Jeshua and Mekonah (Neh. 11:28), of which we nowhere else read.

Nehemiah 11:26-30 "And at Jeshua, and at Moladah, and at Beth-phelet," "And at Hazar-shual, and at Beer-sheba, and [in] the villages thereof," "And at Ziklag, and at Mekonah, and in the villages thereof," "And at En-rimmon, and at Zareah, and at Jarmuth," "Zanoah, Adullam, and [in] their villages, at Lachish, and the fields thereof, at Azekah, and [in] the villages thereof. And they dwelt from Beer-sheba unto the valley of Hinnom."

The villages, with their fields. The cities and villages in the country.

The above are a listing of the little villages where the people of Judah lived, who did not live inside the wall of Jerusalem. Some of them lived on farms around these areas, but most of them lived in the little villages and worked their fields from there. From Beer-sheba to the valley of Hinnom was speaking of Judah as far as it reached from the south and the north. There were 17 places listed for Judah.

Nehemiah 11:31-35 "The children also of Benjamin from Geba [dwelt] at Michmash, and Aija, and Beth-el, and [in] their villages," "[And] at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah," "Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim," "Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat," "Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen."

There were 15 if Geba was to be included in the little villages mentioned belonging to the descendants of Benjamin, who did not live in Jerusalem itself. Lod is called Lydda in the book of Acts. Perhaps they were woodworkers, which would cause them to be called the valley of craftsmen.

Nehemiah 11:36 "And of the Levites [were] divisions [in] Judah, [and] in Benjamin."

They were scattered about, some here and some there, in both these tribes, for the better instruction of the people.

Even though the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were both called Judah, they still separated into their individual tribes. They did not lose their distinction as being 2 of the tribes of Israel. The Levites were scattered among both tribes.

Nehemiah Chapter 11 Questions

  1. The rulers of the people dwelt at ___________.
  2. In verse 1, why did they cast lots?
  3. Why was it important for a tenth of the people to dwell in Jerusalem?
  4. The country blessed all the men that did what?
  5. The chief of the province was speaking of whom?
  6. What was verse 4 a listing of?
  7. How many of the sons of Perez dwelt at Jerusalem?
  8. They were there to ____________ the city.
  9. How many of Benjamin came to dwell inside the city wall?
  10. Joel had a job very similar to what the __________ of a modern city would have.
  11. Who was his assistant?
  12. Verses 10 and 11 were listing who?
  13. Who was the head of the high priestly family?
  14. The Levites, whose leaders were listed in verses 12 through 14, were a total of ________.
  15. Shemaiah was descended from __________.
  16. What was he in charge of?
  17. Who were his assistants?
  18. Who could you compare them with in our churches today?
  19. What were Asaph's descendants called to do?
  20. Mattaniah would be ________ ________ in a modern church.
  21. What did the porters do?
  22. Where did 90% of the general population live?
  23. The Nethinim lived in ________.
  24. Where was that located?
  25. Who was overseer of the Levites at Jerusalem?
  26. Who had ordered a certain portion to be given the singers?
  27. Pethahiah was in charge of what?
  28. How many little towns of Judah were there?
  29. How many towns were there of Benjamin?
  30. The Levites were ___________ among the other tribes.

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Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah Chapter 12

Verses 1-26: Originally there were 24 courses of priests, each course serving in the temple for a period of two weeks per year or for one month biannually (see 1 Chron. 24:1-20). Only four of those houses returned from Babylon (see 7:39-42; Ezra 2:36-39), but these were divided into 24 courses of which 22 are listed here. Perhaps two are omitted because their families had become extinct, because no sons were born since the time Zerubbabel originally named them. This then is a selective rather than exhaustive listing of priests and Levites from the time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, recording the key priests and Levites through 3 generations of High-Priests:

  • Jeshua who came in the initial return with Zerubbabel ca. 538 B.C. (verses 1-11);
  • Joiakim, the son of Jeshua (verses 12-21);
  • Eliashib (compare 3:1), the son of Joiakim (verses 22-23);
  • A miscellaneous group who served in the days of Joiakim (verses 24-26).

These verses serve as a generational roll call of the "priests and the Levites" who had served from the time of "Zerubbabel" (the return of the first exiles), up to Nehemiah's day. This suggests the importance of appreciating the heritage that others have provided for us.

Verses 1-9: These are names of 22 priests and eight Levites who returned with Zerubbabel. Fifteen of these priests are listed among those who sealed the covenant in Nehemiah's day, so it seems that they sealed the covenant in the name of their families (10:3-9). The priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 22:2, 36-40), are listed.

Nehemiah 12:1 "Now these [are] the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,"

Who went up from the captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem with them. The one was the prince, the other the High-Priest, the same with Joshua the High-Priest (Zech. 3:1). The names of the priests are given in this and the six following verses.

"Zerubbabel ... Jeshua" (see note on Ezra 2:2).

"Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra": Not Jeremiah the prophet, who cannot be thought to live so long as through the captivity. But Ezra may be Ezra the priest and scribe, who might come up with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem. And return to Babylon again, and from thence come again as he did, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1). Though this by some is not thought very probable.

Jeshua was the High-Priest in Zerubbabel's time. Seraiah was the High-Priest murdered by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah and Ezra here, were not the same as those who have books named for them.

Nehemiah 12:2-4 "Amariah, Malluch, Hattush," "Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth," "Iddo, Ginnetho, Abijah,"

We must take time here and recognize that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was descended from this Abijah. His wife, Elisabeth, was descended from Aaron. They were both descended from the priestly family of Aaron, in fact.

Nehemiah 12:5-7 "Miamin, Maadiah, Bilgah," "Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah," "Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These [were] the chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua."

All of the names listed were the names of the chief of each of the priestly families.

Nehemiah 12:8 "Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, [and]

Mattaniah, [which was] over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren."

Who lived in the same times were;

"Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah": Most of these are made mention of in (Neh. 8:7). The last of them is said to be;

"Over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren": He was the precentor, or had the directing and conducting of the songs of the temple, particularly the thanksgiving song at the daily sacrifices. Jarchi takes the word here used to be the name of a musical instrument.

Nehemiah 12:9 "Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, [were] over against them in the watches."

Two other Levites; the first is mentioned (in (Neh. 11:17).

"Their brethren, were over against them in the watches": The Levites were divided into twenty four wards, and these were placed one against another (1 Chron. 23:6).

We must continue to remember that Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel were the leaders of the three divisions of the Levitical tribe. The others mentioned here, were heads of families of the Levites.

Verses 10-11: This record lists 6 generations of High-Priests beginning with Jeshua (the Jonathan of verse 11 is the Johanan of verse 22).

This bridges the gap between the first generation after the Exile (verses 1-9), and the contemporaries of Nehemiah. It carries forward the genealogy of (1 Chron. 6:3-15), which ran from Aaron to the Babylonian exile.

Nehemiah 12:10-11 "And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada," "And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua."

"And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begot Jaddua": This is an account of the High-Priests in succession in the second temple, the first six of them. And if Jaddua, the last mentioned, is the same with Jaddus, as Josephus supposes, who went forth in his pontifical robes to meet Alexander the great returning from his conquests of Tyre and Gaza. From whom he obtained many favors, and whom he had into the temple, and showed him the prophecy of Daniel concerning himself. This paragraph must be written by another hand, and not Nehemiah, since it can hardly be thought he should live so long. And as to his times, this account of him, or the history of his own times, seems not to have gone through the priesthood of Eliashib, the third of those High-Priests (see Neh. 13:28). And to reach no further than to the thirty second of Darius Hystaspis (Neh. 13:6). This fragment therefore might be inserted by some godly man under a divine direction in later times, as we have several insertions in the books of Moses and Joshua of the like kind. And particularly in (1 Chron. 3:19), where the genealogy of Zerubbabel is carried down beyond the times of the Maccabees, and so could not be placed there by Ezra.

Jeshua was the High-Priest of Zerubbabel's time. Eliashib was mentioned as High-Priest, after Nehemiah reached Jerusalem. Joiada was in office 36 years. It was believed that Jonathan murdered his brother Jeshua, in the temple, so that he might be High-Priest. All of those listed above were High-Priests.

Verses 12-21: These were the sons of priests listed (in verses 1-7), who lived in the days of Jeshua's successor, "Joiakim". "Zechariah" was the famous prophet (verse 16; Ezra 5:1).

Each of the 22 families (in verses 1-7), is repeated, except one (compare Hattush; verse 2). Perhaps by the time of Joiakim's High-Priesthood, this family had become extinct, the fathers having no male offspring.

Nehemiah 12:12 "And in the days of Joiakim were priests, the chief of the fathers: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;"

This was the son and successor of Jeshua, or Joshua, the first High-Priest of the second temple. The principal men of the priesthood in his time were as follows, and who were the sons, or however the descendants of the priests in the time of his father before mentioned. These were Meraiah, Hananiah, Meshullam, Jehohanan, Jonathan, Joseph, Adna, Helkai, Zechariah, (the prophet of that name), Meshullam, Zichri, Piltai, Shammua, Jehonathan, Mattenai, Uzzi, Kallai, Eber, Hashabiah, and Nethaneel. In all twenty, whereas there are twenty two named, as in his father's days, there being no sons or descendants from two of them, namely, Hattush and Miamin.

This was the beginning of a list of the priestly families, starting with the High-Priest, Joiakim. Each of those mentioned above, were the head of their priestly family.

Nehemiah 12:13-21 "Of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan;" "Of Melicu,

Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph;" "Of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai;" "Of Iddo,

Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam;" "Of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah,

Piltai;" "Of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan;" "And of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi;" "Of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber;" "Of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethaneel."

The families of Jedaiah and Joiarib did not put their mark to the covenant supposedly. They were probably, listed toward the last for that reason. These were all the men who were the heads of priestly families.

Verses 22-26: "Eliashib" was a contemporary of Nehemiah and the grandson of Jeshua, the

High-Priest in Zerubbabel's day. "Johanan" was the same as "Jonathan" (of verse 11).

According to Josephus, "Jaddua" was High-Priest when Alexander the Great invaded Persia (333 B.C.). If so, then the "Darius" of this verse (verse 22), was Darius III (335 - 331 B.C.). But more likely there were two High-Priests with the same name or Nehemiah knew Jaddua as a young man. The Elephantine papyri refer to Johanan as High-Priest (in 408 B.C.). Nehemiah may have lived until about 400 B.C. and seen young Jaddua become High-Priest sometime between 408 and 400. By this reckoning Jaddua would have been in his nineties by (333 B.C).

Nehemiah 12:22 "The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua,

[were] recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian."

The third priest of the second temple.

"Joiada; he was the son of Eliashib, and the fourth High-Priest.

"And Johanan; the same with Jonathan (Neh. 12:11), and whom Josephus also calls Joannes.

"And Jaddua": The same as in (Neh. 12:10). In the days of each of these;

"Were recorded chief of the fathers": The principal men among the Levites.

"Also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian": This refers to Darius II (ca 423 - 404 B.C.). An account is given of the priests in the times of Joiakim (Neh. 12:12). These verses being inserted, the account goes on (Neh. 12:24) etc., of the chief of the Levites in the times of Joiakim only.

The only thing that I can make of this is, perhaps they had the Levites recorded as the chief of the fathers, up until the time that Darius reigned.

Nehemiah 12:23 "The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, [were] written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib."

"Book of the Chronicles": Literally "were written in the book of the chronicles". This involved precise genealogical records kept in the administrative archives of Judah.

We know from our previous studies in Chronicles, that there were records kept of all of the heads of the families, and particularly of the civil and spiritual leaders. They thought it very important to keep an accurate genealogy of each family. The book of chronicles, mentioned above, was a record book other than the Chronicles in the Bible. It was terribly important to keep that type of record of the Levitical families during the Old Testament to see who could be HighPriest or priest. We are not told exactly why the record keeping ceased in the time of Johanan. When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, He was the High Priest forever. The ministry before the time of Jesus' visit to the earth was by family heritage. It was ministering the law. After Jesus was crucified, the ministry is of the Spirit. Anyone who has the Spirit of God dwelling within them can minister. In fact, everyone who is a believer should minister in some capacity.

Nehemiah 12:24 "And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise [and] to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward over against ward." At the dedication of the rebuilt walls, Nehemiah appointed two "great companies of them that gave thanks" (12:31), made up of Levites having both musical skills and grateful souls (12:8). These were apparently antiphonal choirs (group alternating with group), echoing each other's lines in the psalms they sang and recited.

David had re-set the functions of the temple up, just before he died. David truly was a man after God's own heart. Again, we see the beginning of the listing of the chief Levitical families.

Nehemiah 12:25 "Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub,

[were] porters keeping the ward at the thresholds of the gates."

At the gates of the temple (see 1 Chron. 9:15).

"Keeping the ward, at the thresholds of the gates": Of the temple, where they stood and watched. Or "at the collection of the gates", meaning either where the people were gathered together, or where money gathered was laid up. And so, some render it "the treasuries of the gates": unless a place called Asuppim should be meant (1 Chron. 26:15).

Nehemiah 12:26 These [were] in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe."

Who was High-Priest in Babylon, and whose grandson was now High-Priest in the time referred to.

"And in the days of Nehemiah the governor": The writer of this book.

"And of Ezra the priest, the scribe": Who was contemporary with him.

We see the keepers of the gates above. Perhaps the keepers of the treasury door as well. Nehemiah was a civil leader in the office of governor. Ezra, as priest and scribe, was a spiritual leader.

Verses 12:27 - 13:3: The walls were dedicated.

Verses 27-47: This section relates to the dedication of the wall and the organization of temple services. Verse 27 resumes the narration of details for (11:2). Verses (31-37), present the "two great companies" that Nehemiah gathered at the southwest corner of the city wall (at the valley gate). Ezra led the first company eastward and then northward. The other group proceeded north, then east to the temple area, meeting the first group in the temple courts (verse 40), where they offered sacrifices and praised God (verses 41-43). The mention of "David" and "Solomon" distinguishes the guilds of singers and gatekeepers, founded when Jerusalem became the settled place of worship, from the priests and other Levites who served at the altar (verse 45a).

"The dedication of the wall": In the same manner marking the dedications of the temple in Solomon's day (2 Chron. Chapters 5-7), and the rebuilt temple several decades earlier (Ezra 6:16-18). The rebuilt walls were dedicated with the music of thanksgiving (most likely shortly after the events of (Neh. Chapter 9).

"Asaph" appears in (1 Chron. Chapters 15, 16, and 25 and in the titles of Psalms 50, and 73-83).

The Bible links the spirit of grateful praise with the victorious Christian life (2 Chron. 31:2; 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 2:14). This dedication was not just a celebration of the completion of a project but the beginning of a new way of life. Now the people were dedicating themselves as the people of God. "Priests, people, gates" and "wall" were all "purified".

Nehemiah 12:27 "And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, [with] cymbals, psalteries, and with harps."

In which many priests and Levites assisted, and seems to be the reason of the above account of them. The dedication of the wall takes in the whole city, gates, and houses (Neh. 12:30). And if a new house was to be dedicated, much more a new city, and especially the holy city, in which stood the temple of the Lord (see Deut. 20:5). This dedication was made by prayer and songs of praise, as follow, and no doubt by sacrifices, and was kept as a festival. And indeed, according to the Jewish writers, it was annually observed on the seventh of Elul, or August. It was on the twenty fifth of that month that the wall was finished (Neh. 6:15). But the gates were not set up, and all things for the dedication were not ready till Elul, or August, following. And then all being finished, they made and served the seventh of that month as a festival.

"They sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness": To assist in the solemnity of the day both with vocal and instrumental music, as follows.

"Both with thanksgiving and with singing": With songs of praise and thankfulness vocally, that they had been able. Notwithstanding all the malice of their enemies, to build the wall in so short a time. Or with a song, perhaps the thirtieth psalm was sung on this occasion.

"With cymbals, psalteries, and with harps": Some playing on one, and some on another, which were the three principal instruments of music used by them (see 1 Chron. 15:16).

We do not know exactly when the dedication of the wall took place. Some scholars believe it was dedicated at the end of its completion. Others believe it was dedicated after Nehemiah went back to see the king of Persia. It really does not matter when it was done. Some people do not believe in dedicating things like a wall of a city. To those people who believe in God, everything they come in contact with should be dedicated to God. This dedication would be a festive occasion. There would be much singing, playing of instruments, praising God, and blowing of the victory trumpet. This was a time of thanking God for His protection. The wall was a deterrent. God is our protection, and He was theirs.

Nehemiah 12:28 "And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi;" Such of the Levites that were singers, and their sons that were trained up as such.

"Both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem": The plain of Jordan by Jericho, and the plain of Saron and Lydda.

"And from the villages of Netophathi": (See 1 Chron. 9:16). Here they dwelt, when not in their courses, to minister in the temple. But on this public occasion were summoned together.

Nehemiah 12:29 "Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and

Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem."

Which likewise was in an open, level countryside in the plains of Jericho (Deut. 11:30).

"And out of the fields of Geba": Which was a Levitical city in the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 21:17).

"And Azmaveth": The same with Beth-azmaveth (Neh. 7:28). Where it follows Anathoth and Netophah, as it does in (Ezra 2:24), and was very probably in the tribe of Benjamin.

"For the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem": That they might be near it, to do their duty when required. By which it appears that the said places were near Jerusalem.

We remember from an earlier lesson, the little towns the people lived in around Jerusalem. The singers and musicians were all Levites. The towns they had chosen to live in, would be fairly close to Jerusalem. They periodically had to come to Jerusalem to minister with their music and song.

Nehemiah 12:30 "And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall."

"Purified": See (Lev. 16:30), for the sense of moral purity in this symbolic act. By washing their bodies and their clothes, perhaps by sprinkling the water of purification on them (see Num. 8:6).

The purification of the priests and Levites was of a spiritual nature. The purification of gates and wall would be of a more physical nature.

Verses 31-42: The two "companies of them that gave thanks" were each followed by "half of the people". These groups, led by "Ezra" and Nehemiah respectively, took opposite routes around the walls to meet at the temple, surrounding the city with praise.

They probably assembled at the Valley Gate on the west. One of the choirs was led by Ezra (verse 36), the other accompanied by Nehemiah (verse 38). Moving in different directions (verse 38), they assembled together in the temple area (verse 40).

Nehemiah 12:31 "Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great [companies of them that gave] thanks, [whereof one] went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:"

Which was so broad as to walk upon it, and there was a procession of the princes on it at its dedication, and here is described the manner of it. The princes of Benjamin must be included here.

"And appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks": He divided the people who were met together to praise God on this occasion into two companies.

"Whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall": That is, on the southern part of it.

"Toward the dung gate": Of which (see Neh. 2:13). Some Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Ben

Melech, give a different sense of, which we render "two companies", and take them to be two Eucharist loaves of leavened bread, with which a rite or ceremony was performed at the enlargement of a court or city. At the utmost boundary of which those were carried, and one was eaten and the other burnt; which rite is thus described by Maimonides, "how do they add to a city? The Sanhedrim make two Eucharist sacrifices, and they take the leavened bread in them, and the Sanhedrim go after the two Eucharist sacrifices, which follow one another. And they stand with harps, and psalteries, and cymbals, at every corner and at every stone in Jerusalem, and say, I will extol thee, for thou hast lifted up, etc. (Psalm 30:1). Until they come to the end of the place they consecrate, there they stand and eat the thanksgiving loaf, one of the two, and the other is burnt" (see notes on 2:13; 3:13).

This was not just the chiefs of the Levites that climbed upon the wall, but the chiefs of the government as well. The wall was a protection for the temple, but it was also a protection for people as well. This was just saying, that people were spread across the wall.

Nehemiah 12:32 "And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah,"

The other half of them, with Hoshaiah at the head of them.

The singers led a march of the princes. Hoshaiah was probably speaking of Hoshea.

Nehemiah 12:33 "And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam,"

Not Ezra the priest and the scribe, for he has another place assigned him in this procession (Neh. 12:36), but this seems to be one of the princes.

In the procession, next came the priests Azariah, Ezra, and then Meshullam. Nehemiah 12:34 "Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah,"

Not the tribes, but the names of the two princes, as Jarchi.

"And Shemaiah and Jeremiah": Who were two others.

This was speaking of a group of people who were from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah next. Shemaiah and Jeremiah again, were from priestly families. It appears the priests and the people were mingled in together in this procession.

Nehemiah 12:35 "And [certain] of the priests' sons with trumpets; [namely], Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph:

To blow with on this occasion; for these the priests sounded. Namely:

"Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph": Not the Levite, but a priest of this name.

Nehemiah 12:36 "And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai,

Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them."

"The musical instruments of David": This phrase could refer to the same kind of instruments David's musicians used or the actually instruments constructed in David's time, now being used centuries later. Compare (1 Chron. 15:16; 23:5; 2 Chron. 29:26; Ezra 3:10).

"The man of God" (see note on Deut. 33:1; compare Acts 13:22).

These trumpets would be blown in victory by the priests' sons. The musical instruments would be played, and the singers would sing praises. This procession across the wall was to be a victorious march. After this, would come another group of Levites led by Zechariah. Ezra would be acting as a scribe here.

Nehemiah 12:37 "And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward."

Of which see (Neh. 2:14), and which was to the south of the dung gate.

"They went up": That is, one of the two companies, that which took to the right on the wall. (Neh. 12:31). With which these words are to be connected.

"By the stairs of the city of David": Which went up to the city of Zion, built on an eminence.

"At the going up of the wall, above the house of David": Where the wall was higher, and there was an ascent to it.

"Even unto the water gate eastward": Turning from the south to the east, and so drew nigh the temple. (See notes on 3:26; 8:16).

This was another group, who would mount another section of the wall from the stairs that went up the inside of the wall.

Nehemiah 12:38 "And the other [company of them that gave] thanks went over against [them], and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;"

On the left hand, on the northern part of the wall. "The other company": This second choir marched clockwise to the north (compare 12:31).

"And I after them": Nehemiah, he brought up the rear of his company, as Ezra led the van of his.

"And the half of the people upon the wall": The chief of them, for all could not walk upon it.

"From beyond the tower of the furnaces": Where they baked their bread, or their bricks (see Neh. 3:11).

"Even unto the broad wall": Where the wall was broader than common, for some reason or another (see Neh. 3:8).

Nehemiah 12:39 "And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate."

The gate which led to the tribe of Ephraim, where that tribe formerly dwelt (see Neh. 8:16).

"And above the old gate": Of which mention is made (Neh. 3:6).

"And above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate. Of all which (see Neh. 3:1). And they stood still in the prison gate; which was not a gate of the city, but of the court of the prison (Neh. 3:25). Which was near both the king's palace and the temple (see Jer. 20:1).

"Gate of Ephraim" (see note on 2:14). "Old gate" (see note on 3:6). "Fish Gate" (see note on 3:3). "Tower of Hananeel" (see note on 3:1). "Tower of Meah" (see note on 3:1). "Sheep gate" (see notes on 3:1, 32). "Prison gate": Located in the northeast section of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was with this group. They started at the same place the other group had started, and went in the opposite direction. Some of this was on the eastern wall.

Nehemiah 12:40 "So stood the two [companies of them that gave] thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me:"

Having made their procession on the wall in different ways, they met in the temple. That is, in the great court of it, for no other would hold them.

"And I, and the half of the rulers with me": Nehemiah, and the other half with Hoshaiah (Neh. 12:32).

A great deal of the wall was covered with all these people. It would have been a very strong wall to hold up the weight of that many people.

Nehemiah 12:41 "And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai,

Zechariah, [and] Hananiah, with trumpets;"

They stood there also, whose names follow.

"Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets": To sound on this occasion.

These were the priests that were blowing the trumpets.

Nehemiah 12:42 "And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah [their] overseer."

These seem to be all priests that blew the trumpets.

"And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer": These were the Levites, that sung the songs of praise vocally, and raised their voices very high. Jezrahiah being precentor, who led the tune, as well as played on instruments.

The first mentioned here, were playing instruments and the singers were singing. This had to be a tremendous, victorious sound of praise rising up to God.

Nehemiah 12:43 "Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

"For God had made them rejoice with great joy": The God of all joy (compare 1 Chron. 12:40; Neh. 8:10; Psalms 16:11; 33:1; 43:4; Gal. 5:22), activated their inner joy which brought corporate celebration. Though these may have been few and far between, moments like this characterized the life of obedience and blessing which God had set before Israel.

It was a long-standing tradition to sacrifice at dedications. Nehemiah completed the dedication by the priests offering tremendous numbers of sacrifices. Everyone participated. This was a time of national joy and triumph. Another time the women had participated in a time of tremendous joy, had been just after the crossing of the Red Sea.

Verses 44-47: A listing of miscellaneous temple activities is given. A pattern of obedience and covenantal living was instilled in the everyday life of the people, favorable, stable conditions comparable to those of the time of "David, Solomon," and "Asaph".

Nehemiah 12:44 "And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited."

On the selfsame day the dedication was; while the people were in a good disposition, and a suitable frame for such service. Certain persons from among the priests were appointed to be overseers of the chambers fixed upon for treasuries. To lay up safe in them the following things, and take care of them, that they were put to the use for which they were designed.

"For the offerings, for the first fruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites": What by the law of God were assigned them for their maintenance, and which the people had lately bound themselves to bring in (Neh. 10:35). "The portions of the law": Compare (Lev. 7:34-36; Deut. 18:1-5).

"For Judah rejoiced for the priests, and for the Levites that waited. At the temple, and performed their services there. They were so pleased with their ministrations that day, that they were determined to take care of them, and provide well for them. And that nothing should be wanting to them, enjoined by the law of God, and that they might not be obliged to dwell in fields and villages for the sake of their living (Neh. 12:28).

Perhaps we can safely assume that Nehemiah did some of the appointing. Some of these things were of a spiritual consequence, so we may assume the High-Priest appointed some of those men. We know the law had been read to all of the people, so there would be no excuse for not giving the portion that was their obligation to give. The priests and the Levites lived off these offerings. The priests and the Levites were not allowed to work aside from in the service of the LORD. They waited until the offerings were made to receive their portion.

Nehemiah 12:45 "And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, [and] of Solomon his son."

The singers kept their turns in course in the temple, and were not wanting to officiate on all occasions, besides morning and evening services. And the porters they diligently kept the gates of the temple, that no impure person or thing in a ceremonial sense entered.

"According to the commandment of David, and Solomon his son": Who made very good rules and orders relative to the better and more regular performance of service by them (see 1 Chron. 25:1).

The singers and the porters were in the service of the LORD. They did not have other occupations. They lived off the daily portions that were allotted to them. They were purified, as were the priests, because they were in the service of the LORD. David and Solomon had instituted the musicians and the doorkeepers in the temple that Solomon built.

Nehemiah 12:46 "For in the days of David and Asaph of old [there were] chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God."

Persons appointed over the rest to instruct them, and see that they did their work aright, as besides Asaph, Haman, and Jeduthun, and their sons (1 Chron. 25:2).

"And songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God": Such were made by them, some under divine inspiration, which bear the names of David and Asaph, as may be observed in the book of Psalms.

The book of Psalms is a book of songs to be sung in worship. Asaph was the head of the singers in the temple in Solomon's temple. Many of the Psalms speak as being from Asaph. David felt that thanksgiving and praise in song was a vital part of worship. He was a singer and a musician himself. He wrote most of the Psalms, which are songs.

Nehemiah 12:47 "And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified [holy things] unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified [them] unto the children of Aaron."

While these two men governed they did their duty, and punctually paid the Levites their dues at the proper time.

"And they sanctified holy things unto the Levites": Set them apart for their use, and brought them to them, their offerings, firstfruits, and tithes. And the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron. The Levites set apart the tenth part of the tithes, and delivered them to the priests, and so each had what belonged to them.

"The children of Aaron": The priests.

This was explaining that the singers and musicians had a daily portion. The Levites received of the things offered on the altar. The High-Priest and the priests received of the offerings of the altar, also.

Nehemiah Chapter 12 Questions

  1. Who was the High-Priest in Zerubbabel's time?
  2. Which High-Priest was murdered by Nebuchadnezzar?
  3. Who was descended from Abijah?
  4. Who was Elisabeth, mother of John, descended from?
  5. Who were Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel?
  6. When was Eliashib High-Priest?
  7. Who did Jonathan murder to become High-Priest?
  8. Which of the priests did not put their mark on the covenant?
  9. There were records kept of all the heads of families of the Hebrews, especially of whom?
  10. Why did the genealogies become unimportant after Jesus?
  11. Nehemiah was a _________ leader in the office of governor.
  12. When were the two times people believe the wall was dedicated?
  13. To all who believe in God, _____________ should be dedicated.
  14. The singers and musicians were all ____________.
  15. Who were purified for the dedication of the wall?
  16. Who were some of the people who would be on the wall?
  17. Did the ordinary people get on the wall?
  18. Who blew the trumpets?
  19. What kind of songs would they sing?
  20. Who led the second group to mount the wall?
  21. Name the priests that blew the trumpets.
  22. Who was involved in all of the rejoicing that was going on?
  23. Who did the appointing in verse 44?
  24. Who got a daily portion?
  25. When did much of the ministry of singing begin?
  26. What are the Psalms?

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Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah Chapter 13

Verses 1-31: Only a few years after signing the covenant, the people had already forgotten their vows of separation (see note on 10:28-31). "Their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod" means the people had intermarried. God's people must be aware of the enemy's tactics and be aggressive in confronting them: Otherwise, they will compromise with this world.

Verses 1-3: Verses 1 and 2 faithfully summarize (Deut. 23:3-5). Descendants of mixed marriages with these two nations were excluded from the congregation of Israel until the tenth generation. Tobiah was an Ammonite (2:19), and he was already forging strong alliances with prominent

Jewish families through marriage (6:18; compare 13:4-9). The "mixed multitude" (compare

Exodus 12:38), were descendants of mixed marriages. Those from marriages with Egyptians and Edomites were permitted full membership in Israel after the third generation (Deut. 23:7-8). The group many have included heathen who attached themselves to the Jews by marriage, commerce, or religious observances.

Nehemiah 13:1 "On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever;"

"On that day they read in the book of Moses": Not surprisingly, as they read on the regular calendar cycle, they were confronted with areas in which their thinking and practice had wavered from the Scriptures, specifically with regard to the requirements of (Deut. 23:3-6).

I am not certain just exactly which day this was speaking of. It seemed to be a fairly regular happening in the time of Nehemiah. This could have been on one of the feast days, but was not necessarily so.

Deuteronomy 23:3 "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:"

The Ammonites and Moabites were descended from the sons of Lot and his two daughters.

Nehemiah 13:2 "Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing."

Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt. To supply them therewith, either as a gift, which was a piece of humanity to strangers and travelers. Or rather to sell unto them, for on no other terms did the Israelites desire their bread and their water. In the way when ye came forth out of Egypt. Not as soon as they came forth from there, for it was near forty years after; but it was while they were in the way from there, as they were journeying to the land of Canaan. And so were travelers, and should have had kindness shown them as such; for though they needed not bread and water. God providing both for them, yet this does not excuse the inhumanity of these people. The words are to be understood by way of distribution. This charge here only belongs to the Ammonites, for it appears that the Moabites did give them bread and water for money (Deut. 2:28). As what follows belongs peculiarly to the Moabites and not the Ammonites.

"And because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee": This the Moabites did in conjunction with the Midianites, but the Ammonites had no concern in it (see Num. 22:7). It was not therefore because the Moabites and Ammonites were born in incest that they were forbidden entrance into the congregation of the Lord. Which might have been thought to have been the reason of it.

The very same statement is made (in Deuteronomy 23:4). It is interesting that the curse was not because they were descended from their mothers through an act of incest with Lot, their father.

Nehemiah 13:3 "Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude."

This was done in compliance with their recent pledge (compare 10:26-29), before Nehemiah left for Persia.

God had strictly forbidden the marriage of Hebrews with the heathens.

Verses 4-31: The book closes with a summary of Nehemiah's reforms once he arrived back in Jerusalem after a trip to report to "Artaxerxes". Among other things, he installed a system of oversight to ensure that the people would support the "Levites and the singers" as they did their work for God.

Verses 4-9: "Tobiah" still had a foothold in the city, and even occupied a "great chamber" on the temple grounds. Nehemiah evicted him. Nehemiah's response, "it grieved me sore", is echoed in (1 Peter 4:17).

These events probably occurred while Nehemiah had returned to Susa to report to Artaxerxes his success in building the walls. "Tobiah" was Nehemiah's old enemy and had always had admirers and sworn supporters in the highest circles of Judah (6:17-19). "Eliashib" had turned over a

"great chamber" (or room), to Tobiah in the court of the temple. Nehemiah's action was like that of Jesus (in John 2:14-17). He threw out Tobiah's belongings and ceremonially cleansed the room.

Nehemiah 13:4 "And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, [was] allied unto Tobiah:"

"Tobiah": (See note on 2:10). Eliashib had allied with Israel's enemy for some personal gain and taken it to such an extreme as to desecrate the house of God.

Eliashib was High Priest, and he should have known not to be involved with Tobiah. Nehemiah had a great deal of trouble from him, when he was building the wall of Jerusalem. That was not the reason for the problem here however. It was Eliashib who said who could stay in the chamber of the house of the LORD.

Nehemiah 13:5 "And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded [to be given] to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests."

In the temple, by throwing together several chambers, as Piscator observes.

For the next clause (see Neh. 10:37).

It is interesting that the High Priest would do such a sinful thing. It appears that many times the High Priest, or even the pastor of a church today, think they are above the law of God. They get the idea that whatever they do is alright. The High Priest and the pastor both, should set an example of holiness. It was terrible to give him any chamber, but to put him in the chamber where the sacred things had been kept, was an abomination. The meat offering for twice a day, symbolized the body of Jesus. The frankincense accompanied the meat offering. The offerings that had been made to give to the Levitical tribe were holy as well. The priest had done a terrible thing.

Nehemiah 13:6 "But in all this [time] was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:"

"Came I unto the king": Nehemiah returned to Persia as he promised (compare 2:6; ca. 433 B.C.), in the 32rd year of Artaxerxes (compare 5:14). It is unknown exactly how long Nehemiah remained in Persia, perhaps until (ca. 424 B.C.), but in that interval the disobedience developed.

It appears that when this happened, Nehemiah was out of the country. He had gone back to report to Artaxerxes, who was, in a sense, king of Babylon, because he had defeated them. The king seemed to be extremely fond of Nehemiah, and allowed him to go back to Jerusalem.

Verses 7-9: Nehemiah's response to the desecration of the temple was similar to Christ's almost 5 centuries later (compare Matt. 21:12-13; John 2:13-17).

Nehemiah 13:7 "And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God." Through the king's leave, and with a commission from him.

"And understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah": Was informed of the maladministration of his office.

"In preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God": Whereby it was profaned and polluted.

The courts of the house of God had been a special place for just the Levites. Primarily, it was a place for the priests' families. This particular room had been a place to hold the daily meat offerings, the frankincense, and the sacred vessels. It had also, been used for the storing of the offerings. Tobiah was an enemy of Nehemiah, an enemy of Jerusalem, and an enemy of the temple. This was a terrible sin.

Nehemiah 13:8 "And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber."

That such a sacred place should be converted to common use, and to that of a heathen, and of an enemy to the Jews and their religion.

"Therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber": As being chief magistrate, and acting by commission under the king of Persia, and to regulate everything amiss, according to the Jewish laws, as well as those of the king. His power being, no doubt, as large as Ezra's (Ezra 7:25). By "household stuff" is meant what is movable in the house, as chairs, tables, vessels for dressing, caring, drinking, etc. There are various opinions about this with the ancients.

Nehemiah did not wait to tell him to move his things out. He moved them for him. All of this had happened, while Nehemiah was away. He immediately attacked the problem as soon as he was aware of it when he returned. The High Priest was supposed to watch and not allow something like this to happen. He had committed this sin himself.

Nehemiah 13:9 "Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense."

"Vessels of the house of God": In order to accommodate Tobiah, they had moved the utensils of the house of God from their rightful place and put idols in the temple courts.

This cleaning was more than just sweeping out the area. This was speaking of a ceremonial cleansing, as well as a physical cleansing. He could not put the holy things back into this chamber, until it was purified.

Verses 10-14: In Nehemiah's absence, the Jews violated their previous covenant with God regarding offerings (compare 10:35-40), as reported by (Mal. 1:6-14 and 3:8-12). In his presence, it was immediately restored (see notes on 9:38 - 10:39).

Nehemiah discovered that, in spite of the oath the people had taken, the Levites (and most likely the priests, too), had not been receiving their tithes and, as a result, had to work in the fields. He immediately "contended" [a strong legal term] "with the rulers" and "set them in their place". Then he appointed four reliable treasurers over the storehouse (verse 13; compare Mal. 3:10), which was a large room in the temple.

Nehemiah 13:10 "And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given

[them]: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field."

"Were fled every one to his field": By neglecting the tithe, the people failed to support the Levites. Consequently, they had to abandon their responsibilities in the house of God and perform field labor in order to survive.

It appears that they had failed to furnish the needs of the Levites, other than the priests. The Levites had to go to work to support their families. When Nehemiah went to see the king, the level of worship in the temple deteriorated.

Nehemiah 13:11 "Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place."

The ecclesiastical rulers, the priests that were appointed over those chambers (Neh. 12:44). He expostulated with them warmly, and chided them severely for their conduct.

"And said, why is the house of God forsaken?" No care being taken of the maintenance of the ministers of it, contrary to the promise made (Neh. 10:37).

"And I gathered them together": The Levites and singers that were dispersed in the countries round about.

"And set them in their place": In the temple, and in the course of their ministry there.

It appears that Nehemiah had to do what the High Priest should have done. Nehemiah met with the rulers, and reprimanded them for allowing this situation to occur. The profaning of the temple would have been the fault of the High Priest and the priests. The fault of the Levites not receiving their portion was the fault of the rulers and nobles.

Nehemiah 13:12 "Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries."

When they saw a reformation made, and things were going in their proper channel. And a right use would be made of their tithes, these given to proper persons, who were now reinstated in their office.

When Nehemiah came back, the people became serious about their worship again. It was as if they wanted Nehemiah to know they were living right. There must be a strong leader for the people to remain faithful.

Nehemiah 13:13 "And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them [was] Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office [was] to distribute unto their brethren."

New ones, since the others appointed were either dead or unfaithful to their trust (Neh. 12:44).

"Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe": Who also was a priest, as Ezra was both priest and scribe. One that besides his office as a priest was expert in the law, and capable of instructing others.

"And of the Levites, Pedaiah, and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah": For they were counted faithful. And had a good report of all that knew them, for men of fidelity and uprightness, and so fit for such a trust.

"And their office was to distribute unto their brethren": To deliver to them their share in the tithes, first fruits, etc.

Nehemiah put treasurers over the treasuries. He chose the men above, because they were faithful to God. The High Priest had been in charge of them earlier, but Nehemiah did not trust him any longer. The four treasurers that Nehemiah chose were a priest, a Levite, a layman of rank, and a scribe. They were not only to receive the tithe, but distribute it, as well.

Nehemiah 13:14 "Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof."

"Remember me": This refrain is used 3 times here, once after each rebuke (compare 13:22, 31).

We see that Nehemiah was doing the best he could, and he had nothing to do with the error the priests and High Priest, and the people had gotten into while he was gone. Now that he had come back, he tried to straighten all of it out. He wanted God to remember the good things he had done.

Verses 15-22: Another violation of the covenant, seen (in 10:30-31), was the action of some Jews who were preparing and transporting goods on the Sabbath (verse 15); Phoenician traders also were being allowed to sell on the Sabbath (verse 16). They went against their previous agreement by violating the Sabbath.

To change the people's lax attitudes about the "Sabbath", Nehemiah not only confronted those who profited from commerce on that sacred day but took practical action at the "gates of Jerusalem" to control the conduct of business (see note on 7:3).

Nehemiah 13:15 "In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals."

Which was not a work of necessity, and so did not drive away the Sabbath, as the Jews express themselves, but might have been deferred to another day.

"And bringing in sheaves": Of wheat, it being the time of wheat harvest.

"And lading asses": With goods to be carried from place to place, and sold on that day. This was contrary to the express law, for the ass was to rest (Deut. 5:14).

"As also wine, grapes, and figs": It being the time of ingathering the fruits of the earth.

"And all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day": Besides those borne on asses, others were carried on men's shoulders. This was contrary to the law of the Sabbath, which required that both men and beasts should have rest.

"And I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals": That is, the Sabbath day. And if it was not lawful to sell food, then not anything else; so far from it, that according to the Jewish canons, such that were in partnership might not discourse together of what they should sell or buy on the morrow, the day after the Sabbath. And so far from gathering and carrying grapes and figs, that a man might not go into his gardens and fields to see what was wanting, or how the fruits were. Now Nehemiah admonished the Jews of these evils they committed, and testified against them as breakers of the law, and called heaven and earth to testify against them, should they go on to violate it.

This was a breaking of the covenant they had made with God. This was not only a breaking of the covenant they made, but also was a breaking of the Ten Commandments of God. Nehemiah testified against them for these sins. The Commandment is Exodus 20:8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Nehemiah 13:16 "There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem." From Tyre and Zidon, and the parts adjacent. These they brought from Joppa, and from thence to Jerusalem. And had houses or lodgings near the fish gate or fish market, where they sold them. "Tyre": A Phoenician coastal town 20 miles south of Sidon.

"And all manner of ware": Or merchandise, which, being a trading city, they had from all nations.

"And sold on the Sabbath day unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem": Or even in Jerusalem, the holy city, where stood the temple, and where the worship of God was kept. And where the magistrates lived, who should have been terrors to evildoers. Indeed, the law of the Sabbath was not binding on these Tyrians, but then they tempted the Jews to break it, by bringing their ware to sell.

The sin was not of the men of Tyre in this. They were not breaking the law living in Jerusalem. They did not observe Sabbath either. The sin was that of the Hebrews, for buying the fish and wares on the Sabbath.

Nehemiah 13:17 "Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing [is] this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?"

The rulers of the city, the civil magistrates, sharply reproved them for their neglect of duty.

"And said unto them, what evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day?" By suffering servile works to be done in it, and things sold on it.

The covenant they had made with God, just a few years prior to this, had strictly forbidden this type of thing. There was a curse that went with the breaking of the Sabbath. Those most able to pay the tithes and to keep the Sabbath, were the greatest offenders. The nobles were the guilty in this case.

Nehemiah 13:18 "Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath."

Jeremiah had rebuked their fathers for the same things (see Jer. 17:21). By such acts their fathers had brought the misery of exile and oppression, and they were doing the same, increasing God's wrath against them.

The following was a warning that Jeremiah brought to the people, when he was speaking as an oracle of God.

Jeremiah 17:27 "But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." Verses 19-22: Nehemiah had to force compliance with threats.

Nehemiah 13:19 "And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and [some] of my servants set I at the gates, [that] there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day."

Or "were shaded"; that is, as Jarchi interprets it, when the shadows of the eve of the Sabbath were stretched out upon the gates. The Sabbath did not begin till sun setting, and the stars appeared. But before that, as the sun was declining, the shadows through the houses in

Jerusalem, and mountains about it, spread themselves over the gates. And when it was near dusk, and as soon as it was so;

"I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath": Until sun setting the next day.

"And some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should be no burden brought in on the Sabbath day": The porters being not to be trusted, being liable to be bribed and corrupted, which he knew his servants were not. And therefore, since it might be necessary on a few occasions to open the gates to let some persons in and out. And especially such who dwelt near, and came to worship. He placed his servants there, to take care that none were admitted that had any burdens upon them.

The sabbath begins on Friday night about dark and goes to Saturday night about the same time. Nehemiah stopped the people from bringing in to sell to the people by having the gates locked on Friday night, and not opened until after Sabbath was over.

Nehemiah 13:20 "So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice."

The Tyrians particularly (Neh. 13:16).

"Lodged without Jerusalem once or twice": One Sabbath day or two, not being able to get into the city, such strict watch and care being taken to keep the gates shut. This they did, hoping the Jews would come out to them and buy their goods. Though they were not admitted to bring them within the city.

This was probably before the word got around, that they would not be able to enter Jerusalem on the Sabbath.

Nehemiah 13:21 "Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do [so] again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no [more] on the sabbath."

Against their continuance there, and threatened them. And called heaven and earth to witness what he would do to them, if they did not depart.

"Why lodge ye about the wall?" Of the city, waiting an opportunity to get in, and tempting the Jews to come out and buy their wares.

"If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you": Beat them, or slay them, at least imprison them.

"From that time forth came they no more on the Sabbath": Finding there was no likelihood of getting into the city, and that they were liable to be taken up and punished.

Nehemiah threatened to arrest the merchants, who came to Jerusalem and waited outside the gates. This made for a noisy Sabbath, and Nehemiah would not allow this. This kept them away.

Nehemiah 13:22 "And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and [that] they should come [and] keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, [concerning] this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy."

From all ceremonial uncleanness, that they might be fit in a ceremonial sense to perform the duties of the office on the Sabbath day.

"And that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day": Not the gates of the city, his servants were placed there. Nor was this the work of the Levites, and much less did this require a particular purification for that assignment. But the gates of the temple, that no impure person might enter there. And on that day it required the greater diligence, because of the number of people that came to worship.

"Remember me, O my God, concerning this also": With respect to his care to have the Sabbath kept holy, as well as his concern for the honor of the house of God, and the maintenance of his ministers (Neh. 13:14).

"And spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy": He desired to be dealt with, not according to any merits of his own, but according to the abundant mercy of God. That he would kindly and graciously accept any good that he had done, and would, for his mercy sake, forgive whatever was amiss in him.

Nehemiah was doing everything he could to cause the LORD to overlook the sin they had committed about the Sabbath. These Levites had been already assigned this duty, when the gates were re-built. They were to treat this as if it were a gate to the temple. The whole city of Jerusalem had fallen away from the type of faithfulness God required while Nehemiah had been away. He was trying to re-establish order in their worship now.

Verses 23-28: The sin of mixed marriages had erupted again (Ezra 9:1-4; 10:44), and the children of these marriages could not speak Hebrew (verse 24): "in the speech of Ashdod". Even one of the younger sons of "Joiada" married a daughter of "Sanballat". So Nehemiah "chased him" away because the priestly line was not to be contaminated by intermarriage (Lev. 21:6-8, 14-15).

Both the priests and the people had married pagans of the land in violation of the Mosaic law

(compare Exodus 34:15-16; Deut. 7:3), the earlier reforms of Ezra (compare Ezra chapters 9 and 10), and their own covenant (compare 10:30). Malachi spoke against this sin (Mal. 2:10-16).

The account of Solomon's fall from greatness was common knowledge. Nehemiah used him to illustrate how far a person can descent by making poor choices. Nehemiah hoped that his forceful confrontation regarding intermarriage would make the people do better that "Solomon" did.

Nehemiah 13:23 "In those days also saw I Jews [that] had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, [and] of Moab:"

Ashdod, or Azotus, as it is called in (Acts 8:40), was one of the five cities of the Philistines. Which, though none of the seven nations with whom marriage was forbidden, yet it was very unfit and improper to marry with them (Judges 14:3). This place was a mart of the Arabians, where they sold their goods, to which the Jews might resort, and thereby be ensnared into such marriages. And which with the Ammonites and Moabites were unlawful (Neh. 13:1). "Ashdod": (See note on 4:7).

"Ammon and of Moab": Neighboring countries east of the Jordan whose beginnings were by Lot's incestuous relationship with his two daughters (compare Gen. 19:30-38).

Nehemiah 13:24 "And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people."

Which they learned of their mothers, so that it was a mixed language they spoke, partly Jewish and partly Philistine. But some refer this not to their speech, but to the number of their children. That half of them, which Jarchi interprets many of them, spoke in the language of Ashdod, even as many as were most with their mothers, and chiefly brought up by them.

"And could not speak in the Jews' language": Not at all, or so much as to be understood well, which inclines to the last sense.

"But according to the language of each people": Their mothers were of, whether of Ashdod, or of Ammon, or of Moab.

These wives of Ashdod were Philistines. The other two were Ammonites and Moabites. All of these were forbidden for the Jews to marry. Their children were not even speaking Hebrew.

Nehemiah 13:25 "And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, [saying], Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves." Argued with them, faithfully admonished them, and sharply reproved them.

"And cursed them": Assuring them that the curse of God would come upon them, unless they repented. Aben Ezra interprets it of excommunicating them, either with "Cherem" or "Niddui", which were two sorts of excommunication among the Jews. But it is a question whether as yet those were used by them.

"And smote certain of them": Ordered them to be beaten with rods or scourges, as transgressors of the law.

"And plucked off their hair": Or ordered it to be plucked off by the executioner that smote them. Which sort of punishment, as it was painful, it was disgraceful and ignominious (see Isa. 1:6).

"And made them swear by God, saying, ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves": Not intermarry with them. This they had sworn to before (Neh. 10:29).

The cursing had to be of those who had intermarried. Smote them means they were beaten. It seems to be a very cruel punishment to pull their hair out, but that was done also. All of this was to force them to swear they would not intermarry.

Nehemiah 13:26 "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin."

By marrying strange wives, by whom he was drawn into idolatry (1 Kings 11:3).

"Yet among many nations was there no king like him": As not for grandeur and riches, so not for wisdom, and yet was ensnared by his idolatrous wives.

"Who was beloved of his God": Alluding to his name Jedidiah, which signifies beloved of the Lord (2 Sam. 12:24).

"And God made him king over all Israel": Which was a proof of his love to him, and so he was under the greater obligation to serve him, and him only. And yet his heart, through his wives, was turned after other gods.

"Even him did outlandish women cause to sin": And if so great and wise a man was enticed by them to idolatry, much more may you, and therefore it was very dangerous to marry with them.

(In 1 Kings), there is an extensive study on the sins of Solomon, that were brought on by marrying women who worshipped false gods. The women were called strange women, because they were not Hebrews. It is still a bad thing for those who believe in Christ to marry those who do not. God greatly loved and blessed Solomon, but he sinned greatly because of his wives. Solomon's punishment should have been enough to convince all of them how evil this sin was.

Nehemiah 13:27 "Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?"

To suffer it to be done, and connive at it, and not punish for it.

"To transgress against our God": His law, his mind, and will.

"In marrying strange wives?" Forbidden by him (Deut. 7:1).

If Nehemiah had not stopped this at this point, it would have become more and more common. This was one of the main reasons God had destroyed Jerusalem before. Nehemiah did not want that to happen again.

Nehemiah 13:28 "And [one] of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, [was] son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me."

Even the grandson of the High-Priest (compare 12:10), sinfully married a daughter of Sanballat (see note on 2:10).

This was one of the main problems. The priests were not setting the right kind of example for the people. The grandson of the High Priest had married Sanballat's daughter. Not only was Sanballat a heathen, but he was an enemy of Jerusalem, and especially of Nehemiah. He fought Nehemiah, and tried to keep him from building the wall. Nehemiah actually ran the son of Joiada off to live with Sanballat's daughter and Sanballat.

Verses 29-30: Malachi 2:1-8 recognizes the uncleanness within the priesthood.

Nehemiah 13:29 "Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites."

The priests, and punish them. Because they have defiled the priesthood; by marrying strange wives, and rendering themselves unfit to officiate in it.

"And the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites": Made with Levi, Aaron, and Phinehas (see Num. 24:11). Of the corruption of which, complaint is made (Malachi 2:4).

I would have to agree with Nehemiah that a sin was worse for a High Priest to commit, because he should be more aware of God's wishes than the average person. This is true of preachers in our day as well. They should set an example of a holy life before their people.

Nehemiah was asking God not to hold him responsible for what the priests did.

Nehemiah 13:30 "Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;"

Both people and priests from strange wives, obliging them to put them away, or flee their country.

"And appointing the wards of the priests and the Levites, everyone in his business": To do the work of their office in their courses and turns.

Nehemiah 13:31 "And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good."

"Remember me": Nehemiah prayed this for the third time (compare 13:14, 22), desiring God's blessing on his obedient efforts.

For a fourth and final time, the book records one of Nehemiah's prayers: "Remember me, O my

God". Clearly he did not think that God would forget him; this illustrates how Nehemiah entrusted himself to God. The request "for good" leaves the specifics of blessing in God's hands.

Again, Nehemiah wanted God to remember the good things he had done, and overlook the things that he fell short in. I can truly say that it appeared that Nehemiah desired to please God with all his heart. He had actually established the wood offering for the first time. He also re-established the firstfruits offerings. This was almost a plea from Nehemiah to God to remember only the good he had done. This is probably the cry of all believers as well. Lord, remember the little good I did, and forget my shortcomings.

Nehemiah Chapter 13 Questions

  1. What did they read in the audience of the people?
  2. What was found written in the book?
  3. Why were they forbidden in the congregation?
  4. After they heard this read, who did they separate out from Israel?
  5. Who was the priest Eliashib allied unto?
  6. When had Nehemiah had trouble from Tobiah?
  7. What had the priest prepared for him?
  8. What had been there before?
  9. What did the meat offering symbolize?
  10. Where was Nehemiah, when this happened?
  11. Tobiah an enemy of whom?
  12. What did Nehemiah do about this?
  13. Who should have been watching for this type of sin?
  14. What had happened to the Levites, while Nehemiah was away?
  15. Who did Nehemiah contend with about this?
  16. What did all of Judah bring as a tithe?
  17. What four people did Nehemiah choose to be treasurers?
  18. Why did he choose them?
  19. What does Nehemiah ask of God in verse 14?
  20. How were some of the people breaking the sabbath?
  21. Who brought fish to Jerusalem on the Sabbath?
  22. What did Nehemiah do to stop them?
  23. After he did this, what did the merchants do?
  24. What did Nehemiah threaten to do to them?
  25. In verse 23, who had the Jews married?
  26. What did Nehemiah do to them?
  27. Who did Nehemiah chase out of Jerusalem?
  28. Who had set a bad example for the people?
  29. What does Nehemiah want God to remember?

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