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Arno Clement Gaebelein

In the Public Domain

                           THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH


     The book of Nehemiah is the latest of the historical books of the Old
Testament. It is the continuation of the history of the company of people
which had returned under Zerubbabel and Ezra to the land. In Ezra we saw
the remnant getting back and rebuilding the temple, the place of worship.
In Nehemiah we have the record of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem,
and the restoration of the civil condition of the people, the partial and
outward reestablishment of the Jews in the land. The book bears the name of
Nehemiah, because he is the leading person in the recorded events, and
likewise the inspired author of the main portion of this record. Two other
persons by the name of Nehemiah are mentioned in the books of Ezra and
Nehemiah. One was the son of Azbuk (Neh. 3:15) and the other belonged to
the returning remnant under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2 and Neh. 7:7). From these,
Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah must be distinguished. His genealogy is
obscure. Besides being the son of Hachaliah, the only other mention of his
family is found in chapter 7:2; there he speaks of his brother Hanani. Some
class him as a priest for the reason that he heads the list of priests. But
his name is given there as the princely leader of the people. As to his
office, he carried two titles. He is called "Tirshatha" in chapter 8:9,
which means ruler or governor. In chapter 12:26 his title is also governor;
the word used is "pechah," the Turkish word "pasha."

     There can be no doubt that this man of God wrote chapters 1 to 7:5; it
is an autobiography. Chapter 7:6-73 is a quotation of a register of names,
which differs in numerous places from the register in Ezra 2:1-70. Both
were probably copied from public documents, perhaps from the book of
Chronicles mentioned in chapter 7:23. The discrepancies between Ezra 2 and
Nehemiah 7 show that Nehemiah did not copy from Ezra's record. Chapters 8
to 10, it is claimed by some, were not written by the hand of Nehemiah. It
has been suggested that Ezra is the author. The remaining section, chapters
11 to 13, bears the clear mark of Nehemiah's pen.

                          The History it Contains

     Nehemiah was the cupbearer in the palace of Shushan, serving
Artaxerxes the King. When he learned the deplorable condition of the people
in the land of his fathers, he sat down, wept and prayed. The king
discovered the source of Nehemiah's sorrow, and permitted him to go, giving
him full authority to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and to help his people.
This was in the year 445 B.C. Nehemiah reached the city the same year, and
was for twelve years actively engaged in the welfare work of Jerusalem. The
city wall was finished and the work done in spite of the many hindrances
and obstacles the enemy put in the way. Sanballat, the Moabite, and Tobiah,
the Ammonite, were Nehemiah's chief enemies. With them were allied the
Arabians, Ammonites and Ashdodites. They tried to hinder the work by
mocking the workmen, then by threatening them with violence. When their
attempts failed to arrest the restoration of the wall, then they tried
craft. Nehemiah came out victorious. And there were also internal troubles
among the people, threatening disruption. Thus as Daniel the prophet had
announced, the wall was rebuilt and the work finished in troublous times
(Dan. 9:25).

     After the city had been fortified, the wall built, religious reforms
were inaugurated. At the Watergate the law was read and expounded by Ezra
the priest. The feast of tabernacles was also celebrated, followed by a
solemn fast, repentance and a prayer of humiliation and confession of sins.
A covenant then was made. In all this Nehemiah was assisted by the pious
Ezra. About 432 B.C. Nehemiah returned to Babylon. His stay there does not
seem to have been very long, and he went back to Jerusalem. After his
return he demanded the separation of all the mixed multitude from among the
people. He also expelled the Ammonite Tobiah from the chamber which the
high priest Eliashib had prepared for him in the temple. Then he chased
away the son-in-law of Sanballat, a son of Joiada the high priest.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Nehemiah died at an advanced

     Interesting light has been thrown on this book and the conditions of
the Jews of that period by the recent discovery of Aramaic papyri near
Assouan. These papers were written twenty-four years after Nehemiah's
second visit to Jerusalem, and sixteen years after the death of King
Artaxerxes; they were therefore probably written during the lifetime of
Nehemiah. These papyri speak of the Jewish colony in the land, and the
house of the LORD with its worship, as well as what the enemy did to the

                           The Spiritual Lessons

     Nehemiah is a beautiful character well worth a close study. He was a
man of prayer, who habitually turned to God, seeking His wisdom and His
strength. The rebuilding of the wall, the different gates, and the men who
toiled there, the attempts of the enemies and their defeat, all contain
truths of much spiritual value and help. The reader will find the spiritual
and dispensational lessons pointed out in the annotations of each chapter.

                         The Division of Nehemiah

     The contents of the book are best divided into three sections.




                         Analysis and Annotations


                                 CHAPTER 1

     1. Nehemiah hears of the condition of Jerusalem (1:1-3)
     2. His great sorrow, and prayer (1:4-11)

     Verses 1-3. "The words of Nehemiah (the Lord is comfort) the son of
Hachaliah." It is therefore the personal narrative of his experience which
is before us in the first six chapters of this book, in which he describes
his soul exercise, and how the Lord made it possible for him to return to
Jerusalem, and how the wall was rebuilt. Nehemiah was a young man, born in
captivity holding a position of nearness to the great Persian king and
living in the beautiful palace of Shushan. He lived in luxuries, and was an
honored servant of the king. It was in the month of Chisleu, in the
twentieth year (445 B.C.) when Hanani his brother (7:2) visited him with
certain men out of Judah. The question he asked them at once shows the deep
interest he had in God's people. "I asked them concerning the Jews that had
escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem."
Though he had never seen Jerusalem, the city of his fathers, he loved
Jerusalem and felt like all pious captives, so beautifully expressed in one
of the Psalms--"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her
cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my
mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps. 137:5-6). Though
he lived in prosperity his heart was with his people. It was bad news which
they brought him. The remnant was in great affliction and reproach, the
wall of Jerusalem in a broken-down condition, and the gates burned with

     Verses 4-11. This sad news overwhelmed him with great sorrow. He sat
down and wept; his mourning continued certain days. If Nehemiah was so
affected by the temporal condition of Jerusalem and the affliction of the
remnant, how much more should believers mourn and weep over the spiritual
conditions among God's people. Yet how little of this sorrowing spirit over
these conditions is known in our day! It is needed for humiliation and
effectual prayer. Nehemiah did not rush at once into the presence of the
king to utter his petitions. He waited and fasted certain days and then
addressed the God of heaven (Ezra 6:9). He reveals in the opening words of
his prayer familiarity with the Word of God. "I beseech thee, O LORD, the
God of heaven, the great and terrible God (Deut. 7:21; 10:17; Dan. 9:4)
that keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments (Deut. 7:9; 1 Kings 8:23) let thine ear now be attentive (2
Chron. 6:40; Ps. 130:2) and thine eyes open (2 Chron. 6:40) that thou
mayest hearken unto the prayer of thy servant." After these scriptural
expressions, expressing confidence in the power and faithfulness of God,
Nehemiah confessed his sin and the sins of his people. "Yea, I and my
father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and
have not kept thy commandments, nor thy statutes, nor the judgments, which
thou commandest thy servant Moses." Ezra had prayed a similar prayer, and
before him Daniel in Babylon (Dan. 9). There is no flaw revealed in
Nehemiah's character, as there is none in Daniel's life, yet both of these
men of God went on their faces and confessed their sins and the sins of the
people. They realized that they had a share in the common failure of His
people. And so are we all blameworthy of the spiritual decline and failure
among God's people, and should humble ourselves on account of it. It is
this which is pleasing to the Lord and which assures His mercy.

     But Nehemiah was also trusting in the promise of God. He was a man of
faith, and cast himself upon the word of God, knowing what the Lord had
promised He is able to do.  "Remember, I beseech thee, the word that Thou
commandest thy servant Moses." The promise in Deut. 30:1-5 is especially
upon his heart and mentioned by him in the presence of the Lord. In the
near future this great national promise of the regathering of Israel from
the ends of the earth will be fulfilled, in that day when the Lord returns.
The exercise and prayer of Nehemiah will be repeated in the Jewish
believing remnant during the time of Jacob's trouble, the great
tribulation. Furthermore Nehemiah claims the blessing for the people on
account of their covenant relation with Jehovah. They are His servants, His
people, "whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power and by thy strong
hand." And how he pleads for an answer. "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 delight to fear thy name"--others were also praying--"and
prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day and grant him mercy in the sight
of this man." He meant the powerful monarch Artaxerxes. Yet in God's
presence he looked upon him only as a man, and he knew God could use this
man in behalf of His people, as He had used Cyrus.

                                 CHAPTER 2

     1. The King's question (2:1-2)
     2. The King's permission (2:3-8)
     3. The arrival in Jerusalem and the night-ride (2:9-16)
     4. The resolution to build the wall (2:17-18)
     5. The ridicule of the enemy, and Nehemiah's answer (2:19-20)

     Verses 1-2. The last sentence of the previous chapter, "For I was the
king's cupbearer," belongs to this chapter. Nehemiah is seen exercising the
functions of the King's cupbearer to minister to the joy and pleasure of
the monarch. Notice that it was four months after his prayer. Hanani had
visited his brother Nehemiah in the month Chisleu, the ninth month, and
Nisan is the first month of the Jewish year. How many prayers he must have
offered up during these three months! How patiently he waited for the
Lord's time! He carried a heavy burden upon his heart, expressed in a sad
countenance, which was at last noticed by Artaxerxes. "Why is thy
countenance sad, seeing that thou art not sick? this is nothing else but
sorrow of heart," said the king. Then was Nehemiah sore afraid fearing the
king's displeasure.

     Verses 3-8. Nehemiah answered the king and acquainted him with the
reason of his sadness, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the
city, the place of my father's sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates
thereof are consumed with fire?" From the meek answer Nehemiah gave we
learn that his forefathers were inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he belonged
therefore to the tribe of Judah. Instead of the angry outburst Nehemiah
feared, the king asked graciously, "For what dost thou make request?" How
his heart must have been stirred when the king uttered these words! He had
prayed four months before that the God of heaven grant him "mercy in the
sight of this man." And now the answer to his prayer was at hand. When the
king had asked for his request, Nehemiah prayed again to the God of heaven.
He found time to pray between the words of the king and the answer he gave
him. His lips did not speak, his knees were not bowed, nor did the king see
any other sign that Nehemiah prayed. Yet there was earnest believing and
prevailing prayer. It was an ejaculatory prayer, the soul's cry to God,
carried swiftly by the Holy Spirit to the throne of God. This man of God
every step of the way cast himself upon God; prayer was his constant
resource. Such is our privilege. As we walk in His fellowship we too shall
pray and look to the Lord as Nehemiah did. It is a blessed occupation to
cultivate a prayerful mind; indeed it is the breathing of the new life.
Whatever our experiences, the heart which is in touch with God will always
turn to Him even in the smallest matters. After Nehemiah had stated his
request the king granted what he had asked. His prayers were answered; God
had touched the heart of the monarch. "So it pleased the king to send me;
and I set him a time." The requested letters to the governors beyond the
river to convey him till he came to Judah, and to Asaph the forester to
furnish him with timber needed for the work, were granted to him. In this,
like pious Ezra (Ezra 7:6; 8:18, 22) Nehemiah saw the power of God
displayed--"according to the good hand of God upon me." Faith not only
depends on God, but also sees, His gracious hand and gives the glory to
Him. In faith Nehemiah could say "my God," like Paul in writing to the
Philippians (Phil. 4:19).

     Verses 9-16. He crossed the river Euphrates and traversed Transpotamia
till he reached Samaria. He delivered the letters. Sanballat, the Horonite,
and Tobiah, the servant, the Ammonite, Samaritans, are here mentioned for
the first time. Sanballat may have been the governor of the Samaritan
mongrel race. They were grieving exceedingly at Nehemiah's appearing, when
they heard he had come "to seek the welfare of the children of Israel."

     Sanballat (hate in disguise) is called the Horonite, an inhabitant of
Horonaim, which was a southern Moabite city (Isa. 15:5; Jer. 48:3, 5, 34)
and Tobiah, the servant, an Ammonite. They came from Moab and Ammon,
blood-relations of Israel, being bastard offspring of Lot. The Moabite and
Ammonite were not to come into the congregation of God forever; the curse
rested upon them. They did not meet Israel with bread and water when they
came forth from Egypt. They hated the people of God, and had hired Balaam
the son of Beor to curse Israel (Deut. 23:3-6). They were the bitter
enemies of Israel, which explains the displeasure of Sanballat and Tobiah
when Nehemiah came with the king's credentials. They represented typically
those who profess to be children of God, but are not born again; their
profession is spurious and carnal, and as mere religionists, with a form of
godliness but destitute of its power, they are the enemies of the cross of
Christ and of the real people of God.

     Nehemiah continues his narrative. "So I came to Jerusalem and was
there three days." We can well imagine, though he does not inform us of it,
that these three days were more than days of rest from the strenuous
journey. They were days of waiting on God, renewed prayer for guidance and
wisdom. He was alone with his God. When the three days of waiting were over
he began a night ride to inspect the condition of the different gates and
the wall. When all was quiet and people asleep, this servant of God went on
this memorable night inspection, accompanied by a few men. No one knows
what God had put in his heart; he kept it a secret. There was no boast that
he had come to do a big work, and no heralding of his plans. The man of
faith, who trusts God, can go and act without making known what the Lord
has commissioned him to do. He alone rode on an animal; the others walked.
It must have been a sad journey as he passed from gate to gate in the
walls. Desolation and debris everywhere. The gates were burned to ashes,
and finally the rubbish in the way was so great that the animal he rode
could no longer pass through. And how he must have sighed when his eyes
beheld the ruin and havoc, the results of the judgment of God on account of
Israel's sin!

     And how many other true servants of God have spent nights like this in
considering the failure and ruin among God's people, burdened with sorrow
and deep concern, sighing and groaning, with hearts touched like
Nehemiah's, ready to do the Lord's will.

     Verses 17-18. The rulers, the Jews, the priests and nobles were
ignorant of all he had done. On the morning after that night journey, he
called the people together to tell them what the Lord had put in his heart.
But with what meekness and tenderness he speaks to them! He does not
reproach them or charge them with unfaithfulness and neglect. He does not
assume the role of a leader, but identifies himself with the people. "Ye
see the distress that we are in"--he might have said, "You see the distress
you are in." Then he told them of what God had done. But we find not a word
of credit to himself, nor of the lonely hours spent during that sleepless
night. Then the people resolved to rise up and build.

     Verses 19-20. Sanballat, Tobiah and a third one, Geshem the Arabian
(an Ishmaelite) were at hand with their sneers. "They laughed us to scorn,
and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel
against the king?" They realized that Nehemiah had come to build the wall
of exclusion, and bring the people back to their God-given separation;
therefore these outsiders began at once to antagonize the messenger of God.
Magnificent is Nehemiah's answer. "The God of heaven, He will prosper us."
He puts God first. Knowing that they were doing His will in rebuilding the
wall, he had the confidence and assurance that God was on their side and
none could hinder. "Therefore we His servants will arise and build." This
was their determination to do the work. "But ye have no portion, nor right,
nor memorial in Jerusalem." It is the refusal of their fellow help. Though
they might have claimed a relationship with the people of God, yet did they
not belong to Israel. Their help was not wanted. What a contrast with the
unseparated condition which prevails in the professing church in what is
termed "work for the Lord" in which the unsaved and ungodly are asked to

                                 CHAPTER 3

     1. The builders of the sheep gate (3:1-2)
     2. The builders of the fish gate (3:3-5)
     3. The repairers of the old gate (3:6-12)
     4. The repairers of the valley gate (3:13)
     5. The repairers of the dung gate (3:14)
     6. The repairers of the gate of the fountain (3:15-25)
     7. The repairers of the water gate (3:26-27)
     8. The repairers of the horse gate (3:28)
     9. The builders of the east gate and the Gate Miphkad (3:29-32)

     Verses 1-2. The work is begun at once. We shall not point out the
location of these different gates, nor study the topography of Jerusalem in
the days of Nehemiah, as others have done. There are most helpful,
spiritual lessons to be learned from the building of the wall and the
repairing of the gates. A wall is for protection and to keep out what does
not belong in the city. In Ezra's work we saw the restoration of the true
place of worship. The wall surrounding the place where the people gathered
once more in the true worship of Jehovah typifies the guarding of that
place of privilege and blessing. A wall of separation is needed to keep out
that which is undesirable and which would hinder and mar the true worship.
(Even in connection with the millennial temple a wall is mentioned, "to
make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place" Ezek.
42:20.) Even so a church, an assembly, composed of true believers who
gather together in that worthy Name, and unto that Name, must be protected
from the world and all which dishonors Christ, or that which is contrary to
sound doctrine, must be excluded. This is the true New Testament principle
in connection with the true Church, foreshadowed in the building of the
wall surrounding the place where the Lord had set His Name.

     The third chapter is a remarkable one. We see the people of God at
work building and repairing, every one doing the work in a certain place.
Here is the record of the names, where and how they labored. God keeps such
a record of all His servants and their labors. When all His people appear
before the judgment seat of Christ this book will be opened "and every man
shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8).

     Ten gates are mentioned in this chapter. In chapter 8:16 we read of
"the gate of Ephraim" and in chapter 12:39 of "the prison gate." If we add
these two to the ten mentioned in this chapter we have twelve gates (Rev.
21:12). The first gate at which the work started is the sheep gate. Through
this gate the sacrificial animals were led to the altar, the constant
witness to the fact that "without the shedding of blood there is no
remission" and the types of Him who was "led as a lamb to the slaughter."
The sheep gate at which the work started is typical of the blessed work of
the Lamb of God, He who bore our sins in His body on the tree, the offering
of His spotless, holy body by which we are sanctified. The lesson here is
that the person and work of Christ is the starting point of a true
restoration, and that the cross of Christ, the work of God's Son has
accomplished, must be guarded above everything else. At the close of this
chapter this sheep-gate is mentioned once more. After making the circuit of
all the gates, we are led back to this first gate. It is with this great
truth, the gospel of Christ, that all repairing of the inroads of the world
and the flesh, must start and terminate. This gate suggests Him who said,
"I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go
in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9). There is no other gate which
leads to life and into God's presence.

     Eliashib (God will restore) the high priest, with his brethren,
builded the sheep gate, sanctified it and set it up. It was priestly work.
The tower of Meah and the tower of Hananeel are mentioned. Meah means "a
hundred" and it reminds us of the parable in which our Lord mentions the
man who had a hundred sheep. Hananeel means "to whom God is gracious."
Significant names. There is no doubt that this sheep gate is the same one
mentioned in John 5:2, which affords still another application. The men of
Jericho, once under the curse, but now in the place of nearness and
blessing, toiled next to the high priest. What grace this reveals! Zaccur
(well remembered) the son of Imri (the towering one) also was there.

     Verses 3-5. Next was the fish gate. This was separated from the sheep
gate by the portion of the wall which the men of Jericho and Zaccur
repaired. Outside of that gate may have been a fish market, or it may have
been the gate through which the fishermen passed to catch fish. It reminds
us of the words of our Lord, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to
become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). After we have passed through the sheep
gate we must go through the fish gate, to catch fish, to be soul-winners.
In this way, leading others to Christ, bringing sinners to a knowledge of
the Saviour, the Church is built up. Hassenaah (lifted up) was the builder
there. Then Meremoth (strong), Meshullam (repaying a friend) and Zadok
(just) repaired next to the fish gate. "And next unto them the Tekoites
repaired; but their nobles did not put their necks to the work of their
Lord." The prophet Amos was a Tekoite who had prophesied many years before,
a simple herdman and gatherer of sycamore figs. He was chosen of the Lord,
and here other humble instruments of Tekoa, used in doing the work, are
immortalized in this record. Their nobles were slackers. They had no
interest in the work of their Lord. And so there are such who do not work
for the Lord, and in that coming day will suffer loss, though they are

     Verses 6-12. The next gate is the old gate. This gate was probably the
same which elsewhere is called "the corner gate" (2 Kings 14:13; Jer.
31:38). Jehoiada ("the Lord knows") and Meshullam repaired this gate. This
gate may also remind us of Him "whose goings forth have been from of old,
from everlasting," who is the cornerstone, upon whom all rests. Next
repaired Melatiah, the Gibeonite, and Jadon, the Meronothite, the men of
Gibeon and Mizpah. The Gibeonites, on account of their deception by which
they had obtained a covenant of peace with Israel in Joshua's day, had been
made "hewers of wood and drawers of water." Here we behold some of them
participating in the great work. Of the others we mention Rephaiah, who was
a wealthy man, who did not hire a substitute, but labored with his own
hands, toiling with the rest. Shallum, the son of Halohesh, was another man
of power and wealth; he and his daughters repaired like the rest. What a
sight it must have been when these zealous men cleared away the debris and
repaired the gates, and among them the daughters of Shallum!

     Verse 13. The valley gate was repaired by Hanun (gracious) and the
inhabitants of Zanoah (broken). The valley typifies the low place,
humility. How needed this is in service for God, for "God resisteth the
proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

     Verse 14. The dung gate was repaired by Malchiah, and he was the ruler
of Beth-haccerem (the place of the vineyard). This gate was used to carry
out the refuse and filth from the city. This gate reminds of the
exhortations that God's people must cleanse themselves from all filthiness
of the flesh and the spirit "for God hath not called us unto uncleanness,
but unto holiness" (1 Thess. 4:7).

     Verses 15-25. The gate of the fountain was next to the dung gate. The
fountain, ever flowing, is a blessed type of the Holy Spirit, who indwells
the believer and is in him, the well of living water springing up, like a
fountain, into everlasting life (John 4:14). It is suggestive that the
fountain gate came after the dung gate. If a believer cleanses himself from
that which defiles, the Spirit of God will be unhindered, filling the
believer and using him as a vessel meet for the Master's use. Shallun
(recompense) the son of Colhozeh (wholly seer) the ruler of Mizpah
(watchtower) repaired and built that gate. And these names fit in
beautifully with the Spirit of God as the fountain of life and power. We
cannot mention all the names which follow. (A good concordance like
Strong's or Young's gives most of the Hebrew proper names in a reliable
translation. We suggest the study of the names of those who repaired as
interesting and helpful.) Nor do we know anything whatever of the
individual history of those zealous Israelites, who reconstructed and
restored the wall and gates of Jerusalem. God knows each one and has
preserved their names, though unknown by the world, in His Word. Surely
"the memory of the just is blessed" (Prov. 10:7) and some day they, with us
and all His servants, will receive the reward.

     Verses 26-27. The water gate is mentioned and the Nethinim, who were
servants and dwelt in Ophel (the high place) are connected with this gate.
This gate suggests the Word of God so frequently spoken of under the symbol
of water (John 3:5, 13:1-16; Eph. 5:26; Ps. 119:136). It is very
interesting to notice that while the servants are mentioned in connection
with the water gate, it does not say that they repaired the gate. The Word
of God needs no building up or improving; it builds up those who bow to its
blessed authority.

     Verse 28. The horse gate (2 Kings 11:6; Jer. 31:40) suggests warfare
and victory. In a world of evil the people of God wage a warfare. We
wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the wicked spirits. Paul speaks
of the believer as a soldier of Christ. Victory is on our side, though the
forces of evil may threaten on all sides.

     Verses 29-32. The east gate was repaired and kept by Shemaiah, the son
of Shechaniah. From Ezekiel's prophecy we learn that the Shekina glory left
from the east gate, and that when the glory returns to dwell once more in
the temple, the great millennial temple of Ezekiel's vision, the glory of
the Lord will enter through the east gate. The east gate faces the rising
sun. It suggests the coming of the Lord for His people. And here the two
names fit in beautifully. Shemaiah means "heard of the Lord"; even so He
will hear His people and some day will answer their prayer for His coming.
Shechaniah means "habitation of the Lord." We shall be with Him.

     The Miphkad gate was repaired by Malchiah (the Lord is King) the
goldsmith's son. Miphkad means "the appointed place" or "a place of
visitation." It was probably the gate in which the judges sat to settle
disputes and controversies. It suggests the judgment seat of Christ.

     Thus we learn that the wall surrounding and protecting the gathered
people suggests the cross as the starting point; service; Christ as Lord;
humility; cleansing from defilement; filling with the Spirit; the Word of
God and its power; warfare and victory; the coming of the Lord and the
judgment seat of Christ.

                                 CHAPTER 4

     1. The indignation and sneers of the enemies (4:1-3)
     2. Nehemiah's ejaculatory prayer (4:4-6)
     3. Conspiracy, and more prayer (4:7-9)
     4. Nehemiah's precautions and confidence (4:10-23)

     Verses 1-3. Sanballat (hate in disguise) having heard of the
successful building of the wall, became very angry and mocked the Jews. And
Tobiah the Ammonite used sarcasm. He said that which they build will be so
weak that one of the foxes, which infested the broken-down walls (Ps.
63:10) could break these newly built walls again.

     Verses 4-6. The answer to these sneers was prayer. The language these
two enemies used was provoking, but Nehemiah's refuge is prayer. Hezekiah
did the same when the Assyrian taunted him and defiled the God of Israel.
It is another of the brief ejaculatory prayers of Nehemiah. There are seven
of them in this book: chapters 2:4; 4:4-6; 5:19; 6:14; 13:14, 22, 29. He
prayed, "Hear, 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; and
cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before
thee; because they have provoked thee to anger before the builders." He
cast himself wholly upon God and with this prayer Nehemiah and the people
put the matter in the hands of the Lord. They were an object of contempt,
as His people who were doing the work of the Lord wanted to have done.
Sanballat and Tobiah were the enemies of God. This prayer reminds us of the
many imprecatory prayers in the psalms. When in the future another remnant
of the Jews returns to the land, they will face in the great tribulation
more powerful enemies than this remnant had to contend with. The man of
sin, the Antichrist, will be in control, and it is then that they will pray
these prayers, some of them almost like Nehemiah's prayer (Ps. 109:14).

     The work was not hindered by the taunts of the enemy. "So built we the
wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof, for the
people had a mind to work." If only God's people are in touch with God and
cast themselves wholly upon Him, all the efforts of the enemy are

     Verses 7-9. As the work progressed and the Samaritan enemies saw that
their taunts were unsuccessful, they became very wroth and conspired to use
force and fight against Jerusalem. Sanballat and Tobiah had gathered
others, the Arabians, Ammonites and Ashdodites, to hinder the work. Behind
them stood the same enemy of God, Satan, who always hinders the work of
God. His work of opposition is the same in every age. A very serious time
had come to the builders of the wall. The enemy was threatening to fall
upon them, and perhaps destroy what they had built. "Nevertheless we made
our prayer unto our God." It was prayer, dependence on God, first. The next
thing they did was to take precaution against the enemy--"and set a watch
against them day and night, because of them." But was not prayer enough?
Why the setting of a watch if they trusted the Lord? If they had not done
this it would have been presumption on their part. Their action did not
clash with their trust in God.

     Verses 10-23. There was also discouragement in their midst. As the
apostle wrote of himself, "without were fightings, within were fears" (2
Cor. 7:5), this was true of them. They became timid and fainthearted. It
was Judah, the princely tribe, whose emblem was the lion, which showed
discouragement and was ready to give up in despair. But Nehemiah made no
answer to the complaint "we are not able to build the wall." The best
remedy was to keep right on praying, working and watching. The adversaries
intended to make a surprise attack and slay the workmen and cause the work
to cease. That was their plan; but they did not reckon with God, who
watched over His people. Ten times the Jews which were scattered among
these adversaries warned them of the great danger of the coming attack.
This was another discouragement. Then Nehemiah acted in the energy of
faith. He knew God was on their side and that He would fight for them. He
prepared the people for the threatening conflict and armed them with
swords, spears and bows. Then he addressed them with inspiring words. "Be
not afraid of them: Remember the Lord, great and terrible, and fight for
your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses."
All was at stake. No mercy could be expected from the wicked adversaries.
It was a blessed battle-cry he gave to them: "Remember the Lord." If He is
remembered and kept before the heart defeat is impossible. The great
preparation was soon reported to the enemies, by which they knew that their
attack had become known. Nehemiah saw in it all God's gracious and
providential dealings, "God had brought their counsel to nought." Then he
continued to work at their task of building the wall. But they did not
become careless. They continued to be on their guard. "Every one with one
of his hands wrought in the work and with the other hand held a weapon." A
trumpeter stood at Nehemiah's side. If he sounded the alarm they were to
gather together; then, said Nehemiah, "our God shall fight for us." "So we
labored in the work, and half of them held the spears from the rising of
the morning till the stars appeared." We leave it with the reader to apply
all this to our spiritual warfare against our enemies. The Sword of the
Spirit is the Word of God, and constant watching is needed for that.

                                 CHAPTER 5

     1. The complaint of oppression (5:1-5)
     2. Nehemiah's rebuke and demands (5:6-13)
     3. Nehemiah's generosity (5:14-19)

     Verses 1-5. The internal conditions among the toiling people were
serious. The work which was done in rebuilding the walls was a labor of
love; no wages were paid. As the people were thus engaged their other
occupations, including agriculture, had to be neglected. As a result the
poor had been driven to mortgage their lands, vineyards and houses in order
to buy corn, because of the dearth. The rich had taken advantage of this
and had enslaved their sons and daughters, and there seemed to be no
prospect of redeeming them. The rich Jews by usury oppressed the poor, who
had lost their lands and houses. There was therefore a great cry of the
people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. It was a sad
condition; the enemy was doing his work in the camp (Acts 6:1). Oppression
of the poor is especially displeasing to God and His Spirit condemns and
warns against it (Amos 2:6; 5:12, 8:4-8; Prov. 14:31; 22:16; 28:3; and
James 5:1-6).

     Verses 6-13. Righteous Nehemiah, when he heard all this, was moved
with indignation and righteous anger took hold on him. Nehemiah, the
Governor, writes, "I consulted with myself." No doubt much prayer was
connected with this self consultation. He then rebuked the nobles and
rulers for having done what the law of God forbids and condemns (Exod.
22:25; Lev. 25:36-37; Deut. 23:19; Ps. 15:5) to exact usury. A great
assembly was called in which their conduct was denounced unsparingly. "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?" When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem he had freed those Jews who were
in bondage to the heathen on account of some debt, and these rich usurers
were selling their own brethren. They had no answer to give but were
convicted of their evil deeds. He then demanded full restitution, "Restore,
I pray you, to them even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their
olive yards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of
the corn, the wine and the oil, that ye exact of them." The appeal was
effectual. They were at once ready to restore, to require nothing more of
them, and to do all Nehemiah had demanded. It was a great victory. Had the
oppression continued and the internal strife, it would have resulted in
disaster. How often these internal strifes and acts of injustice have
brought reproach upon the people of God, and dishonor to that worthy Name!
(Gal. 5:15; James 3:16.) They had to give an oath to do this, and solemnly
Nehemiah shook his lap and said, "So God shake out every man from his
house, and from his labor, who performeth not this promise, even thus be he
shaken out and emptied." An "Amen" from the great congregation followed,
and they acted upon the promise.

     Verses 14-19. The closing verses show the generosity and self-denying
character of this man of God. It reminds us somewhat of the apostle Paul
and his testimony concerning himself (1 Cor. 4:12; 2 Cor. 12:15-16; 1
Thess. 2:9-10). In all he had done as a servant of God he had the comfort
that God knew and would be his Rewarder. "Think upon me, my God, for good,
according to all that I have done for this people." He will have his
reward, and so will all His people, who serve in behalf of God's people as
Nehemiah did.

                                 CHAPTER 6

     1. The attempt to entice Nehemiah (6:1-4)
     2. The attempt to intimidate him (6:5-9)
     3. The attempt through a false prophet (6:10-14)
     4. The wall finished (6:15-16)
     5. The conspiracy between Jewish nobles and Tobiah (6:17-19)

     Verses 1-4. Defeated in all previous efforts to hinder the work and to
do harm to the builders of the wall, the enemies made new attempts to make
them cease from the work. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arabian, with the
other enemies, had heard that the wall was about finished. Sanballat and
Geshem sent the message to Nehemiah, "Come, let us meet together in one of
the villages in the plain of Ono." Nehemiah knew their scheme, "they
thought to do me mischief," probably to assassinate him, or make him a
prisoner. He therefore answered, "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?" Four times they tried to entice him, and four times he gave the same
answer. Apparently Sanballat and Geshem offered a friendly meeting on
neutral ground, suggesting some kind of an alliance. But Nehemiah,
whole-hearted as he was, refused to come down and stop the important
God-given work. He would not turn aside from the place given to him by the
Lord and the work which he had been called to do. Maintaining this
separation was his safeguard. In our own days of worldly alliance and
compromise, when deceitful workers abound on all sides, who are like the
Samaritans, who feared the Lord outwardly and served their own gods (2
Kings 17:33) the only way of escape is to act like Nehemiah did and have no
fellowship with such.

     Verses 5-9. After this failure they attempted to intimidate Nehemiah.
Sanballat sent his servant the fifth time, and while the previous
communications were sealed this one was in the form of an open letter. In
this letter Nehemiah was slandered and a threat made to accuse him of
treason to the king of Persia. Maliciousness breathed in every word of this
open letter. With a clear conscience, knowing that all was a wicked
invention, Nehemiah answered this new attack. "There are no such things
done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart." He
recognized what they tried to do and afresh Nehemiah looked to his God.
"Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." As it was in Nehemiah's day so
it is still. Wherever the work of the Lord is done and God's servants labor
to glorify Him, the enemy will rise up and hinder the work. When the Lord
opens a door, then many adversaries will appear. The sneers, the hatred,
the wiles and the lies of the world are the same today, because behind them
stands the same person who acted through Sanballat, Tobiah and
Geshem--Satan, the god of this age.

     Verses 10-14. Shemaiah's message was the message of a false prophet.
He told Nehemiah that they would come to slay him. He supposed that
Nehemiah would flee after receiving this information in the form of a
message from the Lord. But Nehemiah said, "Should such a man as I flee? and
who is there, that, being such as I am, would go into the temple to save
his life? I will not go in." He was a man of faith, in fellowship with God
and he at once knew that the message was not from Him. He perceived God had
not sent him. Shemaiah was the hireling of the adversaries. It was a
cleverly laid plan, not only to frighten Nehemiah, but to make him sin, so
that they might have something against him. It seems that Shemaiah was
ceremonially unclean; that is probably the meaning of "shut up." He was not
fit in that condition to be in the house of God, within the temple. And
Nehemiah too, not being a priest, would have transgressed had he followed
Shemaiah's suggestion. This was the cunning scheme. With this hireling
prophet there were also other prophets and a prophetess, by the name of

     Verses 15-16. "So the wall was finished in the twenty-fifth day of the
month Elul, in fifty and two days." How grateful they must have been when
their task was finished! Critics have remarked that fifty-two days is too
short a time to accomplish that much work. But a large number of people as
well as the servants of Nehemiah (5:16) worked incessantly. The material,
too, was ready, for they probably had to dig out the old stones to put them
back into the right place; no new stones needed to be hewed and
transported. God had worked and given His blessing. The success of it, next
to God, was due to persevering prayer, personal and united effort, constant
watchfulness and unfailing courage. And their enemies were more cast down,
"for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God."

     Verses 17-19. The final paragraph of this chapter reveals another sad
condition which resulted from disobedience to the law. Mixed marriages were
responsible for it. Nehemiah only reports this serious fellowship of the
nobles of the Jews and his enemy Tobiah. We shall read later how Nehemiah
dealt with those who had allied themselves with this Ammonite (chapter 13).

                                 CHAPTER 7

     1. Provisions made for the defense of the city (7:1-4)
     2. The genealogy (7:5-65)
     3. Their whole number (7:66-69)
     4. The gifts for the work (7:70-73)

     Verses 1-4. The wall had been finished and the doors set up. Porters,
singers and the Levites were appointed, and Nehemiah gave to his brother
Hanani and Hananiah, the ruler of the castle, charge over Jerusalem. The
porters were gate keepers. These gate keepers are named in Ezra 2:42, and
here in this chapter in verse 45. Their duty was to open the gates and bar
them at night. Nehemiah's instructions are given in the text, "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." The city was carefully guarded. Every one who entered
the city had to do so in broad daylight, and a system of watches was
established for the purpose of watching the gates of the city day and
night. It seems the Hebrews before the exile, and some time after, had
three night watches of four hours each. Later, at the time our Lord was on
earth, they had four night watches (Mark 13:35). It was wisdom to guard the
entrances to the city so as to keep out those who had no right to enter. As
there were many enemies who might sneak in and do harm, this scrutiny and
these watches were of great importance and necessity.

     This caution exercised by Nehemiah in regard to watching those who
entered the gates gives a lesson concerning the Church. The New Testament
teaches the same caution as to those who are to be admitted to Christian
fellowship, and those who are to be refused. Unregenerated persons have no
right in a true church or assembly, nor any one whose life is not right,
nor who holds doctrines contrary to the faith delivered unto the saints.
"If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not
into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God
speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11). But if even in the
Apostolic days "certain men crept in unawares," as Jude writes (Jude 4) how
much greater is this evil in these Laodicean days.

     Verses 5-65. This chapter corresponds to the second chapter in Ezra;
the annotations given there need not be repeated here. But we notice
Nehemiah's statement, "My God put it into my heart." As a godly man, he
acknowledges the hand of the Lord and His guidance.

     Verses 66-69. The number of the whole congregation is given as 42,360.
If we turn to Ezra 2:64 we find the same statement. There are differences
between these two lists which prove that they are not identical.

     Verses 70-73. The gifts for the work are mentioned more fully by
Nehemiah. See Ezra's record, chapter 2:68-70. The amounts in both records
do not agree, and it is generally charged that it is due to different
traditions, or copyists' errors. But there is no real discrepancy. Ezra
mentions what some of the chiefs of the fathers offered. Nehemiah records
what he himself gave (Tirshatha is Nehemiah's Persian title as governor)
besides the chiefs and the rest of the people.

                         II. THE SPIRITUAL REVIVAL

                                 CHAPTER 8

     1. The reading of the law before the water gate (8:1-8)
     2. A day of joy and not of mourning (8:9-12)
     3. The keeping of the feast of tabernacles (8:13-18)

     Verses 1-8. This interesting chapter gives the record of a gracious
revival through the reading of the law. All the people gathered themselves
together as one man in the street that was before the water gate, the place
which suggests the cleansing and refreshing power of the Word. And as a
united people they had but one desire, to hear the law of Moses, which the
Lord had commanded, to Israel. They gave orders to Ezra that he should
bring the book of the law. This the people knew was the Word of the Lord,
and for this they hungered. Every true revival must begin with the Word,
and in believing submission to what the Lord has said. So, it has been in
all the great revivals of the past, and so it will be in the future. The
great need today is "back to the Bible"; and to listen to its message as
the message of God. How willingly and joyfully Ezra must have responded,
and how it must have cheered the aged servant of the Lord! He brought the
law before the congregation both of men and women, and those that
understood in hearing (children of a certain age). Critics say that Ezra's
law of Moses must not be understood as meaning the Pentateuch; they claim
that it was a collection of different laws, and part of the so-called
"priestly codex," which even then, according to the critical school, was
not completely finished. Inasmuch as the destructive criticism denies that
Moses is the author of the Pentateuch, they are obliged to resort to these
arguments in order to sustain their theory. There is no valid reason to
doubt when the book of the law of Moses was demanded and Ezra brought it
before the people, that it was the Pentateuch, which the Jews call Torah,
the law.

     Then followed under great attention the reading, from the morning
until the midday. Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood, which was a raised
platform which had been made for this purpose. Alongside of Ezra were
thirteen men; in all, counting in Ezra, fourteen men faced the people. They
probably took turns in reading from the law. Their names are interesting if
we look at their meaning--Mattithiah (gift of the LORD); Shema (hearing);
Anaiah (answer of the LORD); Uriah (the LORD is Light); Hilkiah (portion of
the LORD); Maaseiah (work of the LORD); Mishael (who is as God is);
Malchijah (King is the LORD); Hashum (wealthy); Hashbaddanah (esteemed by
judging); Zechariah (the LORD remembers); Meshullam (reward). These names
are suggestive of the Word itself Then Ezra unrolled the parchment seen by
all the people. Great reverence was manifested to the Word by all the
people standing up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Amen, Amen
was the people's answer, with the lifting up of their hands. Then they
bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Ezra and the people believed that what they read is the Word of God. Hence
this reverence, this praise and the attitude of submission. How little
reverence for the Word of God our generation manifests. This too is a fruit
of the destructive criticism, which has put the Bible on the same level
with common literature. Thirteen others are mentioned who, with the
Levites, caused the people to understand the law. Some think it means that
the people did not understand Hebrew, and that the Hebrew text had to be
translated into Aramaic. This is probably incorrect. Hebrew was not unknown
after the captivity, for Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi spoke and wrote in
that language. It rather means the interpretation of what had been read,
that is, an exposition of it. The names of these thirteen expositors are
also of interest. The first is Jeshua, which means "Jehovah is salvation";
this is the great truth which all Bible exposition must emphasize.

     Verses 9-12. When the people heard the words of the Law they wept.
They were conscience stricken on account of their individual and national
sins; they judged themselves. The Word had been believed; their godly
sorrow had been expressed by tears, and so they were ready for the words of
comfort and cheer the Lord gave through Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites.
"This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not nor weep ... go your
way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to 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." And this was done. They
were the Lord's people, separated unto Himself, and as they remembered all
His goodness, they rejoiced in Him. Refreshed themselves, they were to
remember those "for whom nothing was prepared."

     Verses 13-18. The feast of tabernacles was kept by them. They came in
reading the law to the command of Moses that the children of Israel should
"dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month." Olive, pine, myrtle
and palm tree branches were to be used to construct booths in commemoration
of the wilderness journey. This was done at once by them in obedience to
the Word. Thus we have three facts concerning the Word in this chapter;
reading the Word, believing the Word, and obeying the Word. Hence there was
great gladness in keeping the feast of tabernacles. The words, "for since
the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of
Israel done so," present a difficulty. We read in Ezra 3:4 that the feast
of tabernacles was celebrated immediately after the arrival of Zerubbabel;
nor does it seem possible that God-fearing kings in the past overlooked
this feast. 1 Kings 8:2 and 65 shows that Solomon kept this feast of the
Lord. It therefore cannot mean that the people of Israel had neglected the
keeping of the feast of tabernacles for a thousand years. The emphasis must
be placed upon the word "so"--it means that never before had the feast of
tabernacles been kept in such a manner. The reading of the Word and the
revival which followed produced such a joyful and whole-hearted keeping of
the feast, as had not been the case since the days of Joshua.

                                 CHAPTER 9

     1. The public humiliation and confession (9:1-5)
     2. The great confession and prayer (9:6-38)

     Verses 1-5. Two days after the feast of tabernacles had been concluded
this humiliation and confession of sin took place. The assembled
congregation fasted, with sackcloth and earth upon them. Separation was
next. Evil confessed must mean evil put away. They separated themselves
from all strangers, and after their confession they worshipped the Lord.
Here again is the right order of a spiritual revival. Reading, hearing and
believing the Word always comes first; humiliation, self-judgment,
confession and true worship follow.

     Verses 6-38. The Levites who occupied the platform (called here
stairs) called upon the people to stand up and to bless the Lord and His
glorious Name. Then follows the prayer. It is the longest recorded prayer
in the Bible and is much like Daniel's prayer (Dan. 9) and Ezra's prayer
(Ezra 9). These three prayers deserve a careful comparison and study.

     First there is a beautiful invocation and outburst of worship. "Thou
art the LORD, even thou alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of
heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are thereon,
the seas and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the
host of heaven worshippeth thee." Here is the praise of the Creator, whose
power is acknowledged, as well as the Preserver of His creation. The
covenant of God with Abraham and the seed of Abraham is next mentioned
(9:7-8) and then follows the account of the deliverance of their fathers
from Egypt. He was their Redeemer (9:9-11). The experience of the
wilderness is stated in verses 12-21. The Creator-Redeemer led them in a
pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night; He spoke with
them, gave them His commandments. He supplied them with bread from heaven
and water from the rock. Then follows the story of their disobedience, and
with what graciousness the Lord had dealt with their fathers. "Thou gavest
also thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from
their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst
thou sustain them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing; their clothes
waxed not old, and their feet swelled not." The possession of the land of
Canaan is given in verses 22-25, revealing God's faithfulness and His power
in behalf of His redeemed people. Verses 26-30 cover the period of the
judges and the prophets. In all the mercy of God is exalted. Then comes the
prayer for mercy, with the acknowledgment of their sins as a nation.

                                CHAPTER 10

     1. Those who sealed the covenant (10:1-27)
     2. The obligations of the covenant (10:28-39)

     Verses 1-27. The last verse of the preceding chapter mentions a
covenant. "And yet for all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and
our princes, our Levites, and our priests, seal unto it." In this chapter
we find the names of the heads of the different houses who sealed the
covenant, which means they put their signature to it. According to
talmudical tradition these signers constituted "the Great Synagogue."
Originally it consisted of 120 members, but later only 70 belonged to it.
Its covenants were as follows:

     (1) Not to marry heathen women;
     (2) to keep Sabbath;
     (3) to keep the Sabbatical year;
     (4) to pay every year a certain sum to the Temple;
     (5) to supply wood for the altar;
     (6) to pay the priestly dues;
     (7) to collect and to preserve the Holy Scriptures.

     The list is headed by Nehemiah with his official title as Governor
(Tirshatha). In verses 2-8 the priestly houses are given. The Levitical
houses are recorded in verses 9-13. From the book of Ezra we learn that
only four priestly houses and only two Levites had returned under
Zerubbabel. Here we have twenty-one priestly and seventeen Levitical
houses. This shows a marked increase. The chiefs of the people were
forty-one houses; their names are given in verses 14-27.

     Verses 28-39. Besides the heads of the houses recorded in this chapter
there were the rest of the people, priests, Levites (the individuals),
porters, singers and the Nethinim (Ezra 2:43); they all had separated
themselves and entered into a curse, and into an oath. The word "curse" has
the meaning of an imprecatory expression in the form of an oath. There must
have been some formula in connection with signing the covenant, in which
the signers declared that if they broke the covenant God would do something
to them (the curse) and then by a direct oath swore to keep the covenant.
The obligations  of the covenant are given in the rest of this chapter.
These obligations may be summed up in one word, "obedience." They
covenanted to obey the law of the Lord and to do all the commandments.

             NEHEMIAH's FINAL ACTS

                                CHAPTER 11

     1. The willing offerers (11:1-2)
     2. The heads of the residents of Jerusalem (11:3-24)
     3. The inhabitants outside of Jerusalem (11:25-36)

     Verses 1-2. A splendid example of self-sacrifice is given in these two
verses. Certain men willingly offered themselves to dwell in Jerusalem, and
the people blest them for the willing sacrifice. It must be explained that
Jerusalem was not then a very desirable place for residence. The enemies of
the city seeking to destroy the fortifications and harm the inhabitants
were constantly active. There was much danger for those who dwelt in the
city itself. For this reason the great majority of the returned captives
preferred to live outside of the walls of Jerusalem. It was decided to make
every tenth man to dwell in Jerusalem. The decision was made by lot. But
then these volunteers came to the front and displayed self denial and

     Verses 3-24. Here is another register of names recorded in God's book,
and not forgotten by Him. The children of Judah, the children of Benjamin,
the priests who acted as temple officials, the Levites, the Nethinim, and
those with special callings are all named. Some day the Lord will be their
Rewarder for their faithful service, as He will be the Rewarder of all His

     Verses 25-36. Those who lived outside of Jerusalem, in villages, are
tabulated in the closing verses of this chapter.

                                CHAPTER 12

     1. Priests and Levites at the time of the return under Zerubbabel and
        Joshua (12:1-9)
     2. The descendants of Joshua, the high priest (12:10-11)
     3. The heads of the priestly houses in the time of Joiakim (12:12-21)
     4. Heads of Levitical houses (12:22-26)
     5. The dedication of the walls (12:27-43)
     6. Provisions for the priests and Levites, and other temple officials

     Verses 1-9. The names of the priests and Levites, who went up under
Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua (or Joshua), the High Priest,
are recorded first. Ezra, mentioned in the first verse, is not the Ezra of
the book of Ezra. According to the seventh verse these persons "were the
chiefs of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua." They
constituted the heads of the twenty-four courses into which the priesthood
was divided (1 Chron. 24:1-20). Only four heads of these courses had
returned from the captivity; Jedaiah, Immer, Pasher and Harim. These were
divided by Zerubbabel and Jeshua into the original twenty-four; but only
twenty-two are mentioned in this record. The Abijah of verse 4 is one of
the ancestors of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5).

     Verses 10-11. This is the important register of the high priests, the
descendants of Jeshua, or Joshua. From now on in the history of the Jewish
people chronological reckonings were no longer made by means of the reign
of kings, but by the successions of the high priests. Jaddua is
unquestionably the same who is mentioned by Josephus, the Jewish historian.
In his high priestly robes he met Alexander the Great as he besieged
Jerusalem, and was the means of saving Jerusalem. Alexander fell on his
face when he saw Jaddua, for the great king claimed to have seen this very
scene in a dream vision. Inasmuch as Jaddua was not in office till a
considerable time after the death of Nehemiah, the name Jaddua must have
been added later, under the sanction of the Spirit of God, so that Jaddua's
descent might be preserved.

     Verses 12-26. The heads of the priestly houses in the time of Joiakim
(the son of Jeshua, verse 10) are here recorded, as well as the heads of
the Levitical houses. The sentence, "also the priests, in the reign of
Darius the Persian" (Darius Codomannus 336-331), was probably added later,
under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Further comment on the recorded
names is not needed.

     Verses 27-43. A full and interesting account of the dedication of the
walls follows the register of the names. The singers are mentioned first
(verse 27-30) for it was the occasion of praise and great rejoicing. They
gathered from everywhere to celebrate the dedication with singing, with
cymbals, psalteries and with harps. No doubt the Psalms were used by this
multitude of singers, as they gave thanks in holy song. What singing and
rejoicing there will be some day when "the ransomed of the Lord shall
return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads"
(Isa. 35:10). A great procession was made around the walls. This was the
main ceremony of the dedication. The procession was in two great companies,
one going to the right, and the other to the left. The one company was
headed by Nehemiah and the other probably by Ezra, the scribe. Hoshaiah
(set free of the LORD) and half of the princes of Judah are mentioned first
in the one company. The two companies gave thanks, no doubt responding one
to the other. Perhaps they used Psalms 145-147. Thus singing and praising
the LORD they came to the house of the LORD. Here the greatest praise was
heard, by the whole company. Seven priests blew the trumpets and eight
others with them. The singers' chorus swelled louder and louder, so that
the joyous sound was heard even afar off. Great sacrifices were offered and
everybody rejoiced. It was God by His Spirit who produced this joy, "for
God had made them rejoice with great joy."

     Verses 44-47. The servants of the Lord, the priests and the Levites,
were not forgotten. They brought their tithes and there was an abundant
provision for all. Such were the blessed results under the spiritual
revival of Nehemiah and Ezra. But when we turn to the last book of the Old
Testament, to Malachi, we learn that declension must soon have set in, for
we hear there the very opposite from what is recorded here. "Will a man rob
God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In
tithes and offerings" (Mal. 3:8). Therefore a curse rested upon the nation
(Mal. 3:9-12).

                                CHAPTER 13

     1. The separation of the mixed multitude (13:1-3)
     2. The unholy alliance repudiated (13:4-9)
     3. Nehemiah's action in behalf of the Levites and singers (13:10-14)
     4. Provision for Sabbath observance (13:15-22)
     5. Nehemiah's protest (13:23-29)
     6. His own testimony as to his work (13:30-31)

     Verses 1-3. "On that day" does not mean the same day when the wall had
been dedicated. It was a considerable time later, for we read in verse 10
that the Levites had not received their portion. It was different when the
wall was dedicated. On a certain day when the law was read again, they came
to the passage in Deuteronomy 23:3-5, where it is written that an Ammonite
and a Moabite should not enter into the assembly of God forever. Obedience
followed at once, "they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude."

     Verses 4-9. Here we have the first indication of declension, which in
Malachi's days reached a climax. Tobiah was an Ammonite, and with Sanballat
and Geshem had strenuously opposed the building of the wall (chapter 6).
Eliashib, the priest, who had the oversight of the chambers of the house of
the Lord, had allied himself with the enemy of Jerusalem and prepared for
this man a great chamber in the temple. There he had stored his household
goods (verse 8). Nehemiah had been absent from the city, paying a visit to
the Persian court, and during his absence all this happened. It was
probably right after his return from King Artaxerxes in Babylon that the
law was read that led to the separation from the mixed multitude, and this
in time led to the discovery of the priest's alliance with Tobiah. Nehemiah
acted quickly, being deeply grieved. He could not tolerate such an alliance
and profanation of the house of the Lord. How much greater and more
obnoxious are the unholy alliances in Christendom, and the profanation of
God's best.

     Verses 10-14. During Nehemiah's absence the tithes had not been given,
and the Levites and singers had received nothing. In consequence they left
the city and the house of God was forsaken. It is possible that the people
had been outraged by Eliashib's alliance with Tobiah, and had refused the
tithes. Nehemiah set all things in order, and he appointed also treasurers.
On his prayer in verse 14 see chapter 5:19.

     Verses 15-22. Another evidence of the declension which had set in
after the spiritual revival was the laxity in observing the Sabbath.
Nehemiah saw some on the Sabbath day treading winepresses; others brought
all kinds of burdens on the Sabbath to Jerusalem; while still others sold
victuals. And men of Tyre sold fish and other wares to the people on the
Sabbath. We are sure that during Nehemiah's absence the law of God was no
longer read, or they could not have fallen into this evil. All declension
begins with the neglect of the Word of God. Then Nehemiah contended with
the nobles. "What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath
day? 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."

     Again, he not only rebuked the evil, but acted energetically, and the
Sabbath day was sanctified.

     Verses 23-29. Alas! the flesh is flesh, and will ever be the same.
Some Jews turned back and deliberately married again women of Ashdod, Ammon
and Moab. Their offspring talked a mongrel language. Nehemiah acted in holy
zeal. He cursed them, smote them and plucked off their hair. And Joiada,
the son of Eliashib the high priest, who had made an alliance with Tobiah,
had married a daughter of Sanballat, the Horonite. Nehemiah refused to have
anything to do with him--"I chased him from me."

     Verses 30-31. The final thing we hear of Nehemiah is his testimony
concerning himself and his prayer, "Remember me." In the day of Christ in
glory, this great man of God will surely be rewarded for his earnest and
faithful service.

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