The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Nehemiah 3

Neh 3:1

" 'Come and let us build up the walls of Jerusalem that we be no more a reproach.' [Neh 2:17] It was a reproach that after so long a time, the city should reveal such evidences of neglect. It was the subject of ridicule to the world -- and it reflected upon Yahweh. Slipshod methods adopted ecclesially today can bring a reproach on us. Nehemiah generated enthusiasm for the work. He was a born leader. He carefully surveyed the work required, quietly planned his methods, and then secured adequate co-operation. Now in the chapter before us today, he organised the builders of the wall. There were members from all sections of the community. It mattered not as to their abilities, they worked together for the general good of the city. All are pressed into the work: priests, Levites, nobles, commoners. It levels them all in one great act of service. The commoners of Tekoa were shown to be more dedicated than its princes (v 5; cp v 8). The work was parcelled out among 44 working parties. So the record reveals: (1) The priests at the sheep gate: vv 1,2; (2) The fish gate: vv 3-5; (3) The old gate: vv 6-12; (4) The valley gate: v 13. (5) The dung gate: v 14. (6) Gate of the fountain: vv 15-25. (7) The water gate: v 26, (8) The horse gate: v 28. (9) The east gate: v 29. (10) The Miphkad [Inspection: NIV] gate: v 31.

"Two gates are not specifically mentioned: The gate of Ephraim (Neh 8:16), and the prison gate (Neh 12:38). Thus there were twelve gates as those of New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12). It could be that portion of the text is incomplete, so that, for example, the first piece built by Baruch is not mentioned (Neh 3:20)" (GEM).

Nehemiah 3 enumerates 44 teams who begin work on the wall. Each team is assigned its own portion to build. Did some complain about the quality of their brethren's work at other stations? Did others grumble because they could not be everywhere and do everything and supervise? Did some sit down and refuse to help? "We just are not sure that we can approve of all the details of this operation." In the divine retrospect on the work of Nehemiah, all such petty hindrances and worries are put to one side. "Let us rise up and build" was the mandate; this call to the men of the city did not admit of any paltry quibbles. The work was too great to let personalities and prejudices and pride stand in the way.

We are to be "living stones", built up into a spiritual house and city under Christ (1Pe 2:4,5).

Also, each group built up its own portion of the whole wall; they do not seem to have been particularly concerned about how their neighbors were building!

Neh 3: Ten gates are listed in this chapter. The other two gates were the gate of Ephraim (Neh 8:16) and the Prison Gate, or Gate of the Guard (Neh 12:39; cp Neh 3:25).

ELIASHIB THE HIGH PRIEST: He began well but did not progress, not even finishing the wall outside his own house (vv 20,21). The grandson of Jeshua (Neh 12:10; Ezra 3:2). He was related to Tobiah (Neh 13:4-9). His grandson married the daughter of Sanballat (Neh 12:10,11). Cp his career with the seed which fell in stony places: "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away" (Mat 13:20,21).

THE SHEEP GATE: Facing east and toward Moab, the land of sheep and shepherds. Cp v 32: a full circle.


THE TOWER OF HANANEL: "God is gracious"; the most northern portion of wall (Zech 14:10; Jer 31:38).

Neh 3:2

THE MEN OF JERICHO: Of which 345 returned under Zerubbabel (Neh 7:36; Ezr 2:34).

Neh 3:3

THE FISH GATE: Facing west, toward Tyre and Joppa and the sea (Neh 13:16).

THE SONS OF HASSENAAH: Numbering 3,930: Neh 7:38; Ezr 2:35.

Neh 3:4

MEREMOTH: A priest who repaired two sections (cp v 21). He had returned with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:3), had registered gold and silver for Ezra (Ezr 8:33), and later sealed the covenant with Nehemiah (Neh 10:5).

MESHULLAM: Son of Zerubbabel (1Ch 3:19). Priest who repaired two sections (cp v 30). His daughter married a son of Tobiah (Neh 6:18), and Meshullam spoke well of Tobiah (Neh 6:17-19)! Accompanied Ezra in reading (Neh 8:4).

Neh 3:5

THE NEXT SECTION WAS REPAIRED BY THE MEN OF TEKOA, BUT THEIR NOBLES WOULD NOT PUT THEIR SHOULDERS TO THE WORK: The men of Tekoa, birthplace of Amos, 6 mi south of Bethlehem, built two sections (cp v 27). They set a noble example, despite the indifference and lethargy of their leaders.

THEIR SHOULDERS: Allusion to the yoke of the oxen: they were like stubborn oxen, refusing to pull the plow. Cp 2Co 6:14: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." Tekoa lay on the edge of the wilderness, so its leaders may have had secret bargains with the Arabs.

Neh 3:7

THE MEN OF GIBEON: "Woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD" (Jos 9:27).

MIZPAH: Six miles north of Jerusalem, in territory of Benjamin.

Neh 3:8

THE GOLDSMITHS: Who made and repaired the sacred vessels of the temple.

THE PERFUME-MAKERS: Mixers of the anointing oil and incense: Exo 30:25; 37:29.

AS FAR AS THE BROAD WALL: On the north side.

Neh 3:9

RULER OF A HALF-DISTRICT: Shallum ruled the other half-district (v 12).

"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" (Gill).

Neh 3:12


Neh 3:13

THE VALLEY GATE: Near the sw corner. Towers here had been rebuilt by Uzziah (2Ch 26:9).

ZANOAH: A city in the Shephelah of Judah near En-gannim (Jos 15:34). It was resettled after the Babylonian Exile. It may probably be identified with the foothill city of Khirbet Zanu', where there is pottery from the time of the kings. It is two miles south of Beth-shemesh.

Neh 3:14

RECAB: Who had commanded his sons to abstain from wine (Jer 35:1-9), and to live separate from other peoples.

RULER OF THE DISTRICT OF BETH HAKKEREM: A place between Tekoah and Jerusalem (Jer 6:1). The name sig "house of a vineyard"; it appears that Malkijah had disregarded the exhortation of his ancestor (ct Jer 35:6,7).

Neh 3:15

THE POOL OF SILOAM: Built by Hezekiah in preparation for the siege of Sennacherib: 2Ch 32:2-4; Isa 8:6.

THE KING'S GARDEN: Consider (1) Gethsemane, and (2) the "garden" of Song 4:12-5:1 and Rev 22:2.

THE STEPS GOING DOWN FROM THE CITY OF DAVID: That is, from Mount Zion to the pool, on the east side of the city. The probable remains of these steps have been found in recent times.

Neh 3:16

THE TOMBS OF DAVID: In Zion and on the se side of mount Ophel (2Ch 32:33; cp Acts 2:29).

In 1913 and 1914, the great French archaeologist Raymond Weill took Nehemiah's account suggesting the location of the sepulchres of King David in the south of the City of David and began a series of excavations. He used one other theory that had gained some credibility at the time. The tunnel that Hezekiah built makes a very peculiar sharp turn in this area and it was suggested that the builders did that to avoid interfering with the tomb of the King. Weill therefore did his work just north of that turn and found some indications of rock cuttings that he described as tombs. Not many agreed with him. In 1923 and 1924 he returned to the area and explored south of Hezekiah's tunnel and found another structure designated T-9 for the ninth structure found. T1-T8 were discovered in the earlier exploration. After all his work, the sepulchres of David, described in Nehemiah, were never found. Some have said that this was due to the fact that kings would not have been buried within the city walls and that the description in Nehemiah referred to a sepulchre on the opposite side of the Kidron Valley on the Mt of Olives.

Neh 3:17

HASHABIAH: Chief of the Levites (Neh 12:24). He subscribed to the covenant (Neh 10:11).

KEILAH: A fortified city in the Shephelah allotted to Judah (Jos 15:44). It is situated eight miles nw of Hebron and overlooking the north-south route from the Valley of Elah to Hebron. David and his band saved the city from the Philistines who had taken it, and dwelt for a time in its fortress. Saul planned to attack it to capture David, and because he could not trust its inhabitants David departed to wander again in the wilderness (1Sa 23:1-13).

Neh 3:20

ZEALOUSLY: The only time this word is used in the description of the building of the walls.

Neh 3:21


Neh 3:25

THE COURT OF THE GUARD: In or near the king's house: Jer 32:2; 33:1; 38:7,13.

Neh 3:26

TEMPLE SERVANTS: Or "Nethinim" (AV). They are said specifically to be those "whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites" (Ezr 8:20), thus indicating both their realm of activity and their historical origin. In most of the occurrences they are listed with and after the Levites (cf 1Ch 9:2; Ezr 7:7; Neh 7:73). Because of this reference to the activity of David and their being joined with Solomon's servants (Ezr 2:58; Neh 7:60; cf 1Ki 9:21) and the foreign names that they bear, it has been thought that they were foreigners, mostly captives of war, put into this service. For example, Mehunim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to those overcome by Uzziah (2Ch 26:7). Nephusim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to the Hagarite clan of Naphish (Gen 25:15; 1Ch 5:19). Because of the similarity of duty, some have sought their background in the Gibeonites, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Jos 9:23,27) and also in the Midianites (Num 31:30,47). The correlation is probably no more than that of similarity of service, not direct relationship. Whatever may be the roots of their origin, they were treated as part of the people of God, at least as proselytes (Neh 10:28...). They are mentioned by name in the OT in post-Exilic times. From Babylon 612 returned, 392 with Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:58: Neh 7:60) a count which includes "the children of Solomon's servants") and 220 with Ezra (Ezr 8:20) as "ministers for the house of our God" from the place Casiphia (Ezr 8:17) "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king" (Ezr 7:7). Like other sacred ministers, they were exempted from taxation (Ezr 7:24).

OPHEL: As a proper name the term is translated "hill" (Isa 32:14, RSV), "forts" (Isa 32:14, KJV), or "stronghold" (Mic 4:8). Sometimes it is a common name and other times a proper name. The name is frequently associated with a section of ancient Jerusalem fortified by the early kings. It appears to have been the high ground on the eastern hill located to the north of the original city of David and just to the south of the present walled city of Jerusalem (south of the temple area). It was next to the Kidron Valley. King Jotham fortified it (2Ch 27:3), as did Manasseh (2Ch 33:14). Later it became the residence for servants of the temple.

Neh 3:27


Neh 3:28

THE HORSE GATE: Situated se of the temple, close to the house of David (2Ki 11:16; 2Ch 23:15; Jer 31:40).

Neh 3:30

LIVING QUARTERS: Close to the storeroom for the tithes (Neh 12:44), attached to the Temple (Neh 13:4,5).

Neh 3:32

THE SHEEP GATE: Cp v 1 -- a full circle.

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