Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
LETTERS AND A
1. it came to pass in the month Nisan--This was nearly four months
after he had learned the desolate and ruinous state of Jerusalem
The reasons for so long a delay cannot be ascertained.
I took up the wine, and gave it unto the
particularly remarked about the polished and graceful manner in which
the cupbearers of the Median, and consequently the Persian, monarchs
performed their duty of presenting the wine to their royal master.
Having washed the cup in the king's presence and poured into their left
hand a little of the wine, which they drank in his presence, they then
handed the cup to him, not grasped, but lightly held with the tips of
their thumb and fingers. This description has received some curious
illustrations from the monuments of Assyria and Persia, on which the
cupbearers are frequently represented in the act of handing wine to the
2-5. the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad?--It was
deemed highly unbecoming to appear in the royal presence with any weeds
or signs of sorrow
and hence it was no wonder that the king was struck with the dejected
air of his cupbearer, while that attendant, on his part, felt his
agitation increased by his deep anxiety about the issue of the
conversation so abruptly begun. But the piety and intense earnestness
of the man immediately restored [Nehemiah] to calm self-possession and
enabled him to communicate, first, the cause of his sadness
and next, the patriotic wish of his heart to be the honored instrument
of reviving the ancient glory of the city of his fathers.
6-9. the queen also sitting by him--As the Persian monarchs did not
admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must
have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably
Esther, whose presence would tend greatly to embolden Nehemiah in
stating his request; and through her influence, powerfully exerted it
may be supposed, also by her sympathy with the patriotic design, his
petition was granted, to go as deputy governor of Judea, accompanied by
a military guard, and invested with full powers to obtain materials for
the building in Jerusalem, as well as to get all requisite aid in
promoting his enterprise.
I set him a time--Considering the great despatch made in raising
the walls, it is probable that this leave of absence was limited at
first to a year or six months, after which he returned to his duties in
Shushan. The circumstance of fixing a set time for his return, as well
as entrusting so important a work as the refortification of Jerusalem
to his care, proves the high favor and confidence Nehemiah enjoyed at
the Persian court, and the great estimation in which his services were
held. At a later period he received a new commission for the better
settlement of the affairs of Judea and remained governor of that
province for twelve years
7. letters be given me to the governors beyond the river--The Persian
empire at this time was of vast extent, reaching from the Indus to the
Mediterranean. The Euphrates was considered as naturally dividing it
into two parts, eastern and western
8. according to the good hand of my God upon me--The piety of Nehemiah
appears in every circumstance. The conception of his patriotic design,
the favorable disposition of the king, and the success of the
undertaking are all ascribed to God.
10. Sanballat the Horonite--Horonaim being a town in Moab, this person,
it is probable, was a Moabite.
Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite--The term used indicates him to have
been a freed slave, elevated to some official dignity. These were
district magistrates under the government of the satrap of Syria; and
they seem to have been leaders of the Samaritan faction.
11, 12. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days--Deeply
affected with the desolations of Jerusalem, and uncertain what course
to follow, he remained three days before informing any one of the
object of his mission
[Ne 2:17, 18].
At the end of the third day, accompanied with a few attendants, he
made, under covert of night, a secret survey of the walls and gates
13-15. I went out by night by the gate of the valley--that is, the
Jaffa gate, near the tower of Hippicus.
even before the dragon well--that is, fountain on the opposite side of
and to the dung port--the gate on the east of the city, through which
there ran a common sewer to the brook Kedron and the valley of Hinnom.
14. Then--that is, after having passed through the gate of the Essenes.
I went on to the gate of the fountain--that is, Siloah, from which
turning round the fount of Ophel.
to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under
me to pass--that is, by the sides of this pool (Solomon's) there being
water in the pool, and too much rubbish about it to permit the passage
of the beast.
15. Then went I up . . . by the brook--that is, Kedron.
and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned--the gate
leading to the valley of Jehoshaphat, east of the city. He went out by
this gate, and having made the circuit of the city, went in by it again
[BARCLAY, City of the Great King].
16-18. the rulers knew not--The following day, having assembled the
elders, Nehemiah produced his commission and exhorted them to assist in
the work. The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his
address and example, so revived their drooping spirits that they
resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did, despite
the bitter taunts and scoffing ridicule of some influential men.