Nehemiah 2


Artaxerxes, observing the sorrow of Nehemiah, inquires into the

cause, 1, 2.

Nehemiah shows him the cause, and requests permission to go and

rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 3-6.

The king grants it, and gives him letters to the governors beyond

the river, 7, 8.

He sets out on his journey, 9.

Sanballat and Tobiah are grieved to find he had got such a

commission, 10.

He comes to Jerusalem; and, without informing any person of his

business, examines by night the state of the city, 11-16.

He informs the priests, nobles, and rulers, of his design and

commission, 17, 18.

The design is turned into contempt by Sanballat, Tobiah, and

Geshem, 19.

Nehemiah gives them a suitable answer, 20.


Verse 1. Month Nisan] Answering to a part of our March and


I took up the wine] It is supposed that the kings of Persia had

a different cup-bearer for each quarter of the year, and that it

had just now come to Nehemiah's turn.

Verse 2. Then I was very sore afraid.] Probably the king spoke

as if he had some suspicion that Nehemiah harboured some bad

design, and that his face indicated some conceived treachery or


Verse 3. Let the king live for ever] Far from wishing ill to

my master, I wish him on the contrary to live and prosper for

ever. AELIAN, Hist. Var. lib. i. c. 32, uses the same form of

speech in reference to Artaxerxes Mnemon, one of the Persian

kings, βασιλευαρταξερξηδιαιωνοςβασιλευοις, "O King

Artaxerxes, may you reign for ever," when speaking of the custom

of presenting them annually with an offering of earth and water;

as if they had said, May you reign for ever over these!

Verse 4. So I prayed to the God of heaven.] Before he dared to

prefer his request to the king, he made his prayer to God, that

his suit might be acceptable: and this he does by mental prayer.

To the spirit of prayer every place is a praying place.

Verse 5. The city of my fathers' sepulchres] The tombs of the

dead were sacred among the ancients, and nothing could appear to

them more detestable than disturbing the ashes or remains of the

dead. Nehemiah knew that in mentioning this circumstance he

should strongly interest the feelings of the Persian king.

Verse 6. The queen also sitting by him] Who probably

forwarded his suit. This was not Esther, as Dean Prideaux

supposes, nor perhaps the same Artaxerxes who had taken her to be

queen; nor does shegal signify queen, but rather harlot or

concubine, she who was chief favourite. The Septuagint translate

it παλλακη, harlot; and properly too. See the introduction.

I set him a time.] How long this time was we are not told; it

is by no means likely that it was long, probably no more than six

months or a year; after which he either returned, or had his leave

of absence lengthened; for in the same year we find he was made

governor of the Jews, in which office he continued twelve years,

viz., from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes,

Ne 5:14. He then returned to Susa; and after staying a short

time, had leave to return to rectify some abuses that Tobiah the

Ammonite had introduced into the temple, Ne 13:6,7, and

several others of which the people themselves were guilty. After

having performed this service, it is likely he returned to the

Persian king, and died in his office of cup-bearer; but of this

latter circumstance we have no mention in the text.

Verse 8. Asaph the keeper of the king's forest]

hapardes of the paradise of the king. This I believe is

originally a Persian word; it frequently occurs in Arabic,

[Arabic] ferdoos, and in Greek, παραδεισος, and in both signifies

a pleasant garden, vineyard, pleasure garden, and what we call a


Above the hall of audience, in the imperial palace at Dehli, the

following Persian couplet is inscribed:-



"If there be a paradise on the face of the earth,

this is it, this is it, this is it."

Thus we find that the word is applied to denote splendid

apartments, as well as fine gardens; in a word, any place of

pleasure and delight. The king's forest mentioned in the text

might have been the same to Artaxerxes, as the New Forest was to

William the Conqueror, or Windsor Forest to the late amiable

sovereign of the British people, GEORGE the THIRD.

And the king granted me, &c.] This noble spirited man

attributes every thing to God. He might have said, I had been

long a faithful servant to the king; and he was disposed, in

reward of my fidelity, to grant my request; but he would not say

so: "He granted my request, because the good hand of my God was

upon me." God favoured me, and influenced the king's heart to do

what I desired.

Verse 10. Sanballat the Horonite] Probably a native of

Horonaim, a Moabite by birth, and at this time governor of the

Samaritans under the king of Persia.

Tobiah the servant] He was an Ammonite; and here, under the

Persian king, joint governor with Sanballat. Some suppose that

the Sanballat here mentioned was the same who persuaded Alexander

to build a temple on Mount Gerizim in favour of the Samaritans.

Pelagius thinks there were two governors of this name.

Verse 13. The dragon well] Perhaps so called because of the

representation of a dragon, out of whose mouth the stream issued

that proceeded from the well.

Dung port] This was the gate on the eastern side of the city,

through which the filth of the city was carried into the valley of


Verse 14. The gate of the fountain] Of Siloah.

The king's pool] Probably the aqueduct made by Hezekiah, to

bring the waters of Gihon to the city of David. See 2Ch 32:30.

Verse 15. By the brook] Kidron.

By the gate of the Valley] The valley through which the brook

Kidron flowed. It was by this gate he went out; so he went all

round the city, and entered by the same gate from which he had

gone out.

Verse 16. The rulers knew not whither I went] He made no

person privy to his design, that he might hide every thing as much

as possible from their enemies till he had all things in

readiness; lest they should take measures to defeat the work.

Verse 18. Then I told them] He opened to them his design and

his commission.

Verse 19. Geshem the Arabian] Some chief of the Arabs

contiguous to Samaria, who had joined with Sanballat and Tobiah to

distress the Jews, and hinder their work.

Will ye rebel against the king?] This they said in order to

raise jealousies in the king's mind, and induce him to recall his


Verse 20. Ye have no portion, nor right] To be a citizen of

Jerusalem was a high honour; and they would not permit those who

did not belong to the tribes of Israel to dwell there. Zerubbabel

gave the same answer to the Samaritans, Ezr 4:3.

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