Book of Nehemiah Chapter Three Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Repairs Begin
We can visualize this man, Nehemiah, as he went around making rapid but careful notes in his journal about the events, repairs and people recorded here in Chapter 3. His written words were later copied by the priest Ezra and turned into the book we call "Nehemiah." Here's what Nehemiah saw and recorded in Verse 1: "Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel." In Nehemiah 13:4-9, Eliashib will be seen behaving in a manner that profaned the Temple, but for right now, he and his fellow priests were within God's will as they repaired the Eastern Wall's Sheep Gate, which is also mentioned in John 5:2. This was the gate used to bring in the sheep for sacrifice and the two towers are thought to have bracketed that gate, which was near the Pool of Bethesda.
It was God Himself who orchestrated the repairs of this chapter, but just like these people were given credit for what they did, so all who have faith in the Lord will be credited as victorious sons and daughters of God in the eternity that will follow. You may not have "built the Sheep Gate" and perhaps aren't a missionary to some other side of the world, but if you place your faith in the Lord, His reward will be yours.
Has it occurred to you that your life is being recorded in what we call "heaven?" The words in this book were taken from Nehemiah's diary, his journal, but there are words about us also, and they are written in the "Lamb's Book of Life" (Revelation 21:27).
In Verses 2-4, we find workers like Zaccur, Meremoth, Meshullam and more, as follows: "Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. 3 Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4 Next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana also made repairs." The Lord has a recording system that is better than books or computers, and it is utterly accurate in what is recorded. He knows who you are. If you have ever spoken to someone about Christ, the Lord knows, and interestingly, through the grace of God, those moments the faithful wish never happened are being edited out, redacted through the blood, cross of Christ.
Verse 5: "Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters." The Tekoites were the people of Tekoa, a small city 12 or so miles south of Jerusalem, a town that produced the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1). It seems from this verse that the Tekoites did the work, but they had opposition from local leaders. In Verse 6 we find that, "Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars." The Old Gate was likely the Damascus Gate or if not, in the same area.
Verses 7-10 involve repairs to the middle section of the north wall: "Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River. 8 Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs." Gibeon and Mizpah were each a few miles due north of Jerusalem. Notice that the goldsmiths, perfumers and other tradesmen left their normal work assignments to do these repairs. It's hard to leave your income to work as a volunteer, but Nehemiah did a good job in persuading local workers to do exactly that. The governor "beyond the River" was a Persian official who had a secondary palace within the city of Jerusalem.
See again in your mind the cupbearer Nehemiah walking through and around Jerusalem, taking notes continually and noting names as he went, in Verses 11-14: "Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of Furnaces. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters. 13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall to the Refuse Gate. 14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem repaired the Refuse Gate. He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars." The Tower of Furnaces is also mentioned in Nehemiah 12:38, referred to as the Tower of Ovens in some translations, and note that Jerusalem was divided into districts at the time. It's interesting in Verse 12 that women workers were involved in the reconstruction process. Beth-haccherem was a town near Tekoa to the north of Jerusalem. The Refuse Gate was also known as the Dung Gate, which was used for the disposal of garbage, rubbish and dung that was dumped into the Hinnom Valley below the city.
Verses 15-16: "Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, official of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs as far as a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the artificial pool and the house of the mighty men." The district of Mizpah was not the same as the town of Mizpah, just as a county or province is not the same as a city, even though they may have the same name. Notice the effectiveness of the work being done. Leadership is a gift from God, which can be misused by the recipient, but when utilized correctly for God's purposes, it is a powerful force for good. The "Nehemiah" of Verse 16, by the way, is not the same man as the Nehemiah who wrote the words incorporated into this book. Then as now, many had the same name or names, but for identification purposes, they added the names of their fathers. The "house of the mighty men" was the barracks where King David had quartered his best troops, as seen in 2 Samuel 23:8 & forward from that verse.
In Verses 17-24, we find that Levitical priests and other sons of Levi were hard at work along with the others who had volunteered to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem: "After him the Levites carried out repairs under Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, the official of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 After him their brothers carried out repairs under Bavvai the son of Henadad, official of the other half of the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the official of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the ascent of the armory at the Angle. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz repaired another section, from the doorway of Eliashib’s house even as far as the end of his house. 22 After him the priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub carried out repairs in front of their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, carried out repairs beside his house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah as far as the Angle and as far as the corner." This record by Nehemiah was not only written through him, by and for the purposes of God, but was also recorded so this man, the royal cupbearer, could make his report to his Persian king, the earthly provider of funds and supplies for this rebuilding project. Excellent records were kept in and for the Persian Empire, as they also were in Israel.
As you read these verses, consider Revelation 21:9-10, in which "the great city, the holy Jerusalem," is viewed as synomyous with "the bride, the Lamb's wife." We who have faith in the Lord are that city, and as you carefully look around at what many call "the church" or the "people of God," you can see that our walls are broken down and our gates need repair. Will you hear God's call and join the work?
Verses 25-27: "Palal the son of Uzai made repairs in front of the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. 26 The temple servants living in Ophel made repairs as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 After them the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel." The king's house in Verse 25 is the old palace of David, which was in the same quarter of Jerusalem, whereas Solomon's palace was on the opposite side near the western hill. The court of the guard was likely at the entrance to a small prison, a dungeon, a common inclusion in palaces of the time. The temple servants were Nethinim, which meant "those given" (to the priests and Levites), a people seen in Joshua 9:27 as captured Gibeonites pressed into service to be wood cutters and water bearers. Moses did something similar in Numbers 31:28 & 40, and 30 & 47, by assigning Midianite prisoners of war to work for the priests and Levites. The lists of returnees contain many foreign names, suggesting their origin was Nethinim, former prisoners of war. Specific mention is made of them in Ezra 8:20 and Nehemiah 7:46-60. We saw the men of Tekoa, the Tekoites, in Verse 5, and here they are again in Verse 27, repairing the gate that allowed excess water to be taken away when the Temple reservoirs were full.
Jeremiah 31:40 places the Horse Gate in the eastern wall of Jerusalem, which is seen here in Verse 28: "Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out repairs, each in front of his house." Notice in Verses 29-31, that those doing the repairs were given assignments at or near their own homes, suggesting again that Nehemiah was a skilled manager, assigning tasks that were likely to be completed by those who had a personal interest in doing so: "29 After them Zadok the son of Immer carried out repairs in front of his house. And after him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, carried out repairs. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah carried out repairs in front of his own quarters. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, carried out repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room of the corner." God gives appropriate gifts to those who are called by Him, like Nehemiah, who was enabled to not only see the need, but also accomplish what had to be done. He similarly acted in relation to the tradesmen of Verse 32—their shops and homes were likely right next to the repair work assigned to them: "Between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants carried out repairs." If you receive the call of God, have the faith to say "Yes!" because He who calls you will also equip and enable you to do the job.
Lord, here am I—send me. I place my faith in You and am willing to go and to do as You lead me. I am Yours. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.