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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Nehemiah 3

Verses 1-4

B. The Rebuilding of the Walls 3:1-7:4

Nehemiah described the reconstruction of the walls, starting with the Sheep Gate near the city’s northeast corner, moving counterclockwise. This record honors those who-by building-helped reestablish Israel in the Promised Land, in harmony with God’s will (cf., e.g., Isaiah 52:11-12).

Verses 1-32

1. The workers and their work ch. 3

Eliashib (Nehemiah 3:1) was evidently the grandson of Jeshua, the high priest (Nehemiah 12:10; Ezra 3:2). Construction was an act of consecration because this was a project that God had ordained.

Archaeologists continue to study the exact location of the wall at many places, as well as that of towers and gates. There is debate among them regarding various sites, as well as the total extent of the wall. Those who hold to a smaller city are "minimalists," [Note: E.g., K. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, p. 107; Fensham, pp. 165-66, 171; David M. Howard Jr., Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, p. 290; N. Avigad, Rediscovering Jerusalem, pp. 61-63; H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, p. 188; and idem, "Nehemiah’s Wall Revisited," Palestinian Exploration Quarterly 116 (1984):81-88.] and those who believe the walls extended farther out are "maximalists." [Note: Cf. R. Grafman, "Nehemiah’s Broad Wall," Israel Exploration Journal 24 (1974):50-51; and H. Geva, "The Western Boundary of Jerusalem at the End of the Monarchy," Israel Exploration Journal 29 (1979):84-91.]

"This chapter is one of the most important in the Old Testament for determining the topography of Jerusalem. Though some locations are clear, others are not. Opinions differ widely about whether the wall enclosed the southwest hill today called ’Mount Zion’ (the Maximalist view) or only the original settlement-including the temple area-of the southwest hill of Ophel (the Minimalist view)." [Note: Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," p. 692.]

According to the maximalist view, the two and one-half-mile wall would have enclosed about 220 acres. According to the minimalist view the wall would have been two miles long and enclosed about 90 acres. I think there is better support for the minimalist position. The hill of Ophel (lit. swelling or bulge) was the site between the temple area and the City of David (cf. 2 Chronicles 27:3; 2 Chronicles 33:14).

"Nethinim [Nehemiah 3:26] means given. Probably this is another name for the Gibeonites who were assigned by Joshua to be perpetual slaves as ’hewers of wood and drawers of water’ for the house of God (Joshua 9:23). As drawers of water it is appropriate that they dwelt at the water gate. The Nethinim are mentioned: 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43; Ezra 2:58; Ezra 2:70; Ezra 7:7; Ezra 7:24; Ezra 8:17; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 3:31; Nehemiah 7:46; Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 7:73; Nehemiah 10:28; Nehemiah 11:3; Nehemiah 11:21." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 548.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Nehemiah 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/nehemiah-3.html. 2012.