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1And it came to pass in the month Nisanin the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the King that wine was before him: and I took up the wine and gave it unto the 2king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore [and] the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto 3the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? 4Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I praved to the God of heaven. 5And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my father’s sepulchres, that I may build it. 6And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? And when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. 7Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river [Euphrates], that they may convey me over [i.e. from country to country] till I come into Judah; 8and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house [i.e. temple], and for the wall of the city, and for the house [i.e. temple] that I shall enter into [to inspect]. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
9Then I came to the governors beyond the river [Euphrates], and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. 10When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. 11So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 12And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. 13And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon-well and to the dung-port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. 14Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool, but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. 15Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. 16And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that [afterwards] did the work.
17Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. 18Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work [or rather, for good]. 19But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? 20Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore [and] we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial [i.e., record of remembrance] in Jerusalem.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
1 Nehemiah 2:6. שֵׁגָל. Only here and in Psalms 45:10. See Exegetical Note.
2 Nehemiah 2:7. עַל־פּחֲוֹות. This later use of עַל for אֶל, found in Ezra and Esther, is also found in Job frequently. Compare Exeg. Note on Nehemiah 1:7.
3 Nehemiah 2:8. לְקָרוֹת, infin. construct, of the Piel קֵרָה, as in Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6. So 2 Chronicles 34:11. See also Psalms 104:3. בּירָח. This late Hebrew word is applied to the temple in 1 Chronicles 21:19, and to the royal portion of Susa in Nehemiah 1:1. (Comp. Ezra 6:2.) See Exeg. Note here, and on Nehemiah 7:2.
4 Nehemiah 2:12. רֹכֵב בָּהּ for רֹכֵב עָלֶיהָ. Comp. Isaiah 66:20.
5 Nehemiah 2:13. שׂבֵר. In LXX. ἤμην συντρίβων. So also in Nehemiah 2:15. Doubtless the correct reading is, with some MSS. and commentators, שׂבֵר, which, however, never elsewhere occurs in Kal.—הֵמ פְרוּצִים. The open Mem. suggests הַמְפֻרצָים as the proper reading. (Comp. Nehemiah 1:3.)
6 Nehemiah 2:14. לַעֲבֹר תַּחְתָּי. A clumsy form for אֲשֶׁר תַּחְתָּי לַעֲבֹר.
7 Nehemiah 2:16. עַד־כֵּן, not “as yet,” but “until so,” i.e. עַד אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂתִי בֵּן.
8 Nehemiah 2:17. חֶרְפָּה for לְחֶרְפָּה.
9 Nehemiah 2:18. נָקוּם וּבָנִינוּ for נָקוּם וְנִבְבֶה. So in Nehemiah 2:20.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The Interview with the King
Nehemiah 2:1. The month Nisan (called “Abib” in the Pentateuch, Exodus 13:4)—the first month of the Hebrew national year. This name Nisan is found in the Assyrian, but its derivation is obscure. It corresponded to parts of our March and April. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king.—Artaxerxes’ reign-years counted from some other month than Nisan, for the preceding Chisleu was in the 20th year. The unlikely supposition (as by Bp. Patrick) that the “twentieth year” of chapter Nehemiah 1:1 refers to Nehemiah’s life, is thus unnecessary. (See on Nehemiah 1:1.) Wine was before him.—It is the custom among the modern Persians to drink before dinner, accompanying the wine-drinking with the eating of dried fruits. (See Rawlinson’s Herod. I. 133, Sir H. C. R.’s note.) Compare the “banquet of wine” in Esther 5:6. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.—Lit. And I was not sad in his presence. That is, it was not his wont to be sad in the king’s presence. The exactions of Persian monarchs would not endure any independence of conduct in their presence. Everybody was expected to reflect the sunlight of the king’s majesty.
Nehemiah 2:2. Wherefore the king said.—Lit. And the king said. The word translated “sad” in Nehemiah 2:1-3, and the noun “sorrow” in Nehemiah 2:2, are very general words for “bad” and “badness.” But the bad countenance was the sad countenance (see Genesis 40:7 for the same phrase).
Nehemiah 2:3. Let the king live for ever.—Heb. hammelek l’olam yihyeh. Compare 1 Kings 1:31; Daniel 2:4; Daniel 5:10; Daniel 6:6; Daniel 6:21. The mere formula of address to an Oriental king, so that even a Daniel used it without compunction. The city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres.—Lit. the city, house of graves of my fathers. This emphasis of “the house of graves” not only seems to prove Nehemiah a Jerusalemite in descent, i.e., of the tribe of Judah, but also of the royal house. An obscure person would scarcely have chosen such a way of designating the city before the king. (Comp. on Nehemiah 1:6.)
Nehemiah 2:4. For what dost thou make request?—Lit. On what account this thou art asking? The king takes for granted that the look of sadness is an assumed preliminary to asking a favor. There is a true Oriental touch in this. So I prayed to the God of heaven.—A beautiful mark of Nehemiah’s piety. He first addresses the King of kings, and then the earthly monarch. He knew in whose hands were kings’ hearts. For the phrase “God of heaven,” see on Nehemiah 1:5.
Nehemiah 2:5. That I may build it.—This was Nehemiah’s first great aim, to rebuild the city. Without walls and fortifications, it was but a large village, exposed to sudden ruin. Could the walls be rebuilt, its permanence would be secured, and the province of Judah have a strong centre. That Nehemiah saw that this was the true course to conserve the special interests of God’s people, there can be no doubt. A man of his piety could not rest in the mere external view of things.
Nehemiah 2:6. The queen also sitting by him.—We have a good illustration of this scene in a sculpture from Asshur-bani-pal’s palace (Koyunjik). The king reclines on one side of the table, and is in the act of drinking. The queen sits upright in a chair of state at the side of the table, near the king’s feet, but facing him. She is also in the act of drinking. Attendants with large fans stand behind each. (See copy of this interesting scene in Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies, Vol. I., p. 493). That the word “shegal” refers to the principal wife of the king seems clear from its use in Psalms 45:10. The chief wife of Artaxerxes at one time was Damaspia, according to Ctesias.
Nehemiah 2:7. The governors.—Heb. pahawoth, from pechah, the modern pacha, the Oriental name for a viceroy used by Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. Beyond the river, i.e., the river Euphrates. The course to Judea would leave the Euphrates probably at Tiphsah, 700 miles from Susa or Shushan, whence there would be 400 miles of travel through the Syrian countries before reaching Jerusalem. They were letters to governors or pachas in this Syrian region that Nehemiah requested.
Nehemiah 2:8. Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, may have been a Jew, as the name is Israelitish. It may, however, be a form of Aspatha (Esther 9:7), from the Persian Aspa (horse). The word translated “forest” is pardes, which is our familiar paradise. It is an Aryan word (Zend, pairidaeza), and signifies a walled round place, a preserve of trees and animals. There was probably a royal park set off for the king in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and Asaph was its keeper. The word pardes is found in the Scriptures only here and in Sol. S. Nehemiah 4:13 and Ecclesiastes 2:5. As it is not an old Persian word, but found in the Sanscrit and Armenian, no argument for the late date of Solomon’s Song and Ecclesiastes can be derived from it. In Solomon’s day, with that king’s extensive connections with distant countries, the word may readily have entered into his vocabulary from any Aryan source. The palace which appertained to the house.—It is supposed by some that this is the well-known Birah or Baris (afterward Antonia) at the north side of the temple-area. But that was probably constructed at a later date. Nehemiah sought simply to reconstruct the old buildings. Now the palace next to the house (i.e., to the temple, the house, as the house of God) was Solomon’s palace, inhabited by all the kings after him, which was situated at the south-east corner of the temple-area. (See 2 Chronicles 23:12-15). The house that I shall enter into.—Not Nehemiah’s own house (he was too high-minded to think of that), but the house of God, spoken of before. He desired timber (1) for the palace gates, (2) for the walls, and (3) for the house of God. “That I shall enter into” means “which I shall visit and inspect.”
According to the good hand of my God upon me.—For this beautiful expression of piety, compare Ezra 7:9; Ezra 8:18. In Nehemiah 2:18 of this chapter we see it again, slightly varied in form.
The Journey to Jerusalem
Nehemiah 2:9. The king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.—Nehemiah’s high rank made this a matter of course.—
Nehemiah 2:10. Sanballat the Horonite.—There were two Horons (“Beth-horons” in full) in Palestine, a few miles north of Jerusalem. There was also a Horonaim (lit. “the two Horons”) in Moab (Isaiah 15:5). Sanballat was probably from the latter, and was a Moabite, as we find his associate is Tobiah, an Ammonite. He was probably satrap or pacha of Samaria under the Persians, and Tobiah was his vizier or chief adviser. The hatred of the Moabites and Ammonites toward Israel, and the equal hatred of the Israelites to Moab and Ammon appear to have grown stronger in the later ages of the Jewish state. In David’s time, his family found refuge in Moab, as Elimelech’s family had done long before, and Ruth a Moabitess was ancestress of the line of kings in Israel and Judah. After the attack upon Moab by Jehoshaphat and the terrible scene upon the wall of Mesha’s capital (2 Kings 3:27), there was probably nothing but intense bitterness between the children of Lot and the children of Israel. Sanballat and Tobiah represented the Moabitish and Ammonitish hatred.1 The origin of the name Sanballat is uncertain. It seems akin to the Assyrian Ass-uruballat, and may be, in its correct form, “Sinuballat,” Sin being the moon (comp. Sin-akhi-irib or Sennacherib), or it may be San-uballat, San being the sun.
Tobiah, the servant, the Ammonite.—Tobiah is a Jewish name (see Ezra 2:60 and Zechariah 6:10). We could scarcely expect to find the element Jah in the name of an Ammonite. Tobiah was probably a renegade Jew, who had become a slave among the Ammonites, and, by his talents and cunning, had risen into prominence, and was now chief adviser of Sanballat. Hence the epithet, which probably his enemies had fastened on him: “Tobiah the slave.”—It grieved them.—Samaria had become the leading state west of the Jordan, and any restoration of Jerusalem would threaten this predominance.
Nehemiah 2:11. And was there three days.—Days, probably, of prayer and observation before any determinate action. (See Ezra 8:32, for a precisely similar conduct on Ezra’s part thirteen years before.)
Nehemiah 2:12. In the night—few men—neither told I any man.—These facts and that of only one animal being used in the night-survey show the prudence of Nehemiah, who would avoid calling the attention of Sanballat to any survey of the walls until all was ready for building. Any formal survey made in the day-time would soon have reached Sanballat’s ears, for he and Tobiah were both closely allied by marriage-alliances with the Jerusalem Jews (Nehemiah 6:18; Nehemiah 13:28).
Nehemiah 2:13. The gate of the valley, Sha’ar hag-gai (2 Chronicles 26:9; Nehemiah 3:13), was probably a gate overlooking the great valley of Hinnom, which is called in Jeremiah 2:23 simply “the valley.” It was between the Tower of the Furnaces (Migdal hat-tannurim) and the Dung-gate. We may place it about twelve hundred feet south of the present Jaffa, Gate.—The dragon-well (Ain hattannin) is perhaps the present great pool, Birket Sultan, along the eastern side of which and above it would be Nehemiah’s course southward from the Jaffa-gate. The strange name (Fountain of the Sea-monster) may have been given to it because some curious large water-snake or crocodile was kept in it in Nehemiah’s time.—The dung-port (Sha’ar ha-ashpoth) is rather the rubbish-gate, and was probably the gate in the valley before which the rubbish of the city was cast and burned. It was the “east gate” (lit. pottery-gate) of Jeremiah 19:2. So the Jewish authorities. We may suppose this gate was at the southern extremity of Zion. The false rendering of “dung-port” has given rise to the idea that it was near the temple; that through it the filth from the animals offered in sacrifice was carried. It is possible that this filth may have been carried over the bridge to Zion, and through this gate to the brink of Hinnom’s deepest portion, and there dumped with the other rubbish. But the rubbish-gate or dung-port was only one thousand cubits from the valley gate (see Nehemiah 3:13), and no gate near the temple could have been thus near the valley-gate, if the valley-gate were anywhere on the west of the city. We should consider the Rubbish-gate as directly before that part of Hinnom known as Tophet (Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:6; Jeremiah 19:11-14). (But see Excursus.)
Nehemiah 2:14. The gate of the fountain, Sha’ar ha-ayin, is certainly a gate in front of the pool of Siloam (see Nehemiah 3:15). It would be where the ancient wall turned northward beyond its south-eastern corner.—The king’s pool, berechath hammelek, must be the pool of Siloam. Comp. Nehemiah 3:15. The “virgin’s fountain” of to-day is too far away. It probably received this name from its watering the king’s garden (Nehemiah 3:15). See Joseph. Ant. 7, 14, 4. Also Jerom. Com. on Jeremiah 7:30.
There was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.—The ruin was so great, and the rubbish so accumulated, along Ophel, that Nehemiah could not pursue his course along the wall any further (Nehemiah 2:15), but was obliged to go down into the valley of the Kidron (the brook, nachal), up which he went and surveyed the wall, and then turned back and pursued the same route back again to the valley-gate. It is evident that this survey was confined to the southern and eastern walls, which were perhaps the most ruined and the most neglected, as being on the sides of greater natural defence.2
Nehemiah 2:16. Neither had I as yet told it to the Jews.—Rather: Neither did I, until I had done thus, tell it to the Jews.—The rulers (seganim, a Persian word) were the executive officers of the colony. Neither to the Jews in general nor to the rulers, priests or nobles specially had Nehemiah communicated the fact of his survey. He, however, now summons an assembly, and urges them to build the walls, showing them as arguments God’s mercies to him and the king’s favor.—The rest that did the work, i.e. the others engaged in the public service. Or (more probably) it may be proleptic for “those that afterward engaged in the wall-building.”
Nehemiah 2:18. So they strengthened their hands for this good work, or for good, i.e., for a prosperous time.
Nehemiah 2:19. Geshem or Gashmu (Nehemiah 6:6), who was third with Sanballat and Tobiah in hostility to the Jews, was perhaps chief of those Arabs whom Sargon had settled in Samaria (see Rawlinson’s Anc. Mon., Vol. II., p. 146).
Nehemiah 2:20. Ye have no portion nor right nor memorial in Jerusalem.—This was Nehemiah’s firm protest against the slightest interference on the part of these heathen chiefs. He will not acknowledge their right even to complain, and refuses to answer their false charge implied in their question. With such enemies there should be a clear understanding from the first. One of the strong points of Nehemiah’s character was his uncompromising and prompt method in all things.
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. Like Joseph and Daniel, Nehemiah carried into a high office near the throne of an Oriental despot the vigor of a holy life. It did not make him a recluse, nor yet a sad-faced servant of the king. His sad visage at this time was a thing remarkable. He had been an acceptable officer of the court, and the king’s treatment of his request shows the high favor in which he stood. True religion does not incapacitate one from office, but furnishes the man with a power to please, while it preserves him from the temptations of rank.
2. No doubt there had been from the foundation of the Persian empire a sincere sympathy on the part of the Persians with the Jews. The monotheism of the Jews gained them favor with the Persian throne, and was, doubtless, the chief reason of Cyrus’s edict concerning their return to Jerusalem. By the twentieth year of Artaxerxes this sympathy had probably diminished (as under Magian influences it had been previously hindered), and yet the king’s readiness to send an escort with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:23), and to make his way easy, may be attributed in part to this traditional regard for the Jewish hostility to polytheism.
3. Nehemiah’s secresy was a part of his executive ability. Although he had the king’s endorsement, he knew the value of keeping his own counsel, for there were jealous foes around the Jews ready to throw hindrances in his way. Moreover these had allies among the Jews themselves—men high in rank and position—and the distance was so great from the Persian capital that Nehemiah’s firman needed great wisdom on his part to make it efficient.
4. The encouragement which Nehemiah held out to his countrymen to rebuild the walls was not simply the king’s willingness, but the guiding hand of God. He saw behind the throne of Persia the power of Israel’s Jehovah, and sought to strengthen his brethren by the same view. Piety teaches the heart to see second causes as only indicators of the Divine will and action, and law, whether it be from man’s mouth or in the forces of external nature, is rightly referred to an overruling Providence that guides and guards the people of God. It was this consideration that formed Nehemiah’s answer to Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Nehemiah 2:1-9. Love towards suffering Jerusalem: 1) Its sorrow (Nehemiah 2:1-2), in spite of personal prosperity, and even in the midst of the enjoyments of the royal banquet. 2) Its confession (Nehemiah 2:2-3); it is not ashamed of belonging to the congregation of the Lord; neither is it ashamed of its poor brethren, but declares itself candidly as love, and indeed in spite of the danger of displeasing in a very hazardous way. 3) Its petition (Nehemiah 2:4-5): it begs for help, first indeed of God the Lord, and then also of men, but particularly for the permission to give its own aid, and that too with self-denial. 4) Its joy (Nehemiah 2:6; Nehemiah 2:9): its prayer is not only granted, but it receives almost more than it could hope for. Brentius: Hæc enim est vera amicitia, quæ in afflictionibus perdurat. Exemplum imitandum: si quid petendum est ab homine, primum a Deo petamus, qui hominis cor nobis amicum reddere potest.
Starke: To speak to princes of weighty matters demands great precaution. 2 Samuel 14:2. O Soul, if a heathen lord takes a servant’s griefs so tenderly to heart, how should not the Father of mercy allow thy griefs to penetrate His heart! Jeremiah 31:20; Jeremiah 31:25. The sighs of the godly are powerful petitions before God. Psalms 12:6. One should not frighten timid supplicants still more, but speedily encourage their petition by generous bounty. Matthew 5:32; Romans 12:8. Princes and lords should willingly listen to the complaints of their subjects, and grant as much as possible. 2 Samuel 3:16. God gives according to His great goodness more than we can hope or ask for. Ephesians 3:20; 1 Kings 3:13.
The sorrow for suffering Jerusalem: 1) In spite of our own prosperity; 2) On account of the sad position of the congregation; 3) In presence of those who are able to help, and must be gained over.—The self-denial of a patriot: 1) He grieves in spite of his own prosperity, for the misery of his country; 2) He risks his position by a frank confession; 3) He wishes to relinquish his position, in order to aid his fatherland.
Starke: It is a token of a godless spirit when one does not reverence his fatherland; but it is villainy when one desires to injure it. 2Ma 5:8.
Nehemiah 2:10. The conduct of the worldly-minded towards the congregation of the Lord: 1) Their latitudinarianism: Sanballat and Tobiah maintained friendship with the Jerusalemites. Nehemiah 6:10; Nehemiah 6:17; Nehemiah 13:4-9; Nehemiah 13:28. Nehemiah 13:2) Their narrowness: they cannot endure that any one should seek to advance the welfare of the congregation of the Lord, as such.
Venerable Bede: Notanda animarum rerumque diversitas, quia supra quidem dicti sunt hi, qui remanserunt de captivitate in Juda, in afflictione magna et opprobrio fuisse; sed et Nehemiam longum cum fletu et precibus duxisse jejunium, eo quod muros. Hierusalem dissipatos, et portæ illius essent igne combustæ, et nunc versa vice hostes ejusdem sanctæ civitatis contristati et in afflictione sunt magna constituti, eo quod ædificia illius restauranda. Unde colligendum, etiam in hac vita sententiam domini posse compleri, qui cum dixissit: Amen, amen, dico vobis, quia plorabitis et flebitis vos, mundus autem gaudebit, vos autem contristabimini, continuo subjecit: sed tristitia vestra vertetur in gaudium.
Nehemiah 2:11-18. Bright zeal in the concerns of God: 1) It foresees (Nehemiah 2:11-12) and hastens at times because dangers threaten; 2) It looks around (Nehemiah 2:13-15) to fully estimate the difficulty of the work to be performed; 3) it looks, and points, on high (Nehemiah 2:17-18), to God’s help, to the hand of God, which is extended in favor above it, and therefore succeeds with those whose help is necessary.
Venerable Bede: Diversa urbis destructæ loca lustrandro pervagatur.…. Sic et doctorum est spiritualium, sæpius nocte surgere ac solerte indagine statum sanctæ ecclesiæ quiescentibus ceteris inspicere, ut vigilanter inquirant, qualiter ea, quæ vitiorum bellis. … dejecta sunt, castigando emendent et erigant.
Starke: When one has suitable means at hand for avoiding the danger, he must not despise them. Jos 2:15; 2 Corinthians 11:33. When something is granted to us by the authorities through favor, we must ascribe it to God. When one will perform anything great, he must keep it secret. 1 Samuel 14:1. When the Church sleeps, God awakens pious people, who work and watch for its welfare. There is a time for speaking and a time for silence. Well begun is half gained.
Nehemiah 2:19-20. In our work for the kingdom of God what position must we take towards the objections of the world? 1) We must be prepared for scorn, contempt, and anxiety. The worldly-minded consider the aim which we truly have as foolish, as it is too elevated for them; they therefore attribute to us another aim, which is foreign to us; and in this way they give a most suspicious look to our activity. 2) We must not, however, lay any importance upon this; that which they consider foolish is our highest task, that we should keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and therefore concede to them, in so far as they are the world, no part or right in our intercourse.
Nehemiah 2:17-20. The admonition to build up the kingdom of God. 1) It complains: you see the distress, etc., for it always finds again the reason that it may pass beyond to the demand: come, let us build, resting upon the former proofs of the Lord, who also has known how to make the kings of the earth serviceable to His ends. 2) It excites the ridicule and the suspicions of the world, but overcomes them through reference to the God of heaven, who causes His people to succeed, but never allows the evil to prevail.—Venerable Bede: Doctores sancti, immo omnes, qui zelo Dei fervent, in afflictione sunt maxima, quamdiu Hierusalem, hoc est, visionem pacis, quam nobis Dominus reliquit et commendavit, per bella dissensionum cernunt esse desertam, et portas virtutum, quas juxta Esaiam laudatio occupare debuerat, prævalentibus inferorum portis dejectas atque opprobrio habitas contuentur.—Starke: It is a good sign when envious people combat a work; for one can conclude from that that it provokes the devil, and that makes us the more joyful. Genesis 37:4; 1 Samuel 17:28. The devil is never idle: therefore when he can undertake nothing actively against the people of God, he makes use of poisonous tongues; but whoever fears God has a secure fortress. Sir. 14:26, 31. One should be firm in his confidence in God, and allow nothing to be abstracted from it.
The Sanballat of Josephus is evidently a very different person, living a century later. He may have been a descendant of this one, inheriting his office and his hostile tactics toward the Jews.
It is generally thought that Nehemiah made the full circuit of the walls; but, although the language might allow such an interpretation, the want of any hint of another way back (no mention of the Fish-gate or Old-gate or any other prominent land-mark on the north and west side) seems to force us to take shuv in the sense of going back in the way he went out.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany