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Artaxerxes, understanding the cause of Nehemiah's sadness, sendeth him with letters and commissions to Jerusalem.
Before Christ 445.
Nehemiah 2:1. In the month Nisan— Which answers to part of our March and April. So that it was almost four months between his hearing of the disconsolate condition wherein Jerusalem lay, and his requesting leave of the king to go thither. Now, besides that it might not come to his own turn of waiting sooner, there might be these further reasons assigned for his long silence and delay: that he could not take so long and dangerous a journey in the winter; that he could not sooner meet with a seasonable opportunity of speaking with the king upon so critical an affair: or, as others will have it, that he retired all this intermediate while, and spent it in fasting and prayer. See Patrick and Poole.
Nehemiah 2:3. Why should not my countenance be sad, &c.— There is a piety due to one's own country, which cannot be extinguished by the pleasure or plenty of any other. It is no weakness to be deeply affected with the misfortunes or for the death of our nearest friends and relations, at what distance soever we are from them; nor can any prosperity in another country hinder or excuse a man from being grieved for a calamity which befals his own. Nehemiah was in no mean station when he was cup-bearer to Artaxerxes; and we may very reasonably believe, by the grace and bounty which the king shewed him, that he might have had great preferment in that flourishing empire, if he had asked it; yet, when that great king discerned that there was sorrow of heart in his countenance, and demanded the reason of it, he made no other excuse than this: the place of my fathers' sepulchres lieth waste: and when the king so graciously invited him to ask some favour worthy of his royal bounty, he would require nothing else but, Send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. A generous spirit can think of nothing but relieving his country, while it is under a general misery, and calamity. Note; (1.) When we take in hand God's work, we cannot but be deeply concerned for the success. (2.) The afflictions of God's church and people draw forth the sympathetic tear from every friend of Zion. (3.) In our passage through this mortal vale, the best of men must expect to meet with trials. (4.) There is a king who minutes our sorrows, and will not suffer us to mourn long.
Nehemiah 2:6. And I set him a time— How long this was is not certain. It is said, indeed, that he was governor of the land of Judah for twelve years, chap. Neh 5:14 Nehemiah 13:6. But, considering what haste he made for dispatching the building of the walls, which he finished in fifty-two days, the leave that he asked might be but for a year, or perhaps half so long; after which time, it is likely, he returned to Shushan according to his promise; but some time after was sent back again by the king (who found his presence there serviceable, or perhaps necessary for the better regulation of that province), to be his governor for twelve years.
REFLECTIONS.—1. The king, perceiving the meaning of Nehemiah's sorrows, and his fear to ask, kindly bids him make his request. Note; Christ our king has given us an unlimited promise; and shall we be backward to make our requests known to him?
2. Encouraged by this condescension, he lifts up his heart to God for power to speak aright, and a blessing on his request; a warm ejaculation fled to the throne of grace, and God strengthened and prospered him. He begs permission to rebuild his native city, a convoy to guard him safe, and an order upon the governors to supply him with necessaries for the work. Note; (1.) Whatever we set about, let prayer prepare the way. (2.) Frequent ejaculations tend to preserve the spirituality of our temper. (3.) Nothing is too much to ask when we come to Jesus, who will do for us exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
3. The king consented that he should go; but, unwilling to part with him long, engages him to return within a stipulated time. The queen, who providentially was now present, probably stood his friend; and he had peculiar reason that day to acknowledge the good hand of God in his success. Note; (1.) The prayer of faith never ascends in vain. (2.) Providential help is often given when little expected; and friends unknown to us before are raised up of God in our difficulties. (3.) Whatever mercy we receive, let God's good hand be acknowledged with thankfulness.
Nehemiah 2:7. River— The river Euphrates.
Nehemiah 2:8. Which appertained to the house— Which appertained to the house of the Lord. Houbigant.
Nehemiah 2:10. Sanballat the Horonite— This person was probably a petty prince of Moab; for Horonaim was an eminent city in that country, Isaiah 15:5. This Sanballat was the person who afterwards instigated Alexander the Great to build the temple of Gerizim, in order to occasion a division among the Jews. See Grotius.
REFLECTIONS.—The king having permitted Nehemiah to go, and given him an order upon the governors, grants him withal an honourable escort to protect him. Note; Each child of God, whom the king of heaven delights to honour, is attended with mightier angelic guards. We have here,
1. The vexation of Tobiah and Sanballat, the enemies of the Jews, on hearing of Nehemiah's journey, and the design of it. Note; Every favour shown to the servants of God awakens the envy and provokes the rage of a wicked world.
2. The survey that Nehemiah took of the state of the walls. He rested on his arrival three days; and by night, with a few select persons for secresy, that the design he was forming might not be known or counteracted, went round the walls to observe the breaches, and what repairs would be needful. Note; (1.) Secresy and silence are very necessary when our enemies are so ready to take the alarm. The wisdom of the serpent is useful when joined to the innocence of the dove. (2.) A well-settled plan of procedure is the way to ensure success in every enterprize.
3. The discovery that he made to the rulers, of his commission. He assembled them, intimated the ruinous state of the city, and the reproach which their defenceless state brought on them from their wicked neighbours; then informed them of God's good providence in advancing him at court, and giving him favour with the king; and produced his commission for repairing their desolations; encouraging them thereupon to set about the work. Animated by such an exhortation, they eagerly seize the opportunity, and strengthen each other immediately to arise and build the wall. Note; (1.) A good minister, or magistrate, who is active and zealous, will find many ready to second his labours, who of themselves had not courage to lead. (2.) They who would work heartily for God must begin out of hand. Delays are dangerous.
4. The opposition which the work met with. Their old and sworn foes derided their attempts, and maligned their intentions; but Nehemiah, undismayed, and confident in God's blessing, despised their taunts, and persisted in the work; nor would he suffer these Samaritans to have any portion or lot among them. Note; (1.) Every arrow of envenomed malice, derision, slander, and threatening, will be shot against God's saints; but they are clad in armour that is weapon-proof. (2.) Instead of being discouraged, we should be quickened by opposition: if God prosper us, we need not fear.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany