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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Nehemiah 2

 

 

Verses 1-20

This exercise of Nehemiah continued for four months following the information he received, and finally came to a head in the month Nisan (corresponding to March or April), when Nehemiah was serving wine to the king and the king observed that his face was sad (v. 1). When the king asked him why he was sad, he became dreadfully afraid, for one to appear to be sad in the presence of the king might be considered a mortal offense, and a proud king may have condemned to death such a person.

However, Artaxerxes was not so arrogant a men, but kindly considerate, and when Nehemiah told him, "Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs lies waste, and its gates burned with fire?" (v. 3), this immediately awakened the king's sympathies. He knew well what Nehemiah was talking about, for he himself had authorized Ezra to go to Jerusalem with the object of furnishing the temple. More than this, God was answering the prayer of Nehemiah, though he had waited for some time for the answer. We too may have to wait for answers, but waiting on God is an exercise necessary to strengthen our faith.

It must have been a surprise to Nehemiah to have the king ask him, "What do you request?" (v. 4). Immediately Nehemiah prayed a short, involuntary prayer (of course not audibly), and made his request, "If it please the king and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to he city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it" (v. 5). The king made no objection to this, though he asked how long Nehemiah would require for this project, for he wanted him to return. Nehemiah set him a time, though we are not told what it was, nor does Nehemiah record anything of his later return to Shushan. The wall was rebuilt in the short space of 52 days, however (ch. 6:15). How long after this Nehemiah remained in Jerusalem we are not told.

When Nehemiah saw that the king was favorable to him, he was emboldened to ask that the king would give him letters to the authorities in the territories through which he would pass, and also "a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy" (v. 8). It is good to see that Nehemiah realized that the king's approval of this was due to "the good hand of my God upon me."

The king also sent an escort of army captains and horsemen with Nehemiah (v. 9). It is not recorded that Nehemiah asked for this. Ezra before him says, "I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, 'The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him'" (Ezra 8:22). But since Nehemiah was given this escort without requesting it, then it would have been unseemly for him to refuse it. No doubt he regarded this as connected with the Lord's promise for his protection. Likely he took less time for his journey than Ezra did, who had a large company with him; also the soldiers and horsemen would be able to travel more swiftly.

Immediately Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem, however, there was a threat of opposition, for we read that Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official "were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel" (v. 10). These enemies of God were anxious to keep Israel in a state of misery, just as Satan desires to keep believers from enjoying the blessing of the Lord.

NEHEMIAH INSPECTS THE WALLS

(vv. 11-16)

It was three days before Nehemiah began the labor he had come for. He would require some rest after so long a journey, and it is important for us too to cultivate a restful spirit before embarking on any service for the Lord. Also, he did not begin publicly. By night he took only a few men with him to view the walls and gates of the city, not telling any of the officials of the city what he was doing (vv. 12-16). But he was concerned to find precisely what would be necessary in the project before him.

In Nehemiah's inspection of the walls and gates of Jerusalem, he found that the report he had heard was correct: the walls were broken down and the gates burned with fire. What a picture of the wall of separation between believers and unbelievers being broken down, and the principles of truth such as are seen in the gates (to allow in what should be in and to keep out what should be out) burned, that is, willfully destroyed! Do we see such things in professing Christendom today? Sadly, it is true practically everywhere! Can we repair these walls and gates? Certainly not in all of Christendom; but we can do so in whatever small sphere of responsibility the Lord may give to us.

ENCOURAGED AND RESPONSIVE

(vv. 17-20).

Receiving the knowledge he had, Nehemiah did not delay to urge the city officials that the walls should be immediately rebuilt. They knew the conditions that existed, and he encouraged them by telling them, "Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem." He would be fully with them in this worthy endeavor. He told them also of God's good hand upon him in the concern God had put in his heart, and also in the favorable words of the king to him encouraging this work. The Lord had also prepared the officials, for they responded, "Let us rise up and build" (v. 18), and "set their hands to this good work." How good it is when the saints of God are prepared to act upon God's word delivered by a true servant of God.

However, this spirit of obedience to God awakened further enmity in the forces of Satan. Sanballat and Tobiah were joined by another man, Geshem the Arab, this time not only expressing feigned sorrow, but mocking and despising the Jews for doing work like this (v. 19). They even accused them of rebelling against the king, a totally false accusation, for the king had encouraged the building of the wall. But Satan will resort to every kind of falsehood to gain his own ends.

Nehemiah did not, however, appeal to the fact of the king's approval, but went higher than the king to answer them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us: therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem" (v. 20). Thus the enemy was put to silence for the time being.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Nehemiah 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/nehemiah-2.html. 1897-1910.

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