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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Nehemiah 1

 

 

Verses 1-11

PART III (Nehemiah 1:1 to Nehemiah 7:73 a). The Work of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 1:1-11 a. Nehemiah, Hearing of the Evil Plight of his Brethren in Jerusalem, Prays for Divine Aid.

Nehemiah 1:1. The words . . . Hacaliah: these introductory words are not likely to have stood here originally when Ch.-Ezr.-Neh. formed one continuous book. they were probably added by a later scribe.—the month Chislev, in the twentieth year: i.e. the ninth month (Ezra 10:9*). The last date mentioned was in Ezra 10:17, the first day of the first month of the eighth year of Artaxerxes. By the twentieth year here is presumably meant the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 2:1), so that an interval of about thirteen years would have elapsed from the settlement of the mixed marriages question and the arrival of Hanani at Shushan. The month here given is, however, obviously wrong (see Nehemiah 2:1); but the year is in agreement with Nehemiah 5:14, from which it was probably taken by the Chronicler and inserted here.—Shushan: also written Susa; the winter residence of the Persian kings, and later, in the Macedonian period, it gave the name Susiana to the whole province.—palace: better "castle."

Nehemiah 1:2. Hanani: probably the actual brother of Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 7:2). It does not appear that Hanani himself had come from Judah, he merely brings to his influential brother certain men who had.—the Jews . . . Jerusalem: there appears to be a reference here to some well-known occurrence which had happened to the "captivity" in Judah; the reference is perhaps to Ezra 4:8 ft., which is out of place where it now stands (there had clearly been some strengthening of the walls); this is further borne out by what is said in the next verse (cf. Nehemiah 2:3; Nehemiah 2:17).

Nehemiah 1:5-11 a. This prayer is full of Deuteronomic phrases. Its form is strongly liturgical in character, and with the exception of the last sentence is quite general, and can be paralleled with several passages in the more ancient elements of the Jewish Liturgy. If we had here the actual words of Nehemiah some more direct reference to the purpose for which the supplication was offered would assuredly have been forthcoming. It is more than probable that the Chronicler took this prayer from the Temple Liturgy and put it into the mouth of Nehemiah. The text runs perfectly smoothly if one reads Nehemiah 1:11 b ("Now I was cupbearer to the king" . . .) immediately after Nehemiah 1:4.


Verse 11

Nehemiah 1:11 b - Nehemiah 2:8. Nehemiah Receives Permission from Artaxerxes to Go to Jerusalem and Rebuild the City Walls.

Nehemiah 1:1. the twentieth year of Artaxerxes: 444 B.C.—I had not been aforetime sad: this cannot be got out of the Heb. which says simply "I was not sad; the meaning would appear to be that Nehemiah, knowing as a courtier that it was contrary to usage at court for a royal servant to appear sad in the presence of the king, had determined that he would not offend in this manner even though he had received the bad news about his brethren in Judah; nevertheless, his looks betrayed him in spite of his resolution; hence his words, "then I was very sore afraid" when the king noticed this. To the best of his knowledge Nehemiah had not appeared sad.

Nehemiah 1:2. And the king said . . .: better, "nevertheless the king said. . . ."

Nehemiah 1:3. Let the king live for ever: cf. Daniel 2:4; Daniel 3:9.

Nehemiah 1:6. For how long shall . . .: Nehemiah 5:14*.

Nehemiah 1:8. the castle: cf. Nehemiah 7:2; the word in Heb., birah, is a loan-word, perhaps from the Babylonian; in the Greek it is called baris, so too, by Josephus. This castle was intended as a defence for the Temple ("the house"). That Nehemiah should have had all these particulars ready to explain to the king without ever having been in Jerusalem is not easy to account for. Probably the Chronicler's hand has to some extent filled in the details.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Nehemiah 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/nehemiah-1.html. 1919.

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