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Ne 2:1-20. ARTAXERXES, UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSE OF NEHEMIAH'S SADNESS, SENDS HIM WITH LETTERS AND A COMMISSION TO BUILD AGAIN THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM.
1. it came to pass in the month Nisan--This was nearly four months
after he had learned the desolate and ruinous state of Jerusalem
The reasons for so long a delay cannot be ascertained.
2-5. the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad?--It was deemed highly unbecoming to appear in the royal presence with any weeds or signs of sorrow (Es 4:2); and hence it was no wonder that the king was struck with the dejected air of his cupbearer, while that attendant, on his part, felt his agitation increased by his deep anxiety about the issue of the conversation so abruptly begun. But the piety and intense earnestness of the man immediately restored [Nehemiah] to calm self-possession and enabled him to communicate, first, the cause of his sadness (Ne 2:3), and next, the patriotic wish of his heart to be the honored instrument of reviving the ancient glory of the city of his fathers.
6-9. the queen also sitting by him--As the Persian monarchs did not
admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must
have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably
Esther, whose presence would tend greatly to embolden Nehemiah in
stating his request; and through her influence, powerfully exerted it
may be supposed, also by her sympathy with the patriotic design, his
petition was granted, to go as deputy governor of Judea, accompanied by
a military guard, and invested with full powers to obtain materials for
the building in Jerusalem, as well as to get all requisite aid in
promoting his enterprise.
7. letters be given me to the governors beyond the river--The Persian empire at this time was of vast extent, reaching from the Indus to the Mediterranean. The Euphrates was considered as naturally dividing it into two parts, eastern and western (see on Ezr 5:3).
8. according to the good hand of my God upon me--The piety of Nehemiah appears in every circumstance. The conception of his patriotic design, the favorable disposition of the king, and the success of the undertaking are all ascribed to God.
10. Sanballat the Horonite--Horonaim being a town in Moab, this person,
it is probable, was a Moabite.
11, 12. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days--Deeply affected with the desolations of Jerusalem, and uncertain what course to follow, he remained three days before informing any one of the object of his mission [Ne 2:17, 18]. At the end of the third day, accompanied with a few attendants, he made, under covert of night, a secret survey of the walls and gates [Ne 2:13-15].
13-15. I went out by night by the gate of the valley--that is, the
Jaffa gate, near the tower of Hippicus.
14. Then--that is, after having passed through the gate of the Essenes.
15. Then went I up . . . by the brook--that is, Kedron.
16-18. the rulers knew not--The following day, having assembled the elders, Nehemiah produced his commission and exhorted them to assist in the work. The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his address and example, so revived their drooping spirits that they resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did, despite the bitter taunts and scoffing ridicule of some influential men.