Nehemiah 1:1
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
I.

(1) The words of Nehemiah.—Rather, The narrative or record. Both as referring to his affairs and as written by him.

(1-3) Introductory: tidings brought to Nehemiah concerning the sad estate of Jerusalem and the people.

(1) In the month Chisleu.—The names rather than the numbers of the months are generally employed after the captivity: Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishri, Marchesvan, Chisleu, Tebeth, Shevat, Adar; with an intercalary month, the second Adar. Chisleu answers nearly to our December.

In the twentieth year.—Of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, which began B.C. 465 and ended B.C. 425.

In Shushan the palace.—Susa, the capital of Susiana; where, after the capture of the Babylonian empire, a great palace was built by Darius Hystaspis, the ruins of which are still seen. It was the principal and favourite residence of the Persian court, alternating with Persepolis, the older capital, and Babylon. Shushan was one of the most ancient cities in the world; and is associated with the visions of Daniel, and with the feast of Ahasuerus (Daniel 8:2, Esther 1:3).

Nehemiah

A REFORMER’S SCHOOLING

Nehemiah 1:1 - Nehemiah 1:11
.

The date of the completion of the Temple is 516 B.C.; that of Nehemiah’s arrival 445 B.C. The colony of returned exiles seems to have made little progress during that long period. Its members settled down, and much of their enthusiasm cooled, as we see from the reforms which Ezra had to inaugurate fourteen years before Nehemiah. The majority of men, even if touched by spiritual fervour, find it hard to keep on the high levels for long. Breathing is easier lower down. As is often the case, a brighter flame of zeal burned in the bosoms of sympathisers at a distance than in those of the actual workers, whose contact with hard realities and petty details disenchanted them. Thus the impulse to nobler action came, not from one of the colony, but from a Jew in the court of the Persian king.

This passage tells us how God prepared a man for a great work, and how the man prepared himself.

I. Sad tidings and their effect on a devout servant of God {Nehemiah 1:1 - Nehemiah 1:4}. The time and place are precisely given. ‘The month Chislev’ corresponds to the end of November and beginning of December. ‘The twentieth year’ is that of Artaxerxes {Nehemiah 2:1}. ‘Shushan,’ or Susa, was the royal winter residence, and ‘the palace’ was ‘a distinct quarter of the city, occupying an artificial eminence.’ Note the absence of the name of the king. Nehemiah is so familiar with his greatness that he takes for granted that every reader can fill the gaps. But, though the omission shows how large a space the court occupied in his thoughts, a true Jewish heart beat below the courtier’s robe. That flexibility which enabled them to stand as trusted servants of the kings of many lands, and yet that inflexible adherence to, and undying love of, Israel, has always been a national characteristic. We can think of this youthful cup-bearer as yearning for one glimpse of the ‘mountains round about Jerusalem’ while he filled his post in Shushan.

His longings were kindled into resolve by intercourse with a little party of Jews from Judaea, among whom was his own brother. They had been to see how things went there, and the fact that one of them was a member of Nehemiah’s family seems to imply that the same sentiments belonged to the whole household. Eager questions brought out sorrowful answers. The condition of the ‘remnant’ was one of ‘great affliction and reproach,’ and the ground of the reproach was probably {Nehemiah 2:17; Nehemiah 4:2 - Nehemiah 4:4} the still ruined fortifications.

It has been supposed that the breaking down of the walls and burning of the gates, mentioned in Nehemiah 1:3, were recent, and subsequent to the events recorded in Ezra; but it is more probable that the project for rebuilding the defences, which had been stopped by superior orders {Ezra 4:12 - Ezra 4:16}, had not been resumed, and that the melancholy ruins were those which had met the eyes of Zerubbabel nearly a hundred years before. Communication between Shushan and Jerusalem cannot have been so infrequent that the facts now borne in on Nehemiah might not have been known before. But the impression made by facts depends largely on their narrator, and not a little on the mood of the hearer. It was one thing to hear general statements, and another to sit with one’s brother, and see through his eyes the dismal failure of the ‘remnant’ to carry out the purpose of their return. So the story, whether fresh or repeated with fresh force, made a deep dint in the young cupbearer’s heart, and changed his life’s outlook. God prepares His servants for their work by laying on their souls a sorrowful realisation of the miseries which other men regard, and they themselves have often regarded, very lightly. The men who have been raised up to do great work for God and men, have always to begin by greatly and sadly feeling the weight of the sins and sorrows which they are destined to remove. No man will do worthy work at rebuilding the walls who has not wept over the ruins.

So Nehemiah prepared himself for his work by brooding over the tidings with tears, by fasting and by prayer. There is no other way of preparation. Without the sad sense of men’s sorrows, there will be no earnestness in alleviating them, nor self-sacrificing devotion; and without much prayer there will be little consciousness of weakness or dependence on divine help.

Note the grand and apparently immediate resolution to throw up brilliant prospects and face a life of danger and suffering and toil. Nehemiah was evidently a favourite with the king, and had the ball at his foot. But the ruins on Zion were more attractive to him than the splendours of Shushan, and he willingly flung away his chances of a great career to take his share of ‘affliction and reproach.’ He has never had justice done him in popular estimation. He is not one of the well-known biblical examples of heroic self-abandonment; but he did just what Moses did, and the eulogium of the Epistle to the Hebrews fits him as well as the lawgiver; for he too chose ‘rather to suffer with the people of God than to enjoy pleasures for a season.’ So must we all, in our several ways, do, if we would have a share in building the walls of the city of God.

II. The prayer {Nehemiah 1:5 - Nehemiah 1:11}. The course of thought in this prayer is very instructive. It begins with solemnly laying before God His own great name, as the mightiest plea with Him, and the strongest encouragement to the suppliant. That commencement is no mere proper invocation, conventionally regarded as the right way of beginning, but it expresses the petitioner’s effort to lay hold on God’s character as the ground of his hope of answer. The terms employed remarkably blend what Nehemiah had learned from Persian religion and what from a better source. He calls upon Jehovah, the great name which was the special possession of Israel. He also uses the characteristic Persian designation of ‘the God of heaven,’ and identifies the bearer of that name, not with the god to whom it was originally applied, but with Israel’s Jehovah. He takes the crown from the head of the false deity, and lays it at the feet of the God of his fathers. Whatsoever names for the Supreme Excellence any tongues have coined, they all belong to our God, in so far as they are true and noble. The modern ‘science of comparative religion’ yields many treasures which should be laid up in Jehovah’s Temple.

But the rest of the designations are taken from the Old Testament, as was fitting. The prayer throughout is full of allusions and quotations, and shows how this cupbearer of Artaxerxes had fed his young soul on God’s word, and drawn thence the true nourishment of high and holy thoughts and strenuous resolutions and self-sacrificing deeds. Prayers which are cast in the mould of God’s own revelation of Himself will not fail of answer. True prayer catches up the promises that flutter down to us, and flings them up again like arrows.

The prayer here is all built, then, on that name of Jehovah, and on what the name involves, chiefly on the thought of God as keeping covenant and mercy. He has bound Himself in solemn, irrefragable compact, to a certain line of action. Men ‘know where to have Him,’ if we may venture on the familiar expression. He has given us a chart of His course, and He will adhere to it. Therefore we can go to Him with our prayers, so long as we keep these within the ample space of His covenant, and ourselves within its terms, by loving obedience.

The petition that God’s ears might be sharpened and His eyes open to the prayer is cast in a familiar mould. It boldly transfers to Him not only the semblance of man’s form, but also the likeness of His processes of action. Hearing the cry for help precedes active intervention in the case of men’s help, and the strong imagery of the prayer conceives of similar sequence in God. But the figure is transparent, and the ‘anthropomorphism’ so plain that no mistakes can arise in its interpretation.

Note, too, the light touch with which the suppliant’s relation to God {‘Thy servant’} and his long-continued cry {‘day and night’} are but just brought in for a moment as pleas for a gracious hearing. The prayer is ‘for Thy servants the children of Israel,’ in which designation, as the next clauses show, the relation established by God, and not the conduct of men, is pleaded as a reason for an answer.

The mention of that relation brings at once to Nehemiah’s mind the terrible unfaithfulness to it which had marked, and still continued to mark, the whole nation. So lowly confession follows {Nehemiah 1:6 - Nehemiah 1:7}. Unprofitable servants they had indeed been. The more loftily we think of our privileges, the more clearly should we discern our sins. Nothing leads a true heart to such self-ashamed penitence as reflection on God’s mercy. If a man thinks that God has taken him for a servant, the thought should bow him with conscious unworthiness, not lift him in self-satisfaction. Nehemiah’s confession not only sprung from the thought of Israel’s vocation, so poorly fulfilled, but it also laid the groundwork for further petitions. It is useless to ask God to help us to repair the wastes if we do not cast out the sins which have made them. The beginning of all true healing of sorrow is confession of sins. Many promising schemes for the alleviation of national and other distresses have come to nothing because, unlike Nehemiah’ s, they did not begin with prayer, or prayed for help without acknowledging sin.

And the man who is to do work for God and to get God to bless his work must not be content with acknowledging other people’s sins, but must always say, ‘We have sinned,’ and not seldom say, ‘I have sinned.’ That penitent consciousness of evil is indispensible to all who would make their fellows happier. God works with bruised reeds. The sense of individual transgression gives wonderful tenderness, patience amid gainsaying, submission in failure, dependence on God in difficulty, and lowliness in success. Without it we shall do little for ourselves or for anybody else.

The prayer next reminds God of His own words {Nehemiah 1:8 - Nehemiah 1:9}, freely quoted and combined from several passages {Leviticus 26:33 - Leviticus 26:45; Deuteronomy 4:25 - Deuteronomy 4:31, etc.}. The application of these passages to the then condition of things is at first sight somewhat loose, since part of the people were already restored; and the purport of the prayer is not the restoration of the remainder, but the deliverance of those already in the land from their distresses. Still, the promise gives encouragement to the prayer and is powerful with God, inasmuch as it could not be said to have been fulfilled by so incomplete a restoration as that as that at present realised. What God does must be perfectly done; and His great word is not exhausted so long as any fuller accomplishment of it can be imagined.

The reminder of the promise is clinched {v. 10} by the same appeal as formerly to the relation to Himself into which God had been pleased to bring the nation, with an added reference to former deeds, such as the Exodus, in which His strong hand had delivered them. We are always sure of an answer if we ask God not to contradict Himself. Since He has begun He will make an end. It will never be said of Him that He ‘began to build and was not able to finish.’ His past is a mirror in which we can read His future. The return from Babylon is implied in the Exodus.

A reiteration of earlier words follows, with the addition that Nehemiah now binds, as it were, his single prayer in a bundle with those of the like-minded in Israel. He gathers single ears into a sheaf, which he brings as a ‘wave-offering.’ And then, in one humble little sentence at the end, he puts his only personal request. The modesty of the man is lovely. His prayer has been all for the people. Remarkably enough, there is no definite petition in it. He never once says right out what he so earnestly desires, and the absence of specific requests might be laid hold of by sceptical critics as an argument against the genuineness of the prayer. But it is rather a subtle trait, on which no forger would have been likely to hit. Sometimes silence is the very result of entire occupation of mind with a thought. He says nothing about the particular nature of his request, just because he is so full of it. But he does ask for favour in the eyes of ‘this man,’ and that he may be prospered ‘this day.’

So this was his morning prayer on that eventful day, which was to settle his life’s work. The certain days of solitary meditation on his nation’s griefs had led to a resolution. He says nothing about his long brooding, his slow decision, his conflicts with lower projects of personal ambition. He ‘burns his own smoke,’ as we all should learn to do. But he asks that the capricious and potent will of the king may be inclined to grant his request. If our morning supplication is ‘Prosper Thy servant this day,’ and our purposes are for God’s glory, we need not fear facing anybody. However powerful Artaxerxes was, he was but ‘this man,’ not God. The phrase does not indicate contempt or undervaluing of the solid reality of his absolute power over Nehemiah, but simply expresses the conviction that the king, too, was a subject of God’ s, and that his heart was in the hand of Jehovah, to mould as He would. The consciousness of dependence on God and the habit of communion with Him give a man a clear sight of the limitations of earthly dignities, and a modest boldness which is equally remote from rudeness and servility.

Thus prepared for whatever might be the issue of that eventful day, the young cupbearer rose from his knees, drew a long breath, and went to his work. Well for us if we go to ours, whether it be a day of crisis or of commonplace, in like fashion! Then we shall have like defence and like calmness of heart.Nehemiah 1:1. The words of Nehemiah — Or, the acts, as the Hebrew word here used often signifies; that is, the things which Nehemiah did. In the month Chisleu — Which answers to part of our November and December. In the twentieth year — Namely, of the reign of Artaxerxes. As I was in Shushan the palace — In the region of Elimais, where the Persian kings kept their court in the winter, and which, from its pleasant and beautiful situation, was called by heathen writers Susa, which signifies a lily, or, as Athenaeus says, a rose.1:15-44 The best reformers can but do their endeavour; when the Redeemer himself shall come to Zion, he shall effectually turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And when sin is repented of and forsaken, God will forgive it; but the blood of Christ, our Sin-offering, is the only atonement which takes away our guilt. No seeming repentance or amendment will benefit those who reject Him, for self-dependence proves them still unhumbled. All the names written in the book of life, are those of penitent sinners, not of self-righteous persons, who think they have no need of repentance.The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah - The prophetical books commence generally with a title of this kind (see Jeremiah 1:1); but no other extant historical book begins thus. Nehemiah, while attaching his work to Ezra, perhaps marked in this manner the point at which his own composition commenced. (See the introduction of the Book of Nehemiah.)

Chisleu - The ninth month, corresponding to the end of November and beginning of December.

In the twentieth year - i. e. of Artaxerxes Longimanus (465-425 B.C.). Compare Nehemiah 2:1.

Shushan the palace - Compare Esther 1:2, Esther 1:5, etc.; Daniel 8:2. Shushan, or Susa, was the ordinary residence of the Persian kings. "The palace" or acropolis was a distinct quarter of the city, occupying an artificial eminence.

THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH Commentary by Robert Jamieson

CHAPTER 1

Ne 1:1-3. Nehemiah, Understanding by Hanani the Afflicted State of Jerusalem, Mourns, Fasts, and Prays.

1. Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah—This eminently pious and patriotic Jew is to be carefully distinguished from two other persons of the same name—one of whom is mentioned as helping to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Ne 3:16), and the other is noticed in the list of those who accompanied Zerubbabel in the first detachment of returning exiles (Ezr 2:2; Ne 7:7). Though little is known of his genealogy, it is highly probable that he was a descendant of the tribe of Judah and the royal family of David.

in the month Chisleu—answering to the close of November and the larger part of December.

Shushan the palace—the capital of ancient Susiana, east of the Tigris, a province of Persia. From the time of Cyrus it was the favorite winter residence of the Persian kings.Nehemiah, understanding by Hanani the affliction of the Jews, and the misery of Jerusalem, Neh 1:1-3, mourneth, fasteth, and prayeth, Neh 1:4. His prayer for them, Neh 1:5-10; and for success in his petition to the king, Neh 1:11.

The words of Nehemiah, or rather, the acts, or deeds, as the word oft signifies; of which he here treats.

In the month Chisleu; which is the ninth month, containing part of November and part of December.

In the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, Neh 2:1.

In Shushan; the chief and royal city of Persia, Est 3:15.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah,.... Or his transactions and deeds; for "dibre" signifies things done, as well as words spoken; who Hachaliah his father was is not known; the Arabic version adds, the high priest, without any foundation; though some have thought that Nehemiah was a priest, from a passage in"Therefore whereas we are now purposed to keep the purification of the temple upon the five and twentieth day of the month Chisleu, we thought it necessary to certify you thereof, that ye also might keep it, as the feast of the tabernacles, and of the fire, which was given us when Neemias offered sacrifice, after that he had builded the temple and the altar.'' (2 Maccabees 1:18)and from signing and sealing the covenant at the head of priests, Nehemiah 10:1, but he rather seems to be of the tribe of Judah, see Nehemiah 2:3, and Nehemiah may be the same that went up with Zerubbabel, and returned again, and then became the king's cupbearer; though some are of another opinion; see Gill on Ezra 2:2,

and it came to pass in the month Chisleu; the ninth month, as the Arabic version; of which see Ezra 10:9,

in the twentieth year; not of Nehemiah's age, for, if he went up with Zerubbabel, he must be many years older; but in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah 1:1,

as I was in Shushan the palace; a city in Persia, the royal seat of the kings of it; as Ecbatana was in the summer time, this in the spring, as Cyrus made it, according to Xenophon (b); but others say (c) it was their seat in winter, and this was the season now when Nehemiah was with the king there; for Chisleu was a winter month, answering to part of November and of December; of Shushan; see Gill on Daniel 8:2, to which may be added what a traveller of the last century says (d) of it,"we rested at Valdac, once the great city Susa, but now very ruinous; it was first built by Tythonus, and his son Memnon, but enlarged by Darius the son of Hystaspes; in the building whereof Memnon was so exceeding prodigal, that, as Cassiodorus writeth, he joined the stones together with gold--such was the beauty and delectableness of it for situation, that they called it "Susa", which in the Persian tongue signified a "lily", but now it is called Valdac, because of the poverty of the place;''and it is generally supposed to have its name from the abundance of lilies about it; but Dr. Hyde (e) gives another signification of its name, he says the Persians called it, "Sus", which signifies "liquorice", but for what reasons he says not. There is a city now called Shustera, and is thought by some travellers to be built at least very near where Shushan formerly stood (f).

(b) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 44. (c) Athenaeus, l. 12. c. 1.((d) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 87, 88. (e) Hist. Relig. Vet. Pers. c. 35. p. 414. (f) Tavernier, tom. 1. l. 4. c. 1.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month {a} Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

The Argument - God, in all ages and at all times, sets up worthy persons for the convenience and profit of his Church, as now within the compass of seventy years he raised up various excellent men for the preservation of his people after their return from Babylon. Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, of which the first was their captain to bring them home, and provided that the temple was built: the second reformed their manners and planted religion: and the third built up the walls, delivered the people from oppression and provided that the law of God was carried out among them. He was a godly man, and in great authority with the king, so that the king favoured him greatly and gave him letters to accomplish all the things he desired. This book is also called the second of Ezra by the Latins because he was the author of it.

(a) Which contains part of November and part of December, and was their ninth month.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Nehemiah 1:1 to Nehemiah 7:73 a. Extract from the memoirs of Nehemiah

1. The Superscription. ‘In many MSS. and editions the beginning of this book is closely united with the last verse of Ezra, and in some it appears without line or interval between as part of Ezra’ (Davidson’s Hebrew Text).

The words] R.V. marg. the history. (a) The rendering ‘words’ merely calls attention to the fact that we here have a portion of the writings of Nehemiah himself. (b) The rendering ‘history’ is more formal, and is capable of being understood in two different ways, (1) as a reference to a well-known work of history from the pen of Nehemiah, as in ‘the histories (marg. Heb. words) of Shemaiah, the prophet, and Iddo, the seer’ (2 Chronicles 12:15) and ‘the history (marg. Heb. words) of Jehu, the son of Hanani’ (2 Chronicles 20:34); (2) as a descriptive heading of the present book, ‘the history of Nehemiah’ being equivalent to ‘the acts of Nehemiah’; the common expression ‘the acts of,’ e.g. Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), is literally ‘the words of.’

In order to choose between these renderings, we must remember that the clause is probably an editorial heading, inserted by the Chronicler in the compilation of his work. Perhaps the preference should be given to (a) ‘the words of,’ on the ground that when Ezra and Nehemiah formed one continuous work it was not likely that a heading (whether giving the title of a work that is quoted, or describing the remainder of the Chronicler’s book) would be inserted in the middle of the text. But the insertion of a note, to explain the transition from the 1st person, used in the extracts from Ezra’s memoirs, to the 1st person used in the memoirs of Nehemiah, is only what we might expect.

For superscriptions introduced by editorial hands, compare Isaiah 1:1; Jeremiah 1:1; Hosea 1:1; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1. This, however, is the only superscription of the kind in an historical book.

Hachaliah] R.V. Hacaliah, cf. Nehemiah 10:1. The father’s name enables us to distinguish Nehemiah from the men of the same name mentioned in Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 3:16. The name Hacaliah does not occur elsewhere in the O.T.

We are not told what tribe Nehemiah belonged to. Some have supposed the tribe of Levi; and in favour of this suggestion should be observed (a) the mention of his ‘brother’ Hanani’s appointment (Nehemiah 7:2) along with the appointment of the porters, singers, and Levites; (b) the prominent consideration paid by Nehemiah to the interests of the priests and Levites.

Others have suggested the tribe of Judah, and in support of their view refer to the mention of his ‘house’ (Nehemiah 1:6).

Nehemiah 1:1 to Nehemiah 2:11. Nehemiah’s Commission

14. The Evil Tidings from Jerusalem

1b. And] R.V. Now. See note on Ezra 1:1. The copula implies that something has preceded. The Memoirs of Nehemiah did not open with these words. The Chronicler only gives us extracts (Nehemiah 1:1 b–7:73a, Nehemiah 12:27-43, Nehemiah 13:4-31). The retention of the copula at the beginning of the section shows that there was no intention to conceal the fragmentary character of the section.

Chisleu] R.V. Chislev. See note on Ezra 10:9. Hanani’s arrival was in the winter, some three or four months before the events narrated in Nehemiah 2:1 ff.

in the twentieth year] R.V. marg. ‘see ch. Nehemiah 2:1.’ In ch. Nehemiah 2:1 we find that the events described in the beginning of that chapter are said to have taken place in the month Nisan, in the 20th year of king Artaxerxes. Now Nisan is the first month, Chislev the ninth month in the year. How then comes it that in this verse the events of the ninth month seem to precede those of the first month, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes?

(a) The explanation usually given is that Nehemiah employs the post-exilic calendar, in which Tisri (the seventh month) opens the sacred Jewish year, Chislev being then the third and Nisan the seventh months.

The objections, however, to this explanation are considerable:

(1) There is nothing in the context, here or in Nehemiah 2:1, to cause Nehemiah to employ a sacred in preference to a civil computation. As he reckons the year by the reign of the Persian king, and employs the Babylonian (not the old Hebrew) names of months, we should expect him to adopt the calendar in vogue in the Persian dominion.

(2) The custom of reckoning Nisan as the first and Chislev as the ninth month in the year was almost universal in Western Asia.

(3) In post-exilic Jewish writings we find this method of computing the months employed with reference to sacred and secular matters indifferently (cf. Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1; Esther 2:16; Esther 3:7; Esther 3:13; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:1; 1Ma 4:52; 1Ma 10:21; 1Ma 16:14, 2Ma 15:36).

(4) The system of reckoning the 1st of Tisri, the Feast of Trumpets, as New Year’s Day is to be dated, according to Jewish tradition, either from the age of Alexander the Great, or, more probably, from the time of the adoption of the Seleucid era (312 b.c.). (The theory which connects it with the restoration of the daily burnt-offering ‘on the first day of the seventh month’ Ezra 3:6, cf. Nehemiah 8:11, rests on no foundation.) Even where reference is made to ‘the Feast of Trumpets,’ the feast is stated to occur in the seventh month (see Leviticus 23:24-25; Numbers 29:1).

In the opinion of some scholars (e.g. Wellhausen, Hist. of Isr. p. 109) the Hebrew year was reckoned from autumn to autumn until the Exile, and then the influence of the Babylonian usage caused a change from autumn to spring to take place. There are some indications of an early Israelite practice of reckoning the year from autumn to autumn (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 25:22, cf. Genesis 7:11); and Josephus (Ant. i. 1. 3) says this was altered by Moses, in order that the year might date from the month in which the Exodus occurred. But the impression produced by the narrative of the regal period (see 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22; 1 Kings 20:26; Jeremiah 36:9; Jeremiah 36:22) is in favour of the mode of reckoning from spring to spring. It seems on every account more probable, that Nehemiah would follow the numeration of months, starting from the month Nisan, which both his countrymen and the people, among whom he lived, commonly employed.

(b) Another explanation has been given, that the years of Artaxerxes’ reign were not reckoned, as calendar years, from the month Nisan, but from the month in which he ascended the throne: if therefore his reign began in any one of the months between Nisan and Chislev (i.e. Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Ab, Elul, Tisri, Marcheswan), Chislev would precede Nisan in the year so calculated. But for this view there is no evidence from other sources.

(c) It is better to acknowledge that we have here a contradiction, and to suppose that a mistake has been made either by the Compiler or by a scribe, who was anxious that the extract from Nehemiah’s writings should open with the mention of a date, and inserted, from ch. Nehemiah 2:1, the year of the king’s reign, not perceiving the difficulty to which it would give rise. The omission of the king’s name is an additional reason for suspecting an error in the text.

Shushan] Shushan or Susa, alter its capture by Cyrus (546?), became ‘the principal capital of the Persian Empire, and its river, the Choaspes, a branch of the Eulaeus (Ulai, Daniel 8:2; Daniel 8:16), had the honour of supplying the (Persian) kings with the only drinking water they would use’ (‘The Story of the Nations:’ Media, p. 318). “The city of Susa was cut in two by a wide river, known at present under the name of Ab-Kharkha (ancient Choaspes). On the right bank were the populous quarters; on the left, temples, or at least a Ziggurat, the royal city, the citadel, and the palace, the ruins of which, entombed in an immense earth-mound, rise in the midst of the other lesser mounds, like a steep islet from the sea.” (id. pp. 333 f.)

Shushan had formerly been the capital of the kingdom of Elam, whose territory had embraced the alluvial plain E. of the lower Tigris, and stretched S. along the shores of the Persian Gulf (Kiepert). For a mention of the early Elamite kingdom see the reference in Genesis 14:1 ff. to the invasion of Chedor-laomer (Kudur-lagamer). In the Assyrian Inscriptions of Assur-bani-pal, king of Assyria (668–626), we have an extraordinarily vivid and minute account of that monarch’s two campaigns against the kingdom of Elam. Few, if any, of the treasures of the Assyrian Rooms in the British Museum exceed in dramatic interest, vigour of treatment, and beauty of preservation, the representation, on three slabs (nos. 45–47) in the Kouyunjik Gallery, of the overthrow and death, by the banks of Eulaeus, of Teumman, king of Elam. Assur-bani-pal entered Shushan with his victorious army and carried away enormous treasure. The city was sacked and its fortifications destroyed. Elam as a kingdom ceased to exist. Shushan however rose from its ashes. Darius Hystaspes rebuilt the city and erected there a magnificent palace. This was destroyed by fire. But on its site Artaxerxes built another and yet more splendid residence. The remnants of ‘a magnificent piece of painted and glazed tiles representing striding lions, which formed the decoration of the pillared porticos’ (Ragozin’s Media) have been discovered; and along it ran an inscription on which appears the name of Artaxerxes. This was probably the palace in which Nehemiah attended the king as cupbearer.

It became the usual winter residence of the Persian kings, who made use of Ecbatana for their summer quarters. The importance of the town caused the whole district to be called ‘Susiana’ in the Macedonian period. After its capture by the Mahommedans it sank gradually into decay. The modern town of Dizfûl stands near the site of Shushan. Other passages of Scripture which make mention of Shushan (Daniel 8:2; Esth. passim) point to the fact that a large number of Jews resided in the city.

the palace] R.V. marg. the castle. The word ‘bîrah’ is used here, in Daniel 8:2, and in Esther, as an appellation of Shushan. It is applied in 1 Chronicles 29:1; 1 Chronicles 29:19 to the Temple at Jerusalem; in Nehemiah 2:8; Nehemiah 7:2, to the ‘capitol’ or ‘castle’ of Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:2 (Aram.) it is used of Ecbatana. It means something more than ‘the royal house of residence,’ for which we have ‘palace’ (= bîthan) (Esther 1:5; Esther 7:7-8) or ‘the king’s house’ (Esther 2:8; Esther 4:13). It is probably a special title of Shushan, denoting it as a stronghold as well as a royal city.

The Vulgate here renders by ‘castro’: the LXX. transliterates (ἀβιρά).

2. Hanani, one of my brethren] Cf. Nehemiah 7:2 ‘my brother Hanani,’ where the context places it beyond all doubt that the word ‘brother’ is not to be understood in the sense of ‘fellow-countryman.’ But ‘brother’ may mean ‘cousin’ or ‘relative,’ cf. Genesis 14:16; Genesis 24:48; and we find ‘brethren’ used for ‘fellow-tribesmen’ in 2 Samuel 19:12Verse 1. - The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. Compare Jeremiah 1:1; Hosea 1:2; Amos 1:1, etc. No other historical book commences in this manner, and we may best account for the introduction of the clause by the consideration that "Nehemiah" having been originally appended to "Ezra," it marked the point at which a new narrative began by a new author. The month Chisleu. The word Chisleu, or rather Kislev, is probably Persian. It was unknown to the Jews before the captivity, and is found only in this passage and in Zechariah 7:1, where Kislev is said to be "the ninth month," corresponding nearly to our December. The twentieth year. The twentieth regnal year of Artaxerxes (Longimanus) is intended (see ch. 2:1). This began in B.C. 445, and terminated in B.C. 444. Shushan the palace, where Daniel saw the vision of the ram with two horns (Daniel 8:2), and Ahasuerus (Xerxes) made his great feast to all his princes and servants (Esther 1:3), is beyond all doubt Susa, the capital city of Kissia, or Susiana, one of the most ancient cities in the world, and the place which, from the time of Darius Hystaspis was the principal residence of the Persian court. It was situated in the fertile plain east of the Lower Tigris, and lay on or near the river Choaspes, probably at the spot now known as Sus, or Shush. Remains of the palace were discovered by the expedition under Sir Fenwick Williams in the year 1852, and have been graphically described by Mr. Loftus ('Chaldaea and Susiana,' pp. 373-375). Of Israel, as distinguished from priests and Levites, i.e., of the laity. Of these latter are given in all eighty-six names, belonging to ten races, vv. 25-43, who returned with Zerubbabel. See Nos. 1, 5, 6, 9, 8, 4, 30, 17, and 27 of the survey of these races. ירמות in Ezra 10:29 should, according to the Chethiv, be read ירמות. - The twofold naming of sons of Bani in this list (Ezra 10:29 and Ezra 10:34) is strange, and Bani is evidently in one of these places a mistake for some other name. Bertheau supposes that Bigvai may have stood in the text in one of these places. The error undoubtedly lies in the second mention of Bani (Ezra 10:34), and consists not merely in the wrong transcription of this one name. For, while of every other race four, six, seven, or eight individuals are named, no less than seven and twenty names follow בּני מבּני, though all these persons could hardly have belonged to one race, unless the greater number of males therein had married strange wives. Besides, no names of inhabitants of cities of Judah and Benjamin are given in this list (as in Ezra 2:21-28, and Ezra 2:33-35), although it is stated in Ezra 10:7 and Ezra 10:14 that not only the men of Jerusalem, but also dwellers in other cities, had contracted these prohibited marriages, and been summoned to Jerusalem, that judgment might be pronounced in their several cases. These reasons make it probable that the twenty-seven persons enumerated in Ezra 10:34-42 were inhabitants of various localities in Judah, and not merely individuals belonging to a single house. This supposition cannot, however, be further corroborated, since even the lxx and 1 Esdr. read the name Bani in Ezra 10:27 and Ezra 10:34, nor can any conjecture respecting the correct reading laying claim to probability be ventured on. In the single names, the Greek texts of the Septuagint and 1 Esdras frequently differ from the Hebrew text, but the differences are almost all of a kind to furnish no material for criticism. A considerable number of these names reappear in the lists of names in the book of Nehemiah, but under circumstances which nowhere make the identity of the persons bearing them certain.
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