|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:15-19 The wall was begun and finished in fifty-two days, though they rested on the sabbaths. A great deal of work may be done in a little time, if we set about it in earnest, and keep close to it. See the mischief of marrying with strangers. When men once became akin to Tobiah, they soon became sworn to him. A sinful love leads to a sinful league. The enemy of souls employs many instruments, and forms many projects, to bring reproach on the active servants of God, or to take them from their work. But we should follow the example of Him who laid down his life for the sheep. Those that simply cleave to the Lord and his work will be supported.
Verse 15. - So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. According to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:5, § 8), the work of restoration occupied two years and four months, or 840 days, instead of fifty-two. And this period has been thought so much more probable than the smaller one, that moderns generally have accepted it, while some have even proposed to alter our present text of Nehemiah by the insertion of u-shnathayim, "and two years," at the end of this verse (Ewald). But the authority of Josephus on matters of remote history is so small, and the whole account of Nehemiah is so harmonious and consistent with itself, that alteration seems quite unnecessary. Nehemiah leaves Susa in Nisan, probably towards the middle or close of the month, for his preparations must have taken him some time. He would be likely to be nearly three months on his journey, and would thus reach Jerusalem about the middle of July - say July 15. He then rested three days, surveyed the wall, laid his plan before the nobles, arranged the working parties, and set to work. It was his object to hasten matters as much as possible; and he may well have commenced the rebuilding within ten days of his arrival. Fifty-two days from July 25 would bring him to Sept. 15, which corresponds, as nearly as may be, to the 25th of Elul. There is no difficulty in supposing that the wall could have been repaired in this space. The materials were ready at hand; the working parties were numerous; the workmen full of zeal. If we estimate the circumference of the wall at four miles, which is probably beyond the truth, and the working parties at forty-two (Ewald), it will follow that each party had, on the average, to repair 168 yards, or at the rate of between three and four yards a day. There was probably no work done on the sabbaths, and there may have been one or two days of interruption, when attack seemed imminent (Nehemiah 4:13-15); but otherwise the work was carried on without pause from early dawn to dark (ibid. ver. 21). The wall attained to half its height in a very short time (ibid. ver. 6), - there was then a brief interruption, - after which came the main work of completing the entire circuit to its full height. It is possible that the fifty-two days are counted from the "return to work (ibid. ver. 15).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
So the wall was finished in the twenty fifth day of the month Elul,.... The sixth month, answering to part of August and part of September:
in fifty and two days; which Aben Ezra reckons from the time that Sanballat sent his letter to Nehemiah, when no more were wanting than to set the doors upon the gates, Nehemiah 6:1, but rather these, with Jarchi, must be reckoned from the time the building was begun; which, reckoning back from the twenty fifth of Elul, it will appear it was begun the third day of the fifth month Ab; nor need this be thought incredible, considering the number of workmen, their ardour and diligence in building, and that the walls were not wholly built all around, only repaired, and breaches made up, and much of the old materials were made use of, which were at hand, and stone unhewed, and especially being attended with the blessing of God, which succeeded the undertaking: nor are there wanting examples similar to this; and as it is observed by many from Curtius (x), the walls of new Alexandria, which were sixty furlongs in length, or more than seven miles, were finished in seventeen days; if Nicephorus (y) is to be credited, the high walls which surrounded Constantinople, and were twenty miles in circumference, were finished in two months time. Josephus is not to be regarded, who, contrary to the Scriptures says (z), this wall of Jerusalem was two years and four months in building.
(x) Hist. l. 7. c. 6. Justin e Trogo, l. 12. c. 5. (y) Hist. l. 14. c. 1.((z) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 5. sect. 8.
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