Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(1-32) The memorial of the builders: to succeeding generations of dwellers in Jerusalem a deeply interesting chapter. It contains also a very important topographical account of the ancient city, since repeatedly destroyed. But no amount of ingenuity will avail to remove every difficulty. The text is in some places defective. It must, further, be remembered that the record does not so much describe the process as sum up the result. Much of the work of the gates must have required time, but all is described here as if everything was finished at once.
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.(1) Then Eliashib.—The account begins with due honour to the high priest and the priesthood.
The sheep gate was in the neighbourhood of the priests’ quarter. Through it the victims passed for sacrifice, first being washed in the neighbouring pool of Bethesda. This being built, “they sanctified it,” as an earnest of the subsequent consecration of the entire wall. Their work and the sanctification of it extended to two towns near each other at the north-east corner.
And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.(2) Next unto him.—At his hand, the customary phrase throughout the chapter, indicating the order of the building, which, however, involves some difficulty towards the close. The phrase, as first used, does honour to the high priest, who must be supposed to have presided only over the religious ceremonial.
The men of Jericho.—At the point, it will be observed, opposite their own city.
But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.(3) The fish gate.—Through which fish entered from the Jordan and Galilee.
The sons of Hassenaah.—Contrary to custom, their names are not mentioned.
The locks thereof, and the bars thereof.—The crossbars thereof, and the catches thereof, the latter holding the former at the two ends. Similarly in several other verses.
And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.(4) Repaired.—Literally, strengthened; as before it was built.
And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.(5) The Tekoites.—This verse is remarkable, as introducing men of Tekoah, not mentioned among Zerubbabel’s Returned, who furnish the solitary instance of internal opposition to the building; and as terming the common work “the work of the Lord.” The ordinary people of the place, however, did double duty. (See Nehemiah 3:27.)
Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.(6) The old gate.—Not mentioned elsewhere: probably that of Damascus; but (by a conjectural addition to the text,) it has been translated the gate of the old wall, as if distinguished from “the broad wall.”
And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.(7) Unto the throne.—Unto the seat of the pechah of the whole district this side the Euphrates: his residence when he came to Jerusalem.
Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.(8) And they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.—The word translated “fortified” means literally left, and this yields a good sense: they left Jerusalem untouched as far as a certain portion of the wall extended which needed no restoration. The gate of Ephraim was in this (see Nehemiah 12:38-39); and it is significant that nothing is said about the rebuilding of this important gate.
And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.(9) The half part of Jerusalem.—Of the district belonging to Jerusalem.
Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahathmoab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces.(11) The other piece.—This expression occurs a few times when the repairers have been mentioned as having repaired a first piece. But it occurs several times when there is no such mention; and in these cases, as here, must mean only what the margin indicates, a second measure, in relation to what had just been referred to.
And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.(12) He and his daughters.—Shallum was governor of the second half-district around Jerusalem; and it has been thought that the “daughters” here are the villages of the district. But needlessly: the women of Jerusalem might do voluntarily what as females they were not pressed to do.
The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate.(13) A thousand cubits.—Not so much “built” as “strengthened.” This comparatively large space—mentioned in round numbers—had probably suffered less damage, and therefore needed less repairing.
But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.(14) The son of Rechab.—Not “a son,” as if it meant that he was a Rechabite.
Part of Beth-haccerem.—The district around that place.
But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.(15) He covered it.—Similar to laid the beams in Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6.
The pool of Siloah.—Called before “the king’s pool,” which received its water as “sent” through a long subterranean conduit, and supplied the king’s gardens.
The stairs.—Down the steep sides of Ophel, of which traces are thought still to remain. From this point it is very hard to trace the exact course.
After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.(16) The sepulchres of David.—Excavated on the western side of the Temple, and never yet traced.
After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part.(17) The Levites.—The circuit is coming round to the Temple.
Rehum the son of Bani.—The Levites were under him as a body.
In his part.—The other part of the Keilah district (now Kila) is in the next verse.
And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armoury at the turning of the wall.(19) At the turning of the wall.—Literally, the armoury of the corner: the north-west corner of the “city of David,” with its special wall.
After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.(20) Earnestly repaired the other piece.—The reason of this man’s emulation in building near the high priest’s house does not appear.
After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz another piece, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib.(21) Another piece.—Meremoth added to his other labour the repair of the wall under this house.
And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain.(22) The men of the plain.—Priests dwelling in the Jordan valley, the “Kikkar” of Scripture.
After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another piece, from the house of Azariah unto the turning of the wall, even unto the corner.(24) Unto the corner.—The north-eastern angle of the “city of David.”
Palal the son of Uzai, over against the turning of the wall, and the tower which lieth out from the king's high house, that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh.(25) The tower which lieth out from the king’s high house.—Better, the high tower outlying from the king’s palace.
That was by the court of the prison.—The palace generally had its prison, and near this was the “prison-gate” of Nehemiah 12:39.
Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out.(26) The Nethinims dwelt in Ophel.—It has been proposed to insert “who” before dwelt (following the Syriac); but this is not necessary. Ophel was the long rounded spur running out south of the Temple, on the sides of which the ancient “temple servants” still dwelt, separated from others, on a tract of land reaching from the “water-gate toward the east” to the outlying tower of the king’s citadel in the west. Nothing is said of their part in the general labour.
After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel.(27) After them.—Literally, after him, referring to Pedaiah of Nehemiah 3:25.
From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.(28) From above the horse gate.—This gate was between the Temple and the palace, and the space from the wall of Ophel seems not to have needed repair.
After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.(29) Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah.—The name in 1Chronicles 3:22 of a descendant of David.
After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner.(31) The place of the Nethinims.—Rather, the house.
And of the merchants.—Possibly there is some connection between the traders, who brought their doves and so forth for the worshippers, and the Nethinim to whoso house or depôt they brought them. Near the sheep gate was the “going up of the corner,” or an ascent to the gate Miphkad, about which nothing is known.
And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.(32) Unto the sheep gate.—It appears that the “goldsmiths and the merchants” undertook the small space necessary to complete the circuit.